The Holiday Season

Trip Start Jun 01, 2011
Trip End May 05, 2012

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Flag of Peru  , Cusco,
Friday, December 23, 2011

This year has been like the previous two for me as I am in a different country for Christmas where I am unfamiliar with local traditions. At least here in Urubamba it was cold, so it felt much more like Christmas than 2008 in Santiago where I had melted into the floor because of the summer heat and lack of AC.

We had asked a bit more about Christmas here and found out everyone eats Panetón. Panetón is like a sweet bread with raisins and other raisin-like candies inside the bread. I am not a fan, but it is very popular here. Everyone buys this for everyone else and I’m sure families end up with about 7 and absolutely love it. (I am not referring to the poor who live in the countryside – many have never heard of or seen a Panetón or chocolates. They don’t even eat rice because they don’t grow it and can’t afford it. A sad reality for Christmastime.)

So we ate our first panetón here the day before Christmas because my boss had given one as a present to each member of the staff. On the 23rd we closed at midday and had a party here in the office. It was great to be in the Christmas mood and have a Christmas party! Every year at home there are a billion, so it was nice to have one here too. In the morning we moved all the furniture in the office and took everything away to make one big, banquet-style table and got a little fire going in the fireplace.

Most everyone had arrived by 1, so we poured the wine and enjoyed each other’s company until the food. We were served a plate of rolled turkey, sweet mashed potatoes (made with orange juice…), hot applesauce, and a green bean and beet salad. I wasn’t a huge fan of the mashed potatoes or the salad, and wished they’d let us serve ourselves so it didn’t all go to waste, but the turkey was pretty good.

After eating we handed out gifts for Secret Santa. I got a jewelry box and now all my jewelry is safe inside! I didn’t have anywhere to put it before, so that was a useful gift.

Saturday, the 24th, we went to Cusco to see Santurantikuy. It’s a big deal and a lot of people go there (Cusco’s Plaza de Armas) to sell their goods. I think the main event is all of the nativity scenes. Here they don’t sell everything together, so you first have to go buy the structure, then the grass, then the snow, then the three wise men, then...etc. We weren’t interested in that, so we just walked around the whole market. I bought really cute leather boots with a pretty design and we also got an incense burner, incense, and candles.

We were going to celebrate Christmas eve (it’s a bigger deal than Christmas day here) with my boss’s wife’s family, but ended up not staying in Cusco because Soju needs a lot of care and attention right now! It had started raining, too, so we headed back to Urubamba.

That night we met up with Andrés because he had invited us to spend Christmas eve with his family as well. So we met up in the plaza and he told us he’d rather spend it with us than with his family, but it really seems as though his family didn’t want us there because he mentioned something like they were close-minded. We were pretty bummed about it, but there wasn’t anything else we could do! So we sat in the plaza and drank beer and then pisco with him. And Ronald lit a "matasuegra" -- mother-in-law killer. There's a video here. According to the tradition you have to stay up to greet the new day. So we stayed there until about 1:30 or 2 am and then headed back up to our house.

Christmas day wasn’t too intense either. It was pouring down rain until about 3 pm, so we stayed inside until it let up a bit and then headed to a nearby pueblo, Yucay. We exchanged our gifts in the morning: I gave him a printed copy of my blog, made into a book, from when we went to southeast Asia. He gave me a camelbak backpack stuffed with yummy Chilean candy! Inside was also a new camera (yay!) and matching silver earrings and a ring -- it felt like going through my stocking! Anyways, every year in Yucay they have a little parade and dance up the street to the main church. We got there just as they were starting their parade, so it was perfect timing!

After the parade we found Andrés again and shared a few beers with him before heading back to Urubamba. We had promised Maria we’d go to her house to celebrate. When we got back to Urubamba there weren’t any mototaxis to take us up to her house, so we walked up and it was practically dark by the time we got there. They had eaten chicharrón de pavo and had some leftover, so we ate that with some potatoes. It was delicious. Then we had some hot chocolate (here they make it by melting unsweetened chocolate bars in either boiling milk or water) and talked for a while before promising to come back for new year’s eve and then heading home.

A week passed and everyone was still in the holiday mood, so that kept me going! When Friday came around I was ready for the festivities to begin! We had some couchsurfers stay the night, so we drank with them in the plaza before eating at Pizza Wasi and then hanging out back at our place.

In the morning we went with them to meet their tour van, picked up some ham and cheese and bread for breakfast, and then went back to the house. I’ve been getting sick, so I wanted to rest for a while before heading out again. That night we went to the plaza and made it just in time for midnight. There were tons of people in the plaza shooting off fireworks – it was crazy.  A lot of Cusqueños (people from Cusco) come to Urubamba and the other smaller towns for new year’s eve, so there were a lot more people than usual.

After celebrating in the plaza we went up to see Maria. They’d made a nice bonfire so we sat around that for a few hours with sweet wine and then hot chocolate. At about 2:30 Ronald and I were very tired and I wasn’t feeling very good with my cold, so we bowed out and went home to sleep, but not before promising to come back the next day for chicharrón de chancho.

Yesterday we finally left the house around 12 and went to Maria’s after buying a couple of beers. She was already well into cooking the pig when we got there, so we only got to watch one of her daughters, Idalia, making the stuffed peppers (rocoto relleno). We all just hung out there and Ronald and I played tetherball. Here they call it matachola – chola killer. Chola is the traditional woman here that wears the thick skirt and strange rounded hat. Anyways, after creaming Ronald, lunch was ready! We all squeezed into the table and chowed down. It was delicious, again, but I still think the turkey from last week was better. The rocoto relleno was also delicious, as were the potatoes, but the corn stole the show for me. It was juicy and oh so good.

We only stayed for a bit longer and headed to the plaza to meet up with Andrés. He was with a couple of his cousins at a store drinking beer. We joined them for a few hours and then went with him to eat at, you guessed it, Pizza Wasi! This was an event in itself as Ronald had asked me about toppings and I wanted rocoto on half. He was like, no, on all of it, no worries. I was concerned about Andrés, but Ronald assured me it would be fine.

It wasn’t. He could hardly breathe with how spicy it was! I felt bad, but what was done was done. We just kept giving him more beer to wash it down with and napkins so he could wipe his face. We told him next time he should just order the pepperoni pizza and he’ll be fine.

A big storm was coming in, so Andrés sent us off back up to the house in a moto. We watched a little bit of a show but went to sleep early – we were worn out!

pictures to come!
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