Trip Start Aug 30, 2011
90Trip End Dec 30, 2011
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We loaded out gifts into the trunk of the car and Papo worked diligently to put everything in a precise order to ensure it would stay put. It was just as I’m used to: Tati, Isabella, and I in the backseat with a few of isabella’s toys and Mami and Papi in the front. Sining "Navidad De Los Pobres" we made it to Grandma’s in fifteen minutes (five mnutes faster that usual due to zero traffic). Nando’s car was out front, leaving the garage open for gifts and chairs. The gifts were categorized by giver and divided among three tables. I have yet to figure out why the garage is so desired for gatherings. Despite the comfortable sofas and decorated Christmas tree in the living room, everyone still prefers the garage. Perhaps the openness is more desired. The ambience of the rest of the neighborhood is certainly attractive. “Polvo” (poppers and small fireworks) are constantly going off and the loud pops can be heard over the blaring salsa music. Christmas lights shine in all colors and children are running wild. The only way to contain Isabella was by informing her it was time for “La Novena”. For this specific fifteen minutes we utilized the intimacy of the “la sala” (living room) to chant the traditional songs and celebrate the last day of the nine-day holiday
Then the countdown to midight began. Isabella anxiously awaited the arrival of “nino dios”. Nino Dios is not Papa Noel (Santa Claus) but Baby Jesus. Nino Dios does not deliver gifts like Saint Nick. At precisely five to midnight none of the children are to enter the house, or they may scare him off. When the adults sense that Nino Dios has come and gone, Isabella is given permission to charge the doors and scream at the top of her lungs when there is a new Nintendo DS sitting on the bed. This marks the start of the gift giving. Isabella was then to receive walkie-talkies, a baby doll, movies, jewelry, and too many gifts to keep track of. I felt bad for her neighbor friend who was thrilled with her new small stuffed puppy until Isabella bragged all her new, fancy toys. Thankfully, in the spirit of Christmas she was kind enough to share.
While the little ones were playing, us older folk did our own gift giving. The TV and speaker system was dragged into Grandma’s bedroom (which connects to the garage) and a microphone was connected to the system. Each gift giver had their turn with the mic and called out the names on each package. “Que descape!” (Unwrap it!) was chanted and everyone watched as the paper was torn off (it doesn’t matter that you can already see your gift through the thin tissue)
In my four months of being here I have never given into my tiredness and rested in the guest room when I got sleepy, but tonight I wasn’t even offered, I just went. Fully clothed, shoes included, I laid down and was asleep instantly. Isabella joined me around three a.m. and Tatianna around four. At ten a.m. I entered the kitchen to Grandma’s cooking. Now it was really the 25th of December, and still nothing like what I am used to in the States. If I were at home I would have been helping in the kitchen to prepare grits, scrambled eggs, bisquits, and other delicious treasts for an intriquite Christmas breakfast; however, Colombian style Christmas breakfast was reheated leftovers and eating in the sunshine. Soon the others awoke, ate their breakfast, and began gathering their new gifts. I said my final goodbyes to my extended family and we shared a few tears. Mamita told me she still expects weekly phone calls and I promised not to disappoint.
It doesn’t seem real that I won’t be seeing them for a while. I feel as though next weekend I’ll get in Papi’s car and endure the twenty minute journey to Manrique (Grandma’s neighborhood) and be greeted with Grandma’s wet kiss. That seems much more realistic to me than being back in the states. Five days. Wow. It won’t hit me until I’m actual back in my winter wonderland that I have been here in Colombia, living the life. However, until then I plan on enjoying each day and soaking up the sun. I head to the beach tonight with Camilo and his family- going out with a bang!