Thursday, December 27, 2007

Feliz Navidad!

So, I decided to spend Christmas in my site rather than in the city, which you probably already knew. On the 23rd I made about four dozen sugar cookies as a gift for the family because they had mentioned that they would like to do something that was a Christmas tradition in the states. I found some good tips for baking at this altitude; adding more liquid, using more shortening, cooking at a lower temperature, and using less baking powder. They turned out surprisingly well and were my first Altiplano baking success. My host brother, Javier, and I decorated the living room with some things the previous volunteer left behind.
Christmas Eve started out the same as any other day- with laundry and cooking. My host dad (Braulio), Javier, and I went to the city to get a few final things for the celebration. When we returned, there were a bunch of aunts, uncles, and cousins at the house.
Cousin roger shows off the decorations

There was also a sheep. When I asked the kids why there was a sheep there, I was informed that the sheep was for the Christmas meal the following day. They wanted some pictures of the sheep while it was still alive.

The weather was calm and the sky was beautiful. It’s summer here, but that doesn’t mean much in the altiplano. It’s hot when it’s sunny and chilly when it’s not. I hear it gets a lot colder in the winter. Yikes.
Pretty Christmas sky. They say the moon is always full and bright for Christmas.

The women chatted and got ready to cook as the kids and I took up a more American tradition; playing board games. They have a Star Wars-Monopoly type game and we tried to play that, but it turned out to be too complicated for the little ones and the babies kept knocking over the board.

This seems to be a lesson I learn year after year: Monopoly is not a good game to play at family gatherings. ;) So we stuck to a card game the kids really liked where they hand out cards and the winner is whoever has the highest number or the highest sum. We also played BINGO which was pretty fun. Both days we took lots and lots of photos and videos, giving everyone who wanted a chance to try out my camera, despite the worries of the adults.

At midnight, the women made Buñuelo (fried dough) and Api (a sweet grain drink, I think made from corn). I really like both- they’re delicious.
Cooking buñuelo

I made eggnog and brought out the sugar cookies. I didn’t know the word for “nutmeg” (and my dictionary is on-loan to someone) so the eggnog didn’t quite taste like eggnog, but it was good.
Mmm, sugar cookies!

After all the sugar and hot drinks, we were pretty tired, so we called it a night. The next morning, I slept in despite hearing all the kids’ excitement early in the morning. When I woke up, there was a card and little coin purse for me from the family. Another one of the aunts showed up for Christmas Day with her three children. They gave me some fried pastries and miniature pears as a Christmas gift, plus a plush white cat for Kauri. I had coffee and we all had this Christmas bread which is kinda like fruitcake, but it's actually good.

Then it was time to slaughter the sheep and prepare it for cooking. Javier really wanted me to watch, but I refrained. I did, however, see much of the cleaning of the sheep, etc. It was pregnant, surprise! (I have many videos with the sheep in the background if you are interested.) I was amazed at how they really use every part of the sheep. I explained that, as far as I know, adult sheep are only used for wool, and my family couldn’t believe it. “What do they do with the meat when the sheep is too old?” they asked. I still don’t know. I tried to explain that in the States, most of us are really distanced from our meat products, so many people don’t really know where their meat comes from, what parts of the animal it is, how animals are killed, etc. Well, anyway, the women spent practically all day preparing this sheep and we had sheep and rice for Christmas dinner. The traditional Christmas dish is turkey, but turkey costs 33 B’s a kilo and an entire sheep costs 200 B’s. I saw my host grandmother cleaning the sheep’s head, so I thought they were going to serve the traditional Oruro dish (I forget the name) of boiled sheep’s head, but they didn’t. It was just a pot of various meat cuts and ribs.
The family sharing Christmas dinner

The kids all put on the clothes that the previous volunteer sent them for Christmas, and took a picture.
Braulio and most of the kids

Then we watched the movie I got them for Christmas, “The Santa Clause 3.” I also gave them some Christmas music (that didn’t work!) and some candy, which they were totally nuts about. We played soccer (not a good idea) on the patio, and then switched to volleyball (good idea). After dark, everyone said goodbye and promised to return again soon. Overall, it was a good Christmas and surprisingly similar to how my family celebrates in the states. Until next time!


PS. I almost forgot! Sad news...I'm not going to be able to dance tinku afterall. I've been coming in for practices but no one was there! There's still all of January for practice, but I'm going to be in Cochabamba for two weeks for in-service training. And Carneval is the first week of February (very early) this year. So sad!


Jen said...

Happy New Year! Sorry about the dancing but glad to hear that you didn't have to eat any sheep's head. Karma seems to be favoring you overall these days. ;>

Kristyn said...

Hi, sorry I haven`t really been keeping up on your blog, I`ve had iffy internet access lately. Your Christmas sounds so nice! I want to come visit you so bad, it sounds so amazing there. I hope everything is going well. Miss you!

Jennifer Nelson said...

Guess what?

2008 is the International Year of the Potato!

Aren't you lucky to be in such a great position to join in the celebration?!!!

Love, Jen

TeddY2K said...

Happy New Year and such! I'ma go update my blog and fire you off an e-mail! =)