Christmas in Ayacucho

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January 15, 2013 by jiejie768

Today we continue our ongoing adventures with the Andersons and Collinses who came to Peru to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s with Meg and me. To catch up on what’s been covered click on the links at the bottom of the post.

 

Christmas Tree at GeGe's

Christmas in Ayacucho

After a fairly eventful Christmas Eve, our group of 10 was ready for a relaxing Christmas morning spent in our Santa Ana apartment.

The room that Meg and I rent is on the third floor of a family residence that consists of four bedrooms (two to three beds each) and a living room that has an additional four beds. Meg and I rent one room, a friend of the family who owns the house rents another, and, most of the time, the rest of the sleeping quarters are unoccupied. This was a perfect scenario for our visitors, as the Collins clan took one bedroom, Meg’s parents another, and Ty, Dan and Lolo were able to sleep in the “living room.” It cost 30 soles/night per person ($12) which is actually kind of spendy for Peru, but it allowed for a perfect holiday setting without having to meet at hotels or catch cabs all over the city throughout the four days we had guests.

So it was that, after a late night on Christmas Eve spent watching fireworks, making stockings (socks) and wrapping presents, Meg and I again enjoyed the chance to sleep-in until the late, late hour of 8 a.m. or so. To be fair, we could have gone to bed a little bit earlier than we did, but we were transfixed by our roommate’s loud argument with (one of) his girlfriend(s) who may or may not have found about another girlfriend(s). We’ve never been sure who the ladies he brings around are, but there are at least two of them, they’re never here at the same time, and they have sleepovers, so …

Anyway, after the two of them stormed out at about 1 a.m., we were able to get to bed. (Update: they seem to have worked it out a bit, as both ladies, in addition to a possible third, have made appearances since we returned home on Jan. 8).

Lolo works on waking up while Bill enjoys some Christmas paneton just before stocking (sock) time on Christmas Day.

Lolo works on waking up while Bill enjoys some Christmas paneton just before stocking (sock) time on Christmas Day.

Christmas Day started with a wonderful breakfast put together by Katie and Kathy that featured fruit, eggs and (surprise!) waffles. By about 9:30 or so the 10 of us were splayed across the beds in the “living room” armed with our overflowing stockings (socks) and ready to see what Papa Noel had delivered. Opening the stockings (socks) was a lot of fun as everyone had about 10 presents apiece: reminder, everyone bought a big ($30) present for one person and a small ($10 or less) sock present for everyone. The variety was fun as presents ranged from useful (an electric fly-swatter, mosquito-repellent wipes from Ty and Tom’s trip to Cabella’s) to tasty (a collection of Bolivian chocolates, coffees and liquors from the Collinses who are missionaries in Cochabama, Bolivia) to dazzling (many of the women got low-cost, high-beauty Peruvian and Bolivian-made jewelry for one another) to fantastic (I got Bill a hand-collected taster’s kit of Cusquena beer — regular, malt and wheat —  complete with a souvenir glass).

In addition to seeing what everyone got, it was fun to meld different family traditions into a single gathering. The Collinses, much like my own family, usually limit stocking (sock) presents to candy, oranges and such consumable presents (my family also includes a toothbrush each year), while the Andersons often go bigger with still-small but more permanent presents such as cheap movies, books, and electric fly swatters. Though both families are close, and spend plenty of time together (Bill and Kathy are godparents to Dan and Lolo), this was their first Christmas together, and I think everyone was happy with how it turned out.

Such a lucky guy. Included in my (expertly decorated stocking — Thanks Bill!) were a bug-repelling coil, a hilarious "Watch Your Step" Lego T-Shirt, two baseballs, gummy bears, Starbucks Christmas Blend coffee, a UW beer coozy, "Word," a book of NYTimes-style crossword puzzles, some Bolivian candy, a seven-in-one camping tool and coffee and a strip of Husky decals for my Nalgene.

Such a lucky guy. Included in my (expertly decorated stocking — Thanks Bill!) were a bug-repelling coil, a hilarious “Watch Your Step” Lego T-Shirt, two baseballs, gummy bears, Starbucks Christmas Blend coffee, a UW beer coozy, “Word,” a book of NYTimes-style crossword puzzles, some Bolivian candy, a seven-in-one camping tool and coffee and a strip of Husky decals for my Nalgene.

After the stocking (sock) presents had been opened, all that remained were the big gifts. At that point, however, it was about noon and we decided to pause the festivities so the Collinses could call Sheila (their daughter/sister who was back in the States celebrating the holidays with her boyfriend) and Meg and I could Skype with my mom and dad respectively (we even opened a few of the presents my mom had sent down with Meg’s parents while Skyping).

It was fun to talk to people back home, and my mom, as usual, provided me with two things that have now become vital to my every day life: a digital watch (previously Meg and I had no time-telling device whilst away from the house) and a pair of mesh warm-up pants that are basically a long pair of basketball shorts (EXACTLY what I’d asked for without even knowing if they existed). For Meg, she sent a pair of fuzzy purple slippers that, once she managed to get them back from Lolo, have rarely left her feet. Though it is warm here, the tile floors do get chilly.

Following that, we checked in with my dad, who was at my sister’s house in Monroe with my grandma and Heather’s husband and two stepdaughters. It was great to hear about their holiday, but I hung up with my stomach rumbling after hearing all of the wonderful holiday dishes Grandma Kennedy had prepared for the family.

By then, it was 1:30, and Meg’s mom implored us to figure out, once-and-for-all, our as yet unresolved Christmas dinner main course. As detailed in an earlier post, our attempts to get a turkey had failed and our plans to get chickens were unconfirmed. The chicken place that Meg and I prefer is just down the street from Aunt GeGe’s but as it was Christmas, we weren’t sure it’d be open. GeGe thought it would, though they are always closed on Tuesdays, holiday or no (Christmas was a Tuesday), and, they often don’t have chickens ready until 6 p.m., or so, much later than we had hoped to eat. Fortunately, GeGe told us of another pollo place (there are no shortage, but it’s good to have a known entity when getting prepared food in Ayacucho) that she liked which was just down the hill from our house and usually had chickens ready to go all day.

So it was that Meg and I headed down the hill to order chickens for our 4:30 p.m. planned meal time. The previous day, Kathy and Katie had set to work in the kitchen whipping up hummus, a sweet potato dish and some beet salad that would also be served at the dinner (which featured four vegetarians).

Meg and I were happy to see GeGe’s suggested restaurant open and welcoming as we approached, and were assured that getting four chickens at 4 p.m. would be no problem. This was a relief, though I couldn’t help but chuckle in spite of myself when I looked to the left of the cashier and noticed a freezer case full of frozen turkeys. It was too late to get one now, but had we known such a thing was available so close to home, it certainly would have negated a lot of stress and at least two unnecessary trips across town to Granja Quispe. Oh well, the chickens were wonderful, and the fact that they were already cooked certainly reduced our Christmas-Day stress level.

Katie cuts up a cantelope for a pre-dinner Christmas snack just after arriving at GeGe's house.

Katie cuts up a cantelope for a pre-dinner Christmas snack just after arriving at GeGe’s house.

GeGe was just so excited to have a house full of friendly faces for Christmas dinner (I imagine she'll be less excited I posted this picture on the Internet ... but oh well).

GeGe was just so excited to have a house full of friendly faces for Christmas dinner (I imagine she’ll be less excited I posted this picture on the Internet … but oh well).

Dinner chickens confirmed, Meg and I returned to the apartment, and we all sat down for one last bout of gift giving and receiving. The big gifts were a hit all around. I received a trio of books about Machu Picchu and South America in general from Bill. They were a welcome addition to my collection as, though I like my Kindle, I was thrilled to once again have real-life paper books to hold in my hand and read. Meg got a copy of the movie “Pitch Perfect” (which she had been dying to see, but did not make it to Peruvian theaters) and a new Nalgene bottle on which to place her numerous souvenir stickers from our various travels around Peru and South America.

Meg had drawn Lolo out of the Not-So-Secret-Santa hat and the youngest Anderson was quite pleased with the silver-and-gemstone ring Meg got for her at a local jeweler here in Ayacucho. I had Tom and had hoped to get him either an alpaca-wool sweater or a Peruvian souvenir hoodie, but was unable to find a suitable option in Ayacucho (as Peruvians tend to be shorter than us Americans, there were no XLs in sight). Hoping that a trip to Cuzco, Ica and Lima would turn up a better variety, I gave Tom a coupon hoping he’d find something during our travels. Unfortunately he did not, but I’m sure I will be able to hunt something down for him before I return to the States later this year as I have more trips to Cuzco and Lima planned.

I confess I don’t remember what everyone else got, except that Bill received a large “Hall” (get it, as in Hall’s cough drops … I kill me) of American cough drops from his NSSS — Katie. I also believe that Kathy received a pair of earrings from Lolo, her NSSS. Otherwise I’m not sure, but I do know everyone seemed happy and in high spirits. Even Meg’s dad, who was battling a nasty arthritis flair-up in his ankle, was happy though hobbled.

Shortly after big gifts it was time to pack up the food and head to GeGe’s. It was then that I learned of the one unhappy note weighing down our Christmas Joy — Ty had acquired a certain woe common to travelers in Latin America (our readers may remember when I myself suffered from a similar ailment during an otherwise celebratory time). Sadly, Ty did not feel able to make it to GeGe’s for dinner, and we left him with our best wishes and a clear path to the bathroom.

Dinner at GeGe’s was an unqualified success. Meg and I grabbed the chickens on the way over, and she quickly whipped up her favorite Christmas dish — sour cream and cheddar cheese mashed potatoes — with the leftover taters from the KATC party as soon as we arrived.

This is as good a time as any to tell readers that in addition to my wonderful Christmas haul, my mother-in-law brought with her perhaps the greatest thing I have received in my time in Peru: two blocks of Tillamook medium cheddar cheese. I’m still enjoying the second block and am not sure what I’ll do with myself once it’s gone from life again … but I digress.

Pam, Dan and Kathy look over our Christmas spread just before dinner at GeGe's house. Meg's famous sour cream and cheddar mashed potatoes are front and center.

Pam, Dan and Kathy look over our Christmas spread just before dinner at GeGe’s house. Meg’s famous sour cream and cheddar mashed potatoes are front and center.

It wouldn't be Christmas with a Coleman if their wasn't and ungodly amount of candy, and Aunt GeGe came through big time. At the end of the meal (though rest assured, candy had been available all day), Lolo made this arrangment featuring Snickers, Milky Ways, Kisses, Peanut M&Ms (Christmas Version thanks to Mom) and a Ferrer Rocher for the star.

It wouldn’t be Christmas with a Coleman if their wasn’t and ungodly amount of candy, and Aunt GeGe came through big time. At the end of the meal (though rest assured, candy had been available all day), Lolo made this arrangment featuring Snickers, Milky Ways, Kisses, Peanut M&Ms (Christmas Version thanks to Mom) and a Ferrer Rocher for the star.

By 5 p.m. or so dinner was served, and we had quite a spread (GeGe added a(n) (un)healthy amount of candy and cranberry sauce to the dishes already mentioned). GeGe invited Alejandro and Hilda down for the meal, and I had a great time translating for them as they talked food with Dan at their end of the table.

Dan, back to the camera, and Alejandro, phone in hand, became fast friends while discussing (through the language barrier) a shared love for hot sauces during Christmas dinner.

Dan, back to the camera, and Alejandro, phone in hand, became fast friends while discussing (through the language barrier) a shared love for hot sauces during Christmas dinner.

I was particularly touched when Dan, amid a fervent discussion of hot sauces, gave away his entire traveling stash of Siracha sauce to Alejandro after the latter had tried and loved the popular Asian hot sauce. If you know Dan, you’ll understand this was about as nice a thing as anyone could do as it meant he was without his favorite condiment for nearly two weeks in a land whose hot-sauce potential he still did not completely trust (though Meg and I did stuff his stocking with travel-sized portions of several Peruvian sauces — aji, rocoto, etc. — that he ended up liking a lot).

As dinner wound down, we had Alejandro, who is always willing to help, arrange our transport to the airport the following morning as we were leaving Ayacucho on a 6:30 a.m. flight and needed to leave our Santa Ana apartment at 5:15 at the latest. Once this was set (or so we thought) we said our goodbyes and headed back across town to check on Ty and turn in early in preparation for a rather hectic travel schedule on Boxing Day.

Little did we know that we would receive one last Christmas present the next morning as we stood waiting for what we thought would be three cabs to take us to the airport. It turns out that after we left GeGe’s on Christmas, the cab company called back and cancelled the arrangement Alejandro had made. After trying a few times in vain to arrange another ride, Alejandro finally called his cousin, who drives a city bus, and arranged to have him (Alejandro in tow) bring the bus to our apartment and make sure we made it to the airport in time. Needless to say, any lingering grudge Meg and I may have had over the not-driving-the-bus-on-the-bridge-over-troubled-water incident a few days prior instantly vanished. We boarded the bus, and our big traveling party was headed out of Ayacucho and on to the next leg of the trip: Cuzco and Machu Picchu.

Boxing Day got off to a nervous start as we stood wondering if our cabs would show up. All fears were dismissed when this bus rounded the corner and Alejandro hopped off to offer this chariot as our final Christmas present before leaving Ayacucho.

Boxing Day got off to a nervous start as we stood wondering if our cabs would show up. All fears were dismissed when this bus rounded the corner and Alejandro hopped off to offer this chariot as our final Christmas present before leaving Ayacucho.

To catch up on all our holiday adventures, check out these links:

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