If you are a loyal reader of this blog you will remember or if you are random reader you can look back in this blog to this time last year and find a post titled “Going Home for Christmas” where I chronicle my difficult decision to return to the states for the holidays. I look back on that post and realize I spent a lot of my time justifying my decision to go home- you know listing all the reasons why it was okay to do so. But I think I was just too proud to admit that I was not strong enough to stay. At 3 months in site, I just could not commit to staying here and missing Christmas at home.
However, I am happy to report that 1 year and 3 months later, the situation is completely different. This year I made the relatively easy decision to stay in El Salvador for Christmas. I say “relatively easy” because it is never easy to make an active decision to stay away from your family, especially on the holidays. This year, however, as much as I wanted to go home I also really wanted to stay here for Christmas. Last year, I would have stayed only out of guilt and shame, but this year I believe I stayed for the right reasons: the love I feel for my friends and family in Upire, the desire to spend one Christmas with them, and the opportunity to celebrate a little differently in a new place.
In a lot of ways I did not really even know it was December (well the way I know it is December in the states). There were few, if any, decorations, no Christmas music really, only some random Christmas movies, and no shopping for gifts. The only time I really felt the hint of commercialized Christmas was when I would go down to the city and into the supermarket—music, decorations, food, gifts, toys, etc. Here Christmas seems to be defined by the basics: family, food, and friends. You know it is December when everyone is visiting family and friends (full houses!!!), enjoying vacation and relaxing in the house, and mentally and physically preparing for the meals on Christmas Eve (in El Sal, Christmas is celebrated on the 24th, not the 25th).
Essentially, that is how I spent December: hanging out with my host brother and sister, enjoying time away from the school, hanging out with friends and family, and preparing for Christmas eve. Despite it being vacation though, there was still work to be done too, which I will document first before the festivities!
|Members of the Youth Group and the Gift Basket|
|Bashing the pinata!|
Here is what it looked like:
It was definitely one of the best birthday parties I have ever had. I almost teared up telling them how much this meant to me. I still cannot believe that they love me this much. I am so honored, blessed, and happy to live in this community. I am so lucky that I call Upire home now.
|Host sister and best friend Kellye preparing plates!|
|Youth Group Boys|
|Smurf Pinata and me|
The rest of Christmas Eve was spent eating with the family. One family party included rice, chicken, and salad. Then afterwards there were chicken sandwiches. Lots of food and then sleeping late the next morning--haha just like home! :) I was on such a high from my amazing birthday party that the day passed quickly and I did not suffer much homesickness. I was surrounded my so much love and affection that it was virtually impossible to feel sad.
However, the 25th was nothing. Just clean up and saying goodbye to family and friends. I'll admit it was kind of sad--like a REALLY rough post Christmas blues. But I just tried to forget it was Christmas and that my family was all together without me. It worked for the most part, but I think only because I spent most of the day packing to go to NICARAGUA with my friends. Details on the trip in the next post!!!!!!!!!!
Overall, Christmas (December) in El Salvador was a very special experience - one I was cherish for the rest of my life. I am so thankful for both of my families- my Salvadoran one that made me feel loved and cared for so far away from home and my USA one who constantly supports me in all that I do. I love you all very much! My Mommom sent me a card with the perfect quote to summarize this Christmas: "It is the Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air"- WT Ellis
As for making New Year's Resolutions, I don't really have any. My one resolution is to treasure time. Treasure the days instead of constantly looking forward.