Merry Christmas!

Christmas Eve day is the big day of celebration here which is why we decided to spend it here in Chia and then leave for our trip early tomorrow morning, on Christmas day.  Our plans, by the way, are to drive about 5 hours to Rio Claro, a nature reserve in the jungle and spend a few days there. Then we drive three more hours to Medellin, Colombia’s world famous or rather infamous, second largest city for three days, complete with a side trip to Santa Fe de Antioquia, a small colonial town which hosts an annual holiday party and finally make our way back, passing through Rio Claro and visiting Hacienda Napoles, the estate that once belonged to the infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar, and has now been turned into a theme park with a zoo and a water park.

But back to Christmas, I must say that we had a great day! We missed being with our families but we really made the most of it. We hung out all morning, then had a nice Christmas lunch of lasagna, Caesar salad and brownies. All this was made courtesy of a wonderful Italian fresh pasta store that we have here in Chia. All I had to do was heat up the lasagna, make the salad and voila… a wonderful meal was on our table!

After lunch, we opened all of the family presents. We decided to do this since we want to leave for our trip early tomorrow morning. This way we can just open up Santa’s presents tomorrow morning and go. The kids weren’t complaining about this break with tradition – the earlier they get the presents, the better, as far as they are concerned.

Then it was party time! We were invited to three parties. Christmas eve parties here normally go until 2 in the morning or later. Everybody stays up to open presents at midnight and then the real party begins, often until dawn. Needless to say, we are way too gringo to keep our kids up all night and then drive all day tomorrow. That seems like a recipe for disaster, especially with the three kids crammed into the tiny back seat of our car. We prudently decided to stop by two of the parties, then come home and put Siena and Saige to bed by 9 pm and then Jade and I would stop by the neighbors party for a bit and be home by 11 pm at the latest. I don’t think our friends here understood our reasoning or the need for all of this maneuvering and planning, but what can I say? We are gringos after all. (and even though Esteban is not really a gringo, he is a much bigger planner than I am so he has become an honorary gringo in my mind.)

Anyway, the first party we were invited to was to start between 4 and 5 pm. We showed up at 5:15 and guess what? Nobody was there, not even the hosts! We thought that by showing up after the invited time, we would be showing up at the right time but apparently not. Does 4 to 5 mean 6? 6:30? We still don’t know how this works here.

We hung around on the playground until the hosts showed up at about 5:45. They were very apologetic. Apparently they had left a message on Esteban’s cell phone that they were running late but he didn’t get it. OK, mystery solved. Although now we felt awkward for being there as the hostess started to prepare things.

And what she prepared turned out to be…. roasted pork and cake. Nothing else. Not a starch or a vegetable in sight. My kids wouldn’t touch it of course and I too had a hard time getting it down (I am a vegetarian when at all possible). Thank God I brought an eggplant dip with crackers. The guests ate it up wish relish.

After the first party, we stopped by the second. Here there was a much fuller spread… lots of breads, cheese and roasted meats of all kinds. Still not a vegetable in sight but at least the kids could fill up on processed flour products. But my sarcasm about the food aside, the hosts were incredibly kind and gracious and it was wonderful to be a part of a family Christmas celebration. It felt like a peek into their world and it was lovely.

By the third party, I was pretty partied out. Jade and I stopped by for a little bit to say hello and then headed off to bed. A big day tomorrow! Meanwhile, they were still preparing dinner at 10 pm. The party was just getting started.

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