Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Christmas in El Salvador

Feliz Navidad mis amigos/amigas!  This week I celebrated my first Christmas in El Salvador.  It was a much more low key affair than in Canada, but it certainly had some very special highlights.  On the Friday Dec 16th,  I suggested that my two English students (Edwin and Jimmy)  and I follow a Canadian tradition and have a special lunch before Christmas.  They came to the ADES and collected me and we went in the bus to Sensuntepeque (a city about 5 minutes away).  There we went to Pollo Campero (the Salvadorian equivalent of Kentucky Fried Chicken - only better).  Then they took me Parque Cabanas, a very pretty park that I had never been to before.  I gave Edwin and Jimmy a "Niagara Falls" t-shirt each, that my family had brought with them when they visited.  Both were slightly embarrassed, Jimmy more so.  He then explained to me that he had never received a Christmas present as an adult.  Wow...   Jimmy and Edwin gave me a beautiful Christmas card with a lovely note from both of them.

The next day I left for Belize (see last week's blog) and I returned to El Salvador on the 23rd.  When I got back to the house, there were notices from the post office that I had two packages waiting for me.  Under the Salvadorian postal system, packages can go anywhere in the city of San Salvador.  They most often end up a post office fairly near to my house, but not always.  In this case they were in a part of San Salvador that I had never been in.  I spent a long time in a cab but we eventually found the place and I was able to retrieve the parcels.  Turns out one was for Christmas and one was an early birthday present!  The package that made it for Christmas contained some of my favorite Christmas CD's that I asked a friend to send to me in El Salvador.  Needless to say Christmas music started in earnest.  Jonathan has decided that he really doesn't like English Christmas music, but Jenny has fallen in love with Josh Groban!

On the 24th, I went to deliver a little present to my friends Lissette and Ignacio.  Lissette cried because she too had never received a Christmas present as an adult.  She took off one of her bracelets and gave it to me, saying that she wanted me to have something to remember her by when I returned to Canada.  After this emotional gift delivery, I came back to Jenny's house to wait for people to start arriving and I waited and I waited.  I thought that people would come in the early afternoon, but it was about 7 pm when people started coming...members of Jenny's extended family.  We enjoyed drinks and conversation and the remnants of  the crackers and cheese that I had brought back from Belize.

Jenny cooked a started out in a fairly traditional way, minus stuffing.  After it was mostly cooked she put into a tomato sauce and boiled it for a while.  When it was done, they took it out of the sauce, cut it up and then poured the sauce and green olives over it.  It is possible to get green olives in El Salvador, but they are fairly rare...except at Christmas when they are everywhere!
Jenny prepares the turkey with her special rub.

Jonathan cuts up the turkey!

Jenny adds the sauce to the turkey!
Later that evening we exchanged gifts.  Jonathan got me an exquisite El Salvadorian nativity scene.  I had mentioned at one point that I had a collection but hadn't  found one from this country that I like.  Interestingly, the one that Jonathan got for me is one I would have bought had I seen it.  Jenny gave me a very special t-shirt with butterflies on it.  She said that butterflies symbolize transformation, like me this year!  Yah, I started crying at that one!

A long standing Salvadorian tradition is that on Christmas Eve children light firecrackers.  There are a few that  have bright coloured lights, but they are expensive, so mostly the firecrackers are just loud.  This goes on all evening and creates a crescendo at midnight.  The fireworks continue long into the night.  I think that I made to bed around 2pm!  Most of the "extraneros" (foreigners) agree that the fireworks are not our favourite part of Salvadorian culture, but the kids love it.  Talking to Salvadorian adults, they often have very special memories of lighting firecrackers on Christmas Eve.  It was great to be able to experience it.

On the 25th, I set off to Church while Jonathan and Jenny relaxed.  Jenny had been sick throughout the holiday, took a day to just sleep and watch movies.  On the 25th, I called to the extended family Christmas at my Aunt  Betty's in Niagara Falls.  I missed everyone this year, but I am deeply fortunate to be able to be in this here, at this time to learn much about Salvadorian culture and what it is like to celebrate a much simpler holiday.  As is the case with so many times here, I  feel incredibly blessed to be a part of this place with these people.  I miss you and look forward to seeing you in 2012, but it has been a very memorable Christmas.

Merry Christmas my friends and family!

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