Feliz año nuevo a todos!! This is technically my holiday blog post (even though the holidays are over)! Don't be surprised if this is my only post for the month of January either... I've got quite the busy month planned ahead, traveling on two different trips (one to Sucre with my family, and the Rotary organized Bolivia trip). But I'll leave those details for my next blog post... this one is alllll about the Christmas season in Boliiivia!
After getting home from Brazil, I realized that we were really close to Christmas and I had not exactly prepared for it. I had no gifts for anyone, and I had just come down with an intense cold (for a while, I thought I had strep throat).. which doesn't exactly make shopping too enjoyable. I ended up hauling myself out of bed on the 23rd (everyone celebrates on the 24th here) and got all my shopping done in one quick trip to the supermarket! Now, don't think that I cheaped out on gifts, I had some other things that I had picked up in Brazil to throw in! I ended up buying coffee mugs, tea bags and a bunch of chocolates to make... gift baskets I guess you could say (filling the mugs with the goodies) for the crazy tea drinkers in my family. I also got together with Sarah and we made a bunch of Christmas cookies. We made shortbread, banana bread and tried to make gingerbread (but that failed miserably). I don't think I've ever gone a Christmas season without making the shortbread with my mom, so it was a slight comfort having them around.
I know that every Rotarian and/or rebound exchange student says that the holidays are one of the hardest times for an exchange student to get through, but I really didn't feel it at all! I think Brazil really took my mind off things, especially because I came home in a more than positive mood about my exchange. Christmas was over so fast that I didn't even have time to think about it! I also had things like Brodie's fast-approaching departure date and New Years Eve to put my mind on other things.
December 24th, Christmas Eve. The night where everything happens here. We didn't really do that much.. I sat around the house, slowly prettying myself up (which mostly just includes showering hahah). We ate dinner at midnight (you could hear firecrackers going off around the city) at home, with only direct family members (mom, dad, Oliver, Alan and Christian). The meal didn't have a lot that reminded me of a Christmas dinner, other than a turkey (although it might've been chicken for all I know). There wasn't too much for me to eat, being vegetarian, but I survived. After dinner, we went and sat around the tree (I thought at first that we didn't have one, but I found it, hiding around a corner) to open our gifts. I had a major headache from staying up so late and not eating much, so I opted to go straightaway to bed while the rest of the family went to my grandma's house to wish her a Merry Christmas. I stayed home on the 25th, expecting it to be a family day... but apparently that was it, no more Christmas and back to your everyday lives!
These were Brodie's last days here (if you don't know who Brodie is, she is 1/2 of my best friends in Bolivia. She was the one that helped me out on my first day of school since she'd been here since January) so we were trying to make the best out of the little time we saw her. We had a get together at the Cine Center, very last minute.. but a TON of people showed up; all the exchange students, most of our classmates, and a whole slew of kids from the trip in Brazil (there were even a few that we didn't know by name)! It was a great sendoff for Brodie, knowing that she was really loved and appreciated over her year here. That night a few of us went to Brodie's to just hang out and spend her last night together. I slept over, and then we were off to the airport in the morning. Her flight was at noon, so we got up around 8 to start getting ready (and be at the airport two hours early). She called the airport around nine to confirm her flight, and found out that there were no flights at noon, and that her flight actually left at 1030. So we screamed to the airport with her car packed full with family (Sarah and I are considered family haha) and just made it in time. It was a really sad event, and I will miss her so much over the rest of my exchange.
Right after Brodie left, we had a get together with all the kids from our bus to Brazil. It was so much fun getting to see everyone again, even though there was a big hole in the gringa threesome. Everyone spent the afternoon hanging out, swimming in the pool, quite a relaxing day. Sarah and I made plans with a few of the girls, classmates of mine, to go out together for New Years.
I was going to a party in Las Lomas de Arena which are the sand dunes about an hour out of town for New Years. It was an all white party, where everyone dresses in white. I have to add that New Years is quite a formal event here, where everyone dresses up in dresses etc. It's quite the change from the North American ideas of NYE. I stressed a bunch for two days trying to find a dress, but finally found one a mere few hours before it was time to go to the party (yeaaah I'm still really last minute). We took a bus to the event, which was a big nono.. We left sometime after nine, but we kept getting stuck in the sand on the way there... and didn't end up arriving to the party until 1145!! We almost missed midnight! But we made it there in time, had the time of our lives and then drove out to the dunes to watch the sun rise. I dragged myself home at 7am, covered in sand to pass out in my bed for the rest of the day.
I'm now planning my two trips (I leave tomorrow morning for Sucre) and trying to get more details about the Rotary trip. No one has told us anything yet, we haven't even been phoned to inform us oficially that we are going on the trip (and we leave in a WEEK). The Rotary here seems so unorganized! We get home just in time for the referendum, which is on the 25th. A lot of kids are getting moved right around this time... so I guess we'll see what happens. I'm actually starting to get worried, because I don't want to go home. I had a huge realization after Brodie went back home that I wasn't ready at all to go back, if I had to. I'm just praying that everything stays calm and life can stay as is here in Santa Cruz. I am so thankful that I have a level headed Rotary club back home that isn't making any rash decisions, and letting me have control over my situation here. I mean, how can a club back in North America know what the situation is here if they're so far? So many exchange students are being forced out against their will. They don't want to leave here! No one feels like anything will happen here anyways.. But I will keep you updated on my life and the political situation, when I get back from traveling in Bolivia!!