Even though I was a long way from friends and family, this week has been great and I had a fantastic Christmas Eve and Day here in Quito! Christmas is a big deal here, just as in the States, and many of the same traditions are present that we usually see up north. There are trees, lights, and other decorations, lots of people shopping, holiday music being played (often in English), and even appearances by St. Nicolas himself. For me, the biggest reason that it doesn’t quite feel like the holiday season is the weather. There really aren’t seasons here, so it’s not snowy, or even cold, in December. It’s basically the same weather as any other time of the year – mostly sunny, chance of rain, and a daily high of 70ish degrees. Though the lack of snow may change the holiday spirit a bit, I’ll take the weather in Quito over the cold and snow any day!
The biggest surprise this week has been how much turkey I’ve eaten – it has felt more like Thanksgiving than Christmas! I had a turkey dinner with some friends on Monday night, another on Tuesday night, turkey sandwiches for breakfast on Wednesday morning, leftovers today, and there’s still more to eat tomorrow! It’s reminded me of that oh-so-unfortuante scene in THE Christmas movie. Speaking of which, over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been glad to have seen both A Christmas Story and Elf, two of my favorite holiday movies.
My celebration of Christmas started on Tuesday evening, when I met my girlfriend, Gaby, after she was done with work at we opened a couple of presents together. (Because I know you’re wondering, Gaby is from Quito and we’ve been seeing each other for nearly a month. She speaks very good English, which makes for an awesome bilingual relationship. Things are going great for us, so you’ll likely hear more about her in future posts.) We ate some crepes and drank some coffee at a local cafe as we opened gifts, which is a Christmas tradition I could easily get behind. My parents had sent me a gift, a nice picture of our family, and my stocking – so opening those things made it feel like I was just a little bit closer to home.
After opening gifts with Gaby, I went to my former host family’s house for dinner and more gift-opening. One of my host brothers dressed up as Santa and passed out all of the gifts. Not surprisingly, his two-year-old son was pretty frightened by the white-bearded, red-suited strange man, though no one could tell him that it was actually his dad. After opening presents and eating a delicious dinner, we played some Scrabble until about 2:30 in the morning, and I crashed at their house for the night. Though it wasn’t my own family, it was wonderful to spend some time in that family environment on Christmas Eve, especially with a family with whom I have a strong connection.
On Christmas Day I slept in a bit and had breakfast with my old host family. Afterwards I was happy to get to Skype with my parents, brother, and grandma when I was back at my house. Despite being far away, it’s amazing how much those video chats can give you a connection to home. Around midday, Gaby and I went to the historic center of Quito and met up with Dave, Eliana, and Kaleth, and Dave’s friend Alejandro, who was visiting from Mexico. We did a bit of sightseeing in the center and then went up to the Panecillo, a hill that over looks the whole city. It was awesome to be up there on Christmas day and admire the amazing city that I get to call home.
All it all it’s been an amazing week, though I do wish I could have been home and spent some time with family, but I know that I’ll get to visit them soon! Today and tomorrow I’m back at work – where it’s really hard to stay motivated at the moment! And then on Saturday I’m headed to the beach with Gaby and some other friends to spend a long weekend and celebrate New Year’s. I’ll try to post about that trip soon after we return. Until then, enjoy a couple of pictures from Christmas below: