Over the past few weeks, the thought of being away from home — away from friends, family, snow, cheese, Christmas cookies, wine — all the things that are comforting to me during winter and Christmas, was a difficult truth to swallow.
But now that Christmas has come and passed, I feel appreciative of the time I spent with new friends and family, under a hot hot Costa Rican sun, with 3 wonderful Peace Corps volunteers, endless Christmas art activities, too much karaoke, ridiculously priced cheddar cheese (I’m from Wisconsin, it was necessary), not-so-delicious red wine, and Christmas cookies (yes, we made it happen).
While not the traditional White Christmas that I dream of every year, this year’s Christmas felt extra special and unique, and here’s why:
1. I did never-been-done-before Christmas art activities with the kids in my community. They loved it so much we did 4 days in a row!
2. I partook in the annual Christmas tree cutting.
(and by tree I mean a large branch of an evergreen)
3. I shared my Christmas experience with 3 other volunteers
(which made it feel a little more like home!)
4. We shared foods and traditions (like cooking in the kitchen all day) from our culture including macaroni and cheese, rice krispies, hummus, and Christmas cookies.
5. We celebrated la noche buena (Christmas Eve) at my house with a group of 25 people in my community with a hearty feast, a gift exchange, and too much karaoke.
6. On Christmas day, my host mom packed me and my fellow amigos a lunch and we went to secluded farm, shut the doors to the kitchen, and watched a movie. In English. On a computer. It was glorious.
7. We cooked my host family black bean burgers and yucca fries for Christmas dinner.
It tasted like home and even they loved it!
So you’re saying here that you spent way to much time doing stressful art activities with kids, illegally cut a tree that wasn’t even a tree, pieced together some sad American dishes, and then watched a movie with 3 other people huddled around a 13-inch screen, on a farm…
As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you learn to appreciate the small things. You appreciate the moments you teach a child how to use glue. You appreciate the moments you watch an adult eat their first ever bite of macaroni and cheese. You appreciate showing children how to decorate a Christmas cookie and that yes, you can indeed eat the sprinkles. You appreciate sitting in a dark room and watching a movie in English with friends, just long and dark enough to forget how far away from home you really are.
It’s these small moments that you learn to appreciate as a Peace Corps Volunteer. And it’s moments like these that made my Costa Rican Christmas 2016 an unforgettable experience.