There is no mistaking it, Christmas is in full swing. My evidence:
- Steam rises out of giant pots of atole and ponche on almost every street corner.
- Moss is piled in the street. (see note below for more info)
- Children wait anxiously for the big day: January 6.
OK, you got me. Christmas is celebrated a little bit differently in Mexico. However, many traditions are the same: Christmas lights line rooftops; shop windows are covered with sale signs and enticing displays; and everyone is in a festive mood, ready for all of the parties.
My after-work calendar for the next three weeks is absolutely chock-full of posadas, choir concerts, community dances, and maybe even a wedding. Everyone seems to want to adopt the poor güera who is so far from family this time of year. I am certainly not complaining! This is a time of year when many Peace Corps volunteers and expats feel homesick. Now that I have been in Mexico for four months – how did that happen already?? – I am certainly noticing the distance. “Te extraña tu familia?” is always met with “por supuesto!” : “Do you miss your family?” “Of course I do!”
That is why it was so exciting to hear the doorbell at my friend’s house today. The UPS man is here, the UPS man is here! He was bringing me my first package; a Christmas present from my mom!!
Excited, I ran down two flights of stairs, almost falling on my face half way down. Careful girl! I opened the door to greet that familiar brown uniform with a gigantic smile. “Good morning!”
“Good morning señorita. You have a delivery. That’ll be 418 pesos.”
Wait, what? How much?? I knew that Mexico taxes what they consider luxury items such as electronics, new clothes, skin care products, anything from China, and chocolates, but I did not know that the rates were so high. $32 American dollars is a lot of money for a volunteer. But no worries; it is totally worth the money to get a Christmas present from The Other Side!
“Hold on,” I respond, still grinning. “Let me grab my wallet. It is upstairs.” I charge up the stairs, only slightly more careful this time. When I return to the front door, I realize that I am 49 pesos shy of the bill. ¡Híjole! “Um, can I run to the ATM really quick?”
Of course his response was a cheerful “Sure!” Love it.
But shoot, I don’t have the house keys with me…up the stairs and down again, breathless this time.
When I saw the UPS man outside, he was getting in his truck with my package, and he was motioning for me to hop in. Apparently he was giving me a ride to the ATM! I love Mexico.
During the ride, we chatted about the ten years he spent in Southern California. Norteño music poured out of the speakers. Since I had displaced them by sitting in the passenger seat, other packages were piled high on my lap. The van even had seat-belts!
He waited patiently while I stood in the ATM line. There is always a line for the ATM. After obtaining sufficient cash, I paid him on the street corner, signed for my present, hugged him in thanks, and ran all the way back to my friend’s house. I was giggling and skipping like a little girl on Christmas morning during the whole run.
Christmas is here, and I got love from the other side. Thanks mom!!
PS Anyone who wants to send me care packages or letters, shoot me an email for my address. Ideas for what to send are listed here. It will certainly put a smile on my face!
PPS About that moss thing: Moss harvesting is illegal in national parks in Mexico, but it still happens, making it a common problem for park management during Christmastime. Last week, the environmental police showed up at my office to investigate two huge bales of seized moss. Patches like this are scattered throughout the forest each year:
Making me smile
- Getting approval to move into my own house in two weeks; best Christmas present ever!
- Negotiating my housing contract, by myself, in a second language
- Squealing and squeezing the hand of a new friend – a 12 year old named Fatima – during a carnival ride under the stars
- While sheltering myself from the copious firework-derived ashes that were raining over the crowd, I met the members of the cumbia band that was about to play at the community dance. We laughed about how close the fireworks were and how lovely – but cold – the night was
- Attending an impromptu choir practice that started up after a birthday party. Included: delicious cake and hot coffee to warm my cold hands