My first Christmas in Iquitos was my second Christmas ever away from my family. While of course I miss everyone back home, luckily I have made some great friends here to spend the holidays with! The 23rd I had a relaxing day, getting another fabulous pedicure with my friend Mary. This time I went with a more Christmassy design, and I got a manicure! There were lots of women getting their nails done for Christmas, but there were also a few getting other beauty treatments for the holiday weekend, like false eyelashes- the place was packed!
In Iquitos the 24th is the big day for celebrating Christmas. Families get together and stay up late, eating dinner at midnight and then lighting fireworks in the streets. I think the official Christmas food here is the panetón, which means big bread. And that’s just what it is, a big round loaf of bread with little bits of fruit in it. I wasn’t a big fan, the bread itself is ok, plus the raisins, but the “fruit” is a little gross. It’s just little green and red cubes of something- I have no idea what kind of fruit it is supposed to be! People in Iquitos like to decorate a lot for Christmas, the more flashing lights, the better! The fanciest Christmas trees had the most blinking lights and played music. No real Christmas trees here of course, some people didn’t really believe me when I told them that we actually cut down real trees to put in the house! The biggest, brightest, flashiest Christmas display that I saw was the nativity scene at a big church near my house. It was a very lovely nativity scene during the day, with life size statues of indigenous people, like nothing I have ever seen. At night, however, it was so covered in flashing lights that it made it look like Jesus was born in a discoteca! The nativity scene downtown Iquitos was pretty unique too.
|Oh Little Disco of Bethlehem|
|Nativity Downtown Iquitos|
At our house the boys actually opened their presents the 23rd, as soon as Marcos came home with them! I made them wait until the 25th for their presents from me. On Christmas Eve I went to the Explorama office to Skype with my family back home because their internet connection is better. Explorama was having a staff Christmas party, I wasn’t really invited but since I was there they all made me feel very welcomed, even finding a little gift for me. I then got to talk with almost everyone in my family, plus some friends including Hillary and her beautiful new baby girl! Back at the house the three boys were all dressed and ready to go out! We went to visit various relatives and ate chicken and french fries at midnight at Ruth’s mom’s house. The two oldest boys spent the rest of the evening lighting fireworks, sort of supervised! We ended the night at Marcos’s sister’s house, heading home at 4:30 am, the boys were exhausted!
|Ramsés, Nicholas, and Jordan|
On Christmas day I went to Pam’s house for Christmas dinner. (Pam is one of Explorama’s managers, she is also from the states). Cynthia basically made a Thanksgiving feast for all of us; Pam said that in her 25 years here in Iquitos, this was the first Christmas that she had an American Christmas dinner! Cynthia’s daughter Samantha was here visiting, and she filled her suitcase with all of the foods we can’t get here, like cans of pumpkin for pie! Pam is married to a Peruvian, so we got to share our gringo Christmas food with her Peruvian family, I think they liked it. It’s very strange to be in a warm climate at Christmas – wearing a summer dress instead of a sweater, looking out on the Amazon River instead of a snow covered back yard, and sweating profusely throughout Christmas dinner!
|Sam and I at Pam's|
My Christmas continued the 26th, when I went with Cynthia and her daughter to Ceiba Tops for a little mini vacation. We stayed two nights, just relaxing by the pool, enjoying the scenery and each others company. I also took some time to write out some Christmas cards that Samantha is bringing back to the states with her to send to my mom, who will then send them out. So, my Christmas cards are going to be a little late! We did go on one excursion, we went to Monkey Island. It’s just as great as it sounds! Monkey Island is really called El Centro de Rescate Neiser, it is home to many rescued animals, not just monkeys. The animals there are very tame since most of them were pets at one point. It was a lot of fun, the monkeys love visitors!
|With a Woolly Monkey|
|Man's Best Friend and Monkey's Best Friend (capuchin monkey)|
Right now I am not sure of my New Years Eve plans, I’m guessing they’ll involve going out! I have another little trip planed for Sunday, I have to leave the country to renew my tourist visa, so I am taking a boat to Colombia! I have to be out of the country for 24 hours, then I can come back to Peru with a visa for hopefully 6 months this time instead of just 3. More to come…