My first Christmas away from home
I was asked many times during my travels whether I would go back home for Christmas but I had no intention of it because I didn't want to spend money to fly home and back out. I never thought twice about it but as the holiday rolled around and I saw on Instagram and Snapchat of my friends being with their families, I started to get a bit homesick. This was the first time I've been home sick in the 3 months that I've been gone. I was about to spend my first Christmas away from home, in the Southern Hemisphere, where it was summer instead of winter. However, I'm so glad I was able to spend it with the group of other volunteers who I've gotten close to over the last 2 weeks in Valparaiso with our hosts who made us feel like home. Thank you Grant and Camilla!
It was a nice day out so we opted for a day at the beach. We bussed and walked to a beach in a city next to Valpo, call Vina del Mar. Surprisingly, it wasn't that crowded or packed and it was the perfect temperature - warm with a light breeze. So we grabbed some beers and chips from the supermarket and laid out in the sun for a few hours. It was very relaxing and hilarious at times, especially when we saw a guy dressed in green shorts, red tank top, and a santa hat taking a selfie on the beach. Typing it out doesn't make it that hilarious but for some reason we got a good crack out of it.
Around 7/8pm, we went searching for food and of course everything was closed. We walked around for awhile until we saw a small sushi shop and that was our best bet. For some reasons, everyone loves putting cream cheese in their sushi. Almost everything on the menu had "queso" in it. I would rate it 5.1 out of 10. It wasn't terrible but it wasn't amazing, just very average, but much better than I expected for Chile. One of our friend is a super picky eater so he didn't want sushi and went to find chicken nuggets and fries and they were AWFUL. It was packed in tin pans so you would think they were warm and hot, but they weren't stone cold. I guess that's what happens when you try to get food on Christmas Eve in a religious country.
The streets were soooo empty! We have never seen anything like it. It felt like it was the end of the world and we were the last ones standing. There was just trash being blown left and right and us walking. It felt like we missed a que and should be somewhere else.
When we got home, we made sangria for our Christmas meal the next day and desserts. This was the first time I've ever made sangria and it turned out pretty great. I added (1) cheap red wine, (2) vodka, (3) rum, (4) sugar, (5) oranges, (6) apples, (7) strawberries, (8) orange juice, and (9) lemon soda.
We were planning to have our Christmas meal for lunch but that turned to 3pm which then turned to 6pm. So we were prepping during the day to have everything ready by 3pm, except for the lamb which our host was cooking on the grill outside, but by the time we actually sat down to eat everything was already cold.
We didn't have much to do until we cooked so we started drinking sangria around lunch time and made crown hats. We are a creative bunch haha
It's strange, I have never had this sensation before, but since being here I've been more into cooking and trying new recipes. So I volunteered to make Red Cabbage with Bacon and Apples, and Smashed Garlic Parmesan Potatoes. Cooking actually took longer than expected since the potatoes took so long to cook but surprisingly everything turned out soooo well. I'm quite surprised with myself of how well things are turning out when I cook.
By the time we were making our way to the terrace everyone was getting pretty tipsy and loose. Our host put the lamb on the grill pretty late so we actually didn't have any... We bunched on the sides and appetizers. We had my two dishes, corn, veggies (cucumbers, tomatoes, radish, asparagus), olives, and butt-loads of alcohol.
It was such a good atmosphere and environment to be in for Christmas. I wouldn't have asked for anything for my first Christmas away from home. We got pretty close to each other from the couple weeks we've been working and living together so we all became a small family.
^ Love these guys! Of course we couldn't take a decent picture... we have a very dysfunctional relationship. Although we get on each other's nerves and have become too comfortable, I can't believe we have another week together, aka spending New Year's in the best city in South America.
We taught everyone how to play white elephant so after dinner we played and with each steal you had to take a shot so everyone's drunk level escalated... aka we successfully got both of our hosts drunk before midnight. He actually passed out on the couch and Sam did a strip tease and it was hilarious. I also got so tired really early, the aftermath of day drinking so I passed out on my bed around midnight.
I am extremely fortunate to have celebrate Christmas with this group of people. They made being away from home extremely comfortable and the best experience I could have asked for. I think these are the moments that make traveling so rewarding. Yes, I love seeing beautiful places and visiting new cities, but it's the people I meet along the way and the ones who I become close to that make traveling alone the best thing I could have ever done. We all come from very different backgrounds and lifestyles but there is always an immediate bond over traveling and appreciating this way of life.