It may have feel like Christmas to most people in the world - especially those lucky few, who were able to enjoy the good old traditional dark, cold, grey and wet Christmases in Britain. To me, it just didn't feel like Christmas at 28 degrees Celsius, despite the numerous 'Feliz Navidad' banners around the house, the happily decorated Christmas trees and the Navity scene at the front court.
In fact, even went to work on Christmas Eve with Sami for some painting - which I guess is usual in Britain too, then left early for some indulgence in Jaco (binging on the internet, and bumming on the beach). Got back to the village, greeted by Miriam and her granddaughter Hiliary (aged 8), who was immaculately dressed and ran over to give me a big hug and a kiss.
We were invited to a party by Alex, but as we got the timetable wrong, we still ended up taking the last bus. Plus the fact that there was a change of venue, it took even longer for us to get there, by which time it was more or less finished (it was for kids). Oh well, I thought, that should give us enough time for get ready for the Church service at 6pm, which I was looking forward to.
Despite the whole family being Catholic, none of them attended Mass at all. There was a small carol singing gathering in a crocodile tour office, then the crowd dispersed to the various family meals. Miriam's family were to gather at her other house (opposite the Guides and Scouts camp).
So what is the traditional Costa Rican Christmas meal? Rice with frijoles (black beans), salsa sauce, tortilla, baked potatoes, and some soda. For all the other normal people in the party, there were also barbequed chicken, sausages and ribs. So I assume there was no decline in the local turkey population (I try not to think about the turkey in Reto's Guatemalan homestay family house)...
It was strange for Sami and I to be sitting outside on the porch, being bitten by mosquitos (all on me, of course), surrounded by a number of extended family members all babbling in Spanish, and hearing the radio blaring out directly next to us. So, yes, a very very different experience to what we were used to. But consistent with the whole non Christmassy feeling.
After the meal, we took a nice long walk back, much needed to help with the digestion, and the family gathered around the house next to Miriams's. Having wondered when would be the best time to give them the present I had prepared whilst in London, thought that would be the perfect timing. Miriam was very happy with the black and white photos of London in the calender, and I was very happy explaining all the sights to her, and elaborating on Anlli's intelligent questions.
Chilled out on the porch for a bit more. At around ten, my presence was requested by the 'children' (i.e. the grown up ones, who are more or less my age). Was given a tequilla shot, before dragged across the park to the local discotheque, which has been blaring out loud music for as long as I could remember.
It was there, that I saw my first bit of snow. And only about three couples salsaring, though regret to say, the effect of the artifical snow did not increase the romantic effect. Spent much of the evening observing them swirl, and peeling off the labels of my beer bottles, since it was far too loud for conversations of any sort.
Enjoyed myself much more, when stepped outside and found Marieth, a local girl, with whom
I have a mutal understanding with, as we both need chocolate ice cream in our lives. And so we chatted for a long time, most of our conversations reverting back to the solution to our problems by consuming chocolate ice cream. Unfortunately her mum wanted her home by 11:30, so she had to make a speedy exit at 11:45... with nowhere still opened to sell us ice cream...
There was a short drama, involving a woman and a bridge. Anlli and her boyfriend Juan Jose invited me to a ride in the car to see the spectacle. Having not totally understood the circumstancecs, I decided to go back, once I realised that the woman almost drowned, and there was a crowd of people watching. Not quite what I wanted!
But it was still early, so Sami and I had a good brotherly-sisterly conversation in the pagoda, before attempting the dicoteque once more. Reluctantly accepted a free drink by a Tico, but declined his request for a dance, based on the claim of not liking the music (true, but not the only reason). And so, my first Christmas Eve away from home came to an end, and I crawled into bed at a respectable 1:30am...