Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas with a dash of Supernatural tid-bits

It didn't really feel like Christmas. Where I am living, and from what I have heard from other volunteers –the whole country, lacks the special Christmas time cheer that we all look forward to. Most volunteers who have spent a Christmas here always say “leave if you can”, try not to spend Christmas here if possible” , “spend it with other volunteers”. I know see why.

 I never realized how much I relied on this Christmas cheer to get me excited about the Christmas season. Thank god for itunes Christmas hit collection. What I did know was that I would be eating a lot over the next couple of days and that I am okay with!  Sunday b before Christmas, the 23rd, started out semi-normal. It was the morning of my park clean-up with the youth of the community. As most Dominicans do, they plan something and never follow through. So Sunday morning I spent waiting in the park with my host mom – only person who came to support me – and no one showed…no even the firefighters who’s original plan this was. We decided to go to her father’s garden where he has tons of platanos planted and we wanted to get palm leaves to make pasteles in for our Christmas dinner, La Cena. We went, found a machete and came home with soo many palm leaves! On our way home my host mom stopped at the market and told me that I was going to go ahead of her to take everything she bought because she had to run other errands. No problem, I said. What I didn’t know was that this meant having to carry two live chickens all the way home and find a place to put them – I didn’t feel comfortable hanging them from a tree so I put them on the floor and just hoped they were comfortable. I felt so bad so I fed them part of my yucca lunch and thought about naming them. Then I remembered that I would be eating them so decided not to get all personal and name them!
Our plan was to start preparing all the food when she got home. When we were unpacking the rest of the food, my host mom got a call from Frank – the one my host mother goes to for advice on her witchery , he’s only 23. He was having a party for all his clients and wanted her help in preparing a sancocho. Of course she said yes.

Once everything was put away we took a walk to his “place” – this is where he works all his magic, red previous post for more info. We got there and it was super unorganized. There was nothing to cook the cow head in and nothing else. We were all given errands – my job was to go get a ponchera and sazon for the meat.  I got back and things started to get going. I helped peel plantains, rulo and other viveres. The great thing about where his “place of work” is is that it is in a valley type area surrounded by matas of everything; coconut, oranges, plantains, rulo, mango, banana. So there was nothing else to buy – just pick! I never realized how hard it is to peel some of these viveres. It stained my hands and pants. Once everything was peeled my host mom worked her kitchen magic and finagled a way to cook it all in. I was then handed an unopened bottle of rum and told that this as for the women to drink. Hmm. Ok. This whole time were waiting for the drummers. The two guys who know how to drum Haitian chanting music. I, of course, was intrigued and curious – was I again going to experience some other supernatural thing tonight? Before the drummers got there, this guy came out of the shack in a long, red cape/robe. He was ringing a bell and doing circles around the shack – then the drummers came and he sat in front of them while they drummed.  It was an interesting night – The same spirit came up in Frank that did last time, Criminel. He was there in case anyone had any questions. Of course, if he really can read the future like people kept saying, I wanted to know if I would be here for the whole two years.  When I asked, he gave me the most vague answer saying that it is what I want it to be… Giving it a lot of thought over the recent experiences of this stuff I decided I don’t really believe in all of this.  
Running my portion of errands - getting the ponchera

My host mom prepping the cow head

Peeling viveres - it's really hard


the 23 year old wise man, Frank, in his 8 ft by 8 ft  office

Dancing for posession

Haitian Chanting and Drumming

We came home and I stepped out of the warped reality for a couple of hours by checking out what “it’s always sunny in Philadelphia” is all about. Loved it!

Christmas eve – I woke up exhausted because the chickens, which slept in the kitchen, were making so much noise all night long due to their discomfort.  As I was waking up the kid who lives next door was so excited to kill them that he came right over. He hung them on the tree outside, upside down, took the knife I usually use for spreading Peanut Butter, and went to town. 

Here is the step by step process of our Christmas dinner - La Cena:

                                                                       La Cena:
                                                                    Roasted Chicken
                                        Pastel of viveres wrapped in palm leaves and boiled
                                                           Auyama (squash) pudding

I was thinking he was going to give it one clean slice – no he cut their necks off like he was slicing French bread with a dull knife..back and forth, back and forth..making it worse for the chickens.  I watched the process of cleaning and plucking so that I could do the second chicken. SO once that one was killed it was up to me to clean, pluck and prep. The day was spent sitting in the same plastic chair, cooking. Starting at 8:30 am and getting our plate ready for La Cena at 9pm. I only ate one empanada...i was around food ALL day and couldnt really eat. We had visitors stop by throughout the day but for La Cena, it was me, my host mom, her friend Juana and the little boy who killed the chickens. After dinner I painted Juana’s nails and went to bed.

Christmas morning I woke up wishing I was waking up in Belmont to stockings and santa presents. I skyped with my family while they looked in their stockings and I opened a present from my sister! I then went to the kitchen to sit in the same plastic chair and start eating all the food we made the day before. Around 11 I started with the wine – which we didn’t get to drink on the 24th – and the day was spent sitting in the plastic chair, eating, drinking and me hearing about the shape-shifters that my host mom and her cousin have seen…I can’t escape the witchery! The evening ended with me having to counsel Juana out of thinking my host mom cast a spell on her. She came back drunk from a day aat some older, wiser witches house, crying that she misses her mother – who passed away a year ago. We were all listening to her in the kitchen and all of a sudden she throws herself on the floor, starts slithering like a snake, making hand signals to the cousin insinuating that they should go have sex, and screaming that she wants an uncooked egg and coffee grounds. Damn it I only have one greca full amount of coffee left for tomorrow morning. I gave her the coffee grounds and she shoved them in her mouth. My host mom and cousin held her down so that the spirit, santa marta, wouldn’t hurt Juana. They asked all these questions and then Juana finally came to be. She stood up and was pissed because she thought they put a spell on her or did something so that a spirit would come up. She doesn’t like the spirit possession stuff, so I don’t blame her for being pissed about it. What she doesn’t know is that it just came up in her or someone else, outside the house, made it so that the spirit would once up in her. She called my host mom and cousin all sorts of names so they were pissed and couldn’t talk to her about what really happen ed. Luckily, her and I had a serious bonding moment the day before so I thought I would take advantage and try. I followed after her and was able to calm her down. She finally called down and when we came back home I spent about an hour trying to listen to her and explain some of her irrational thinking. I realize, however, that when it comes to talking about the supernatural stuff is irrational by nature – but hey I tried. She hasn’t been around since…she always came and had lunch with us because she can’t afford to buy food – when she does have some change it is because she slept with a guy for it. Sweet woman, sad story.

The cousin spent most of Christmas with us. He is very well integrated in the world of baseball here and got me tickets to see many Ramirez play tomorrow and then meet and greet with him – unfortunately I will be heading up to Puerto Plata. The great thing is that he doesn’t have a shortage of these tickets. He knows pretty much every one. He hangs out with Sammy Sosa’s family, is best buds with Juan Carlos Franco and his brother is Daniel Rondon.  Appreantly I live in the neighborhood where they either all grew up or where their families currently live.

My Christmas was pretty low key but filled with supernatural superstitions and food! I gained a lot of weight those two days – sitting, eating, more sitting, much more eating!

If anything, I have decided that Christmas away from home was definitely harder than I expected and something I don’t think I want to do next year. I am glad I got through that faze and am now getting ready to go spend 4 days with amazing people on the beach in the northern coast of this beautiful country!

Hope you all had a great Christmas!

happy Reading

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