Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Let's get ready for Christmas!

You might be wondering why we’re getting ready for Christmas in Tomas, because it is only July. No, it isn’t because we’re in the Southern hemisphere and everything is the opposite time of the year. Actually, when your Christmas party is a 4 day event with free food for 2000 people, it takes a lot of prep work. So here, on July 1st, we began to collect fire wood to cook at the big event.

This event, called the “Saca Leña”, which means “firewood take”, is an old tradition here in Tomas. The tradition has changes a lot of the years, basically due to accessibility to a chainsaw, but it is still a big family event. It used to be that the entire family would spend an entire day walking the mountains collecting firewood, hence the name, but now it has changed to cutting down one or two big trees and splitting and collecting the wood. My “great uncle” is one of the sponsors of the Christmas party this year, so all of my family was helping with the task of bringing and preparing all the firewood.

We started the day with a “mote” breakfast. Basically, it is a soup that has alpaca and corn, and is pretty tasty. Then, we all headed to my family’s garage/house to split a giant Eucalyptus tree that had been cut down the day before. We started working with axes, stakes and sledgehammers, and pry bars to split the massive tree. There were a lot of people working in a very small area, but amazingly nobody lost any fingers or toes. After some time working, we took a break where they started to pass around the beer, caña (gross, hard liquor), and coca leaves. I don’t particularly like the idea of getting a little buzzed while working with tools that could easily take a finger, hand, or eye, but nobody really seemed to notice that mixing these things was a bad idea. After the break we continued as before, although I was working a little more precaution.

The day ended with the splitting of a second tree, although much smaller than the first, and after a quick lunch I went to my regular Wednesday afternoon soccer game. This week was also special though…we got jerseys!

I play in a league that has 4 teams, the Municipality, Tomas Youth, the High School team, and my team, the Teachers. The teachers decided that uniforms are a good idea, since all the other teams have them. A teacher organized the whole thing and for 22 soles (about $7.33) we got a jersey, shorts, and socks. They even have our names on the chest. Everyone used their last name, except me, because having “Jared” on my shirt helps with the pronunciation of my name more the “Brandell”.

The other interesting thing that happened before the game was we had a special presentation by the Priest. We have a Priest in Tomas 4 days a week, and he teaches Religion classes as well as leading the Catholic Mass. So before we donned our new jerseys, the Priest blessed them and sprinkled them with water. It is certainly the first blessed item that I have. I can’t say it did nothing though, because we did win for the first time in 4 weeks…

Life is continuing to go well. I’ve got a camping trip planned for the 4th of July, although it won’t be anything like a weekend at the lake. My work is keeping me busy and as a community we are advancing with a few environmental projects, such as our Tree Nursery. I’m enjoying my time in Tomas, and the days go by so fast! My next 17 months will certainly fly by!
And now some random pictures of my life...
My good friend Luis in our Magisterio (teachers) soccer jerseys.

Some of the teachers and the mayor, after the uniforms were blessed.

Choppin' some wood.

On Father's day, the dads all received jackets from the municipality.

Taking a break from chopping wood, why not chew some coca leaves? (I didn't)

My host dad (left), and some other community members watching the father's day performances by the students.

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