Merry Christmas to my dear family and friends!
I am missing you today and have been during this entire Christmas Season! Christmas here is not bad, but it’s not the same. There are lights in the plazas, all sponsored by Coca-Cola, and there are people selling random nick-nacks in the streets hoping to get a little extra money. What’s interesting is the amount of homeless people that have traveled to be on the Cochabamba streets for Christmas. You cannot walk one block without seeing a woman and her kids begging for some change. They travel here for the Holidays because the city folks tend to be more generous this time of year, and because there are programs set up to help them for Christmas time. It’s incredibly sad how desperate and desolate they look. It’s something I’ll never get used to and I’ll never be able to erase some of the images I’ve seen.
It’s just different here. I haven’t been hearing Christmas songs everywhere I go, and I haven’t been sipping from a red Starbucks cup. Nor have I been bundled up in scarves, or drinking hot chocolate with marshmallows. I haven’t been able to greet my brothers or spend dinner with family or go to St. Marks or St. Peter’s for the midnight service.
But I have been celebrating this special time of year in the best way possible. I have been spending it with my friends here and the young ladies at Mosoj Yan. At the Sustainable Bolivia house, we decorated a tree and set up a little manger surrounded by zoo and barn animals, with Baby Jesus blue-eyed and gringo skin all wrapped up in toilet paper. It’s precious and it’s something we were all a part of. With the girls at Mosoj Yan, we celebrated on Sunday with 150 girls and children! Everyone who has lived at the shelter over the past 10 years comes back to celebrate with their family. It was incredible! Their was food for everyone. There were presents for every child, and there was candy bags for everyone who wanted it. As we shared conversation and food, we were entertained with two folkloric Christian bands. It was such a special day! I stayed after everyone else left so I could have some time with them and give them my gifts. With the money that was raised, I was able to buy them NICE and NEW caps, goggles, and swimsuits! My friends, they have been wearing old,used, baggy bikinis to learn to swim in. Now they don’t have to be embarrassed. They are so excited to get back into the pool after our little vacation! Also, drumroll…..the final amount raised during the Solidarity Swim-a-thon was $4114!!! That is a number to celebrate! That gives the girls 2 more years of swimming AND their very own swim attire. I couldn’t be more thankful for all the support that came in. It’s a blessing and the girls wish they could thank each one of you in person. (They’re making a video so that will come shortly!)
Now, as I’m writing this, I am surrounded by some of my closest friends here. We shared an enormous brunch together and now everyone is crashing. I am so full of happiness and FOOD! It’s also my last day in this house with my friends. I am about to make a big change, and a big announcement. I am staying here until April now. I am moving in with a Bolivian friend. She is becoming independent for the first time and I get to experience that with her! I also will be working at a pool that teaches a variety of classes from spinning in the pool, to water-babies, to aqua-therapy! I will be with the girls still every day, but working to make it easier to live here. I am so excited for 2013! My resolution is the update my blog and keep in touch with as many of you as I can!
I am about to take off to Lake Titicaca and then Cuzco, Peru for New Years! When I get back, I will be in touch! I miss you!!!
LOVE, LOVE, LOVE and PEACE,