Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Our First Christmas in Honduras

There may not have been fat man in a red suit, but our first Christmas in Honduras was pretty jolly nonetheless. We were invited to spend the holiday with our Spanish teacher, Gloria, and her family in their hometown about two hours from the capital, Tegucigalpa.

La Paz is a small, friendly colonial city where friends and family can safely meet in the central park, even late into the evening.

We took this photo on the steps of the cathedral in the central square
where Gloria's sister and niece took us to enjoy some late-night ice cream.

As with many families in the U.S., Hondurans celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve. But instead of settling in early for a long winter's nap, families here stay up all night chatting, visiting friends and neighbors and eating traditional foods. Much to our happiness, we welcomed Christmas in the wee hours of the morning sitting around a kitchen table laughing and playing cards with our new friends. And despite the late hour, we didn't forget to share our own Christmas tradition. Before heading off to bed, we read the story of Christ's birth from the Bible together—for the first time ever in Spanish.

Just like at home, ladies spend much of their time cooking the Christmas meal.
Here Gloria, her daughter and niece prepare beans, rice and fresh tortillas.

Our Christmas Eve photo around the tree. The family also invited two
U.S. Army officers stationed at a nearby base to join us for the celebration.

Steve really missed having his nieces and nephews around. But Gloria's
grandson, Josue (aka Superman) managed to keep him busy playing.

On Christmas Day, we rested late into the day and after filling our stomachs with baleadas, we left La Paz to visit Gloria's other sister. After two hours of bouncing and winding around the mountain road, we finally arrived in Santiago. We shivered in the cool breezes of the higher altitude and it reminded us of the cold winter Christmases to which we are accustomed. We were welcomed once again with delicious food and warm, comfortable beds. We were exhausted!

Despite the cooler climate, the Santiago house was surrounded by gardens of beautiful flowers and trees.

Gloria's sister used her outdoor kitchen to prepare delicious food for her tired and hungry guests.

Of course, fresh, homemade tortillas are a staple of every Honduran meal.

The family posed around the table before a delicious Christmas lunch.

After a good night's rest, we set out to explore the family's coffee farm. Santiago is comprised of families that make their living growing, processing and shipping coffee around the globe. Gloria's family owns a small coffee plantation and we spent the day learning the ins and outs of producing some the world's finest coffee. And after a little taste of the brew, Nick discovered he may be a coffee-drinker afterall!

The plant is more aptly called a coffee fruit here in Honduras, rather than a coffee bean. Workers are paid by the pound to hand-pick the harvest. They can earn up to $10 a day, an excellent wage for the area.

Banana and orange trees grow alongside the coffee and shade the plants from harsh sunlight.

After being processed, the coffee is left out to dry in the sun before being packed and shipped.

Sadly, our celebration with Gloria's family was cut short when her husband, Elvis, received news that he'd lost his brother-in-law after a long battle with cancer. We accompanied the family back to Tegucigalpa as they prepared for the funeral. 

Despite the tragic ending, our first Christmas in Honduras was filled with joy and celebration. Perhaps most surprisingly, we were surrounded by family. And when you're a long way from home, that is a true Christmas gift.

We have been blessed by our substitute family this Christmas. Here, Gloria and
Elvis pose with their grandson at scenic overlook near the coffee farm.

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