Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A new home for the holidays

It’s been another long while, but with frequent travel the past month or so and frequent lack of internet and/or computer, blogging just hasn’t been possible.  Since it is summer here in Argentina, kids are off school and everything has really slowed down, especially here in La Plata.  Because the city is home to a larger university, the town empties out quite a bit between Christmas and February.  I am using this slow time to clean, organize, rest, and visit the comedor.  

For Christmas, I travelled to the small town of Orense, which is on the coast of Argentina and home to one of my roommates and good friends, Caro.  I spent several weeks over the holidays with her, her parents, and her four sisters.  Some photos of Orense and the family before I continue on...

Caro and I at the beach of Orense.

Orense Balneario to be correct...the actual town of Orense is about a 10 minute drive away.

This was the sunset on Christmas evening. I could not help but feel the presence of my grandmother who passed away this passed May in this little gift of God and nature.  Grandma Nyland loved few things more than a beautiful beach sunset.  I believe she strongly felt God's presence in this form of creation, just as I feel her presence in it now.

The view of  Orense from above.

I don't particularly love this picture, but my computer put the photos together to create some sort of moving image.  I could not let my computer's hard work go to waste and not share.  

A portion of the Huth family.  Caro is second from the left in blue, with two of her sisters to her left and right.  The rest are cousins.  I blended rather well into the family while crouching like this, but when standing I'm a good head shorter than than the rest.

This holiday season was very different from most for me for many reasons. There are obviously cultural differences in the way my friends here celebrate Christmas in comparison to my friends and family back home. However, the change allowed me to look more at this typical celebration that I am used to and analyze the good and bad of what I know to be Christmas.  I've decided to share some of these differences and what I learned in the following...

1.)  Here in the Buenos Aires province of Argentina, there is no such thing as a white Christmas.  The only thing white over the holiday season was my very pale complexion in comparison to everyone else’s at the beach.  Instead, it was averaging around 100 degrees.  Christmas music didn't even feel right.   I typically love Christmas music but the one time I tried one time to play some holiday jams while doing some holiday baking this year, I had to turn it off halfway through the first song.  While I’m sweating in a tank top and shorts, I don’t really want to here about bundling up, drinking hot cocoa, and enjoying the winter wonderland.  I never thought a holiday season could exist in which Christmas music did not bring joy to my soul...

A beautiful but hot day at the beach.  

Sun setting over the dunes.

2.)  Christmas  here isn’t an excuse for “all hell breaking loose” in the stores. As far as I know, no one died or was injured at the nearby Walmart fighting over claim for the last plasma television or toy for their child.  There was the hustle and bustle on the shopping street a  few days before as people picked up gifts but presents didn’t seem to be the focus.  This year my gifts were a few little things as a token of appreciation for a couple friends and baked goods for the family with which I stayed.  I like taking the time to come up with thoughtful gifts for people I love, but I don’t like the month-long preoccupation I often have with finding the perfect gift and spending the right amount of money.  Christmas should not be a time of greed and stress, but of joy and thanksgiving.

3.)  There is no Santa. Well, let me explain: There is no Santa, but there is this guy that goes by Papa Noel.  The jury's still out on whether they're the same guy or not.  There's the basic similarities between the two but Papa Noel appeared a little boxier, with a stringy beard, and was sporting sunglasses.  I was a child who visited Santa at the mall until awkwardly late in years and never once did Santa have a dreadlocked beard and sunglasses.  Just sayin'.

Also, there's now waiting for Papa Noel.  In fact, he personally visits the home just after midnight to give out gifts.  When I found out about this I began really hoping that Santa and Papa Noel are different dudes, otherwise I'm going to feel a bit cheated by my childhood and a little bitter towards the Argentinian people.  I would hate to think that Santa had to rush through my home, leaving only a few crumbs on a plate and ashy shoe prints on the floor, because he was taking the time to personally visit EVERY SINGLE home here in Argentina.  I never once saw Santa in my home.  In fact, he had so little time for my sister and I that after inquiries were made as to why Santa and my mother used the same wrapping paper, my mom revealed to use that he made her wrap some of his gifts for us. Low blow, Santa.  Low blow.

Papa Noel paying his visit.

Facu, Caro's cousin, wasn't too sure about this Papa Noel guy either...until he pulled a big ol' truck out of his gift bag.

4) The majority of Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Eve.  From what I experienced, families gathered later in the evening of the 24th for the Christmas feast.  We had dinner at about 10:30 pm, sitting around the table and enjoying the food until about midnight when a champagne toast was held, followed by fireworks set off by the cousins in the street.  The meal was of a colder variety due to the heat, with stuffed meats, salads, and fruit salad with ice cream for dessert.  All delicious!

The family sitting around the table for dinner!

A small portion of the large quantity of food cooked and served.

5.)  The greatest difference for me this year was definitely personal, not cultural, and that was the absence of my family in the US.  While it was beautiful to spend the holiday season with a new family and within a new culture, it was slightly sad being away from home and from those with whom I have celebrated Christmas for the previous 22 years of my life.   However, due to the kindness of the Huth family and thanks to modern-day technology, the distance was rather easily bared.  This holiday season I was blessed with the love and care of a new family, but to my family back home, my thoughts and were with you as they always are.

The Huth clan aka my adopted family for the holidays!  I could not have asked for better hosts! 

Below are photos of my family back in the US with whom I was unable to celebrate holidays with as they celebrated during my absence.  How beautiful are they??!!  I could not ask for a more loving or supportive family and for that I am eternally blessed.  Love you all!...

Thanksgiving with the Zollos side of the family!

Christmas with the Nylands.  That beautiful, blue-eyed boy in the center is growing up way to fast in my absence!

While right now things are moving slow for me, I am enjoying this time of peace and calm, as everything picks up again within a few short days.  Next week,  I will be traveling south to Patagonia and the town of Bariloche for our YAGM retreat.  After, MY FAMILY IS HERE and I could not be more excited to show them a part of my life here as well as experience new parts of Argentina with them.  So while I would like to promise that I will be better at blogging from now on, that just can't happen yet.

For now I can say that I am happy, healthy, and growing in so many ways.  And as always, I am so thankful for your love and support.  You are in my thoughts and prayers.  If you feel called to pray for me, pray that the Lord continues to guide and teach me and that He uses me for his purpose, even if it is a purpose that is often unclear or hidden from my very blinded eyes.  Love you guys!

Un abrazo,



  1. This is so sweet and thoughtful Kristyn! Praying for your time in Argentina! :)