I’ll be home for Christmas

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the poem “Christmas Bells,” which is used in the song above, while he was grieving the fact that his nation was at war.  He was lonely on Christmas because his son had left to fight in the Civil War.  Loneliness around Christmas time is a pain that mocks the song, peace on earth and good will to men.  Christmas would have been extremely difficult for me if I hadn’t been able to see my dad open his Tim Tebow jersey or my mom unwrap her new cook wear.  It’s nice to think about peace on earth and good will to men, but my selfish desire was to be home.  Unfortunately I didn’t make it home.  I decided to stay in Guatemala so I could go to Hawaii this summer with my family, but it meant my first Christmas away from my family.  But Christmas Eve, as the old familiar carols played, it was very difficult.  Mostly because those carols were in spanish, but also because they made me think of home.

Every year of my life, as far as I know, I’ve spent every Christmas Eve helping my dad out at church.  If you define the word help by fighting with Katie, my older sister, in front of 1,000 people, or dropping the lighter as I tried to light the Christ candle, setting the sanctuary carpet on fire.  But this year I celebrated Christmas Eve Spanish style, with the sermon and carols in Spanish.  I know all of the Christmas carols by heart, but it was dang near impossible to sing in English while everyone else was singing in Spanish.  I forced myself to try to sing with them, but wild and sweet the words repeated with more of a fra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra! (At least I wasn’t being forced to eat Chinese food like Ralphie) Yet as I heard the bells on Christmas Eve I thought how, as the night had come, there were fireworks to be lit.  The blasts were strong and the colors bright.  Then peeled the bombs more loud and clear.  It was midnight and the birth of Christ had come.

As weird as it may seem, I woke up on Christmas morning with the lyrics I’ll be home for Christmas if only in my dreams in my head.  Maybe in my dreams I had been able to make it home for Christmas.  Instead I woke up in my bed in Guatemala.  At 7:30 am on Christmas morning, I’ve never been one to sleep in on Christmas day, a cold fog still weighed itself over Xela.  It made it seem a little like a white Christmas.  It was cold so I hopped back in bed and waited for my parents to Skype me.

8 came and went and as great of an invention as Skype is, it still takes two to tango.  Fortunately gmail has a nifty little call function that allows me to make free calls to the states.  I called up my dad on his cellphone.  He answered with a sound of shock in his voice and immediately hopped on Skype.  I was able to be home for Christmas via modern technology.  I enjoyed watching Emmy, my sister, open up my gift for her.  While we were shopping in Antigua, she eyed a coffee bag purse.  I knew she wanted to buy it for herself so I had to convince her it was hideous.  It wasn’t as easy as it sounds.  Try convincing a fashionista something they think is cool is fopa. Ha! What do I really know about style.  But she listened to me and was pleasantly surprised when she unwrapped her gift.  It was very special.  It’s beautiful how something as simple as giving a gift can bring to mind peace on earth.

I was blessed to Skype with my family and spend the day with friends that I have made down here.  If everyone can spend Christmas being reminded they are loved, the wrong shall fail and the right prevail and we’ll all be home for Christmas.

Emmy, Guatemala, and a Turkey!

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Thanksgiving is a time for turkeys and families or since my Grandpa used to call me a turkey maybe it’s just a time for turkeys.  For the first time in two years, I was able to spend my Thanksgiving with a turkey . . . I mean family member.  Emmy, my little sister, traveled down to visit me and my students (I think she spent more time with them than she did with me).

Having family visiting me was a delectable, no wait that’s just how good the Thanksgiving feast was at my school.  Emmy and I went zip lining, hiked up La Muela (my favorite hike), and went to Antigua so we could summit a volcano and spend an exorbitant amount of time shopping.  Emmy is a shopaholic and I just wanted to spend time with her, so I obliged.  We weaved in and out of the artisan market as if we were skilled lab rats sniffing out the cheese.  Emmy filled her entire second suitcase with gifts, and not all of them were for herself!

Before I list all of the gifts that Emmy bought, let’s back up to our time in Xela.  Emmy stayed with the Figeuroa’s.  They have a beautiful house and Dani, my student who’s just a year younger than Emmy, graciously shared her room.  The Figeuroa’s have been great to me over the last two years, so it was nice for Emmy to meet them.  Upon her arrival they invited us over for dinner.  I’d forgotten to tell them Emmy doesn’t eat meat, I guess I’m the turkey, but she ate it anyway.  Later that night I baked a pizza and we played games.  It was a real blessing to have Emmy here and for her to have a beautiful place to stay.

While staying in Xela was nice, it couldn’t top our trip down to the coast where we zip lined.  Zip lining with Emmy was amazing.  Two years ago when she came down with my parents, the only thing she’d wanted to do was zip line, but the course we’d picked left us both unsatisfied.  So, I made sure we tried it again.  Emmy and Dani started off the day terrified for their lives.  I had to reassure Dani several times that she wasn’t going to die. Dani’s a turkey because she assured me she was going to die while we hiked up to the top of the mountain before we zipped down.  I think she thought the hike was going to kill her.  However, by the end of the trip they were so excited that the girls were trying to spit on cars as they cruised over the top of the highway.

Taking Emmy up La Muela was a blast, literally.  La Muela used to be an active volcano and what is left now is everything the blast left behind.  When she’d visited before, her hip wasn’t strong enough to do the hike.  I guess that’s what happens when you dislocated it twice.  Dislocated hips sure are turkeys.  Yet this time Emmy made it up to the top like a champ.  The view at the summit of La Muela is beautiful.  You can see all of mountainous Xela.  Sharom, another one of my students who hiked with us, kept saying, “I can see my house!!”  She also said stuff like, “I can’t make it.  I’m done. No, really, I’m done.”  What a turkey.  Fortunately she made it all the way up to the top.  Even though she said she’d never do the hike again, I’m pretty sure she’s proud of herself.  Seeing my little sister in one of my favorite places in Guatemala was a real blessing.

I think Emmy enjoyed the hike almost as much as she enjoyed playing turkey tag with my kindergarten class.  All of the little kids were hamming it up, or should I say turkeying it up while Emmy was around.  They love to show off how cute they are to new people.  And you can’t get much cuter than the kindergarten class.

When Emmy and I finally made it to Antigua I was ready for some brother and sister bonding time.  She was ready to shop.  She also wanted to see lava so I took her up Pacaya, the evil volcano that delayed my fight home last May.  The hike was easy, but the guide decided to take us to where the lava wasn’t flowing.  What a turkey!  We did get to roast marsh mellows but, it wasn’t over flowing lava.  I guess nothing is perfect.  Even though we didn’t get to see lava, my time with Emmy was perfect.  I’m glad my turkey season was graced by my turkey of a little sister.