"I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas (or holiday of choice) from the bottom of my heart."  Now that I have left you with that tidbit of musical insanity looping in your head from the rest of the day...

This holiday season has been full of adventure and learning, although that isn't limited to the holiday season here.  However, there were some special treats for me this holiday season.  My aunt Jeanette came down for a visit over Christmas.  Although actually getting her here turned out to be more complicated than I ever imagined, it was worth every minute that I spent at the airport (and traveling to and from the airport).  

Originally, Jeanette would have gotten here on December 22nd around mid-day.  However, the universe had other plans in mind and, after missing her connecting flight in Atlanta and being flown through both Mexico and El Salvador, she arrived on December 23rd around 4:30 in the afternoon.  Fortunately, we'd left things pretty open so it was easy to rearrange schedules, but it made for a very short trip.

Her first night in we stayed in a hostel that I really like in Antigua.  $10 for two people for a quiet room with hot water isn't too bad.  That left us more to spend on other things, namely food.  We ate our way around town during her entire visit, and found some treasures.  Our favorite find of the week was Fernando's Kaffee, which has the best coffee and chocolate I have ever had.  This is coming from someone who adores coffee and usually doesn't care for chocolate.  The food is also amazing, and it will undoubtedly be a stop for anyone who comes to visit.

After a lovely breakfast at Fernando's on the morning of the 24th (a wonderful way to start the day), we headed back to my site to celebrate Christmas with my Guatemalan friends.  The tradition here is to stay up until midnight and set off fireworks.  While we spent some time with Estela's family and ate plenty (yet again) we neither made it to midnight nor set off fireworks.  For my part, I slept so soundly that I didn't even hear them.  

On the 25th we broke out the traditions.  Jeanette brought lots of Christmas lights and decorations with her and Uncle David did an awesome and painstaking job of burning DVDs for me.  So we had lights and movies while we baked cookies with some very precious Ghirardelli chocolate chips (which I have since also used in a pancake or two).

On the 26th we took a trip on the bus (which Jeanette can now tell you is very entertaining) up to the ruins at Iximche.  It was a nice day trip and the first time, shockingly, that I have seen Mayan ruins since I have been in Guatemala.  It was a neat experience, and I got a few pictures out of the deal as well.

On the 27th we headed back to Antigua to see a few more of the sights there and continue our fantastic food frenzy.  We went to the Capuchinas ruins where I translated despite my lack of Catholic vocabulary in both English and Spanish.  It was a very interesting tour, and one that I would recommend.  We browsed Casa de los Gigantes, which is a wonderful store full of creative things made by artisan or womens groups in Guatemala.  We had dinner at Welten (the best gnocci I have ever had), and called it a day.  I looked for some salsa dancing, but with the holidays everything was closed.

On the 28th we had breakfast at Fernando's again, and then it was off to the airport.  It was difficult for me to say goodbye, but it helped to have new friends waiting for me in Antigua and a Salsa lesson scheduled for the afternoon. (I have to take advantage of my vacation days.)

New years was low-key for me.  I got a call from Victor's parents and from Dad's family.  Then, I tucked into bed at just about my normal hour.  Well-rested is a good way to ring in a fresh start.  On the first I had a wonderful lunch with the family of my friend Erika.  I enjoy living alone and having a quiet retreat when I need it, but a family lunch here is always a happy affair, and I love sitting in the kitchen with the women and pitching in when they will let me.  Here, the vast majority of the domestic work is still done by women, and there is a feeling of security and feminine power in the kitchen.  There is also the warmth of the stove to cut the chilly winds that are running around this time of year and, of course, there are many times children giggling or crying or playing.

Overall, it was a holiday of people.  And where there are friends and family there is joy.  May your new year bring you joy as well.

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