As we rolled through December, I thought life would get less busy as my jobs shut down for the summer. Instead I found just about every free minute consumed with planning for the CEVA summer children’s camp, preparing for the new group of associates, and miscellaneous meetings. Unlike in the U.S., the academic year here in Chile coincides with the calendar year (summer is from December to February, so children are in class from March to December), so people have to deal with the end-of-the-year holiday stuff and the end-of-the-school-year stuff simultaneously.
Emily and I had been in and out of the house so much that when we returned the Friday before Christmas it was practically bare, speaking food-wise. We remedied the situation in short order. Michelle and Emily went grocery shopping for Christmas dinner. Caitlin and I went to the market in Los Andes. We came home with 80 lbs. of fruits and vegetables. In short order, we had made chocolate-chip cookies, Sprit cookies, Kaluha truffles (a friend from home sent me the delicious recipe), no-bake cookies, and slices of cantaloupe, which may seem out-of-place in this list, but it was both delicious and in-season.
On Christmas Eve, Natalie, Michelle, and Caitlin toiled in the kitchen, while Emily decorated our table. After 10pm Mass next door in the Pocuro chapel, we sat down for our Christmas Eve dinner at 11:30. It was shockingly perfect: chicken with mushrooms and capers, garlic and parmesan potatoes, green beans, and glazed carrots, complemented with boxed wine—much better in Chile than in the U.S.—served from red and green boxes. Everyone marveled at the food as we ate beneath our grape arbor on a cool Chilean summer night. After the meal, we sang carols as I struggled through the appropriate guitar chords (I don’t know if my hands are built to play F), and exchanged our Secret Santa gifts. Then we had the good sense to stay up until 3am preparing for the next day.
Like little children, though with considerably less energy, we woke up at 7am on Christmas Day to leave for our camping trip. We hauled boxes, bags, and our stuffed backpacks outside the house to catch a bus to San Felipe. We were thankfully the only people on the bus because we took up nearly half of it with all our gear. About an hour and a bus transfer later we arrived at Los Manantiales in Panquehue, allegedly a camping resort. I say “allegedly” because it offers certain amenities that I’m not sure are compatible with the idea of “camping.” They offered hot showers, an electrical outlet at your campsite (one family brought a microwave oven which is certainly against some core camping tenet), and grassy soccer fields. We pitched tents under Eagle Scout Roy Pequeno’s supervision and called ourselves ready for our Christmas camping expedition.
I was surprised by the huge number of people who showed up to camp and picnic on Christmas Day. People swam in the lake, barbecued, and relaxed in the 80° sun. One major coup was the discovery of an intrepid entrepreneur selling kebabs of chocolate-covered strawberries. If this is camping, I should go more often. Although the water was chilly, it was a nice combination with the scorching sun. In the night, we cooked hamburgers, hot dogs and smores.
The next day was more of the same—food, water, and relaxing, though sadly no chocolate-strawberry vendor—plus a mini-retreat to begin the year. After we felt sufficiently relaxed, and our backs felt sufficiently fed up with the rocky ground, we packed up the next morning and made for home. It was a good Christmas. Even though we were away from home, family, and friends, it was memorable to go camping and spend the holiday celebrating with friends new and old in Chile.
More photos of the trip? you ask. Flickr answers.