After our weekend of fun in Ica, I only had nine more days before I was leaving Esperanza de Ana! Since we were nearing the end of the year, not only was work busy, but there were special programs with the kids and families to celebrate the holidays. I didn’t want to miss out on experiencing any of that because I was overwhelmed with work, so I tried extra hard to plan out my schedule, blocking out the special programs and being extra productive during my work times.

I’m going to focus this post on the non-work events of my final days, and next time, I’ll talk about work. Even though I was only around for 10 days of December, I think those days were more eventful than any other month in terms of the electrical work!


With the Christmas season and the end of the school year approaching, there was a lot of fun happening during my last week. We had two Christmas events, one with just the kids and one with the entire families. At the kids’ event, each class performed a dance or song, and it was so fun to watch! The age 2-3 class is all girls, and they danced to Spanish “Let It Go” while wearing Ana and Elsa dresses (yes, the Frozen craze is international) and looking like it was the best day of their lives. It was adorable. After all the classes performed, they got their Christmas presents. Each teacher picked a boy gift and girl gift for her class, and I was amazed by how well they did at picking things everyone would like. That’s a hard job!

Sometimes, I think the teachers have their kids do things for their own entertainment. One of the teachers had a couple of “donkeys” dancing during their performance. The girl in the caboose of the front donkey is the sister of the girl in the front, and she was doing the BEST little prancing feet. Like I said, no idea how necessary this actually was for the performance, but I certainly appreciated it.

The next day, we celebrated family Christmas. You know how, when you’re used to seeing someone in one context, it’s disorienting to see them in another? Like when you see your elementary school teacher at the grocery store or a coworker outside of the office. Seeing the kids with their siblings and parents felt like that. Of course, I knew their parents existed, but I never had any reason to meet them because my job was separate from that part of the ministry. I loved getting to see another side of the kids and pick out which ones are like exact mini-replicas of their parents. We sang some Christmas songs, and then things got competitive. Each teacher planned a game for her class, and the kids played with a parent as their partner.

Ready for family Christmas!
Building a balloon snowman… and struggling.
They needed an extra person for a few of the games, and I quickly volunteered myself as a stand-in (because who doesn’t like games?!).
This is my favorite team-building challenge… you’re supposed to walk and keep the balloons between you without holding them in place, and you do laps while adding a person and a balloon each time. It’s hilarious. We did EA staff vs. some of the moms, and we were like a well-oiled machine. It wasn’t very fair. Also, I don’t understand why my focus face is me sticking my tongue out, but clearly I was VERY focused when this photo was taken.

After the games, everyone crammed into the cafeteria for a Chocolatada, a Peruvian Christmas tradition where people gather together to enjoy panetón and Peruvian hot chocolate. Panetón is similar to a fruit cake and originated in Italy. Now, it’s been co-opted as the official Peruvian Christmas bread. The classic has dried fruit inside, or there are variations like one that replaces the fruit with chocolate. Now, that sounds like something I could get behind… but the bread itself is orange-flavored! I despise oranges, so as you can imagine, I can’t quite get into panetón. Peruvians looove panetón and everyone buys them (I don’t think anyone makes them) and gives them to everyone else for the holidays. It’s kind of like Christmas cookies in the States but not homemade and not delicious (in my personal opinion, at least, which clearly isn’t that of the majority).

Anyway, part two of this tradition is hot chocolate, but it’s like no hot chocolate you’ve ever experienced. It’s made with evaporated milk and special chocolate bars (rather than powder), so it’s incredibly thick. Then, you add cloves and cinnamon and BUTTER because obviously the evaporated milk wasn’t thick enough. And then you drink this with your panetón and feel like you’ll never eat again. Don’t get me wrong, it was good… but one cup was enough to hold me over for the rest of my life. Oh yeah, and remember that Christmas is during Peruvian SUMMER, so you’re drinking this world’s thickest hot butter-and-chocolate while also sweating. WHY.

Pancho, Dora, me, and Delia. The three of them work in the kitchen together, and they’re a super fun bunch! They were also the ones responsible for the buttery hot chocolate preparation.
Family Christmas photo! (pic by David, the EA photographer)

My second-to-last day of work was an in-service day. The EA program directors presented their 2020 action plans, and each planned a game to help break up the day. And that’s how I found myself playing musical chairs with my coworkers. I started next to Jim and told him “fair warning but I get a little competitive” which is true, but I was mostly kidding! He apparently took it as a threat. WELL, in the end, it was Jim, me, and one chair. When the music stopped, I was in position for a win. I committed to the sit… and Jim pulled the chair out from under me! He immediately felt guilty because I was clearly going to fall and tried to catch me which ended with both of us on the ground. I declared myself the winner because he had clearly cheated, and there were not only multiple witnesses, but video evidence! (Side note: I need to get myself a copy of that video…)

I tell you this story not because I want justice for this outrageous act but because it provides important context for what comes next. After this musical-chairs sabotage, Tony (Jim’s wife) approached me about being part of Jim’s birthday surprise. You see, it’s a Peruvian birthday tradition to crack an egg on the birthday person’s head. They were planning to sing for the three December birthday people, Jim, Julie, and me, so I would be in the perfect position to avoid raising suspicion. Previously, I had said I would never participate in a birthday egging because I would hate to have it done to me, but I felt like Jim had it coming! And so, this is the story of how I got my revenge on Jim but also a lesson about how vengeance is never the answer. Enjoy this video:

I’ll explain a couple of things:
The singing you hear is the tail end of the THREE birthday songs that are sung: Happy Birthday in English, Happy Birthday in Spanish, and Spanish Christian Happy Birthday. It’s endless.
I have the eggs stored in the waistband of my leggings so that I can clap along and keep Jim from getting suspicious (note for the future: pants with pockets recommended).
During the songs, he’s trying to tell Julie to get an egg to crack on MY head (rude, Jim), and she refuses (what a good friend)… and as the song ends, he pretends to crack one on me. Little does he know… Ha! Gotcha, Jim! But while he’s trying to wipe his egg residue on me (and I try to guilt him out of it because I had literally just showered), Eddy and Brenda run into the kitchen and get two eggs to crack on my head! Karma. And then Eddy chases Julie around the kitchen, she dodges one attack (the egg ends up on the floor), and after the video ends, she runs outside and he eventually gets her too.

Lessons learned: never celebrate a birthday in Peru, what goes around comes around, and hot water is not recommended when washing egg out of your hair.

Me, attempting to protect my clothes from the eggs, before I stole Julie’s strategy of rinsing my hair in the kitchen sink (with the help of Jocelyn… at least SOME PEOPLE are good friends). Note the egg white glistening on my arm -_-

2 thoughts on “Christmas and Birthdays, Peruvian Style

  1. Linda Sywulak says:

    Thanks for this – made me smile. I don’t think I would like the Peruvian birthday egg on the head tradition; but it was fun to watch!

    • I’m glad someone got some enjoyment out of it hahaha 😄 my mother was similarly entertained. I must say, I feel like I’ve been initiated now which, in my opinion, should mean that it never happens to me again.

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