A real Christmas, with plastic chairs and fluorescent light. Thanks everyone!
They say that about two thousand years ago a newborn child brought people from different corners of the world and backgrounds together. Shepherds and kings, a travelling carpenter with his wife and a hospitable farmer stood together in a stable around a manger that night. Not that I believe it :P, but last Monday something similar happened at the market of San Roque. And this time I´ve seen it myself. Christmas. De verdad.
We invited sixty kids and thirty pairs of parents, but we had no idea what to expect: many of them really need the money that they can make in the morning hours. Besides, the families of San Roque are ¨indigenas¨, with their own religions and rituals. Nevertheless, practically everybody responded with enthusiasm to the invitation and the suggestion to bring something small to share. In the last three months we really built a bond step by step: this would have been unimaginable in September! The market administrator contributed by disposing the big room of the market: a huge space with TL-lights and plastic garden chairs, but at least close by and big enough for us all. Stable? Check! Let the preparations begin!
The Ecuadorian tradition is to give a bag of sweets to all the children at Christmas. ¨Nelly, what do you think if we ask the parents for a dollar for a bag of sweets? It looks like CENIT can´t buy them this year.¨ I frown. ¨You mean: buy a bag of sweets from their own dollar and then give it to them as a present? That doesn´t sound very Christmasly justified (:P), does it?¨ The other volunteers agree with that, so we plan a bag of sweets hunt on Friday afternoon with our own dollars. Sixty, por favor. Check!
But Christmas isn´t really Christmas for our little mini´s and the school kids of San Roque if there´s no paper to be ripped, is it? In my head I ask everybody who gave me a donation for my project Imagine all the people, and in my head everybody agrees with me :P. And because I don´t have myrrh, gold and incense, I´m going to look for some presents on Saturday. I find puzzles with numbers, animals and the alphabet for the little ones, and a big colorful pen with a butterfly or flower for the homework-children. The employees of the supermarket help us wrap them up with their own paper. Presents? Check!
Although… we don´t have anything yet for the parents, and for them it is Christmas too: at least we always try to work with the entire families. But what do you give to someone who isn´t even sure if there´ll be food today? And tomorrow, and the day after. Indeed. We loot the spaghetti-shelf and we pile up the sardines in tomato sauce in our shopping cart. Almost two kilos of pasta with sauce per family, that´s at least a good start. Christmas dinner? Check!
Honestly, I´m not a Christmassy person at all, but now I seem to be getting in the mood. If the families bring something to drink, cheese and sausages as they promised, it would be nice to have some bread too. With a panaderia on every corner it shouldn´t be difficult to collect some bread for free, right? ¨I never have anything left in the end of the day,¨ says the baker´s wife decidedly. ¨Never?¨ I ask surprised. ¨Never,¨ she repeats without blinking. ¨Bueno,¨ I don´t expect that I´ll be successful here, but you never know… ¨You can also just give something as a donation to share with the people from the market if you´d like to.¨ To my surprise she nods hesitatingly before she grabs a bag and starts filling it with little breads until she can´t even make a node anymore. She gives it to me over the counter. ¨Muchas gracias, also on behalf of the children and families of the market!¨ I say happily. And for the first time since I came in, she smiles shortly and then she turns around. Feliz Navidad.
I collect about ninety little breads and two big Christmas breads (Ecuadorian style :P) in about two hours. From two night shops I get a big bag of animal cookies and a bag of fruit sweets, and the big supermarket further up the road gives me a big box with thirty bags of sweets for the children... Let the party begin! :).
And so that Monday everybody and everything got together around the group of children of the San Roque market. The vendors who left their stall for a while to accept a non-committal invitation, who all brought something to share...,
... the market administrator with his simple room that was big enough for us all, the rich travellers from the east and their families and friends with presents and bags of sweets...
... the bakeries, shops and supermarkets of another part of Quito, and of course CENIT itself, and their Ecuadorian primary teacher and social worker who prepared games and competitions.
We sang Ecuadorian traditional christmas songs that I played on my guitar, as well as Feliz Navidad in Spanish and English, we played games like the musical chairs and ¨blind man¨ and we danced around singing the anthem of Quito. All different nationalities, backgrounds, religions, incomes and ages, all there around the group of children that brought us together. From everybody, for everybody: Christmas de verdad. I´ve seen it myself.
If the aim of my project is ¨to be the connection between (groups of) people of different parts and places in the world,¨ then I´ve earned a hot chocolate today :). From me, for me… except for if somebody wants to share of course :). Merry Christmas!!!
Many many thanks to everybody who made this true Christmas party for sixty children and thirty families possible! Especially: my parents, Tonny and Eef, George, Annelieke, Gertjan and Ester, Anna Ubbens, Rob Schraven, Kim van Vlerken, Mark, Jurgen and Linda of Acoustic 4, Linda (Vliehors), Anja Postma, Marianne from Christmas :P, Noémi, Ingrid from Work :P, See Mae, Dawn Risk… and all the volunteers and employees from CENIT that helped, the bakers, shops and supermarket owners in Quito, CENIT and of course the families and children themselves.
For now I´ll post a video of the Christmas party on Wednesday in our ¨headquarter¨ of CENIT, but Monday I´ll have the videos from the party in San Roque itself!
Que están haciendo mis amigos, Nelly´s new Ecuadorian hit for 3-5 year olds :P
Mi burrito sabanero, a traditional christmas song & my favorite... the kids agree.
P.S. If you´d like to contribute to the next event or material that I´ll organize / buy for the people here or in the next project that I´ll participate in, send me a message on firstname.lastname@example.org or on facebook, and I´ll send you the details. It´s also possible to give a little bit monthly so it can add up to the next thing :). Don´t hesitate to contact me with any questions!