Puppet burning signifies leaving the past behind.

December 31, 2004

The Christmas Pageant was a huge success. The “show” started with me as the Virgen Maria (Virgin Mary) perched on top of a donkey being led around town (I kid you not when I say “around town” we paraded down Simon Bolivar until we nearly reached the beach then back up Montufar) by San Jose, played by Riccardo.  Following us was a group of neighborhood kids dressed as angels and some adult chaparones in all sorts of thematic attire.  As we returned to our block, where the main stage was set, we began verbal role-playing.  We went from door to door asking, “Tienes una posado?” (“Do you have a lodging?”) while the commentator read a script articulating our actions.  We continued until we come to the pre-designated vacancy at which time Jose and I ditched the donkey and went inside only to return with whom else but the Baby Jesus (played by a delightful infant that lives just a few doors down from us).   With baby in hand, we headed to the stage and took our seated positions.  Once there, we were brought gifts by the three wise men (three adorable boys from our block) and so forth.  Then, this is the best part, all the children gathered around us (the angels, the wise men, other children dressed as peasants) and everyone sang a Christmas song led by the kids.  They were spectacular; some even had instruments, flutes and bells, to compliment the singing.  This all took place in front an audience of 200 people or so (mostly the parents of the children participating and other neighborly families).

Once the nativity scene was over and Riccardo and I were dismissed from our roles, the show headed in a bit of a different direction.  The Reinas (Queens) of the Christmas pageant were announced, one by one, and lead on stage by their male counterpart.  They were chosen randomly a few weeks prior.  It was really sweet, decked out in fancy prom dresses and the little boys in mini tuxedos.  When all four couples were on stage they did a little ceremony where the boys placed sashes on the girls and gave them a kiss on the cheek.  Then for the Grand Finale…Papa Noel (played by Ryan) made his way through the crowd on his sleigh, which in reality was a creatively transformed tricycle. The kids squealed with delight as Papa Noel passed out presents. The crowd cheered in approval.  (Hanna was of course asked to participate, however she had to decline because she went to visit a friend in Rio Negro.)

After the show we had a party with dancing and a variety of food. Good times!  Of course we captured the whole thing on film and will be sure to post it on the photo gallery website soon. [See http://public.fokti.com/PlanetDrum/ ]

Although Christmas decorations are still being displayed and Christmas music is still being played, everyone has shifted their attention to the Fiesta del Año Nuevo (New Year).    The plan is to burn puppets made by stuffing paper around a wood frame and then covering it with a papier mâché. The puppets can be anything from superheroes (Spider man is huge this year), to popular political figures (or unpopular ones such as President Bush), to generic monsters.  The constructing and selling of these puppets has occupied the sidewalks for several weeks now and anticipation for the inferno is growing.  The puppet burning signifies leaving the past behind and paying respect to major themes presented throughout the past year.  I look forward to being a spectator at the festivities tonight.  I don’t anticipate to a very late night as I’m still recovering from my “flu-like” illness.  Overall all I don’t feel very bad, just low energy!

The weather forecast remains unreliable in predicting rain that just hasn’t come.  Aside from a little sprinkle the other day it has been bone dry, with clear, sunny skies. So it remains that our little trees are hand fed.  There have not been significant changes at any of the sites to. Thankfully, we haven’t had any recent invasions by wandering farm animals or any tampering by human hands. 

Although the bamboo watering pipe technique we are using has been extremely effective in increasing the survival rate of the plants, I would not say that it has been highly effective in enabling the plants to grow substantially throughout the dry season, which is okay!  Many of the plants are the same height as they were five months ago, however they are green and full of foliage.  Of course there are many exceptions. At Jorge Lomas we have some trees in the lower region that are nearly waist high.  At the Universidad Catolica as well we have seen certain species continuing to develop through the dry season.  When we visited the Interamericano Colegio this week (our newest site), we were pleased to see that the plants are adjusting fairly well.   Aside from the Bosque (“wild park”) needing some serious repairs for many of the trails and handrails (something we have not had the time for) everything is in good shape.

With Ricardo and Ryan in Colombia for the New Year, it was just Hanna and I in the field.  We are feeling a little exerted from the laborious work yet proud of our accomplishments.  We were able to start sowing seeds again this week (the faucet issues at the greenhouse have been resolved).  In all we planted over two thousand seeds of seven different tree species .  The majority of the seeds are Guachepeli, Algarrobo and Saman but also included such species as Amarillo and Pigio.  Many of the seeds (depending on the species) were soaked in cold water for various durations of time, again dependent on the particular species.  Soaking seeds is known to increase the germination rate.  I cannot even imagine how long it would take to transplant that many seedlings, and we still have quite a few seeds to plant.  I’m positive we will have enough seeds to fill every bed two more times!  I just look forward to the rain coming so that we can actually get some of the older plants out of the greenhouse and into the ground.

Extend a Happy New Year from all of us here to everyone there.


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