16722410_10158248774290501_1439403914849664656_oPlanning my trip to Guatemala in the fall of 2014, I figured I should nail down accommodations for over Christmas and New Years before maybe there weren’t any or they were out of my price range. I thought I would like to spend that time in Antigua, Guatemala and a World Heritage site. I found a place through AirBnB I believe, it sounded perfect but it said those dates weren’t available. I decided to send them a note anyways seeing if they might suggest other accommodations for that time. The owner got back to me, that since I was a single lady, I could stay there during that time any ways, she had booked it off as her child “Oliver” was coming at that time. Oh, I thought, and replied, maybe since this was such a special time for her I shouldn’t impose. Initially I understood by how she replied that she was pregnant and expecting her first child, so I offered to help in any way I could with cooking and cleaning at that time to help her. Then when she kept referring him to him as “Oliver” I thought maybe I misunderstood, maybe he was already born, and she just got to visit with him at that time. So I started telling her a bit about my children and how old they were. She replied then, that no he had not been born yet, and indeed was expected to arrive at that time. I had a place to stay. A wonderful family, and her Mom was going to be staying with them as well to help out and be there for the birth.

I felt like part of the family, the first day there I got to attend a baby shower at their church. I was there when the priest came to visit at their home prior to the birth. They were not yet married yet even though they had been together for sometime as there were problems due to Daniel being from Germany I believe. (Guatemala is very religious with something like 97% being Roman Catholic.) That was another question I was asked from place to place as I arrived, was I religious? My answer, “No”, but I was brought up Roman Catholic.

Antigua is a wonderful place to be around the Christmas/New Years holidays, lots of extra activities happening. There was the evening before Christmas when a procession went by at night, maybe a rendition of them looking for a room for the Virgin Mary, I’m not sure but the lanterns, etc were a nice surprise, and it was very small scale, intimate. Video of procession

Paola had been hoping to give birth at home with a mid wife, but just before Christmas, she learned that the baby was breech, the midwife tried moving it, but he was too comfortable, or big. Paola tried crawling around a bit as she was told this might get the little fellow motivated to move but it just wasn’t happening. Plan B, a doctor and hospital, to find one in a place that she felt comfortable in. That done, now the doctor was trying to encourage her to have it before Christmas, but she really didn’t want to, even though her husband was anxious to see the little guy. I thought the Doctor just didn’t want to be disturbed during the holidays? There was also the thought of schooling and where that would put him in the school year when that time came. Paola decided she would plan for Jan 2, if the baby decided it could wait that long. (Daniel had painted from time to time, images on Paolo’s growing stomach, the one I remember most, the cat’s back end, and  a cracked egg. They also wanted to make a cast of her stomach just before “Oliver” was born. I’m not sure if that happened, but I think so. Very creative.)

On Christmas Eve, which is the day they celebrate or on the stroke of midnight, Paola’s mother Isabelle, Paola, Daniel and myself all sat down to help make tamales, a Costa-rican version as that was where her Mom was from. Quite the assembly line we had going, and by the end we had made over 100.

Making tamales 

(Making cost ricin tamales for new years
Plantain leave, masa with garlic, salt and pork fat, then rice with achiote or paprika , spoonful of peas, pork slice and pork fat, 2 slices of tomatoes and carrot, 6 raisins,1 prune, 1 olive, wrap it all up and bake for 1 1/2 -2 hours at 325′)

Then there was Mass, which Daniel asked why I wanted to come if I wasn’t really religious, part of the experience I told him. A grand church, with a nativity scene that they had brought in dirt from the various areas around so that all were represented.. Then we went home for the meal and gifts, they even got me a journal, with a cover that had local weaving on it. Then I heard it, that strange sound… What could it be? I finally asked, “that rumbling noise, what was it?” It sounded, I said, like someone rolling a barrel of ice down the cobblestone hill. Her brother looked at me, curiously amused. “Only a Canadian would come up with something like that. It was fireworks.”…Okay, I have to admit that did make a lot more sense, and then we went up to the roof top to see. All over the city fireworks were being set off at midnight, not in just one spot, the whole sky was alive with them. I was told that they would set off fireworks at midnight, 6am, noon and 6pm, that’s a lot of fireworks!! I know how expensive they were back home so I asked about that there. Yes they said, they were expensive there as well, but everyone saved up to set off fireworks, rich to poor. On Christmas day I called home to talk to my son on Facetime just before noon, and I was up on the roof top showing him the view when the fireworks started, “Get down, Mom!!!” he shouted, as he thought it was gun fire, no I assured him, just fireworks.

I couldn’t believe all the firework debris along the streets. Then came the New Years celebration, the central street in Antigua was filled with performers, it was alive, and of course a big fireworks display.

The next day, January 2nd, time for “Oliver”, they told me the address of the small hospital, so when I thought enough time had passed, I wandered down, my Spanish not being very good, I managed to let them know what I was there for, and down the hall I went. Very different than our hospitals. There she was with little, or not so little, “Oliver”, one proud father, who I couldn’t believe how much this new born looked like!!!! He seemed all Dad and no, or very little Mom. A mini me, for Daniel. Also a very proud Grandma, and 2 brothers, her younger one was VERY excited even before hand and let Paola know, he already had a car seat so he could take him for rides.

So I was the very first person to hold that first born child, after the Mom, Dad, Grandma and Uncles, pretty special. Such a short time ago now, and he is such a big boy now at 3, (especially for that country, but there comes into play his German father), still looks the spitting image of his dad, who unfortunately, past away last year but will always be remembered, a kind caring person.

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