Yesterday was quite the day. El día de la tamalada (aka when we get to church really early and make tamales for hours) y nuestra celebración de las posadas (aka a Spanish Christmas tradition where you go from house to house singing and acting out Mary and Jospeh’s journey to Bethlehem).
Our day started at 8:30 at the church where the ladies from my aerobics dance class and us volunteers met to make tamales on tamales for the event later that night. They all pretty much only speak Spanish but their faces were enough to let us know we had much to learn about how to correctly spread the masa on the corn husks. It’s way hard. But we had a whole lot fun laughing at our struggles and applauding when we blanquitos (new word we learned today for white people) successfully made one tamale. James was probably right joking that our turn out rate was about 3 tamales each hour. But three and a half hours later, a whole lot of tamales were ready for cooking.
At 5:00 we headed back to the church for a marathon of festivities. As soon as I got there, I pulled out my guitar and ran through the song we’d be using for the event. Minutes later we were on our way. If you are unfamiliar with Las Posadas, you can read more about it here but essentially it is an acting out of Mary and Joseph’s trek to Bethlehem where you go to people’s houses and sing the posada song back and forth from the people outside and the people inside the house. We went to six different houses around our neighborhood with a crowd of about forty. Then six verses (back and forth each time) of las posadas six times and an hour later, my fingers were pretty done with playing guitar. But right away we were issued into the church with a round of “entren, santos peregrinos” and it was pageant time.
Our kids all lined up and Adriana, my amazing Spanish teacher, led the program flawlessly. The kids were all so precious. I mean give a tiny shepherd a staff that is taller than me and it’s destined for cuteness. And that star? Too cute. Even the choir kids were dressed in their white button downs with their hair slicked back, oh I remember those days well. But the best part for me was getting to accompany them on piano. I wouldn’t say piano comes as naturally to me so for the past month, and especially this last week, I practiced las Campanas de Belén (aka the Christmas classic Pat-a-pan) and Silent Night an obnoxious number of times. The last thing I wanted to do was to be a distraction for all that chapel filled with parents excited to see their kids sing. And praise praise, I played it just right. Not a one mistake. The kids sang great. All around a win.
But then, it was time for a costume change. Time to dance. For those of you who don’t know, for the past two months I’ve been going to the aerobics class that meets by the church as an outreach program to promote healthy living in the neighborhood. Those my first few classes were rough, I mean I’m significantly taller and whiter than the other women, plus choreographed dance is hard for me. I prefer to crazy dance. But the ladies are so gracious to me and since only a handful of the women speak English it’s also good practice for me. A few weeks ago, they convinced me to perform with them for this church event and just like that I was on the dance crew. Ok, they don’t actually call it that, but I mean we have embroidered jackets with our names on them so I feel like that makes you a dance crew. So there I was, in my spandex, glitter shirt, embroidered jacket, and armed with long sashes in each hand (for ribbon dancing of course) and it went great. Mostly I was cracking myself us trying to do these hip moves and looking out at the crowd of my housemates, coworkers, House of Teens kids (even with a sign for me!), Peace Pals kids, and church members, but all in all it was a blast. The last song was the very best though as we invited the crowd to jump up and dance with us and I was immediately surrounded by some Peace Pals kids jumping around and dancing with me.
But one more thing. As soon as the song ended, I ran to the office, grabbed my guitar, then ran to my backpack and got the music for the big Dwellers performance. Pastor Rob had volunteered us to perform so last Wednesday night after dinner we sat down and wrote the ultimate mashup of perfect songs that encompassed our time here so far, complete with singing different songs at the same time, abrupt changes, harmonies, plus both Spanish and English songs. We were ready to go. Unfortunately though with only one mic to pass around and the poor acoustics of being outside, most of it was lost on our crowd. But still proud of our handy work, we are going to perform it again this week and record it (keep your eyes open for it!). Though the part that went over the best was the very beginning when James just yelled Allá en el Rancho Grande at the top of his lungs. The crowd was hooting and hollering along. It was the best.
Needless to say, at the very end of it all I was dead. I went to the kitchen to grab a few of our precious tamales and those were the very best tamales I’ve had since I’ve been here. I sat there in awe of the opportunity I have to experience all of this and thankful for where I am.
Photo creds: Maggie Wood and Julius Lorenzi. They rock.