Christmas at the airport

blog-5101The textbook scenes of Christmas are all over our house, even though there will be no snow here in Peruvian summer. The boys look forward to a new piece of lego every morning as they build these little scenes. The stories they tell are pretty entertaining for Mom and Dad too.

The Christmas tree is filled with the ornaments we picked up on our travels – India, Bali, Peru, Egypt, Germany, various places in the United States. My favorite this year are the glass ornaments I picked out at Khan el Khalili – a favorite Cairo spot.  Decorating our home is an adventure into the nostalgic yesterday and the geographic schizophrenia that is part of our family identity.

blog-5074Around this time of year I watch one of my favorite movies – Love Actually. The opening scene is especially poignant for expat families. We know airports, and that precious airport scene, well. In the movie, it is Heathrow airport, where families and friends are meeting. Here’s a quote from the scene:

It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.

In the next week, all over the world, parents and children will walk into departure gates. Children depart with visions of sugarplums and outrageous santa lists. Parents depart with too much luggage, the expectation of the perfect Christmas heavier than the luggage, and the worries heaviest of all. Will the children behave? Will the family get along? Families are the best and the worst of places – the one place where we are loved despite ourselves, and the one place where we can’t fake it because they have known us too long.

Then that family will meet at the arrival gate.  It will (mostly) be like that movie scene. Yes, we’ll still try to make the kids behave, we’ll hope none of the gifts were stolen out of our luggage, we’ll wonder what the bills will look like in January, and by this time, the indent in our shoulders from the heavy backpacks will seem to leave permanent scars.

Arrival is what Christmas is all about. If you believe in the arrival of that most perfect Baby, Christmas is about grace.  And even if you don’t believe, who can argue with “on earth, peace and good will to men.”

Wishing you joy in your world, wherever your travels take you this Christmas.

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It’s Spring!

blog-4146blog-4156And yes, I do feel like that should be a March title.  However, Lima was kind to me today.  The first day of spring turned out to be one of those rare and beautiful sunny Lima days when I remember just how much I like it here.

I opened all the sliding doors, let the sunshine in, and started planning for some flowers.  This garden needs more flowers.  And since seeds take a while, and I needed some bright sunny instant gratification, I made one of my favorite peruvian foods – a potato salad.

blog-4176Nothing mayonnaise-y and prosaic about papas a la Hauncaina.  The dressing is sunny yellow with a fresh green tasting bite of aji amarillo.  My love of all things aji amarillo can be a whole other post.  I’ll write my own recipe soon, but in the meantime, try this one.  If you can’t find queso fresco, I have had great success with homemade ricotta.

Happy spring to all of you in the Southern Hemisphere!

A Blank Slate

blog-3Don’t you love a fresh start?  A blank page in the journal, an empty memory card in the camera, and a brand new month on the calendar.  A new three year posting.  All filled with possibility.

We arrived in Lima late Friday night, and despite the lack of time change, we have been feeling rather out of it the past two days.  Maybe a result of packing until 2:30 am the previous night?  Or sending the poor Captain Jack out to Target at one in the morning to buy another bag?  Or because we arrived to our hotel at 1:30 am after a long day of traveling?  One way or another, we have been easing into things here.

So far, my impressions are all positive.  The restaurants around here are amazing… even simple things such as ice cream are done beautifully – fresh ingredients, carefully prepared, and presented with such style.  The shops are filled with beautiful things, the people are dressed stylishly, the streets are clean, and traffic, while heavy in parts, is very orderly.  There are Christmas trees, and a DJ played Christmas music last night!

My only concern is the weather.  Misty, cloudy, with a chance of more mist and clouds.  We arrived at the right time though, as the fog apparently lifts during the summer.

We are staying in a hotel since housing is not ready for us, and while it is a challenge with two little boys (and a lot of luggage) in a cramped hotel suite, it is also a blessing.  Since we were assigned and traveled in about three weeks, we have no sponsor to help with the transition and it would have been brutal to find a grocery store at 1 am in a foreign city.

Advent1In the spirit of fresh starts, I’ll confess that I didn’t do so well with gratitude month here on the blog.  I did keep a journal though – promise!

Let me also share some other blank pages.  The advent calendar above is currently filled only with the wrinkles it acquired in my luggage.  I am frantically working to make an ornament and sew a pocket during nap time and after bedtime.  Instead of getting to do this when they get up, the boys will hang a little ornament at bedtime.  I’ll share our progress throughout the month.

Happy December friends.

Happy Valentines Day

Heart shaped carrots. Otherwise known as the-project-for-the-mom-who-finally-lost-her-mind. Seriously. If you are the sort of person who can look around pinterest and pin a few ideas “how clever” and move on, bravo. Pin away. If you are the sort of person who regards your pin boards as a to-do list, approach with caution. In fact, you should just delete your account now. Because if you keep going, you find yourself cutting baby carrots into hearts some early valentines day morning.

The little boy stayed at preschool by himself today. I came home feeling rather lost and sad. So I cut carrots into funny little heart shapes, and steamed them. Later, they will become part of the traditional heart shaped meat-loaf dinner.

Of course I saved the carrot trimmings for the lively stock recipe I pinned a few weeks ago.

Happy valentines day friends – may your day be filled with love and chocolate. (And maybe more
meaningful ways to spend your time.)

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