So I'll be down here for 27 months. I have lots of wall space and would love to receive some postcards from you back home. If you send me a postcard:

1) I'll be very happy, 2) I'll show it to everyone that comes to my apartment, 3) I'll send you a postcard, 4) You can be 100% sure that I won't forget who you are during my time here.

Friday, January 14, 2011

New Year’s Celebration in a Mountain Town

New Years is a fun place to be anywhere in the world. I feel like no matter what country you’re in people will want to celebrate the fact that it’s time to get a new calendar. This year and the last few years also, I’ve been lucky to experience New Year’s parties in a few different countries. Two years ago, I was in Durango, Mexico where I celebrated with my friend Minka and her family. The entire week with them was fun and crazy filled with tequila, dancing and good times. Last year I was in Uzbekistan with Malika and her parents in one of those hotel parties and we watched a singer named Sevara Nazarchan (not sure of last name).

Out of country or in Philadelphia, New Years has always been great, but this year it was something different. I wasn’t sure what to do for NYE. A lot of PCVs were either going to the Bay Islands or to La Ceiba. I didn’t have much cash and was going to be out of site for a bit afterwards so was trying to find something going on around where I live. But due to some violent acts that had recently been taking place in and around Juticalpa none of my friends here had plans of going to bars or the club (and besides us gringos, I haven’t seen much of a house party culture here). Then it turns out that Josh, a volunteer who lives a couple hours from here next to some caves, was going to be celebrating in a town called La Florida which was located about 1.5 hours walking up the mountain from where he lives. I decided to go there, he said some craziness was going down and was excited that someone else wanted to go.

After a jalon, a bus, and a 20-minute walk (with a quick stop in Las Cuevas de Talgua) I got to his house.
Josh at his house

Then, we proceeded on the 1.5-hour uphill hike with a couple of people from La Florida that were also on their way up. The only way up to this aldea is by walking or horseback; there is no road that leads there. Luckily, these guys had a mule which helped me on the way up. I have no problem hiking, but I wasn’t about to hike all that and then have to party while being tired and dehydrated.

The first house we got to was Javier’s house, also where we’d be staying that night. In his house was the pichingo or año viejo, which various people from the community had helped make. Check out the pics below, but pretty much, it was a very well-made scarecrow filled with multiple kinds of firecrackers. The surprise in it was that the big explosive and a couple of fireworks were supposed to go off after everything else had exploded. Año viejo means ‘old year’, so the idea was to light this thing on fire at midnight so it would blowup and make a nice big fire at the same time, all while saying goodbye to the old year and welcoming the new one.

Posing with the Pichingo

 At Javier’s, we had some pastelitos and some rum. These guys asked me if I wanted a shot of rum which actually translated to a glass filled mostly with rum and a couple drops of soda. I could tell these guys meant business. From there we went to Freddy’s house. It got dark so we were walking with flashlights now, yeah there’s no electricity in La Florida except for a couple of houses that have solar panels. At Freddy’s house, we were given some delicious soup and tortillas. Then, a 20-30 minute walk to the next house with people carrying el pichingo. A lot of people were at this house, so I figured that’s where we’d be hanging out till midnight. We got a couple of tamales and some more rum and hung out while people were throwing firecrackers all over the place and taking pictures with el pichingo. Josh remembered that someone else had invited him to stop by their house that night, another 20-30 minute walk with our flashlights. These people were super friendly (everybody in this scattered town was). We got 2 more tamales despite the fact that I said I couldn’t eat more. I asked for some coffee to wake up and after that surprise… I heard someone yell my name and a glass of rum was given to me. I didn’t actually drink as much as it may seem like. This house had their own pichingo but it wasn’t full of firecrackers. Some of the guys at this house were playing cards for a couple hours. They were really into it. Later on Josh told me that they were playing high card the entire time.
This is what the guy thinks is a 'shot' of rum

The other pichingo, no firecrackers in this one

Now we headed back to the house where most people were hanging out in order to be there for midnight to blow up the pichingo. It was put up on a stake so it actually looked like someone was standing up, some gasoline was poured on its boots and the fire was lit. It was exploding for a good 15 minutes, but the big grand finale explosion didn’t work out as planned. I think everyone loved it anyways. I yelled feliz año nuevo at midnight but no one else did. Maybe it´s an American thing to yell Happy New Year? I don´t know.

To start the New Year, a couple of the kids were playing ranchera music on the guitar and everyone was singing. The guys playing guitar could barely walk straight they were so drunk, but they did an amazing job playing the guitar. One old guy who is usually very calm happened to be wasted and smelling strongly of guaro. He was hugging everyone and saying happy New Year over and over. Another drunk guy was waving a machete around. Everyone was yelling at him (drunk guy waving machete… not a safe feeling) to stop but he wasn´t listening. It was funny though, he had baggy pants on and they kept falling down, half the time without even realizing it. Finally, it was getting late and we wanted to go to sleep. A group of people had continued drinking behind the latrine (I don´t know who decided on that location). The old guy didn´t want to go inside, he wanted to sleep on the piece of concrete right behind the latrine. I think he was convinced to go inside after a lot of arguing. We walked 30 minutes to get home and passed out.

A lot of the night is tough to describe in words. I think the fact that there´s no road going there has made it so there´s less change like in the cities. It seemed more like what an older, more traditional Honduras would be like. Some of those things would be cultural things that might be hard to picture unless you spend time both there and in a city in Honduras. That made the night that much more interesting. Also, I forgot to mention that someone in town got macheted that night. It’s the first time that I hear that one. When someone gets hurt or is sick, people from town carry them down to the road in a hammock, everyone taking turns carrying.

Hope all of you reading this had a great New Year, would love to hear how you celebrated.

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