The big day in South America for christmas isn’t the 25th, but rather the 24th December, and today a lot of Vero’s family were coming over for a special dinner which Vero and her mum had been preparing. Ayacas, ham, pork, rosada salad and another type of salad. I spent the whole day in the house, emerging from the safety of my room now and again to try out my Spanish on Vero’s ever patient and kind parents. It was clear Senor Eduardo had much he wanted to talk to me about, and, though he tried to engage me in topics on politics or history, my Spanish is barely enough to talk about everyday routines, so I could only nod along politely saying ‘si, si’ at what I thought were appropriate times, smiling like a constipated clown and frowning and looking concerned at moments I deemed appropriate from reading Senor Eduardo’s facial expressions and body language. I felt like I needed to study a hell of a lot more to be able to hold down a meaningful conversation in Spanish.
Vero picked out the clothes she wanted me to wear for the evening – formal attire. Vero herself looked like a Venezuelan beauty queen in a lovely crisp purple dress made in Venezuela. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more radiant and beautiful woman.
We went downstairs to dinner. The room certainly looked festive. The beautiful pine green xmas tree adorned with different-coloured bulbs and at the bottom of which many presents were stacked, contrasted well with the wooden floor. 2 tables had been laid. Roddy, Grace, Santiago and Allehandro were here, and Grace’s family were here too all; her mum and dad (all the way from Portugal), her sister and her sister’s boyfriend, who is a TV soap star here. Drinks were served, and brief formalities exchanged, then everyone relaxed and we sat down to an amazing dinner. Straight after dinner, everyone rushed to the bottom of the xmas tree, where all the presents were. Turns were not taken, and everyone just ripped open whatever present addressed to them they could find in a frantic joyful scramble. To my surprise, Vero had bought me a Venezuela football shirt – a much sought after shirt in Venezuela, due to the recent success of the national team – nicknamed La Vinotinto. Fantastic.
We all had a lot more drinks. The traditional xmas drink, ponche crema, was opened and the delicious cream-based liquor poured without hesitation down the throat. I taught Allehandro a few licks on the incredibly out-of-tune guitar, which definitely needed restringing, but then my voice is usually out of tune when I sing anyway so the guitar complemented my voice perfectly. All the while Vero tried to convince me to go out partying. I didn’t really want to. The amazing party we were supposed to go to at Louis’ house had been cancelled, and I didn’t fancy trawling Las Mercedes being unable to get into any club, hoping a big SUV driven by drunk party-goers didn’t smash into us. A big party with friends is an essential part of xmas for young Venezuelans then, but only after quality family time, which is nice. We’d have to pass on the party this year, and anyway last night had been a long one, spent with many friends. It had been a lovely day today. Christmas Eve in England, Christmas Day here in Venezuela. A very different christmas for me, but I was grateful for the lovely experience.