Our week in the office was a little crazy because of all the reimbursements that needed to be made to all the brethren who attended the annual meeting. It was complicated by the fact that Friday was the cut-off date for the bank card transactions and setting all the accounts to zero which included the eight men from Colombia and Venezuela. Vilma Ramos in our office helped Diane a lot, especially with communication with those having questions and problems.
We had some incidents in getting all the men back to their homes. One brother got very sick in the Lima airport and had to go to the hospital. He was throwing up and fainted. Another flight was cancelled to Bolivia and the dear brother had to stay an extra day and then take a bus all night to his home because he couldn’t miss another day of work. On the way to our meeting, a brother from Huancayo took a group taxi with his wife. He was afraid of flying and even after our encouragement to take the nice bus Cruz del Sur, he still took the taxi which went off an embankment and rolled three times. No one in the car was hurt badly except for bruising and cuts.
The traditional craft fair at the Cultural Center is a little way past Jockey Plaza and artisans come from all over the country to sell at Christmastime. Some of the missionaries went down Thursday to spend a few hours browsing all the vendors. There were dancers in native costumes and Peruvian music which made the atmosphere festive. We saw so many amazing things and bought a few items, like our Amazon wood bowl, some Christmas tree ornaments, bird whistles, earrings, a roughly carved wood soup ladle, homemade bread (YUM!), and stuffed alpacas with real alpaca hair (for the grandchildren to play with). Each of the missionaries had their own treasures and we enjoyed sharing what we bought.
There is a group of all the American sisters that get together once a month called Lunch Bunch. It is held at various homes of the sisters, not missionaries because our places are too small, but those whose husbands work in the office or Embassy. The homes are always very spacious and beautiful with huge gourmet kitchens and large patios and backyards. Monday I attended the Christmas lunch and the home was huge but decorated for an old fashioned Christmas. It was charming with teddy bears and lots and lots of Disney everywhere with ornaments, pictures and toys. I bet there were seven Christmas trees, all decorated and one with the traditional train track around the tree. Each tree was a world in itself AND the wife is 8 months pregnant and three small children. Okay, okay, she has a nanny and her niece, two housekeepers, one cook and a yard maintenance man to make it all possible. We had a gift exchange and I ended up with a darling ceramic pot hand painted with Peruvian pictures.
Friday morning at 7:00, the finance department gathered for a traditional Peruvian breakfast and gift exchange. Joe and I went down early, yea, 6:15am, to set up table decorations for a surprise. We used the garlands and Christmas balls we had from our meeting and the cafeteria looked very festive. Otherwise, it would have just been “the lunch room.” It was quite unusual to have a typical Peruvian breakfast . . . a pork sandwich! Needless to say, Joe and I were pretty surprised. There were no eggs and bacon, no cinnamon rolls or doughnuts, no fruit, orange juice or hot chocolate. Instead, we had the Peruvian favorite, Sanguche. Pervians have a sandwich for breakfast, lunch or dinner, in between, before going out or at the end of a long night, actually any time, and always with tastes of Peru. This Sanguche was with roasted chunky pork on a Kaiser roll with some cooked red onion. It was missing the mayonnaise or cheese as the sandwich was a little dry. It was served with Inka Cola or Maracay juice to drink.
At a mall close to us, there was a life-like manger set up with stable and animals and characters . . . except there was no baby Jesus, just the empty cradle. Diane thought maybe someone took the baby. How sad. Then Joe asked a worker at the Dunkin ‘ Donuts and with a little chuckle told the Americans that the baby hadn’t come yet. How unique! We had never heard of that. They put the baby Jesus in the manger Christmas Eve.