Sunday, December 14, 2008

Experiencing More Culture

Yes, I have even more to experience here in Venezuela. This is my first Christmas in Venezuela- and I have already begun experiencing what Christmas is like in this part of the world.

Last night, I attending a Christmas dinner for ministry leaders at the church. The dinner started at "7:00pm". Notice I put the time in quotes- that is because it said it started at 7:00 but it really didn't- not here. Allow me to explain with example.

I was at home, ready to go to the church, at around 6:30pm. I started calling for a taxi, but there weren't any available. I then called for almost 2 hours to try to get a taxi- but there weren't any. This is not a new experience for me, as this happens almost daily- but not usually for this long. At around 8:15 or 8:30, I gave up trying and figured I wasn't going. I spoke with my friend Elizabeth, who also wanted to go (she has a car :-) ). We were not sure if it was worth going so late. We decided to go anyway and arrived at around 9:30pm. When we got there, they were just about to start serving the food. The event lasted until midnight.

Now, If this was in the USA, I know how it would have gone. People would have arrived no later than 7pm. Dinner would have been served between 7:15 and 7:30, and it would have been over by 9:30. But this is Venezuela, and from what I am finding out, this is typical of social events, parties, and dinners.

The entire event was "Christmas" here. The food was the typical Christmas meal in Venezuela- as unique to them as Thanksgiving dinner is to Americans. The main food for Christmas is called hallaca. It is made with a type of corn flour dough that is made like a hot pocket stuffed with meat, chicken, garbanzo beans, raisins, chopped peppers, and potatoes. It is then wrapped in a plantain leaf, tied up, and boiled. This was my first time trying it- and it is quite good. Also served was a chicken cole slaw salad and bread stuffed with ham, olives, and raisins. They also served 4 different types of desserts- typical desserts for Christmas.

The music being played was also "Christmas". They had the band playing Gaitas- which is a type of music that is from this area in Venezuela and is traditionally played at Christmas time.

When I looked at my plate of food- most of it new to me- and listened to the music being played- my mind kept thinking (in song format), "So, this is Christmas....". To me, this isn't Christmas. It doesn't look like any Christmas I have ever had. It doesn't sound like any Christmas I've ever had. It doesn't taste like any Christmas I've ever had. But this is Christmas. This is what Christmas looks like, sounds like, and tastes like to the people with whom God has placed me, and so, this is Christmas.

After the music, they had a time to present to the group who were the workers of the year for each ministry. When they started the presentations, they announced that the Coordinator of each ministry would be coming up to say a few words about the ministry and the person chosen in their ministry. Of course, this meant that my co-coordinator and I would have to go up and speak. She does not like to speak in front of large groups, and I don't like speaking in Spanish over the microphone in front of everyone- especially with no notice like that. We immediately looked at each other and she finally agreed to do the speaking for us. However, when we were walking up to the stage, it was announced that I would be speaking. It's not that I can't speak in Spanish- because I can- but I get nervous that I will mess up and not be able to be understood. I was told that I did fine and they understood what I said. The more I do these type of presentations in Spanish in front of the church, the more comfortable I am getting. I will look back at this in the time to come and laugh, I'm sure. But for now, all I can do is trust God to give me the language skills I need on a daily basis.

The church set up for dinner

Children's Ministry team

Missions and Evangelism teams

Gaita Band

Train dancing around the church to Gaita music

No comments: