Christmas went a little differently this year. We didn’t decorate a big tree or spend weeks shopping for gifts. We didn’t attend a candlelight Christmas Eve service. We didn’t eat coffee cake surrounded by piles of gift wrappings. Every time my iTunes played “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” I got a little teary-eyed.

It’s tough being 5,000 miles away from your family at Christmas.

I pasted on a smile as company came over on Christmas Eve and we sat down to a huge feast, prepared my Marlene. It was a mix of familiar fare (chicken, green beans, potato salad) and foreign fixtures (lentils and ham, palm hearts, a cut of beef that I still don’t have a name for). The conversation was in Spanish, so I tried to follow along. Dinner ran late into the night. At 11:58pm, we poured a round of sparkling cider and toasted in Christmas.

Jimi had warned me Christmas would be loud. After sipping our cider, we put down our glasses and ran out the front door. The entire neighborhood seemed to be outside, with kids running in the street waving sparklers. Fireworks were going off left and right, explosions of color and sound.

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Fireworks over the house!

“Do you want to come with me?” Marlene asked, waving me towards the neighbors’ house. We crossed the street and were greeted with hugs and kisses.

“Feliz Navidad!” they said as they kissed me, the random stranger. It was a merry celebration outside that lasted for hours. As it neared 3am, my eyes felt like lead weights and I excused myself for bed. I passed out, enveloped in that special joy that accompanies the holidays.

There was no Christmas morning, as we all slept in until noon. When we did stumble out of our beds, we were greeted with several small packages under the decorative, 2-foot tall tree in the living room. We spent some time reading the Christmas story in Luke 2 and praying together. The gifts were simple (socks, candy bars, a pair of earrings), but lovingly received.

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My main squeeze 🙂

After everything was opened, I told Marlene I had one more thing for her. I opened my laptop and showed her the IndieGoGo campaign I had started, hoping to raise some money for her kids program here in Argentina. I had finally finished the video and set up the details online. Since the campaign was only 40 days long, I told her I’d be able to hand her the money before Jimi and I went back to the States.

Marlene has been able to raise funds and build an amazing room for her “Children at Risk” program. She’s done that with such limited resources and almost exclusively within the Argentine community. I would love to see the international community join in to help these kids have an amazing space to learn and grow. Dollars go a long way in Argentina. Even a few will make a huge difference towards this project and the program as a whole. If you would like to help out by contributing or simply by spreading the word, here is the link: http://igg.me/at/childrenatriskargentina.

And here is the video!

While Christmas was very different for me this year, it was still filled with all of the things that make this time of year special. I hope your Christmas was full of love, joy and peace. Feliz Navidad from Argentina!

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The Bouzeos Family Christmas photo!
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