Feliz Navidat! A Moving Christmas Experience.
Trip Start Feb 01, 2005
402Trip End Dec 31, 2013
Show trip route
Where I stayed
Tonito Hotel Uyuni
Read my review - 5/5 stars
Read my review - 5/5 stars
Can you beat Antarctica? We did today, in humble little Uyuni, Bolivia on Christmas Day.
As a group of 11 privileged Western travellers, we filed into a little whitewashed building , with squeaky wooden floors carrying 30 brightly coloured backpacks and our own Santa in tow. In front of us was a Nativity scene and home made Christmas decorations. Santa (aka Lance from Australia) sat out the front and we spread ourselves out around on little wooden forms along the sides of the room. Suddenly the sound of 30 happy children could be heard and the first tentative, shy faces peered around the door.
We are not ashamed to say that we are both still "tearing up" over the experience we have had today. This was certainly enough to make any grown ups cry. Our fellow travellers were on a Kamuka tour led by Fiona who, we by chance met up with in Mendoza Argentina. Fiona said she would love us to catch up at Christmas so we changed our plans accordingly
Next to me sat a shy little boy of about 11 years. After coaxing, he whispered his name was Luis and he asked my name. He stroked my arm and looked at me in wonder, as first the littlest toddler girls were called up to see Santa. Each age group and sex were called up to receive their backpack, which were filled with practical items and some fun things as well. This was all wonderfully co-ordinated by Chris and Sussy from Tonita Hotel. All our fellow travellers took children under their wing and gave them Christmas hats, bracelets and lots of hugs. The hugs were what the children seemed to really want. We conversed in the little Spanish we had or the English they had learned. I gave Luis a necklace that had been given to us by our lovely hostel owners in Easter Island, made of shells. Avan told him it was for good luck. His solemn little face broke into a smile. We teared up again.
The children all filed outside to have their photo taken with a big banner to thank the benefactors, then some of the older pre-teen girls said they would dance for us. They started a folk dance and then began getting us Westerners up to dance with them. I was happy for the younger girls from the tour to be a part of this, but Luis took my hand and wasn’t going to let me get away with not dancing
Some of the Kumaka girls let the children take photos with their cameras. It was such an exciting experience for the children to take their photos then review the digital image. There was so much happy laughter and chatter.
Puffed out from dancing, Luis and I sat down and continued our rapport. I showed him a map I had of Australia and one of Bolivia where he pointed to Uyuni where he lived. Avan gave him one of our travel cards with our photo and he clutched it to his chest as a treasured possession. He recognized that on the card was an email address and he said through gestures and words that the orphanage has a computer.
It was time to go and have our wonderful Christmas lunch back at the Tonito Hotel. We all felt reluctant to let go of the moment but the Kumaka tour had a bus to catch at 2pm to their next destination and we had one to catch at 8pm to La Paz. We said our goodbyes to the children with lots more cuddles. I gave away my sun hat and Avan found some lollipops in his camera bag to give away that he had been saving for a moment such as this
Lance, our Santa, cheerfully greeted all the children in the streets on the way back to the hotel and horns tooted as Bolivians took in the bizarre spectacle of Santa and 12 Westerners calling out Feliz Navidat!!
We arrived back at the hotel, a group of emotionally charged Westerners, forever changed by our unique 2010 Christmas experience.
Later a huge electrical storm commenced and rain and hail bucketed down. As it got closer to the time we needed to catch the bus we were getting a bit worried. To our delight Chris and Sussy owners of the Tonito hotel would not hear of us trying to get to the bus station in such a storm and drove us to the station for our overnight bus to La Paz. True Christmas spirit - thanks Chris and Sussy!
As a footnote, if anyone would like to assist the Aurora Orphanage in Uyuni to help keep this very worthwhile Christmas tradition, please contact Chris or Sussy Sarage of the Tonita Hotel email email@example.com - together we can make a difference.