Wednesday 10 January 2018

Happy New Year: Bomb Cyclones and Latin Families

I'm back from the States where I spent New Year with 17 assorted family members on my husband's side from Colombia and Ecuador, and one Italian. Funny how much you suddenly have in common with a fellow European when you find yourself in a different continent surrounded by a majority from another continent. The Italian and I, both partnered with Latin Americans, shared our observations on the cultural differences and nature of Latin families.

On this particular trip, what I noticed most acutely is that my Latin American family don't appear to eat any vegetables. Making a salad felt like a rebellious act. At one point, half a pepper was served between eight of us. Luckily six weren't interested, leaving me a decent taste. Half a life-time of living abroad has changed my own Latin husband's eating habits, and fortunately he doesn't see eating vegetables as a penance.

As for New Year traditions, the jolly Colombians and Ecuadorians, have a lot in common with my Spanish compatriots. They all eat 12 grapes at midnight and wear specific coloured pants. In Spain, fire is a common ingredient in festivities, and so too is it in Ecuador. Just after midnight, the family set alight an effigy of the 'año viejo'  (the old year) dressed in pyjamas. Not in the living room as photo might suggest, but in a fire pit outside the house we were renting.  

At this point I should mention our trip coincided with the bomb cyclone on the east coast, which has nothing to do with a bomb, and everything to do with freezing cold temperatures. We huddled around the burning 'old year' in -6 degrees.

Next step: Jump over fire! (By this point, we had, of course, already run around the house with our suitcases to ensure we would travel in 2018!)

Far too high, I thought about the loaded fire pit, plus my dress is synthetic and probably highly flammable. My doubts were forced aside as I was swept up by my husband and his cousin and carried over the fire, flames licking at my derriere. Mad! You're all mad! I cried, while congratulating myself on marrying into a family with spark.

I'm back home now and after two disturbed nights due to jet lag, I finally managed to get up at a decent hour this morning. I'm back in my office, back to normal temperatures. Yesterday, I overheard a builder saying: It's so cold! I almost laughed in his face. Cold he might have been, but not cold enough to put him off drinking his coffee outside on the cafe's terrace.

Cold is -6 degrees, and -10, and everything after that. The icy air felt like daggers in the US - but thankfully our stay was made significantly warmer thanks to the big jovial Latin family reunion! 

Check out Emily's latest book The Hen Party