Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Obviously, you’ll all be reading this on Christmas day as you can’t have anything better to do than reading about us on this day. We all hope that you have had a wonderful day, wherever and however you are celebrating. But, before I start, we’re going to do things a little differently. Apparently, I’m too good at writing blogs, my insane amount of fan mail is evidence of that. But I have been asked to ease off a bit, to give people a chance to let their ribs rest from laughing so hard and their eyes rest from weeping at my magic words. I thought a nice way to do this would be to let the other two give writing a go. So, their Christmas present from me this year, is permission to write a bit about something festive, (their names will be at the end, so you know). But no need to fear, for I will fill in the gaps with some wonderful humour. Plus we’ve all written letters to the people we miss and love.
Sweet like Chocolate
As the keen baker of the group! The idea of making chocolate was a dream… a new ingredient I could use in one of my bakes, as finding cooking chocolate is a bit of a nightmare in Iquitos. Last week I tried to substitute cooking chocolate with hot chocolate in a bar, it didn’t turn out very well and it ended up in a failed rocky road which didn’t taste good! However, I have made a Victoria Sponge and a lemon drizzle cake which have gone down very well with our supervisors, their kids and Jacob and Erin.
So, I was determined to move past my mistake and the idea of making brownies was very tempting. It would mean I could use the chocolate we made in one of my recipes!
When we went to Nauta to visit the Chocolate Project. In which a lady of the community makes chocolate out of Cacao Beans to then be sold onto locals. The Cacao is sourced from the mission centre as it is grown and planted there but it also is bought by locals who also grow Cacao. The Cacao is harvested twice a year and goes through a process to be made into chocolate, which we helped with.
Before we got making the actual Chocolate, the Cacao looks very different to normal chocolate it is a white fleshy substance which is then fermented in a box for seven days. Then the beans are dried in the sun for a week or two.
Then this is where we come in! Once the beans are ready and dried. We weighed the amount of beans and then got ready to roast them on an open fire for about half an hour then they would be ready to be deshelled!
We all had a go at stirring the pot and the smell was just so good, the smell of chocolate was so strong.
Once the first batch of beans were roasted, we then had to deshell the beans. Which just involved pealing of the shell of the bean, it was a very satisfying task! We then repeated this till all the beans were roasted and deshelled.
The beans then had to be milled two or three times with a hand mill. It was quite tiring work.
The beans were then ground into a finer mixture, sugar and cinnamon were added for extra sweetness.This would then be pushed through the mill again to make a finer powder.
This is where it was starting to take shape and the beans no longer looked like beans but became more like chocolate. We only put the chocolate through the mill three or four times to make more of a coco powder to be used in hot chocolate. But we were told if we’d continued the process, it would become more like a bar of chocolate.
We got to try the finish product, hot Chocolate which was so good! We also saw it being packaged which would then go on to be sold to the community. The project is really based on people working together and based off resources which are locally sourced. As a team we really enjoyed the experience.
Then when I got back to Iquitos, I baked some brownies using the chocolate we made, and they turned out to be really tasty.
Written by Sophie West (Captions by Jacob)
The Calendar Conundrum
As we were approaching the beginning of December we decided as a team that it would be fun to make our own advent calendar to help us countdown to Christmas. We all agreed that this would be a good way to get into the Christmas spirit and put our artistic skills to the test. With visions of a perfect Pinterest project in our minds we headed to a local shop to buy the materials we would need. After a good bit of rummaging we left with a large piece of red foam, some green card, golden tinsel and of course plenty of chocolates.
The job of constructing the calendar was left to Sophie and me and we started in high spirits with Christmas music in the background to set the mood. We started by excitedly coming up with a few ideas of how best to make the calendar. After half an hour, folded up card, stray tinsel strands, lots of duct tape and two unhappy girls sat on my bed in despair. We had tried several methods, but nothing was sticking to the red foam and our origami chocolate pouches annoyingly wouldn’t hold their shape.
Reluctant to give in we decided on a new, more minimalist technique by getting rid of the foam and most of the card. We opted for a washing line style calendar by tying the chocolates to strips of card with string and attaching a positive message or Bible verse to each one. Happy that we had finally produced what we set out to do we stuck it to my bedroom wall, added some tinsel and went to bed feeling proud of ourselves for overcoming the trying challenges which had set us back.
By morning what remained of the calendar was a few lonely pieces of duct tape stuck to my wall. The rest was in a pile on the floor quickly being surrounded by interested ants.
We now just eat a chocolate a day which has a message stuck to it. Although it wasn’t quite what we had hoped for it serves its purpose and perhaps reminds us what advent is actually about – simply taking time each day to remember the miracle of the first Christmas (where there surprisingly wasn’t actually much tinsel at all).
Written by Erin Seaman (Captions by Jacob)
Well, looks like I might be out of the job. Between Sophie’s story telling and Erin’s wittiness, I might as well hand it over to them. Unfortunately for you though, I enjoy this job too much to give it up (as I’m sure you can tell by the sheer number of these blogs I write). One last thing we wanted to do before we finish and run off to Cusco, was to write a little letter home. We have sent Christmas cards to various places, but just in case they don’t make it in time here’s a little message from each of us just to say Feliz Navidad.
Letter from Paddington
Dear Uncle Richard (Bestie),
I’m missing you very much. Particularly going to kickboxing with you and hanging out playing Nintendo switch in your flat. I was going to send you a Christmas card, but the Peruvian post office refused to believe that Birmingham was a real place. I thought about writing you a letter on Instagram, as I’ve done with my other friends but then I remembered that you’re too old for Instagram. Fortunately, I’ve been given the space to say Merry Christmas on the blog. I hope you have a great day and that you get some nice presents from your lovely Mum. Please write back when you get this. Love PB.
Letter from Jacob
I’m hoping the three cards I send out made it to their destinations but just in case they didn’t, and to those I didn’t get the chance to send to, I wanted to say: ‘Merry Christmas’. I’m missing all of my families and friends a great deal and can’t wait to tell you all about the wonderful time we’ve been having. But, we’re not even halfway through yet so I’m sure I’ll have a lot more to say by the end of March. Thank you for all your prayer and support, I hope and pray you all have a wonderful Christmas holiday and enter the new year ready to face whatever it throws at you. God Bless, love you all. Jacob.
Letter from Sophie
Just a note from me to wish all my family and friends back home a very Merry Christmas! I send you all my love, and hope you have a wonderful Christmas. I am always so thankful for the love and support in this process of being away from home.
I also want to wish my Action Team Family a merry Christmas, I know they shall miss their families while being away from home. But a message to you all that we are in this together and God truly is blessing each and every one of you in this time, and as always, I am praying for you guys and the work you are doing. Can’t wait to make you all hot drinks when we get back to IMC in April.
‘This will happen when the special child is born. God will give us a son who will be responsible for leading his people. His name will be “Wonderful Counsellor, Powerful God, Father Who Lives Forever, Prince of Peace’ Isiah 9:6
Letter from Erin
To all my friends and family back home (and around the world on the other teams!), I wanted to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! It seems strange to not be at home over this period, but I am really enjoying my time in Peru and am excited to experience Christmas in a new way.
I am so thankful for all your support and appreciate every prayer and message. I can’t wait to tell you all about what I’ve been up to when I get back. Lots of love to you all – from Erin 😊
Please pray that especially at this time of year we don’t forget why were here or miss home too much.
We have our week off next week, which we will be spending in Cusco and involves 5 flights. So please pray for safe journeying and no flight delays.
Please pray for our Christmas day in Nauta.
For all your love and support.
For all the wonderful gifts and cards that have found their way to us so far. They have been very much appreciated.
For your prayers regarding the visas, we are now legally allowed to stay until 5th April 2020. (Obviously we won’t be though).
Keep in touch
@woohoo.peru – Instagram
@the_marmalade_bear – Instagram
firstname.lastname@example.org – Email
For God so loved the world…