“So tell me about your Christmas. What do you do?”
“Well, starting right after Thanksgiving you pretty much celebrate Christmas every day. You decorate your house, everyone puts up lights, the stores are all decorated, you sing Christmas carols at church on Sunday, and you go to Christmas parties every weekend. Then, on Christmas, you get lots and lots of presents. And you have to be with your family. Family is a big deal around the holidays. Do you celebrate Christmas?”
“Do you give each other presents?”
“Do you eat special foods?”
“Do you decorate?”
“What do you do?”
“Nothing. I want to celebrate Christmas like you guys!”
This is a funny conversation I had with Dan and David, two HOPAC kids who live on our compound (and, incidentally, just about the nicest, most pleasant teenage boys I’ve met in my life). They are Tanzanian. I’m still figuring out the Tanzanian take on the holidays. They say they celebrate it, but I am completely confused as to how. With the exception of the expatriate digs and the mall, there are no lights, there are no trees, there are no songs. Simply put: there is no “cheer.” Of course, the fact that it’s hotter outside than my mom’s oven filled with Christmas cookies might have something to do with that. I had no idea what a huge factor the weather plays in getting you in the Christmas mode.
No, I’m not exactly skipping Christmas. I play Christmas music as often as I possibly can. I window shop on Amazon.com. I watch Christmas movies. I’m going to have my kids make paper snowflakes to put up on the windows. However, there are a lot of things that I’m not doing, like running myself into the ground with Christmas shopping and cookie baking for everyone I know, going caroling, singing in the Christmas choir. Part of me really, really misses it and wants to drink a hundred Starbucks peppermint mochas and spend hours and hours and hours crafting with Martha Stewart, but part of me is thankful for a little break, and I do have some special Christmas company to look forward to that will make this Christmas one-of-a-kind in a good way.
1. One of my housemates moved out so I got to move into a much more comfortable room. This is a HUGE praise for me, since it means I will hopefully be sleeping much better and with at least 75% less mosquitoes biting me through the net at night.
2. We are officially on an electricity rationing schedule: the power will be off almost all day on Sundays, and evenings on Tuesdays and Fridays. The good news is that it’s on a schedule, and if they follow it, I can plan accordingly and it can completely be manageable. The last two weeks with random, sometimes extremely long periods without power were extremely difficult, almost entirely because you need at least a fan in this heat.
3. Continual good conversations and opportunities to share Christ with my students and their families in word and deed.
4. I’m running again on an indoor treadmill. This goes a very long way when it comes to managing stress, so it’s a huge praise!
5. Please pray for a continually good, thankful attitude and NO COMPLAINING!
6. That I could somehow show Christ to the Tanzanians that I interact with in public even if I don’t speak their language. Somehow.
7. That I would be kind and extremely patient with my students even when I am a zombie.
8. There is a rat in my office and in my kitchen, and neither one will take the bait on the traps. Okay, so this one isn’t really super important, but you can imagine the gross factor, right?