Tag Archives: holidays

Happy Holidays

I believe I mentioned that one of the things I’m learning in Zambia is to deal with nothing ever starting on time. I intended to post this on Christmas, since it seemed seasonally appropriate. Clearly, I didn’t. I could make excuses about 23-hour power outages starting Christmas Eve evening, but that doesn’t account for not posting yesterday. (I was reading, okay?) Instead, I’ll claim that I’m just adapting to the laid-back pace of just about everything in Zambian life.

The only Advent wreath I've seen in Zambia.  Yes, that is a canoe.  And paddles.

The only Advent wreath I've seen in Zambia. Yes, that is a canoe. And paddles.

Merry Christmas, or whatever else you celebrate, from warm, rainy (finally! Though not as rainy as I’d like it to be. I think the farmers would like it rainier, too) Zambia!

People have asked me if I miss being home for the holidays. The answer is: not really. In fact, I don’t feel like I’m missing holidays. Holidays? There are no holidays in August. It’s felt like August for a long time. Besides the weather, there are none of the other usual cues. The only time I’ve heard bad Christmas music piped over store loudspeakers was back at the Shoprite in Livingstone in mid-November. I haven’t heard good Christmas/Advent music in Church. We sang carols on MCC retreat, where the above picture was taken, and Sunday at church. (I hiked to Church in POURING rain that made several portions of path into muddy, shallow rivers. A far cry from Christmas services at home.) No one here plays Christmas music, either, except for expatriates. (And one really annoying toy that baby K has that plays “Jingle Bells.” The irony of this song in this location is not sufficient to get me past more than ten or fifteen listens.)

All of which made it very nice to actually sing Christmas carols at church, even if they were in Tonga. Due to the rain, attendance was low, but the kids put on a very nice sketch (skit). It was all in Tonga, of course, but there’s a cadence to the Gospel of Luke, so that even in Tonga, I could tell what book Luundu was narrating from, and more-or-less follow along, even on the less familiar stories. And there were less familiar stories. It was a small epiphany for me, actually. The Christmas readings are so familiar, but I’m only barely acquainted with the birth of John the Baptist: I can’t ever recall hearing Luke 1 used in a Christmas service, and certainly not in a pageant. And I spent the rest of the day at a board games get-together that the pilot’s family was hosting for people who didn’t have family to be with.

Not Christmas like I’m used to. But it was nice. (And who knew that basil, tomato, and mozzarella salad with added avocado is Christmas-colored?)

You won’t hear from me at New Year’s, either: I’ll be in Namibia. German pastry and five-story sand dunes, here I come! Assuming I survive a 24-hour plus bus ride.


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In which I felt very a Smithie

The bells rang this morning.

For those of you who don’t know, morning bells denote Mountain Day, the randomly scheduled holiday held on some nice day during fall semester. The president declares it at 7:00 one morning, and the bells ring to announce to the campus that classes are canceled.

There a few things like the rush of joy of waking up to the chiming of bells, bells that declare a surprise holiday. I had hoped that Mountain Day would be today, but I’ve always tried to not anticipate Mountain Day; I think that it works better when unexpected. In fact, I do my best to forget that it happens, which means that I can just be joyful when I wake to bells and know that classes have been canceled.

Today was a glorious sunny day with clouds racing by, one of the best sorts of Autumn days, crisp and a little chilly but warm in the sun.

I was very aware, as I lay awake listening to ringing tones through the open windows, that this year I am a senior. I probably will never again live in a place where surprise holidays are announced with the ringing of bells. I will miss it: the thrill of waking up, the walking out into the hallway to discover one’s neighbors running around rejoicing in various states of deshabille, the gleeful abandon with which most of the campus manages to take this day in both hands and run with it, putting off the stress and work for at least a few hours.

I didn’t go apple picking. I didn’t climb a mountain. But it was a good Mountain Day.

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I am perhaps homesick. I’m not unhappy, but I feel that I am ready to go home.
I didn’t realize that Spain would be so . . . far. I figured, I go to school for months and months, or I go to Spain for months and months – there isn’t that much difference, right? But I hadn’t counted on the foreignness. I miss home food, and home assumptions and worldview, and home methods of interpersonal relations (which is to say, quieter ones). I miss church that isn’t mass and classes that have more discussion than lecture, and I miss the ability to be able to say whatever comes into my head (for while these things arrive in Spanish, or at least turn into Spanish, rather more frequently these days, I still haven’t a clue how one says “lime green hedgehog” in Spanish, and am not liable to learn, short of looking it up in a dictionary).

I miss home more than I ever did my first year of college. I’m not sure why that is; I certainly came here with more acquaintances than I had at Smith. Perhaps it’s the culture I miss, as much as any specific people, or perhaps I got lucky at Smith, or maybe I was just too busy, between schoolwork and an entirely new social situation, to miss home. But the fact remains that, so far as I can tell, having carved myself a niche at Smith doesn’t make it any easier to carve one in Spain; it just gives me more people and more places to miss. Which is not to say that I haven’t carved a perfectly respectable niche in Spain. But it’s still kind of rough around the edges.

This was the first year I wasn’t home for Thanksgiving. Similarly, I’ve always come home for Christmas, and I won’t be doing that, either. It’s odd to watch Christmas decorations going up, lights being lit, holiday celebrations being held, and to know that by the time I get home, it will almost be time for Christmas decorations to be coming down again (at least, if you pay proper attention to such things; I have no doubt that that awful inflatable reindeer on the neighbors’ roof will remain there long after I’m back at Smith). I know that family are coming to see me, which makes things better – but I still won’t be home. I can’t even really pinpoint what home is; it’s not a house, or even a place; it might be a conglomeration of people, and there’s something to do with food, although food can’t be a terribly important part of it, because dining hall food would be acceptable . . . I guess that it’s this whole batch of things that I miss, that are different, that are something or other.

I’m sure that my Spanish would benefit from more time in Spain. But I’m really glad that I won’t be here until June.


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I should be asleep

But my brain seems to be intent on bopping around like a chipmunk in a cage, so I’m going to write an entry instead, and try to get some of the thoughts, well, if not on paper, into the data stream.

I saw a chipmunk on Friday. I was walking with my conversation partner, and we passed a pet store that had a chipmunk in the window, running on a wheel. I never really considered the possibilities of chipmunks as pets. They’re cute, sure, but they’re wild animals. Of course, people in Mongolia probably don’t think of gerbils as pets. I tried to get my conversation partner to tell me how to say chipmunk in Spanish, but he told me that it was a squirrel (in English). I told him that no, squirrels had bigger tails and weren’t stripey, and he tried to convince me that it was a chinchilla. I told him that it wasn’t that, either, and we got to discussing rodents and I never did figure out how to say squirrel in Spanish. Or chipmunk.

I had another discussion with Pepi about religion today. Cut for length, and in case you don’t care.


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