Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

A Merry Christmas to all you wonderful people!  You've been very much in my heart these last few weeks.  Little things pop up to remind me of this or that.  In a surreal moment, I found myself watching an episode of Stargate SG-1 with the Africa Mercy Nerd Herd.  My heart shed a tiny nostalgic tear when I saw those familiar faces (Walter! Siler! Oh stock footage of British Columbia, I've missed you!).  On a very long car ride back to the ship I found myself making up a story to entertain some kids, just like I used to do for J.J. in Mount Vernon.  And of course the onslaught of Christmas movies we've been watching on this ship does nothing to help matters.  Also, I feel I should confess that whenever I get the chance to, I stalk you all on facebook.  If I can't be there with you in your festive celebrations, I can at least look at the pictures and pretend I'm there.  Sigh...

It is a fact that saying yes to one thing necessarily means saying no to many others, so even though my heart aches at the thought of all the loved ones I won't see this Christmas, it is also bursting with gratitude for all the rich experiences I am having here in Guinea.  I shall try to share a few of them with you.

Almost two weeks ago, my good friend Rebekah got married, and I got to be one of her bridesmaids.  Here's a picture.
See how I'm holding my skirt up with my left hand?  That's because we got our dresses sewn for us by a local tailor who, despite our efforts to communicate otherwise, insisted that all right thinking bridesmaids wear heels with their dresses.  Since most of us very sensibly bought flat silver sandals, our dresses were all a few inches too long for us.  The wedding was a wonderful blend of cultures as Rebekah is from the US and James (the fellow she married) is from Nigeria.  The ceremony itself was relatively short and simple (a Western thing), but it was the first wedding I've ever been to where everybody dances down the aisles and out of the church at the end (definitely an African thing).  Actually, we did a lot of dancing (and, unfortunately, sweating) that day.  It was great fun!

Last night, the Australian contingent got together and planned a traditional Australian "Carols by Candlelight" sing-along.  We all gathered on the dock to eat grilled chicken and sing Christmas Carols.  Highlights of the event included:  a visit from "the Wiggles" and a very African looking Santa, and getting to hold real candles with real fire on them while we sang.  My friend Leanne took this picture.  The glowing cups are our home-made candle shields.

It was strange to look at our ship all lit-up last night and think, 'I live in that big blue and white box with about 300 other people.'  I've noticed lately, that people here are getting to know me well enough that I am no longer able to pretend my way out of a bad mood.  More than a few times over the last few weeks, I've told a friend that I was feeling 'fine,' only to meet skeptical eyes and pointed questions.  It's unnerving to have people digging around your feelings until you're all teary and vulnerable.  But I really appreciate having people here who care enough about me to help me work through things instead of letting me ignore them until they fester.  I know you all would do that for me if you were here.  I know you think about me and pray for me.  Maybe your prayers are helping my friends here notice things.  In any case, I am well taken care of. 

Well, it's Christmas Eve, and there are things to do before our special dinner tonight.  I've decided to give my students coupons for a free game day sometime this next semester as a Christmas present.  Having no Wal-Mart within driving distance really forces a person to get creative in the gift-giving department.

I love you all, and I am holding you in my heart this Christmas.

As Tiny Tim likes to say "God bless us, every one!"