Tag Archives: Christmas

Christmas in Bahrain

Well I thought it would be nonexistent, it being a Muslim country and all. But no, no no. There are Christmas trees galore, and tinsel and mince pies, little Santas and singing elfs, shelves stocked with glace cherries and marzipan and enough wrapping paper , garlands and pretty bows to fill a kingdom.

Everyone loves Christmas, even those who do not celebrate it. The season is infectious and each expat school has a Christmas fete, hotels have tree lightings and carol sing-a-longs and every mall is decorated to the nines. Of course this little island is filled with expat families who do celebrate, but they are not the majority.

We took a family vote and it was decided that Christmas day would be better spent at home than away. We have organized a holiday to Oman but will return for Christmas day. My vote was to stay away, in case you wanted to know. I find Christmas a quiet and lonely day without family and friends around but I have been assured that joy will be abounding.

We have had a few Christmases in the expat world. A Ugandan Christmas is quite odd. Obviously in a country as poor as Uganda, tinsel and trees are not high up on the ladder of importance. In fact the buying of presents is far below the buying of shoes. But there still exists the religious and more serious aspect of Christmas that is somber yet pure for its lack of materialism. Occasionally you might see a lonesome scrap of tree or tinsel strung above a shop, but for the most part, outside of expat stores, the shiny and glittery part of Christmas is lacking. The spiritual part is what remains. I was touched when Steve, who worked for us, brought his wife and daughter to visit and they presented us with a box containing cartons of juice. It was a gesture that resonated with all of us and remains today.

A Trini Christmas is like no other. They have their own food, music and customs and they take both the religious and glitzy side very seriously. No one in the world parties like a Trini and what better excuse to “lime” than Christmas? The decorations in the malls were literally stupendous, creative and festooned with colour. Initially I was surprised. What did a tropical island know about Santa and elves? But I was quickly pointed in the right directions and shown what a proper Christmas is all about.

And now Bahrain, where it rings false. There is no spiritual element. No, food drive or toy drive like in Canada. No sense that everybody is doing it. It is a fine excuse for a very rich country to wrap itself up in embellishments. But in our little world it is as it always will be. Chocolate peppermint bark, a few old traditions, a few new, a walk on the beach, Wham’s Last Christmas, hot chocolate in snow man mugs.

But first…. a new discovery. We are going to visit Oman and I will return with stories and photos. In the meantime 3limes will take a short hiatus to recharge, relax and refresh.

Happy holidays to all my readers!

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Filed under Bahrain, Family Stuff, Trinidad & Tobago, Uganda

A Bonus Sunday, overpriced Christmas trees and rainy days.

A rare treat: a Sunday at home, no work, courtesy of the Islamic New Year.  Happy New Year and welcome to the year 1433.

Not only was it a bonus Sunday but that meant the first Saturday night in months and a Sunday night that felt like a proper, night before the start of the week, Sunday night. Complete with eggs on toast and a side offering of baked beans.

Of course it also meant a 3 day weekend.

And well deserved it was too, after a week that culminated in a day and a half of parent teacher interviews. I was a little worried about getting all the Mohamed’s, Ali’s and Fatima’s straight. I think I did ok, considering that I have about two in each class. One thing I did notice is that the parents were most kind, very grateful to us teachers and that the mothers have an uncanny ability to lift their hands up considering the heavy bling.

This weekend saw more rain. Damp, flat, grey weather that reminded me of a London day in July. I loved it. And I have to risk the removal of my Canadian passport when I confess that despite being 18 degrees Celsius, it actually felt quite cool. Yes, I thought exactly the same thing when people told me it would feel cool. Are said “ are you mad?” I am a Canadian. I have lived in Winnipeg ( better known as Winterpeg in some parts). There is no way I will feel cold, ever, without serious frost bite chomping on my cheeks. But I guess 4 years of heat stroke will do that to you.

Ok it felt cool, not cold and I was just appreciating the seasons, that’s all.

Speaking of seasons….I have wondered about Christmas in the desert. How is it possible? And a Muslim desert, no less. But believe it or not, it is not even December and Muslim desert or not, the malls are top to toe in wreaths, garlands, tinsel and trees. I asked some of my students what the hell was going on and they replied that it was just another theme. And an excuse to shop. And eat out. And party.

So I guess Christmas spirit in all its materialistic glory will find its way to the Sandy Isle.

And here is the first evidence. Turns out you can get real Xmas Trees here. In my naivete I thought that meant there was a place tucked away in a green house that grew them. But no. They are flown in at great expense both to the customer and the environment. Exhibit one:

 

The smallest tree is $87.50 and that is for 1.5 metres. And the largest is a whopping $3.10 for 4 metres.

I guess we are sticking with the straggly, anemic, dwarf tree we bought in Kampala.

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Filed under Family Stuff, I miss shopping.

Charlie Brown revisited.

I don’t like to recycle old blog posts but this one is a must. It is the time of year when I am all teached out and like to show the class some appreciation for their hard work.  Last year I forgot about Charlie Brown but this year I remembered and loved it all over again.

There are a lot of truths in that little 25 minute movie.

I wrote about it back in Trinidad in December 2008.

Lessons from Mr. Charlie Brown

Perhaps mean grownups were once just mean children.

 

Why is it so hard? It should be so simple. The answer is this. Just be nice.  This works for everything. The smile at a colleague, the have a good day, the can I help you? The lending a student some money, the bringing a toy in for the toy drive, the throwing the best birthday party for your kids, the surprise dinner party, the little thoughtful acts that make the world go round. It does not include the crabby guy on the phone who doesn’t give a damn, the people who cut off the old people’s heating in the dead cold of winter, the nasty immigration officers who make you feel like you are doing them a favour coming into their country, the lazy rip off artists who run a scam, the lawyers who watch the bottom line and miss the humanity, the guys with guns that storm hotels, the police that hit teenagers, the fanatics that bomb houses of prayer, the parents who never talk to their kids, the teachers who put down kids and ruin a dream, the kids who write on walls and ruin a life.

Last night I watched a Charlie Brown Christmas. I had forgotten what a gem this cartoon was. First of all they feature the voices of real children rather than adults trying to sound like children. The writing cleverly reflects the real way that people speak, particularly children who are often painfully honest with each other. They have not yet installed the “filter” that enables them to edit out the brutally honest and often rude comments. It is a fact; if you want to know the truth about how you look in that dress, ask a child.

In the Charlie Brown Christmas the kids all are mean to Charlie Brown, berating him for never doing anything right. Of course they ultimately learn that it pays to be nice to one another. When his little tree becomes beautiful the children realize they were wrong yet there is no fast moral where Charlie “rubs it in.” They just begin to enjoy the true spirit of Christmas once they begin to sing together. Each character is charming in their own way because we can see ourselves in at least one of them.  Each one is eminently human.  They are not particularly kind to each other because they have not yet learned how important it is. We have our filters. We should know better. We are grown ups and it is a simple as just being kind. When we watch Lucy taunting Charlie Brown we cringe and laugh because we know it is wrong.

The original post with pictures  is here.

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Filed under Miss Teacher, observations

Christmas Spirit where are you?

I am trying to conjure up some Christmas Spirit and I have found that it is hard to do without chilly snowy weather and shops. Going to the mall, hearing the same looped Christmas music over and over again, standing in endless lines under bright lights choosing between red, silver or gold tinsel and seeing your pale reflection in the shiny orbs hung on huge mall trees might grate on the nerves but it does continually remind you that Christmas is here. In Trinidad, despite the warm weather we never forgot it was Christmas as the whole country gets into the swing of Parang music, Pastelles and shiny ornaments. The Trinis love their Christmas and have built a whole set of traditions and ritual around it. Here it is harder to find spirit. Yes, a few stores have thrown together some tinsel and cheap bright lights, a few plastic trees here and there and some loud piped music but it feels like it is done for the expats and not for themselves. Where I come from Christmas is predominantly materialistic but here materialism does not exist so the Christmassy feeling that generally creeps up on you mid December or in some frustrating years, not at all, is harder to come by here.

So we have poured the favourite Christmas music into the ipod and we sing in the car. The Christmas films are out and tonight we all cuddled up an watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

“ Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from the store

perhaps it is a whole lot more.”

A perfectly apt quote for Christmas in Uganda.  But I can feel the spirit sneaking up on me just a little bit. Tomorrow we begin the last week of school; reports are written , shopping lists are being compiled and menus set. Our dear friends are flying in Saturday night and we are all set for wonderful holiday together. It might not be the same as Christmas Over There…in the Great Shiny West, but it will have its own particular spirit created from a mix of music, movies, funny tree decorations, new traditions and friendship.

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Filed under Family Stuff, Uganda

Inching towards Christmas

Oh where have I been?

While the hills of Kampala were strewn with yellow clad runners in yesterday’s Kampala Marathon I was ticking things off my list and cooking dinner for 19 people. Yes 19. Nothing like confronting the fear of invites with one whole swoop of people. And it all went off fine. As the sun set, I lit candles, we all sat outside and admired the blooming garden, hammocks were swung and people chatted quietly as they munched on the best brownies in the world. Thanks Nigella.

Today Princess will step onto the stage and perform her rendition of Veruca Salt. There has been much apprehension and shower singing and now, when the glitter is glued on,  backdrop nailed, lines learnt and costumes sorted where is young Princess? In bed nursing a fever. This bad luck simply must pass and the show must go now, not just today but tomorrow and all week as the KADS Pantomime opens Wednesday night and both Princess and Trooper will be donning mice outfits and dancing to Cinderella’s Work Song. Trooper, who is 13 and much too old for this sort of thing is mortified and has threatened that if any photos of her replete in mice ears and tail appear on Facebook she shall report the photo for abuse.

In less than two weeks reports shall be written, books put away and shreds of party paraphernalia swept away as Term 1 comes to a close. Yes Camp Hormone closes for 3 weeks and the inmates are all sent home, as are we the teachers. I am awaiting Christmas Spirit but it has not yet made its entrance into The Villa. Without chilly climes and snow it is always hard to get the feeling. I might have to pull out the Christmas Music CD and rock around the tree. Once we pull it out of its box in the garage. Sacrilegious: fake trees. But what to do? A Ugandan Christmas it shall be. Round two.

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Filed under I have two girls

A special season. More Green than Red.

Some places have real seasons like Winter or Spring, or best of all, Autumn with its comforting crunch and startling blue skies set perfectly against a crimson leaf or two.

Here we get rain, or no rain. But the most thrilling and disturbing season of all is Grasshopper Season. It started today like the apocalypse with hoards of grasshoppers flying into my class room, or, when I shut the windows, sticking to the window panes. I had one fly up my skirt, one hit my face and one hop around my desk. I had one student who sadly discovered he has a Grasshopper Phobia and had to return home to sort out what he is to do for the next month. Yes month. For close to 40 days we will be swarmed with flying green creatures, the sports field will be hopping, literally and a cloud of birds will swoop through the skies, hungry for green flesh.

To some this is a pest issue, windshield wipers will get stuck, dead or petrified green bugs will lie on the floor. For others, this is a season of delicious treats for here in Uganda people love to eat the hoppers. Driving downtown cars can conveniently pass through a crowd of vendors ready to open their Tupperware bowls and serve you bags of green or brown crunch. Some people erect tents with lights to capture the critters, all the better to catch and fry.

While some are feeling the first nips of Jack Frost, hearing that Chestnut Song over and over on replay, or fighting through tinsel in the line ups for Mince Pies, I am getting attacked by Grasshoppers.

How did I end up here? Did I fly though a green whirlwind vortex?

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Filed under Being brave, Uganda

Trini Christmas #2

 

 

In Trinidad the main objective in life is to have fun.

 

Christmas here is one big celebration. 

 

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Christmas is the start of a long season of fun that starts after Halloween ( which is relatively small ) continues through Christmas, and ends after Carnival. 

 

Some Trini Christmas highlights:

 

  • Traditional parang music is largely performed around Christmas time, when singers and players ( known as the parrandero) travel from house to house in the community, often joined by friends and neighbours using whatever instruments are at hand. In exchange for the entertainment, parranderos are traditionally given food and drink: pastelle, sorrel, rum and ponche crema (a form of alcoholic eggnog).

While traditional house-to-house caroling tradition is still practised by small groups and larger organized groups, modern parang music has also developed a season of staged performances called parang fiestas, held from October through to January each year, ending in a big parang competition.

  • Trinidadians spend Christmas eve house hopping between friends and family to spread cheer. celebrate and eat and drink.
  • They eat Pastelles which are meat and corn wrapped in a banana leaf. The making of the Pastelles is in itself a a lovely occasion for people to get together.
  • Music is very important. After all how can you dance with no tunes?
  • Ole years is a great celebration here and there are huge parties set up. For a small cost people can go to an all inclusive fete. This means that all food, drinks and DJ entertainment are included and a good time is guaranteed for all. Normally in the West if we pay to go to an event ( normally called a “Ball”) we would settle for nothing less than ball gowns and black tie. Here shorts and a cooler of beer is all that is required.
  • Once Ole years is done Carnival season officially kicks off. A series of fetes, sometimes more than one in a week, begins in early January. Let me just say that there is one week at school that not a lot of learning nor teaching happens. More on Carnival season to come later.
  • When the excesses of Christmas is over and all the rum and pork digested people start their Carnival shape up. This is when tons of people, (women) take to wearing lycra and walking really fast.

Those Carnival costumes are tiny.

 

From Trinidad to where ever you are, Merry Christmas! Have a warm and wonderful day.

 

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