Thursday, January 5, 2017

Christmas 2016

On Christmas morning, I woke up, shook off the sugar plums dancing in my head and went for a run. At work, people were jollier than usual. Most of my colleagues did not grow up with Christmas the way I did, but there are enough Australians and Canadians to spread a festive atmosphere. We always have decorations up, but it never feels like Christmas. Especially since it only snows here about once every 200 years. That doesn't bother the Australians so much, but the Canadians know what I mean.

In China, Christmas is a day of shopping. The locals don't realize that the proper tradition is to shop between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, and examine wrapped gifts whose secrets you tried to shake into revealing themselves. Christmas morning is for anticipation, while Christmas afternoon is reserved for disappointment in the realization that the people around you don't know you well enough to get all the best toys for which Jesus died.

I don't generally like to work on Christmas day. It's a more important holiday to me than to most of the people at work. I think the foreigners should always get the day off, just as we mostly volunteer to work during the important Chinese holidays. One of the biggest issues during the Chinese New Year is that people are supposed to go home to see their families. In China, that could mean traveling thousands of miles. You need at least three or four days off. The more I work during the New Year, the more someone can see people they might only see once a year. All I ask in return is Christmas and Thanksgiving. I'm pretty flexible about Columbus Day.

I spent a good chunk of Christmas night on the phone. There's nothing exceptional about that when you're an expat. We all have people in some other part of the world. Christmas might be one of the busiest international calling days. What made this Christmas different was that I spent most of the night talking to a man I just met.

Mthandeni went home for Christmas. He'll be back soon, but so far, we've talked on the phone every day. I think it's too soon to call us a couple. We haven't done most of the things couples do together. But we sure seem to have a lot to talk about. When I get off work, it's the middle of the afternoon for him. When he goes to sleep, I'm waking up. The time difference between China and South Africa really works out.

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