Thursday, December 24, 2009

It's Beginning to Feel a Lot like Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone! It is hard for me to believe that it is already December 24th...the date has certainly snuck up on me. Experiencing Christmas this second time around has been a very different experience than last year. I remember last year being asked by a fellow volunteer what I was doing to remember the Christmas season and I had told her nothing because I wanted to forget it was the Holidays altogether. Being away from home last year for the first time ever was fairly difficult for me and I found any reminders of what I was missing to be miserable. I didn't really enjoy Christmas day meme at all. THis year though I found myself getting really excited for Christmas. I started playing music about a month ago and took out all the decorations and cards i received last year to decorate my house. Plus i had a holiday crafts session--benin edition, to see how i could use the things in my marches to "spruce" up (haha) my holiday season in hot hot benin. Pictures included for your viewing pleasure.

painted winter scene on a calabash half

Calabash snowman! Hammered nails into the 3 halves to make holes and tied them together with string. Made the hat out of tissu scraps and a cotton ball, and the scarf was a tissu piece

My christmas wreath made out of tissu scraps tied around a manipulated coat hanger (idea courtesy of Mrs. Walsh's 4th grade activities). Topped off with ribbon and an ornament that Aunt Nancy wrapped my present with last year

cards that i got last year

advent wreath constructed entirely of computer paper that i colored laboriously. Every sunday i taped on a new paper flame.

lamp decorated with some of the ornaments that Aunt Annie sent me last year

I forgot to take pictures of the nativity that aunt Mary sent last year and the mini tree that my neighbor sent me, but oh well...there are some of the highlights.
I have to say I am really grateful to be spending the holiday season here with some of my closest friends. Being in Benin really has altered my understanding of family and what it means to be there for people. I might be an ocean away from home of birth, but I still get to spend Christmas with the family that I've found here and for that I am extremely lucky.

Just last evening my mom and dad’s 2 christmas boxes came in and so did my 2 thanksgiving packages so it is looking like we are going to have a pretty spectacular meal by Beninese standards. I have to say that I will miss that. Opening a box of gingerbread cookie mix probably would never phase me at home to any degree but I opened it here and everyone in the bureau with me now is RIDICULOUSLY excited to make gingerbread cookies tomorrow. Plus I received lots of ziplock bags that you can snip the ends off to make icing bags to decorate.

So like I said, December has been crazy. For my birthday Angelina and Michelle came over on the friday before to make dinner with me and just hang out. We had mexican and listened to Christmas music and watched the Muppet Christmas Carol and the Nightmare before Christmas. The next day we got up early and went to Hoedogli to do Kantos's annual talk about girls staying in school and gender issues in Benin as compared to the US. The taxi ride to Azove was chock full of harassement and then we were SWARMED when we got to Azove by the zems wanting to take us to Hoedogli. That might have been the scariest zem ride of all of my time in BEnin--barring the zem ride that landed me on the hood of a car in JUly. My driver took off first down the narrow dirt (but for all intents and purposes sand) road to Hoedogli. It was covered with people walking to and from Azove's marche and the sand kept making the zem wobble, which always makes me nervous. I thought my zem was going exceptionally fast so i told him to slow down again and again and he didn't listen. Then all of a sudden angelina and Michelle both passed me on their motos and my driver became indignant saying "tu vois?" (you see?) and sped up to beat them. THen it became a contest of idiots to see who could pass the other and Michelle Angelina and I were all screaming at our zems to slow down because they were being dangerous and we were nervous. When we finally got to Houedogli we were all shaken up and it kind of tainted our mood for the talk and the rest of the day.

Girls talk in Houedogli

Then on my birthday meme, Kristin came over, bearing mozzarella that she had brought up from Cotonou the day before and kept in my "cool bag" to keep it slightly cooler than normal temps in Benin. We made delicious calzones and watched Pearl Harbor in the spirit of the day.


With the World Map a week later, and being in Cotonou since then, December is practically over and soon we'll be ringing in 2010! Unbelievable. Well, Anyways, i hope that everyone has a very merry christmas tomorrow with their families--I know I will. Hope you all get what you want. Me? I have eggnog in a can sent from the USA...what more could one ask for?

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