What I Did on My Christmas Vacation
on Mid Life Angst (Zambia), 29/Dec/2009 18:05, 34 days ago
Last Christmas, I was in New York with very close friends, a surrogate family. We had the kind of holiday of which songs are written about– the Rockefeller Centre tree, a fireplace in the Hamptons and mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.This year’s Christmas couldn’t be any more different. I have tried, as much as I can, to summon a festive mood . I have been incessantly playing the two Christmas albums in my iPod (Ella Fitz and Frank S). I have even been going around with my very own portable, collapsibleChristmas tree from home.However, I haven’t gotten much support. No decorations have been put up. No parties are being held. I have given a few simple gifts but I’m not expecting any in return. There aren’t even gift wrappers being sold in the stores.On Christmas Eve, I heard mass in a small church lit only by candles. I watched a group of small children in makeshift costumes re-enact the story of the Nativity. I couldn’t understand the words and although the story was familiar, it seemed like it was being told to me the first time. At that point, I realized that the simple setting was more similar to the first Christmas than any elaborate store display could ever hope to be. As the evening’s Responsorial Psalm reminded us – “ A Savior has been born to us, He is Jesus Christ, our Lord”Seeing the faces of the people in church , I saw such JOY at the telling of the story– untainted by the stress of traffic or shopping or the slight avarice that comes over all of us with the feeding and buying frenzy that the holiday season brings. That night, in church, I felt something familiar start to come over me in this most unfamiliar of places. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, my Christmas spirit is alive and well in Zambia.Christmas Day found me traveling by rickety minibus (summon your memory of any movie set in Africa, with a character riding a local bus and you get the picture) to a neighboring town. My volunteer friends, Kristen and Jacinta invited me to join them in a feeding program for local kids. We then toured Victoria Falls, a National Heritage site and one of the natural wonders of the world before ending the day with dinner and drinks over-looking yet another fantastic Zambian sunset. In spite of a few challenges and frustrations, I know how lucky I am to be here.I only wish you could be here to share the experience with me but you never know what’s going to happen next so who knows where we might be together Christmas next year, yes?