A different kind of Christmas
This past Christmas day was my first time spending Christmas away from my home and my family. While I am happy to be here and lucky to have the opportunity to live in Thailand, being away this holiday was very sad for me. Still, despite the 94 degree heat, nearly complete absence of Christmas music and the fact that I went to work as usual, the day was ultimately enjoyable. Here are some things I learned from the experience.
I knew this day would come when I made the decision to go to Thailand and I knew it would be the toughest part of the whole experience. But nothing prepared me for the crushing homesickness that came with the realization that this year the family gatherings, cookies, tree-decorating and advent calendars would all go on without me. It was made worse by the homesickness I was already feeling having still not fully adjusted to rural Thailand. Watching the excitement of the holidays grow on social media and the photos of trees and decorations flood my news feed was the most painful sensation of my entire year. Luckily at the same time I was reminded of a few things including that…
My family will always be there to make things better
Leading up until Christmas I did my best to limit the time I spent thinking about the holidays in general. I thought if I could forget it was happening, I wouldn’t feel so sad that I would be missing it. This strategy worked for time, but failed once my school started making Christmas cards and learning simple Christmas carols. But just days before Christmas, my family came through by sending me several boxes of beautifully wrapped presents. The gesture meant more than I will ever be able to tell them because it showed me they were missing me as much as I was missing them and that they continue to support me. It also made me feel more guilty that I, the youngest child, was the first to miss all the family traditions of the holiday season. Nonetheless the gifts arrived just when I was feeling lowest and the thought of what awaited (yes I did wait until Christmas to open them) warmed me throughout the week.
Christmas with company is better than Christmas alone
After work on Christmas day a big part of me wanted to relax alone in my room for the evening and only talk to my family once they woke up. Instead I opted to accept one of my three invitations for gatherings (another heart-warming gesture by the local and expats living here) and spend Christmas with a group of Cameroonian teachers down the road from me. The small party was loud and hot with plenty of dancing and just about as different as possible from the typical Christmases I have known for the last 21 years. And yet the joyous, lively atmosphere made it impossible to be sad for more than a fleeting moment. As we sat and talked and drank, just the simple act of having company made the night wonderful and being away from my family just a little easier.
Working on Christmas isn’t all bad
The day was rather laid back as the holiday spirit crept into my small Thai school and the morning held a small celebration of sorts. Me and another foreign teacher played Santa Claus and threw candy into the wild crowd of students. The students competed to make the best Christmas card and drawings and there were traces of decorations in the hallways. The holiday was soon forgotten after the morning but the holiday spirit was felt throughout the day. Side note: I strongly doubt I will ever find a Christmas Card as amazing as the one pictured below.
Overall, it could have been worse, but at the same time it was an experience I won’t be eager to repeat in the near future. Christmas is a time for family and the homesickness I had already been feeling compounded on this day more than any before.