Monday, December 19, 2011


"Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love!"

The holiday season is a time of gatherings, reflection, and hopefully a remembrance of others.  It's a time to look back on the year and be thankful for what was received.  This was a year of big change for me, and now being in Africa this season as a Peace Corps Volunteer, it definitely conjures up different images than I'm used to.  I remember moving to California and it never feeling like the holidays because of the weather, though I always held onto the images of the falling leaves and the first snow fall.  My aunt Eileen always made a point to call me when the snow fell because she knew the joy it brought to me.  Since XMAS falls in summer here in Botswana, it's not the snowy dark wintry night, but sunshine and blooming flowers that grace the holiday season.  Traditional customs differ than those I'm used to, and there won't be the smell of our baking cookies, nor our homemade mushroom and barley soup for all to share.  The sight of brights lights around town, and sound of presents being open are only in my minds eye this season.  Instead, African harmonies will be heard throughout the village a few days before XMAS, and reality will be about the poverty that surrounds me, the lack of visual decorations, as well as the love that's all around.  It's a good time of year to become acquainted with new traditions, with that comes a realization that Africans hold an abundance of old wisdom, some of which I plan on soaking up.  People use branches of trees for home decorations, and their customs include the slaughtering of cows and goats for their big holiday feast.  How wonderful to be so connected to the natural resources in our backyards!  Neighbors in the village all want to share their tradition of going to hear choirs sing and compete, and as we share stories, I can only hope that the cultural gaps keep adding richness to both our lives.  So with a different set of eyes this year, I'll embrace the new world I'm living in.

The day after XMAS is known as Boxing Day, and it is celebrated as the day to relax---how great--give the men who killed the meat, and women who cooked it, a long day to kick back and digest the entire cow.  Boxing day is actually a holiday!  We should do this in the USA---just leave the leftovers out, watch a little football, and leave the wrappings from presents all over the living room because it's really the sweetest site!  AAh, that sounds so good, but let's get back to Africa--I can't resort to sentiment right now or else I'll cry.  Yup, the real reason to cry is not being able to watch football!  How's that for sentiment!  Ok Africa, I'm back---oh yeah, some of the kids around have asked about the holidays in America.  Maybe I shouldn't tell them the truth, yet they are as starved for information, as much as I am starved for Chinese food. They say they wish they could be in the States so they too can get presents, but they may be better off not having the abundance we have. Yesterday a friend came over to tell me she is applying to Harvard and Yale next year so she can get a good education and come back to help people in Botswana.  How awesome is that, and what a gift it was to hear it!

This year in Africa I have much to be grateful for and I hope that we all remember to give in some ways.  I reflect on those I have lost this year, especially my soulful Sasha, my colleague Irwin, and those who are struggling with illness like my good buddy Jacques.  I look to the star filled sky, to the red earth in the village, taking in all in, and I hold it that much more precious because they no longer can. This year I am ever so grateful to my family, Marilyn and the boys, my neighbors and friends for supporting my life altering decision.  I am especially thankful for the love, humor, and acceptance of my host family, and for my new friends and students.  

Happy Holidays to All!

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