Sunday, December 11, 2005

It's beginning to look a lot like...Christmas???

A fellow expat was waiting breathlessly for a telephone call from the States yesterday that would make or break her Christmas: her project headquarters in Maine was overdue to wire funds to her project’s Madagascar bank account that would let her pay her field agents’ salaries as well buy her plane ticket home for the holidays. Her staff hadn’t been paid for 2 months and were becoming justifiably antsy and the ticket has to be bought (in cash) by Monday. The phone call finally came as we were just heading out the door to dinner – and Murphy’s Law took over. Her original request for funds had gone astray and yes, it had been found and the transfer would be made post haste…except for the fact that there was a good ole Nor’Easter  blowing its way in – first  one of the year – and it was anyone’s guess as to whether the bank might still be open…

Even after three years of winterless holidays, the reality of Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere continues to come to me in sporadic bursts: a hotel restaurant overflowing with Christmas garlands, a 5 foot fake Christmas tree coated in psychedelic flashing lights, a coated storefront proclaiming a “Joyeux Noël” to all in fake snow. I can still easily forget to mark the Advent season if I don’t have the ubiquitous external clues of snow, cold and obsessive consumerism. The seasonal changes here – intermittent hot sun and cool clouds with gentle rain showers and the occasional thunder-banger and the persistent humidity – have no association with fat Santa Clauses in red fur suits, antlered reindeer, tinseled pine trees, or O Holy Night for me.

And yet, somehow, I don’t feel lost without Christmas in my life – or at least without Christmas-as-I-knew-it. It’s not even a matter of the “Malagasy do it better, simpler, appreciate the holiday more or expect less;” the commercialism may not be as extreme here simply because people can’t afford it, but it’s still there. Rather, since I’m not given the stimuli I am so programmed to respond to, I feel free of the baggage of the Christmas season and free to live it instead.

Now I truly understand the beauty of that Corona beer commercial with the whistled “O Christmas Tree” followed by the lighting of the Christmas palm. And I’m not sure I miss the real snow.

P.S. It probably won’t matter if the snowstorm did close the bank. A thunderstorm knocked out our phonelines three weeks ago and most of our banks haven’t been able to give out money since.




1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Greetings from the Lakeland Times. Love the idea of a blog. Now I can check up on you whenever I want. Is it possible to post some pics from Madagascar? I really would like to run some of them with your postings in the paper. Keep up the good work over there and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Patti Wenzel
Lakeland Times,
Minocqua, WI