Expat Holiday Season #2

 

Christmas and New Year 2015

Holiday Season #2 away from home… A year ago, I didn’t really expect that I’d be spending another Christmas and New Years in Saudi Arabia… But here I am. And it’s not so bad at all again.

This Christmas, I think what I appreciated the most, was the response from some of my patients and colleagues. Even though many of them do not celebrate Christmas, many of my patients who spoke English, wished me a Merry Christmas and happy holiday season. I had several conversations with patients who shared with me how they celebrate with their children (from a non-religious perspective), and how they really appreciate the joy and cheerfulness of the season and of their nurses who are celebrating the special day.

Despite being far from home, again I was surrounded by people I love and care deeply for… my Saudi family… the group of amazing friends I’ve been blessed to get to know over the past year…

I think being completely removed from the commercialism of the holiday season in North America actually gives us a much more natural and real holiday experience! There is absolutely no evidence that Christmas is near in Saudi Arabia… Starbucks doesn’t sell Christmas drinks… the shops aren’t filled with overwhelming rows of toys and candy canes and all sorts of goodies (not more than they usually are anyways)… there’s no tacky holiday music playing in the shops/malls… and life is generally just proceeding as is usually does. We have to look so hard to find simple decorations and ways to celebrate.

But we, being deprived of all the typical Christmas atmosphere, appreciate the little bits we do have and manage to commercialize our Christmases pretty well actually. The terribly tacky plastic Christmas trees that pop up in some remote little corner in a grocery store… the thin little string of lights someone manages to rummage up and string around their room…

And then there’s the compound Christmas markets… where everyone visiting the compound was in full holiday spirit and I LOVED walking around the booths finding saudi versions of Christmas cards… (comical camels with tinsel and lights)… fridge magnets… camel tree ornaments, etc.

And there are always plenty of events to celebrate the season…

The US Marines held an ugly Christmas sweater party…  (which I don’t have any pics of unfortuantely due to no cellphones at embassy rules…)

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And of course… Christmas wouldn’t be complete without a red and green run… so we ran in full holiday spirit… red/green clothing if we could find it… jingle bells on our shoes… even got the crew (the running lemons and associates) together for a Christmas tree red/green run photo…

Another pre-Christmas party… With more excitement over finding Christmas decorations in play…

And then finally… It was Christmas weekend and Christmas eve at work… it was Thursday afternoon… and when our shift ended, we all tucked ourselves into a back room where we set up a massive international cuisine potluck and a secret santa gift exchange… it was so amazing to be able to celebrate with all my beautiful colleagues from around the world… New Zealand, Australia, the Philippines, Malaysia, India, the UK, Spain, Canada, America…

When we finally finished work for the day, and for the week, Amelia and I set off to a friends compound to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas morning together with the people we love most in Saudi. It was a super chill evening of hurried present wrapping, tucking presents under the tree, and finally getting cozy on couches to fill our bellies with cheesy pizza and watch the ultimate Christmas movie… Home Alone (can you believe I’d actually never seen it yet?!!!)

I fell asleep feeling so content… Listening to the rain patter on the roof… Making it seem so much cozier and winterier… So that it hardly even seemed like we were in Saudi Arabia.

I was bounced out of bed by my excited bestie for Merry Christmas morning hugs… Wearing the reindeer onesie I got her so we could be twinsies in our onesies on Christmas morning 🙂  I baked scones with cream and jam for breakfast… And together we all opened all the presents we’d set under the tree.  My heart was so happy. I couldn’t ask for better people to spend a Christmas away from home with. So blessed!!

Christmas wouldn’t be complete without a big Christmas lunch with the same fabulous “family” we shared Christmas with last year… We all contributed to a massive feast with all the usual Christmas fixings (aside from ham :S)… Christmas cupcakes… A whole lot more presents to open thanks to Secret Santa… And time spent just hanging out, catching up, and singing Karoke…

And finally… A Boxing Day dinner with my flat mate and a couple other dear friends… (I feel like all I did was eat Christmas weekend!!! But isn’t that just like Christmas in North America?! :S) And I must say… It sure felt cold enough to be Christmas too!!! The pool might look lovely… But really it’s frigid!! (And frigid does mean less than 10 degrees mid-winter in Saudi!!)

And then… About a week after Christmas… It was New Years Eve… I rang in the New Year with singing and joy, confetti, and a whole lot of happiness and laughter with my flat mate!!! Way different, much more peaceful vibes for my New Years celebration this year… But my heart was so content to spend it in a meaningful way!!

And to start off the New Year… I ended up waking up relatively early and going for a run with a couple friends… In the cool morning air around the Diplomatic Quarters… Finishing at Pancake House for coffee and omelets and pancakes. All in good company. And starting off our New Years resolutions right on the first of January yet too??!! (Don’t think I actually made any fitness resolutions but if I did… What a great way to start!!!!)

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