One of my good friends is on a different continent this year for Christmas, like me, and had these words of wisdom for those of us not at home for Christmas: “Skype with family and friends. Use your time to work on new relationships where you are. Count your blessings. After all, the first Christmas took place when Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were away from home, too. At least you're not in a barn.” So true. I’ve taken her advice to heart – and here’s what I’ve done:
I have Skyped with numerous family and friends in the past week for my birthday and for Christmas, and that has been great to catch up on things and see people’s faces, as well as snow and Christmas trees.
Instead of spending most of my time this Christmas season with my family, I am getting to know other PCVs here better as well as my host family and friends in Kaymor. I will always have my family and friends in the States, but now here I have a new family and new friends – I have my host family, my PCV friends, and my Senegalese friends. And that is part of the holiday season – sharing love with others.
I’m not even sure where to start in terms of counting my blessings. Here’s a list of some things quickly off the top of my head:
- Family and friends (near and far) – that love and support me from all over the world
- Enough food to fill my stomach every day, and to satisfy (most of) my nutritional needs (vitamins take care of the rest) – I see way too many kids each day where this isn’t necessarily the case
- A computer and (relatively reliable) internet access to communicate with family and friends far away
- An education that has helped me in innumerable ways here – in learning Wolof, about the culture here, and about agriculture and other activities here; in getting integrated into the community; and in planning possible work projects
- Clothes that are not full of holes
- Being able to play soccer – keeps me fit and shows the guys that I can play tough too :)
Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were far away from home, too, and didn’t have any of the modern conveniences, like Skype, that we have to be able to stay in touch with family and friends while away. And it’s important to not focus on what I’m missing back home but on what new experiences I’m having here – how I’m creating a new Christmas tradition for myself, just like the very first Christmas.
And, though there are always chickens and goats wandering around here, I do not, in fact, live in a barn, which is certainly a nice thing. While I could complain about my housing here, I really shouldn’t – I have everything I really need, and am really only missing a few things that we, as Americans, find “essential”: a real shower, a sit-down toilet, a sink, and a kitchen. I am happy with bucket showers, squat toilets (though my knees are beginning to feel the combination of all those years of basketball and these squat toilets), and no sink, as well as no kitchen (since I can fulfill most of my cooking wishes when I go to Kaolack). All in all, I can’t complain – rather I have so many blessings I can’t count them all – and I am not in barn. What more could I really ask for? :)