The evening light was beginning fade on Christmas Eve and I could feel the holiday anxiety building. My chest was tight, my body felt tired and I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing. Paralyzed by the unknown, I sat in the dark, just looking and waiting. Not sure what I was waiting for but couldn’t muster enough will power to get up and light a candle. Wanting some yuletide joy, I switched on my iPod to the only Christmas song I have, some pop singer who was popular a few years ago singing “Joy to the World”. The louder the volume, the better I began to feel, so it was blasting. Satte, one of my neighbour boys with big curious eyes, likes to lurch around my door and periodically check in to see what I am doing (well more like watches my every move). “Joy to the World” sent him running in. “Miss Allison, I can sing this one,” he explained excitedly and broke into a Kringlish (krio/English) version with about half of the words in the right order. Satte’s off key voice was louder then my maxed out iPod speaker and attracted the rest of my neighbour kids over. After ten minutes, I had a choir of African kids singing to a pop version, Kringlish, jumbled version of “Joy to the World”. There voices almost sent me to tears, not of sadness but of anticipation. Christmas was going to be better than last year.
So if you are a recurrent Dispatch reader, everyone will be happy to hear that I made it to church this year. No tears, no breakdown that left me exhausted and snoozing through the service like last year. Determined to make sure that I made it, I woke up, gave Christmas greetings to my neighbours, dressed in my finest church going Africana and headed out to my Principal’s house fully aware that their would be something going on. I was only two hours early, but there was plenty of vegetables to be cut for Christmas dinner.
Honestly, I was completely disappointed in church. We didn’t talk about the Christmas story, there was no chorus of Silent Night or Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, no lighting of candles…less than impressed. Maybe sleeping wasn’t such a bad thing last year.
After church, I broke bread with my Principal and her family. It was a nice quiet, tasty meal prepared by Mama Shereef’s niece, Abie. Eating with my principal is kind of an event and something I have yet to figure out how to react. It’s just a different type of family. Not much talking, unless you are spoken to first. Nervously and cautiously, I ate my rice but had this desperate need to escape for something more normal to me. I was rescued by my friend, Christian Squire.
The Squire residence was an African version of what my family Christmas is like on the Sinning farm. Christian’s lovely extended family were spending a leisurely afternoon on the family home’s veranda. They welcomed me openly with rice, sweets and a sense of belonging. The kids were running around playing all sorts of games while Christian’s mother, affectionately known as Ma Squire, his sisters and in-laws joked and laugh. Christian and his niece even gave us a drumming and dance performance. It was more like the family I am used to. All together and just enjoying the day.
This year I even played Santa to the kids of Moyamba with help and thanks to Grandma Ida, my aunt Julie and neighbors Wayne and Mart. They generously sent me a boxes of Christmas, knowing that if I kept them in my house I would eat them all myself, I walked around town giving every child a sweet and a Merry Christmas! Sorry, to the next PCV who will have a hundred kids begging for candy next year!
I ended Christmas 2011 with magicians. Last year, rappers. This year, magicians. I headed to the night event with Christian expecting it to be a jam with lots of drinks and dancing. I was wrong. For a few hours, an impossibly flexible, short African man was breathing fire, eating rice with his feet and making bottles of beer, water and Coke disappear. Merry Christmas from Salone!