Christmas in a Foreign Land

Two days ago, we celebrated Christmas in Thailand…and despite the warm weather and lack of snow, I must say it really felt like Christmas.

At the moment, we have eight people staying at our volunteer house – Jess and Kenny from Australia, Alex from Ireland, Britt and Lieve from Belgium, Koene from Holland, Laura from Sweden and myself. On top, we also have a big group of 18 volunteers here from the US for their alternate winter break, who are staying at a guesthouse in the city. With all 26 of us, celebrating Christmas really felt like a big family affair.

On the actual day, the US group went about their usual work (more details to come on this later), while we stayed at the volunteer house and prepared for the evening. Everyone helped clean, cook and decorate, and though we were just doing chores, it was fun doing it all together.

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The US group joined us at about 7.30pm and we spent the night eating and socializing around a bonfire in our yard. Dinner, which consisted of stuffed turkey, potato salad, massaman curry, mixed veggies and coconut soup, was hearty and delicious.

Afterwards, because we were all going to start English camp at one of the village schools the day after, we gathered around to learn the children’s songs we were going to teach. It felt surreal, all of us from different parts of the world, sitting under the stars singing children’s songs in Thailand on Christmas.

The festivities ended with us lighting lanterns and sending them floating into the sky – a common way to celebrate in northern Thailand. It was my first time lighting these traditional Thai lanterns and it was so beautiful seeing the sky littered with the lights.

After the US group left, the rest of us just kept the fire going, and relaxed under the stars. We laughed, we made paper planes, we played games, we talked about life. At one point, I lay on my back, gazing at the stars, just recapping the night and letting my thoughts wander. My life here felt so simple, so basic…earning next to nothing, living in a village, spending my days teaching, doing manual labor and administrative work. There was nothing glamorous about it and yet I felt so content. We finally let the fire die and headed back inside…and as I sank onto my mattress and started drifting to sleep, I felt thankful for being granted such a serene Christmas.

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