Just in time for the holidays!

I did it AGAIN. I somehow survived another holiday season by working straight through it and planning events and other things with every other spare moment of my time. On my own personal calendar, my holiday season starts on Thanksgiving Day, an American holiday practically foreign to the culture here and is about to wrap up with the start of the New Year. So before 2012 begins, here’s a run down of the last month of 2011. 

November 24. We went to a restaurant called Grandma Nittis that serves a traditional Thanksgiving meal in ONE course. Can you imagine? It was a good time with good food and good friends. This is a literal snap shot of my family here in Taiwan. I am very thankful for every one of these faces. The two women to the right of me in the picture are my roommates. My “thankful” went out to them when we went around the table. I am extremely thankful the community I’m a part of here has become my family.

November 26. As a kick off to the holiday season, I hosted a holiday dessert and movie night at my place called Just in time for the Holidays! I invited a bunch of people, and a crowd of faces filled the living room, filling their stomachs with cranberry sauce, granola, sweet potato dip, croissants, beko (a Filipino coconut milk rice cake), chocolate-covered raisins, chocolate-covered pomegranates, grapes and cheese, and my new favorite holiday drink called Wassail. Afterwards, EVERYONE headed out into Ximen to catch the movie The Help. (We also put up our Christmas tree that day!)

December 3. What a better time for fancy birthday parties than the holidays? My precious Taiwanese friend Mark took this picture of all of us on the dance floor at his Fancy Birthday Party. Notice all of our fancy clothes.

December 10. BigByte, the English cram school where a few of us work, had the company’s annual Christmas dinner at the Regent Hotel this year. It was an excellent and festive time of AWESOME FOOD (the buffet at this place is supposed to be famous and is really expensive), fun prizes, and co-workers. I really enjoy the people I work with, so it was a pretty fabulous way to celebrate Christmas with all of them. One of my co-teachers won the MacBook Air our CEO decided to give away as the big gift. My team leader Chris won the “Manager’s Special,” aka a bike. Just for fun, a few of us females posed with Santa after dinner.

December 15. Celebrating birthdays is kind of a big part of the culture of my community here. December 15 happens to be the birthday of Michael (the super-surprised looking one in the middle), who just joined the team this last August. We successfully and thoroughly kicked him in the face with a two-tier surprise party that Thursday night. It was a blast and a complete and total surprise for him.

December 24. We had the greatest Christmas Eve event in Ximen Ding EVER. It was an incredible night of friends and coffee and cookies and Christmas cards and music and drama and Jesus. Over 80 people had come in and out of the doors by the time the night was over. We planned the event in two weeks with every spare moment of our team that wasn’t in the classroom, and it was held in our new coffee shop building. Christmas really has no place in the tradition of this culture, and that night reminded all of us all over again how important it is to bring the good news of Christmas to these people who need to know Jesus. So many hearts were moved and warmed by God’s love that night.

December 25. MERRY CHRISTMAS! I spent the morning baking carrot cake and skyping my family. We then headed over to the other apartment to eat a Christmas feast of hefty omelets, chocolate, cinnamon rolls, pumpkin pull-apart bread, carrot cake, more chocolate and home-made eggnog. Gifts were exchanged, Secret Santas were revealed, and the day ended with an “Ugly Sweater Party” and White Elephant gift exchange put on by some dear friends at their place.  That concluded my 2011 Taiwan Christmas on a note of international and festive merriment.

THERE YOU HAVE IT. Thanksgiving and Christmas 2011. Every year is different, and I think I’ve accepted that. Living abroad means you accept a more diverse lifestyle, and for every ache for the familiar, I’m awarded with love and friendship from a new and surprising source. After all, Christmas isn’t a place, a season, a food or event. Ever year, Christmas is always celebrated in our hearts. And that is exactly where all of you still are: in my heart. 

Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year! Here’s to the craziest, wildest, most miraculous and adventurous 2012 yet.

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