The time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve is one of my most favorite times of the year. Snow starts to fall with more regularity, decorations are decked from hall to hall, present shopping begins, Christmas letters start arriving; the holiday hustle and bustle is one of my favorite things. This will be my third consecutive year away from the season I love so much. It’s tough: I miss my parents, extended family, and friends. I miss winter activities, namely skiing and its après. I miss Christmas cookies and eggnog (though my lactose-intolerant system doesn’t). I miss hearing Christmas music and seeing the holiday decorations in the stores. I miss the need to dress in the ever-so-fashionable Sorrell boots and three layers. I even miss the need to scrape off and start up the car at least fifteen minutes before you can even think about driving somewhere.
I haven’t always been home for Christmas; when I was living in MN and CO, some years my parents would drive in to the Cities to meet up and we’d have a big family celebration, complete with too much food and caroling at Grandma’s neighbors’ houses. But there was always the familiarity of wintertime routines: snow falling, everyone cramming into the post office at the last minute, people getting ready for Christmas festivities.
Here in Benin, it doesn’t really feel like Christmas will be here in less than 48 hours. The biggest reason, I have deduced, is the weather. Decorations, music, etc. aside, what really hammers home (to me) that Christmas is almost upon us is the freezing temperatures. Sure, temperatures have fallen slightly since Harmattan is upon us (hurray, dust season!) but it’s not like I’m going to wake up and see a layer of frost on the ground. And because it’s dust season, everything dries out due to so much dust in the air —water holes, plant life, my skin, etc. Harmattan is the dry season and it’s amazing how, within the span of a few weeks, an entire pond can disappear.
Also thanks to the dust kicked up by the winds whistling through the Sahara, I have fallen victim to allergies. I have never before had allergies, and while I can’t remember if I had this problem last year, this year, I have itchy eyes, sneezes that won’t stop, and an alternate runny-then-stuffed-up nose. It took me awhile to come to the realization that “Aha! This is allergies,” but once lightning struck, I started taking antihistamines, which helped immensely and gave me the added benefit of almost falling asleep in class (apparently you shouldn’t take them during the day unless they’re the non-drowsy kind). Fortunately, the dust is sort of settling down so the allergies are almost gone. Unfortunately, it’s also cold/flu season and I have been out sick with a nasty cold. But hey, it’s not winter unless you’ve succumbed to some bug, right?
Fun story: last week during the midst of my being sick, Pete decided to show just how much he loved me. He brought home a dead goat and dropped it on the front steps, then got my attention by backing away a couple feet while making the noise he makes when he hasn’t seen someone in a “long” time (a long time can be anywhere from a couple months to yesterday). I came out of the house and almost stepped on the thing! So, Pete has taken the Christmas spirit to heart and got me a get-better-soon gift. Do I have a great dog or what?
I’m definitely enjoying my Christmas break. Last year I went north to Parc Pendjari to see the animals, which was amazing because we saw lions! This year I head south to the beaches of Grand Popo. Erin and I will lounge pool-and-seaside at a very nice hotel, work on our tans—aka making the rest of our bodies match the color of our forearms—and enjoy our final (for the near future) West African Christmas. I wish to you and yours a very Merry Holiday Season!