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Christmas in the Winter? Weird

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

When I tell people I am from the southern hemisphere, one of the first things they always ask is “you have Christmas in the summer right? Weird…”

Well no actually, not that weird, lots of people have Christmas in the summer, just not Europe, or America so not really the important places…or the ones that make Christmas movies and cards…well you get the idea. I guess it is kind of weird in that sense as to a very large part of the world Christmas is winter, and while previous to right now I’d never come close to a cold christmas I kind am getting their point.

Christmas in NZ is great. Its summer, uni is over, 2 months of summer holidays ahead. Even your friends with real jobs normally get 2 or 3 weeks off. We go to the beach, go camping for NY’s, eat salad and drink cold beers on the 25th. Seriously it is a good time So what if the fake snow and Santa in a fur lined suit doesn’t make sense, its summer! So when EVERYBODY brings up the christmas in the summer topic I can safely assure them that yes, Christmas still is Christmas in the summer.

So now after 5 summers in a row I am (literally) knee deep in one of Europe’s worst winters. And even though I live in fear of falling of my bike in the ice, its kind of nice having a wintery Christmas. I think it helps I live in Leiden, one of the Netherlands postcard style towns with cute alleyways, cobblestone streets, canals and churches. I admit there is something about Christmas that helps you feel a bit better when you slip on the ice and almost fall into a canal (OK so this hasn’t happened to me but I am very worried it will!). With all the snow and the massive Christmas tree’s everywhere, the packed pubs serving hot wine, planning an actual roast meal for christmas. Its great! I’m not even a ‘christmas’ type person, mostly I just like that we get to eat all day. But really its nice, and makes winter a bit more bearable. And the city is beautiful decorated and in the snow. I no longer own a camera (number 5 was stolen) but the internet provides all.

See? How nice is that. And wandering around the market today (only shopping for myself luckily) I do understand the confusion, Christmas in the winter just feels…right. On the other hand photos from home of everyone at the beach and BBQs, and christmas garden parties…I guess Christmas is a good time anywhere. And I am still a uni student so still get a 5 week holiday :)

Christmas time

Monday, January 1st, 2007

Christmas eve, Jeff was flying in from Thailand to meet us in the evening and we were going over to the village to play Santa and give out the presents. First a ridiculously extravagant breakfast at a French crepe restaurant. Peaches, whipped cream, ice cream and liquors…but hey its Christmas time!

To get to the village we had to put a big ladder over the wall and climb down it, in true Philippine style poverty and wealth are meters apart separated by a big wall and guards with guns, was cool passing all the presents down then getting down there. Took about an hour to read through all the names and take a photo of each family. They also got new hoops and basketballs for the central area so Andy and all the others stayed for a while to play a bit of basketball with them. I think its so cool that they can actually do stuff like that and make a bit of a difference and actually see it, not like at home sending money off to some country you’ve never even heard of. So great feel-good stuff. Jeff was arriving in the evening so Andy dropped me, tash and Jess off at yet another mall to by a few last minute things while he went out to the airport. After finally deciding on some presents we went back around to buy them all and discovered everything was closing! So unfortunately missed out on a few things and Jeff ended up with a terrible present! But did manage to get to the supermarket and buy some things for Christmas day. Great to see Jeff who had been leading a mission’s trip in Thailand, now our little travel team for the next 6 weeks was together. So Christmas eve, no midnight service instead Jess made huge batches of brownies and a big pot of coffee and we drove around Brentville handing them out to all the guards (which is a lot) around the school and houses. Jess and Andy get on really well with all the guards and staff around, probably more than most as they actually talk to them and make a bit of an effort to learn the language, so it was really cool to help them out and do this with them.
Christmas day came and like anywhere we stuffed ourselves the whole day, first with a pancake breakfast and then a big combined street BBQ later in the day. Spent a bit of time at the pool doing ‘photo shoots’, snacked away on chocolate from NZ and opened up presents. Finished the evening off with a movie, and rolled into bed swearing I would never eat that much again (yeah right…).
Only a few days left before we went our separate ways for new years, spent boxing day in another gated community, but much bigger and much flasher, the place to live if your wealthy and in Manila is Alabang. Headed down to a field to play some touch with a whole group of expats. Well Jess, Andy and Jeff played while me and Tash sat around and ate ice creams, just like we would do at home. Another big lunch then headed to a kiwi family’s house for a swim. Jess and Andy teach the kids, about 5 in total I think. Moved over a few years ago for the dads work and living in a huge house with bedrooms the size of most people’s living room and kitchens combined. Really cool family so was nice to chill out there for a while before we said goodbye and headed 42 stories up to what must be Manila’s highest restaurant. With amazing views of the city, we had seafood entrÈe’s and drinks, really flash and funky place, but probably not a good idea if you’re scared of heights. On route back home we stopped to buy some VCD’s to watch, amazing than you can go into a department store and by VCD’s completely legally for $2.

Back home at Brentville we decided to let off the fireworks we had brought a few days earlier. Andy and Jeff were clearly in ‘boy-heaven’ and had brought fireworks that are illegal in every other country. Already dangerous with very short wicks and way too much gunpowder they sellotaped a whole lot of them together to create this mega fire work, that would either be amazing…or blind and maim us. Much to Tash’s protests we all went down to a not so developed area while the guys fiddled around with it and we watched from the safety of the car. Eventually it was lit, it was short but still very impressive for homemade fireworks and did what it was meant to going up rather than shooting towards the car. Check out the video, which is on an earlier post.

Early the next day we crammed into the car and set of for a night at the beach, 3 hours later we drove along a dirt road with lots of signs for beach resorts. Clearly most of them had seen better days with decrepit signs and potholed roads leading down to who knows what, one place we drove past was called “Aroma Magic Cream” hmmmm…
We ended up at the cheesy looking ‘Blue Coral” which at least looked more like a resort. Clearly not aimed at western tourists at all, our buffet meals over the next 24 hours were meat, meat, more meat, weird looking meant, rice and meat for breakfast, and more meat. Needless to say my inquiry about a vegetarian option got blank stares. However this was real Filipino cuisine so at least we were ‘experiencing the culture’, so the Philippines wins the prize for the worst local food. Thanks goodness for imports. Aside from the food and the chained monkeys in the ‘zoo’ it was a really nice place and we had a bungalow right on the beach. Lay around in the sun, went swimming and walking down the beach, all very nice. After an interesting lunch me Jess, Tash and Jeff went off in search of fresh coconuts, surrounding by coconut tree’s surely this would be easy…but no….after wandering through villages the most we got was a lot of blank looks and to see a pig slaughtered, probably for breakfast the next day.
Watched Bridget Jones on our cable TV then somehow ended up playing Karaoke for far too long, scaring away just about everyone. Filipinos are big on Karaoke and have it pretty much everywhere. Songs are destroyed completely by someone on a synthesizer and put to odd video clips, but they love it and there’s even a TV channel with it on all the time. So after a few terrible songs we played a bit of table tennis and pool then off to bed. Out of there pretty early the next day desperate for some fresh food. Found coconuts on the way home and had an amazing lunch when we got back of fresh prawns, salad, bread and for dessert this amazing traditional coconut pie (well at least they can cook something), thankfully Jess and Andy arn’t too keen on Filipino food and have been cooking us amazing meals the whole time. After packing up all or stuff and our last dinner together we said good-bye to Jess and Andy who we wouldn’t see until next year when they’d next be home. It was such a great week and we were looked after so well, probably saw a different side to the Philippines than most backpackers, would like to come back and see a bit more of the country, but another time. Anyway I was dropped at the airport to catch my plane to Thailand and Tash and Jeff went off to get their overnight bus somewhere up north where they will be having a bit more of a cultural and quieter New Years than me as I head to the ultimate tourist destination for the biggest beach party there is.