For my family at Christmas
It’s Christmastime in Dar.
Shoppers Plaza in Mikocheni has been decorated with a thousand flashing Christmas lights, tiny plastic Christmas trees are for sale on narrow dusty roads, and there are parties where shortbread and hot drinks are served and we all try to conjure up the Christmas spirit by pretending it isn’t 35 degrees outside.
Still, it doesn’t quite feel like Christmas.
For me, Christmas is once-a-year church with Oma, an omelette and cinnamon bun brunch prepared by my mom, daad’s lattes, and grandma’s Christmas pudding. After dinner, the Christmas pudding is doused in cheap alcohol and lit on fire before it is served. Every year until this year, my grandfather has been responsible for lighting the pudding on fire. A smile on his face and laughter in his eyes, he always used more vodka than necessary, feeding larger and larger flames until my grandmother spoke up to object that the flavour would be ruined. My grandfather enlisted my brother and I as conspirators and we encouraged him to make the flames dance over and over again.
Someone else will have to light the Christmas pudding this year. And pour on too much vodka like my grandfather would have wanted. Grandma promises that she will save a piece of the Christmas pudding in the freezer until I get home.
The more I travel the more I realize how lucky I am. In some ways, life is one great game of chance, where opportunities are given and taken depending on where and when you are born. If life is a lottery, then by all measures I have won the grand prize.
When I told my parents that I was quitting my job in Vancouver to move to Tanzania for seven months to work for a legal aid clinic they were, as always, supportive and enthusiastic. Great idea, mom said. I’m proud of you, dad said. How lucky I am, I thought.
This year marks my first time away from home for Christmas. My family is in Edmonton and I am traveling. I will miss them, but I want them to know how grateful I am.
Merry Christmas from Dar.