Sunday, December 19, 2010

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas...

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas…

Everywhere you go (well, not really, but there are little signs here and there)

There’s a tree in the grand hotel...

The nicest hotel in Tarakan, the Swiss-Bel Hotel, has this lovely, tall and very cone-shaped Christmas tree in their lobby.  It’s made out of some sort of wire with garland wrapped around it.

One in the park as well…

Okay, not exactly the park, but at a Tarakan hot spot, KFC!  This unique pohong Natal (Indonesian for Christmas Tree) is made of drinking straws with delightful paper ornaments.  I certainly wouldn’t characterize it as “The sturdy kind that doesn’t mind the snow”, but it seems to hold up fairly well in the wilds of KFC.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

Another interesting tree-I think it’s made of sticks glued together.  Of course it has the required shiny tinsel and flashing Christmas lights, although I don’t think the lights were turned on yet when I took this picture.

Soon the bells will start...

Well, we don’t hear too many bells here, but lots of calls to prayer over the loud speakers from the Mosques in town, not that their daily prayers have anything to do with Christmas.  We also hear lots of karaoke, belted out loud and proud, from the nearby restaurant bar-but that doesn’t really have to do with Christmas either-mostly it has to do with monster ballads from the 80s and early 90s.

But the thing that will make them ring is the carol that you sing right within your heart!

This part of the song is surely true here in the tropics where it truly doesn’t look or feel like Christmas at all.  This morning as we sang Christmas carols at the home church we attend with some of our MAF colleagues, my heart felt full of Christmas.  It’s been hard being away from family and friends and home and yes, the wonderfully commercial American Christmas!!!  I unabashedly love every TV Christmas special, fake holiday wreath, cheesy Christmas song, and the unending ads and commercials urging us to shop, shop, shop.  Mall Santa Claus, Christmas lights on the houses, those crazy inflatable snow globes on people’s lawns, even the crowds of people shopping…I eat it all up joyfully!  In the absence of all that glorious fabricated Christmas I have been trying to capture and linger in the special moments, because even during this difficult first Christmas away from home, there are still moments that make me feel Christmas.  Like singing carols at church this morning, and watching the MAF kids put on a great Christmas program that included a Nativity reenactment just as you would picture (wildly jumping, giggling, goofing around shepherds, a dressed up angel fluttering her wings, a shy Mary with her head covering askew, a sheepish Joseph, a doll standing in for Baby Jesus, adorable sheep, even a camel complete with a hump back), watching “Little Women” with the MAF moms and daughters after drinking tea and eating goodies, and enjoying the lights on our Christmas trees, especially when it is raining and dreary outside so it almost feels like more appropriate December weather.  There have been some great moments, and I pray there will be many more to come during this week leading up to Christmas.  God gives me clearer vision to see all His blessings as I learn to celebrate His Son’s birth in a place so unfamiliar, yet probably much more like Bethlehem than Midwestern American suburbia.

Okay, that was the sentimental portion of the post, here’s the factual lowdown-I like to try to satisfy those who want to know what I’m feeling and thinking and those that mostly just want to know what I (and Chris) are doing.  We have a busy week ahead of us after a busy weekend!  Friday night was the kids’ Christmas program, as I mentioned before.  Saturday we had our MAF Christmas Party with the American and Indonesian staff-it was a really special time, which included a white elephant gift exchange.  I brought a ladies manicure set to add to the mix, and I walked away with these gems…

A Christmas hand fan and a clock in the shape of a person will ensure that I am both on time and not too hot on Christmas day!

Tomorrow the other MAF ladies, their kids and I bring toys and food to the kids in the hospital in Tarakan.  Unlike hospitals in America, the hospital in Tarakan does not provide food or clothing (hospital gowns), so the family of the sick person is expected to feed and clothe their ill loved one.  Tuesday we head to the post office to bring cookies and sing carols to the workers and customs officers that have so quickly and diligently gotten our many Christmas packages to us in good condition.  Wednesday Christmas shopping, Thursday joining a Christmas open house that other MAF families are having for Indonesian friends, neighbors and coworkers, and Friday Christmas Eve dinner with some other friends!  Oh, and I have my usual language tutoring too.  I think I am busier here at Christmas than I was in the States!  It’s a blessing to be able to share the season with so many new friends.  Chris is working Monday-Thursday, but has Friday and the weekend off-yay!  We are planning to celebrate Christmas just the two of us on Christmas morning, talk with family on Skype in the afternoon, and have dinner with some friends in the evening.  Hopefully it’s a really nice day-as good as it could be considering the circumstances.

Enjoy this last crazy week before Christmas!  Soak in some commercialized Christmas for me…and take time to read that familiar Christmas story in all the Gospels-Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, (John is sort of a different take, but you know, same theme), and remember, Jesus was sent as a baby for you-what an amazing blessing!!!

Consider this your Christmas card from me…the Tarakan version of the mall Santa Claus-playing the sax and shaking his hips of course!!!

Selamat Hari Natal!!!  Merry Christmas!!!


  1. I find it funny that your fan to keep you cool has lighted candles on it.

    I'm glad to hear that you are able to be busy this week, and start some new traditions. I'm sure your hospital visit meant sooooo much to the people in the hospital.

    Send you and Chris Christmas hugs from MN where there are 25 inches of snow in the ground. (It's realy a big mess, so don't envy us too much).


  2. Wow Lisa, 25 inches of snow!!! Talk about a white Christmas! Have a special day with your family and send them my love!

  3. Merry Christmas to you and Chris, as well!