A Christmas Away From Home

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.  ~Norman Vincent Peale

As an almost 25 year old, this will be my first Christmas spent away from home, and away from my family.

Not just, not home, but not in the United States of America. 

Not only my immediate family, but my extended family, as well.

This day of course would come; I just didn’t know when. Christmas is such an important holiday, an important reason to come together, that I, like many Americans make my plans around it many months in advance each year. The holidays are truly my favorite time of year; I have such fond memories from childhood, and the many years after of the family time spent together.

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Being away from my family and friends, the many traditional festivities and customs I’ve come to know as Christmas, has allowed me to truly cherish this time of year.

Christmas Eve was spent wrapping presents (read: putting bows on tin cans) and writing cards. A typical Christmas Eve for many. I made myself some tasty hot chocolate with peppermint tea, hot cocoa mix, a Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark chocolate, and a candy cane garnish – Christmas in a mug! Then Sarah and I got to work. We filled my giant beach bag with all of our gifts, ready for delivery on Christmas. Our recipients included; the main office staff, our Coordinator Manas and his staff, our office of a few ladies, the kitchen staff, and our neighbors.

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I woke up Christmas morning to put up a small, cardboard, Christmas tree I drew and paper cut-out stockings. I made one for my friend, and roommate, Sarah, and one for myself. Christmas cannot happen without either of these items. It was a nice surprise for Sarah and it felt good to make that surprise happen – another important element of Christmas; Christmas morning surprises.

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The puppies outside were the next recipients of Christmas generosity. I found some doggy treats at Tesco last week that semi-resembled candy canes so I definitely had to purchase them. In my Santa hat and red dress I giddily hand each puppy and dog his very own doggy treat. They loved them!

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Next, it was off to school with our beach bag full of gifts! As we delivered each gift they were all surprised and very thankful. Sarah and I also wore our Santa hat’s around school all day so we truly resembled Santa’s little helpers.

On Christmas, we decided to take the day off from tutoring. I tutor for 3 hours after school and Sarah tutors for 2 hours. Today, we left right after school at 4:30pm and headed towards the Friendship Bridge the crosses the Moei River from Thailand into Burma. Before you get to the bridge their is an abandoned seven story building. Our friend Beth had told us about this building a while ago and how it was a great place to watch the sunset. Ever since then I’ve been itching to get out there. Usually it’s dark by the time we’re done teaching and tutoring, so today, on Christmas, was the perfect day to watch sun go down. It was beautiful. 

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When we arrived there were some older kids at the entrance hanging out on the motorbikes. A little off-putting at first, but then you realize they’re just kids, and they’re probably not going to do anything bad – especially in Thailand  where everyone is so friendly. As we entered the abandoned building in search of the stairs we came across the two boys pictured below. Joseph, in the blue shirt, spoke fairly good English, and the two hung around on the roof with us the whole evening. Eventually, a few of their other friends came by and the boys were playing a game of hide-and-seek. It was really nice to be reminded of the ‘simplicity’ and carefreeness of childhood. Sarah and I shared our Oreo’s, and many smiles, with them.

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After watching the sunset over a bottle of wine – first wine in months and it tasted divine, we set out on our search for a restaurant we’ve been hearing many good things about. All I knew was, “go out of town, through the light, take a right at some points, go a ways, and it will be on the right,” so I pretty much knew where I was going. We got 95% there, unknowingly, and then I made an SOS call to a friend here in Mae Sot. I knew she knew where the restaurant was so before we peddled any further we wanted to make sure we were on the right path. As things would have it, she was there eating, too AND we were just a tiny ways from it. Sweet success!

This restaurant is the real life version of Rainforest Cafe, really. It’s called Khaomao-Khaofang Restaurant. The food was some of the most delicious we’ve had and the scenery was nice. The restaurant is huge and very spread out so I’m not sure how many people were dining on Christmas, but by all the cars in the parking lot I knew it was many. We ordered the Banana Blossom Salad, Thai Sweet Corn Fritters, and a Spicy Shrimp Salad. Washed it down with a couple Singha’s and topped it off with Coconut Ice Cream and Fried Pineapple for dessert.

It was a wonderful Christmas dinner!

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I didn’t get many photos because I was eating, the entire time, but trust it’s like stepping into the jungle. It’s very serene and the food is great. We will be going back. Our table was near this giant pelican who was very territorial! Anytime someone tried to pass by he would snap at them! I had no idea it was there until I went to take a picture of something. Let’s just say I was very close to losing some hair or an eye!

I’ve had a wonderful Christmas here in Thailand, but of course there are a few things I missed. I suppose that will make them all the more sweeter come next year! (Should I be home next year…)

Things I Missed Most This Year:
  • Baking cookies – All I want to do is breathe the air of freshly baked cookies. Yummm!
  • The crisp, cold air of home; filled with hopes of snow on Christmas morning.
  • Staying up late to watch Christmas movies with my sisters, while drinking hot chocolate topped with peppermint marshmallows.
  • Walking the festively lit streets of San Francisco.
  • Eating my Grandma’s Candy Cane Cookies, my Aunt Jamie’s Oreo Balls, and my Aunt Tracy’s Seven Layer Bars.
  • Halibut Chowder – my family’s homemade, traditional, Christmas Eve meal together.
  • Playing cards! I’m from a family of card players, it’s what we do when we’re together. Complete with yelling, screaming, laughing, and maybe some drinking. It’s one the best I get to do with my family when we’re all together.
  • Going to bed on Christmas Eve knowing I will be woken up by one of my sisters announcing it’s Christmas morning while smiling in awe at what Santa brought us in our stockings.

Christmas in Thailand has been the most different Christmas I’ve ever celebrated. It was still Christmas, nonetheless, and the same feelings of giving and happiness still overwhelmed me.

And once again I was reminded:

Everything is more beautiful on Christmas. 

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

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xoxo, C

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