So we are celebrating our first Christmas abroad as a family. It is currently 73 degrees at 8:00 p.m. in Dakar, Senegal and we have just returned from a dinner of brochette poisson avec frites (fish kabobs and fries) at the Cabanne de Surfeur with a couple from school that are our friends. We enjoyed a leisurely meal about 15 feet from the sea wall where the waves were breaking and shooting foam into the air. There were a few surfers in the distance, endlessly riding the waves in.
Not our typical Christmas Eve.
We toasted our time together and joked about not being in church acting out the manger scene, complete with donkey ears or tinsel wings.
It was a beautiful scene, slightly hazy, so the sunset was not vibrant. The temperature was what I would consider perfect, with a slight chill coming in on the mist from the crashing waves. I had the perfect seat to be able to watch the ten foot waves crash onto the stones and curl up over the top of the cement sea wall. Less than two miles away, the western-most tip of Africa can be found.
We have struggled a little with the fact that it doesn’t “feel” like Christmas (from a temperature standpoint, snow and cold “make” it feel like Christmas for us), although we are fortunate to be in an accepting Muslim country that not only ‘tolerates’ Christian neighbors, but also celebrates along with their Christian friends and neighbors. We miss the holiday walking tour that kicks off Christmas in our hometown and the lit Christmas trees that line the main street.
Here in Dakar, every grocery store has Christmas decorations, gifts, and holiday foods for sale. Last week at one of the grocery stores we frequent, Simon and I bought a 5-foot artificial tree, tinsel, lights and ornaments for about $45. It’s not a huge Martha Stewart-esque artificial tree that doesn’t even look fake, but it’s cheerful and has made the kids and I happy.
I was able to buy Santa chocolates for the kids’ Christmas stockings. Today I bought a traditional Buche de Noel (cake in the form of a Yule Log) at the bakery down the street that looks pretty delicious.
There were more holiday decorations and themes of Christmas tree decorations than I could even really fathom at the Orca store. If I had so desired, I could have decked out a tree or house with more holiday colors and lights than even in the states for not that much money.
We’ve seen children’s parties at restaurants with Papa Noel, complete with wrapped gifts, holiday outfits and a fake Santa. I was able to find holiday wrapping paper.
Firecrackers have been going off in the neighborhood, driving the dogs insane. The four of us are curled up in the living room, reading books, surfing Facebook, enjoying some needed family time.
It might not be typical, but the important thing is that we are together. We are soaking in the new learning experiences every day and enjoying what might be a once in a lifetime family holiday.
Merry Christmas to all our friends and family!