This Christmas was the ‘first’ time my little family of four woke up together, just us, in our home to celebrate Christmas. The past two Christmases, we spent our Christmas morning with the In-Laws in England, which was nothing short of magical. One of those years, Little Sister and her then-boyfriend-now-FIANCE (sqweee!) came and stayed with the In-Laws, too. The other one, last year- it snowed. The girls got to build a snowman with Grandpa and go sledging and The Ladybug sort of understood the excitement of Christmas, which made it even more fun.
The Christmas before that- 2012- it was just the four of us here in Bahrain on Christmas, but we had already celebrated the day before because Little Sister and her then-boyfriend-now-FIANCE had been visiting but had to leave on Christmas Eve. We opened presents and had a Christmas dinner on December 24th, then sent them merrily on their way home (hence, the reason for the ‘first’ in the opening sentence). The Ladybug was almost two and The Sprout was barely born. They didn’t really understand what was happening and Christmas day was a bit of a let-down.
This Christmas, since we were recruiting for new jobs, the Rugby Star and I decided that we would spend Christmas here in Bahrain, then fly off to the beaches of Thailand for a week, before going to the job fair in Bangkok in early January. We briefly considered spending the first week of our Christmas holidays with the In-Laws, then going to Thailand, but since we’re not actually made of money, that idea was squashed pretty quickly.
I had mixed feelings about spending our first real Christmas- where both kids were excited for Santa and understood what was happening- without our family. And then I remembered that we are OUR family. We would be together- yes, it was sad to miss out on time with grandparents and aunties and uncles and cousins, but the family that mattered the most would be together. Knowing that I would be spending the week after Christmas at a beach resort in Thailand only helped me further embrace our first real Nomad Family Christmas Holiday.
So here, in no particular order, are the 7 Reasons Why Christmas 2015 was Awesome:
1. We spent the time together. It was just a magical day. The girls were so excited to see what Santa brought and we spent a lazy morning opening and playing with every single toy they got. It was rainy and a little dreary, which was completely fine for us- a nice change from the blazing, harsh sunlight of Bahrain. We turned on Christmas carols and Christmas movies, had a breakfast casserole and pb&j sandwiches and stayed in our pajamas until 4pm. The day absolutely flew by in a whirl of lazy happiness. I wouldn’t change it for the world.
2. Ho-Ho-Ho Homicide. Even though I had embraced our family-only Christmas, I was still a little bummed to be missing out on a big Christmas dinner. The Rugby Star offered to cook one, but it feels like a lot of work for just the four of us. Luckily, quite a few of our neighbors were staying around for Christmas as well, and one couple offered to host a Christmas murder mystery dinner, complete with kid and adult gift exchange. How could we say no? The Rugby Star played the part of Rudolf, the cocky, trouble-making reindeer and I was Spanky, the elf in charge of the naughty and nice list. We had such a great time trying to figure out who killed Jingle, and the kids had a blast playing with each others toys. The game, the friends, and the food filled the only void, the only thing I was really missing about a big family Christmas. Because we are a family here. Which I sometimes forget.
3. We got a job before the break started. I haven’t gone into much detail about our new jobs at The International School of Belgrade, but rest assured, we are very excited. I’ll give you the what-for of how we got the job in the next post, but it was a gigantic weight off our shoulders to finally get an interview and then a job offer. It meant we didn’t need to go to the Bangkok job fair, which was good but… it would’ve been nice to spend a week hanging out at the Shangri-La Hotel. As any good teacher knows, however, it was definitely easier to be back at school than to try and make lesson plans for a week.
4. The Bangkok Airport. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while or ever spoken to me, you’ll know that the Nomad Family and airports do not mix. If you need proof, proceed here with caution. Getting through the airport was fine- no issues, no surprises. The only problem, in fact, was the Rugby Star got food poisoning from our last meal in Thailand- he started feeling bad almost as soon as we got in the van for the 2 1/2 hour ride from Hua Hin to Bangkok. He was pretty miserable by the time we got checked in, and it was 10pm, so instead of finding an uncomfortable row of chairs and trying to keep the children occupied for two hours, or wandering up and down the terminal, feeling grumpy, sleepy, and sick, we made our way to the airport lounge (insert the sound of heavenly angels singing). It was our first time visiting a lounge and if we ever again find ourselves in an airport for more than a fifteen minute wait, we will do it again. The Rugby Star was able to sip down some Sprite, be extremely close to a bathroom, and more comfortably try not to throw up, while the girls and I colored, plugged in their Leap Pads and- wonder of all wonders- made pancakes in the pancake machine. Push a button, watch the timer, 60 seconds later, out rolls a pancake. The airport lounge was like manna from heaven.
If you ask The Ladybug or The Sprout what the best part of their Thailand vacation was, they will tell you it was the pancake machine.
5. Hua-Hin, Thailand. We stayed in an apartment building with two pools. One had a pirate ship and water slides. The other had a seat under the water that the girls could walk around. The beach was just past the two pools. It was not a particularly touristy area and for several days, we were the only people at the pool or down in our section of the beach. We got massages, ate delicious Thai food (until that last night, but even then, it was delicious), visited the Night Market and tuk-tuk’ed around Hua Hin. The weather was perfect, the kids had a great time, no one got sunburned. I have no complaints. You should visit.
6. Traveling with Friends. Traveling with friends is always a bit of an adventure. If you’ve never traveled together before, it can be downright scary. Friendships have ended because of bad travel experiences. You learn things about each other that you never wanted to know.
We have some friends down the street who we are pretty close to who were also job hunting this year. We decided to travel to Thailand together. Their son is older than the girls but he’ll tolerate them long enough for the adults to have dinner or hang out together on a weekend. He’s into video games and Legos, neither of which interest the girls, so I was nervous how long he would put up with their ‘little-ness.’ Turns out, as long as he got a video game break during the day, he was fine. The three-bedroom apartment we shared had just enough space for everyone, especially seeing as we spent most of our days outdoors. No one had any weird habits and, strangely, the adults all seemed to value different aspects of housekeeping- I can’t stand a dirty floor, DH likes clean counters, the other couple didn’t mind doing the dishes- which meant the apartment stayed relatively clean. We even weathered the ‘disaster’ of realizing that we had no stove and only a hot-plate for cooking with no major meltdowns from kids or adults.
It was nice to travel with another family. The kids amused each other, the boys amused each other and the women were able to go get massages together. It would have been nice to go as a family of four, but I think it would’ve been much harder work. Finding a travel-buddy-family is probably one of the most wonderful things that has happened in our time in Bahrain and I hope that we are able to travel together with our friends in the future.
7. Spending time at home. We all needed a break. Having both girls in school, recruiting, teaching, coaching, and directing school plays… those first four months were hectic. When we visit friends and family at Christmas or in the summer, there’s a lot of pressure to see everyone as much as possible, to do all the activities you can’t do in your host country, and to buy all the things. It’s hard to be still. You feel like you’re wasting time if you just sit down and watch a movie or veg with a book. Being in our home for ten days before Christmas/traveling meant doing all those things. We went to the animal park, the fort and Magic Planet for special days, but our time was spent being a little lazy, doing just enough not to be bored or end up with bed sores. We were able to just appreciate relaxing, recharging, and being together.
Next Christmas, we will hopefully be in Georgia which means waking up together as our little family and then spending the rest of the day with our Georgia family. I’m looking forward to it more than you can imagine. We haven’t spent Christmas in Georgia since The Ladybug was nine months old.
Christmas is all about family and I realized through this Christmas that I have family everywhere. I love my little Nomad family and I love my extended family- friends and actual blood-relatives all over the world. That’s what being an Expat Family is all about. I’m a lucky, lucky girl.
God bless us, everyone.