With so much going on, and a distinct lack of post-Thanksgiving over-commercialized holiday advertising, December crept up on me. My focus at school was on writing and giving the first set of final exams which, though stressful to write up and nerve-racking to give, turned out pretty well.
Only a few days in, my postmate Heidi left for her long vacation in the states (her first time back since leaving the summer of 2006). Although I missed her, I took it as a good time for me to have a quiet few weeks to get myself together. As the nights and mornings cooled and the Harmatan winds picked up… so did my spirits and my energy. I started talking with colleagues about potential projects in the Spring. I organized the house and ventured further out into the village. I hung up my hammock, ordered a rocking chair, and handled my first dead mouse (it was an accident!). It was a welcomed, boring few weeks. As the holiday approached, news from home was my only reminder of nostalgia. Luckily, the week before Christmas my friend Megan and I fell upon the idea of making everyone who would be together in Natitingou stockings from colorful African tissue. Little did we know what we got ourselves into! Sewing each stocking by hand… names across the top and everything… we must have put in 50 hours each but it was so worth it to drop that little bit of Christmas spirit around… we even made two with jewish stars for our non-christian buddies!
Packing up and leaving Badjoude this time was much more organized than the haphazard departure to Parakou. I arrived in Natitingou and had an incredible visit. We made a side-trip to Boukoumbe, a mountain village where we hiked 3 hours into the hills to spend the night in a Tata Samba (mud hut castle). We also swam in waterfalls, made potato pancakes with real applesauce Christmas morning, visited an orphanage Christmas day, ate pizza and REAL CHEESE (baked brie is a luxury no matter where you are… but pure heaven in Africa), planned for next year’s national spelling bee, and watched Grey’s Anatomy. The only down-side was several people’s illnesses, including my own: first Christmas in Africa followed closely by my first cold... how appropriate!
Now I am heading back to Badjoude to celebrate the New Year au village. Since this is the biggest holiday in Benin I am looking forward to lots of eating and festivities… I cannot believe it is already 2008!