Fast forward. It seems that is the speed we've been living in this December. I was worried that I would spend the month pining away for Christmas with family and missing my mom. While I have certainly had those moments, and even a few days where the only way to make it to dinner was to take a nap and have a good cry, I have largely been too busy to focus too much on the "I wishes."
I have been working with the local guest house that our organization runs since our return from the States. I spent my first several weeks learning lots about the operations, staff, paperwork, etc. Early this month, the volunteers who had been helping us with the day to day operations returned to the States and I've been flying solo. Well, solo with a whole lot of help. Our national staff works hard and I have been very blessed by getting to know them better this month. One of the highlights of my month was hosting a Christmas party for all of them. At the advice of a colleague, I decided to play BINGO with them after our meal. At first they were a bit skeptical, but when they saw that there was a pile of prizes, they were highly motivated. In the end, they loved it and we had lots of laughs. At first, they were very timid with their "bingo" announcements, but by then end they were yelling and jumping up and down. The prizes were simple things like rice, oil, phone credit, and candy bars, but the reactions were delightful. Unfortunately, I didn't have the sense to take the camera. But, I do have lots of other pictures to share of this month's highlights.
We have had 2 or 3 surprise rain showers this month and they were all very welcome. The kids got right out in the middle of the first one and got as wet as if they'd stood in the shower.
Our house was painted...inside, outside, upside down. It was a nuisance while it was happening, but now it looks so nice. The painters were amazing and it really was as pain-free as having your entire house painted could be.
As soon as the paint was finished, we put up our Christmas tree. We found what we thought was a good deal on an American Christmas tree at a local import store. When we put it up, we were a bit shocked at how large it was and we became even more certain that we'd gotten a good deal. Then, when friends of ours went to the same store and tried to buy it, they were told that the price was actually double what we paid. Apparently, the cashier mistakenly gave us a significant discount. Our house helper kept insisting that it was too big and that she had never seen a tree that big. I think there is actually about 3 inches between the star and the ceiling. Oops!
Every year, it is our tradition to eat "party foods" on the evening that we put our tree up. Africa has made the foods a bit simpler, while making the preparation a bit more complex. But, we make it work and the kids are happy. I had hoarded some of the chocolate chips and cream cheese that we brought back so that we would have them for these sort of holiday treats.
Ryan celebrated his 40th birthday with homemade chocolate cake and a successful attempt at homemade potato skins.
The two oldest girls participated in a British style pantomime the second weekend of December. The story was Snow White. Lizzy was cast as Grouchy Dwarf. Abby had a key role as narrator 1. They both had a great time and were able to make friends with a very diverse group of folks. They had a great time involving a lot of hard work and practice. They're already talking about next year.
Sister love, after show number 1.
Abby is taking home-ec this year and her baking unit happened to fall this month. So, on top of all of the normal Christmas goodies, she's been contributing things like apple pies and yeast rolls to the table.
We attended a Christmas party with some fellow homeschoolers in our city. The kids did a white elephant exchange. Let's just say, the options for cheap present shopping are significantly different in Africa.
The younger kiddos did some other games, while the older ones were busy thieving presents. Abe got to experience a rousing game of musical chairs.
Lizzy and I were walking home from the corner
shed store the week of Christmas and we paused to look at some kittens that a neighbor lady had in her yard. Apparently, we oohed and aahed a little too loud because in the span of about 60 seconds, she had one boxed up for us to carry home. I had promised the kids a kitten way back when we had to leave our last country. I never had made good on my promise and I figured, why not? So, rather than insist that we couldn't take the kitten, I handed the box to Lizzy and we headed home. She is a lively little thing and we're all enjoying her very much. We decided that since she came so close to Christmas she had to have a "Christmassy" name. The only one we could agree on was Joy.
We did fit in one little Christmas craft project. The kids painted some nutcrackers that I had picked up at Hobby Lobby while we were in America. Things like this always remind me of the different personalities of my kiddos. They can take 5 very similar pieces of wood and their finished products are so diverse.
Both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day we shared a meal with a Nigerian friend who came for a visit. It was good to visit with her and to catch-up on all of the folks we left behind.
On Boxing Day, we went to help some friends of ours who work with an organization called Feeding the Orphans. They were having a Christmas meal with one of the foster homes they work with. We spent the afternoon serving a meal and interacting with the kids.
Most of the children at this home have sponsors that help to provide food and education. The day we were there they received their Christmas gift, which was a new outfit for each child. They were happy to have pictures made. Above is S, with her new dress.
Here are several of them with their new clothes.
As you can see Abe is sharing a meal with the boys from the home. He had a great day.
After the food came the dancing. This fellow was a hoot. So much joy in such humble circumstances!
These boys are holding new, handmade bears that a volunteer team had brought to share.
This gal was on the volunteer team we met that day. The crazy thing is, she is from a town that is very close to where Ryan and I lived when we first married and we found out that she works with a college friend of ours. It was so fun to hear that familiar Ky accent in the midst of all of that Ghanian English.
Those are just a few highlights of our busy December. Our new guest house volunteer arrives in a few days, so I look forward to having our schedule calm down just a little bit!