15 December, 2012

Remembering my first Christmas away from home

Yesterday as I participated in more "culminating events" I ended up in more than one conversation with friends whose children aren't coming home for Christmas.

The dynamics in a missionary expat community are a bit different. Children who've graduated from high school usually study or work in another country. Their absence is, of course, keenly felt by parents. But none so sharply than at times like Christmas, when they can't always get together. It's easy to be sad at these times. Yesterday, however, I turned one conversation to remembering our own first Christmases away from our parents.

Do you remember yours? Have you ever had one?

The one story I heard yesterday was from an adult who grew up in Japan. Her first Christmas away from parents was in her first year after leaving school. She spent it with her aunt and uncle in America. Her memories of it were "it felt weird".

I did my tertiary studies only two hours from home in Queensland, so returning to my parent's house for Christmas was no big deal, in fact it was expected. Until I joined a short term study tour trip with OMF to Indonesia over the Christmas holidays at age 20. My first Christmas away was spent in Bali!

Not surfing or clubbing, but learning about the culture and religion. One Christmas day we travelled to a small Christian village and worshipping with them in their large church (big enough for the whole village to fit in). We understood very little. But we did get to sing a couple of songs for them. However my memories of the day are fairly dim.

Except for what greeted us when we finally arrived back at our lodgings some time into the evening, maybe 8 or 9pm. And the Christian couple who owned the small place we were staying brought out a special Christmas feast for us, including a whole fish (one per person), everything intact, including the stomach-wrenching eyes. We were exhausted. And I, for one, was way past being hungry. But so as not to offend our hosts, we tackled those fish. I didn't get very far, if memory serves me correctly.

But you know, there wasn't much time for homesickness that Christmas. Homesickness came later in the tour, especially when the rest of the team when home in mid-January and I stayed on an extra 10 days to look at The Leprosy Mission work in Jakarta and Cirebon (central north coast of Java).

So there's my first memory of spending Christmas away from my parents and sisters. What's yours? I'd be delighted to hear them: either below in comments, or on your own blog (but put a link here please).


-J said...

18 years old ... in Japan for my gap year ... probably harder on my family than on me ... I was enjoying so many new experiences!

OliveTree said...

One of my first Christmases away from home was when I spent two years in Istanbul in my early 20's. I felt a bit lonely for my family, but was so touched to come home at night on December 24th to find that the MUSLIM family I was living with had decorated my room for Christmas and left me a gift. A sweet memory...

Judie said...

I may have my dates wrong, but I THINK my first Christmas away from home, I might have been unconscious in hospital.
My parents lived in Carnarvon, 600 miles (~1000k) north of Perth. I had gone down to Perth for an entrance exam for the Commonwealth Bank (where I did eventually work), & I'm pretty sure that was in early/mid December. A friend took me horse riding. I didn't know the hats riders wear were hard: thought they were like Scouts' hats, soft & floppy.
I fell off. Neither my friend nor I knew how.
Hit my head & ended up in hospital, touch & go for a few weeks.
I have no recollection at all of Christmas. I do remember trying to get up, feeling fine, when I was barely over fighting for my life.
The next Christmas, I was working & could afford to fly home.
So, if my remembrance is wrong, the next one that could have been my first away from home would have been after I moved to Sydney. I was 23 & spent that one with my brother & his fiance.