Posts Tagged Christmas eve

December 24, 2005 – Christmas songs at the izakaya

Everyone finished work early because it was Christmas Eve, so we all went out to the izakaya across the street from NOVA to celebrate. Despite being located directly across from the NOVA branch, teachers rarely went to this particular izakaya, opting instead for the cheaper options. English teachers are notoriously frugal with their beer money.

We all had lots of food and possibly a few too many drinks, prompting a very boisterous round of Christmas songs as we approached midnight. We got so loud that the staff asked us nicely to keep the volume down. We took this as a cue to move to karaoke.

Being away from home for Christmas is hard. Being around a bunch of other people who are trying to forget they are also away from home for Christmas does make things easier.

Merry Christmas from Japan!

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December 24, 2004 – Strangers in a foreign land

I woke up at the fraternity house and went out for breakfast at the nearby Perkins with some of the brothers. Perkins was a popular spot for University students due to its proximity to campus, never ending refills of ice tea, and the fact that it was open 24/7.

After breakfast, I went to pick up Fatima from her apartment to take her to my parents’ house. Fatima was¬†originally from Sierra Leone, but had escaped the brutal civil war by seeking refugee status in Canada. My sister met her while volunteering at a support group for newcomers to Canada, and they became friends. Since then, Fatima has been an adopted part of the family, and she comes to our family dinners.

I had met Fatima a few times before, usually with my sister or at my parent’s house. In the past we never really had much in common. However, after living in Japan for a year, I found that we both had some similar experiences living as a visible minority in a foreign country. We both look different from many of the people around us, and we have both been treated differently because of it. We have both been surprised or confused by the local culture. We both have some experiences with the different climate in our new countries. Also, we both don’t speak the local language well enough (yet). Japanese is my second language (third if you count the French I learned in school), and English is Fatima’s third or fourth language.

It’s about a 75 minute drive from Fatima’s apartment to my parent’s house, and we talked the whole time. By the end of the drive, we had become good friends. It’s amazing what finding a few things in common can do to bring people together, even if they have very different backgrounds and situations.

In the evening, we stuck to our usual family tradition for Christmas Eve – a big meal featuring tourtierre (French Canadian meat pie), and then midnight mass at the Catholic church. For the record – midnight mass in Portage la Prairie starts around 9:00pm. It was my first time to see the new church building, which was finished while I was teaching in Japan. The new building replaced two 50+ year old smaller church buildings in town. It was a nice modern church, but I did kinda miss the classic “big stone church” feeling.

After mass, I finished the evening with my tradition of wrapping the last few presents frantically and sneaking them under the tree. I love Christmas!

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December 24, 2003 – Christmas Eve

My first Christmas Eve away from home was a bit depressing. I went to work earlier than usual and had plans to go to an English language church for a Christmas service in the evening. However, by the time I got home and ate it was too late to get to the church service.

I ended up going with Marshall to a yakiniku restaurant in Shimokitazawa, not too far away from my famous solo double date. The restaurant featured all you can eat and drink for 2 hours. The restaurant was smart and only had two waiters working, which greatly slowed down the delivery of food and drink to each table. I was surprised at how loud drunk Japanese people can be when they want the waiter to come. Shouts of “summisen” got louder and more obnoxious as the time went on. The gaijins in the restaurant had to work hard to keep up.

I ate cow tongue for the first time. It was thinly sliced and delicious.

After drinking many beers and stuffing myself with grilled meat I returned home to open my Christmas presents alone. Afterwards I fell asleep in front of the TV. I miss family Christmas.

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