Christmas in 2014 wasn’t really Christmas at all. It was more of a planned “dream holiday” away from the cold grasps of winter, on a beach somewhere down the south of Thailand. The best way to deal with the missing-Christmas-blues was to forget that it was Christmas at all. Christmas dinner was a curry. Falling asleep in front of the telly in a food coma was replaced with pina coladas, sky lanterns and Jenga in one of the dozens of bars just off Patong Beach. No, it wasn’t really Christmas at all.
This year, I had a different dream hol in mind. I went back to the cold, damp, grey climate I’d so desperately tried to escape just the year before and surrounded myself with northerners (who are still the best people on the planet.)
Festive feelings started at Assumption, where every single classroom had its own day-long party. The kids spent this particular Monday playing games, eating ever-full platters of food, singing songs, playing guitar, dancing, DJing, raving…
The foreign teachers had their own little party, too. We’d planned out a Secret Santa gift-giving fandango around a Christmas tree. As hard as it was to find a gift for someone you might not even know when you get their name out of the hat, the gesture always brings people together and gets us to know each other a little bit better than before. The Cheshire cheese to the Christmas cake was witnessing all this in a “Santee” (whoever THAT is) costume and parading around the school with Santa Claus and the directing Brother, visiting every single classroom. All face muscles ache after that much smiling in one day.
It took over 24 hours of travelling from my doorstep in Korat to Manchester, a couple of delayed flights and dire plane food, but eventually, I was back on familiar soil and on my way to the curry capital where half of my family reside – Bradford.
My heart stayed in York for the first couple of weeks after leaving it for Thailand, so I was eager to get back and breathe in the smell of the Rowntree’s factory (which is super fragrant at Crimbo and Easter time and permeates the entire of the city). I was pretty lucky that the day I visited was flood-free and was actually an ideal winter’s day. Only in Yorkshire do you so often need to wear a ski jacket and a pair of sunglasses at the same time! Despite the abundance of coffee shops Korat might pride itself on, some of my favourite eateries and hang out spots are still in this historic haven. Each is quaint and quirky through and through.
Also, as a student, I never realised how much of a student city it is, until of course, I was no longer one of them. I remembered how easy it is to freely express yourself in the UK, and to be easily encouraged to wear what you like, (politely and slightly passively) say how you feel and to eat whatever taste is taking your fancy. Though I have found a serious contentment in Thailand, these are all things I took for granted in the UK as it’s not so easy to avoid a (pretty strange) Asian fashion sense of poor English grammar jumpers, frilly shorts and skimpy vests made of the weirdest elasticated cotton materal, whilst lazily dragging your feet in a pair of jumbo-padded flip-flops.
It was difficult to keep things hush-hush (especially when you have a mother who can’t white lie for toffee) but it was done. Fortunately for me, not much had changed. I felt like some aspects of homelife might have stuck in time, even.
Prior to the big day, I managed to squeeze in the village Christingle. I’ve done this annually since I was wee and it was a surprise that it isn’t done outside of the UK. Christingle is quite a new tradition, made popular nearly fifty years ago in aid of the Children’s Society – children and adults alike visit schools or churches to sing Christmas carols, say communal and personal prayers and (the best bit) light our Christingles. A Christingle is an object that represents several concepts in one. An orange brings all other elements together and represents the world. A red ribbon circulates the orange, conveying the blood and love of Christ. Sweets are skewered onto the orange, which represent the fruits of the earth and God’s creations. At the top of the orange, a thin candle is lit at the same time as all of the other children’s christingles; this symbolises the light of life, Jesus Christ. Some find relations to finding hope in the darkest of times, particularly children at risk.
Five days home was a bit ambitious and was a definitive whirlwind visit – the only time I spent remotely vegetating was in a food coma after Christmas dinner with friends and family, intermittently spooning my dog who spent the entire holiday in a Santa outfit.
Some things I had missed about the west… I missed being able to start my meal at the same time as everybody else on the table (don’t do this in Thailand because you’ll be needing a microwave but the time all the food is served). I missed human contact and the having some of the greatest legends alive for friends. I missed my parents. I missed my bed and not the stone slab I’ve had to add layers of duvets to. I missed wearing layers. I missed my dog.
So… 5 days was a short time to try do as much you might to after living nearly 6000 miles away, but now I’m back to “reality” (still funny that living in Thailand is reality) I found a few things to be thankful for post-Thailand:
Having incredibly supportive folks.
Growing up being encouraged to think freely and not being afraid to ask “why?”
The right to speak our mind.
Working with people who have initiative.
Picking up a conversation where it was left with people I haven’t seen for years.
People who understand each other (a little bit).
All of the cuisines you can think of being in a 10 mile radius.