Saturday, December 29, 2007

So This Is Christmas...

Christmas has come and gone again, but this year it feels a little odd. In a way, I’m still waiting for it to arrive. Hasn’t it felt like there was just no build-up to it this year, it just sort of crept up on us all? This year there just seemed to be less festivity, less carol singing, less anticipation. Or maybe I’m just growing up, something that I thought wasn’t likely to happen in the never-never land we call Hong Kong.

Christmas always makes me feel a little melancholy, too. Not the whole day; just that for a few short minutes in the day for the past two or three years, I’ve reflected on past Christmas’s, and it saddens me, how much it’s changed for me. I’m sure you’re the same – when you’re only little, Christmas is the most magical time of the year. There are presents and mince pies and singing, and everybody seems to be so in love with everybody else. Everything bad that’s happening, all your uncertain circumstances or times of trial, they all get put on hold for the few days that Christmas consumes, and everybody’s high-spirited and happy. Or so it seems, to a small child. Christmas is made for children. I remember year after year, waking up at the crack of dawn on Christmas morning and racing into my parents’ bedroom to wake them up and then leaping down the stairs to the living room, to see what Santa had brought.

Sad to say, this year, I woke up on Christmas morning only because my Dad had come through to the living room where I was sleeping (I don’t have a bedroom in my parents house anymore) to use the computer. For a minute, it didn’t even hit me what the occasion was. Thank God for the little boy my parents are fostering, the only person in the house who seemed excited about the whole thing. He came into the living room and kissed me, wished me a merry Christmas and proceeded to rip open his parcels, yelling over them like each one was the best gift he’d ever received. Like I said, Christmas is made for children.

That’s another thing about growing up, when it comes to Christmas. When you’re little, everything you open is like gold. It could be anything from the world’s biggest doll house to a packet of jelly beans, to a child, it’s nothing but exciting. As you get older, not only does your yearly pile of parcels diminish in size, but the gifts get less exhilarating and more useful. That’s not to say we don’t still appreciate the presents, but it’s a different kind of appreciation, isn’t it. It’s less “Oh, this is fun!” more “Oh, this will come in handy”.

But I’m talking like Christmas is all about presents and food now. It’s not. I guess the one great thing about understanding Christmas more from an adult point of view is that you really start to appreciate the true meaning behind it – Jesus. That really struck me this year, singing a carol about shepherds going to visit the new-born King: how awestruck they must have been, looking onto that baby and knowing He had come to save the world. How absolutely speechless that must have left them, and how honored they must have felt to be some of the first human beings to stand in His presence. And that’s what makes Christmas something special every year, without fail, is knowing that we’re really celebrating how great God is, that He wanted to share His Son with us in that manner.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Everybody Wants a Water Buffalo

I feel like I just haven’t been able to breathe lately, there’s been so much going on, and I feel totally over-whelmed by it. I’ve realized something about myself: I find it really, truly difficult to relax and do absolutely nothing. I don’t know how some people can just sit and stare into space and not feel guilty or disturbed; I wish I could do that. But whenever I try, I have to resign myself to the hundreds of chores and to-do’s running through my head and it only results in me feeling more stressed out than before. I think that’s why I like blogging so much. It gives me something to do whilst at the same time releasing stress, rather than creating more for myself; I can relax and stay busy simultaneously. I guess it works in much the same way as journaling for other people, only journaling doesn’t work for me because it starts to feel like a chore and then I end up feeling guilty if I forget or neglect to write in it for a few days. Additionally, blogging and knowing that other people are reading what I write provides a certain release for me.

On Saturday I moved house, and to start with it was a lot of fun. I’ve been working hard making my new house look pretty and it’s been good, a chance to re-organize and throw out everything I no longer use and haven’t seen or missed in the past year. However, everything has a pitfall; in this case, my hands constantly smell of cardboard and there are small pieces of ripped off box littering my entire apartment. And, naturally, there are all the fiddly little things that must be done when moving house, small but hugely significant – informing banks, friends, work places and so on of your change of address, contacting PCCW in order to get them to come out and re-wire up your broadband and phone line (something I have yet to do, mostly because I’m thoroughly dreading trying to communicate my needs to a machine voice on the other end of the line). Paying whopping, great big deposits on the apartment and all the bank-scrounging that comes with that.

And then, just when you think you’ve got everything under control, you decide to take it upon yourself to be a plumber. My kitchen drain was blocked, and so I thought it would be most impressive if I could fix it by myself. I managed to successfully take apart the entire sink (as you do) and clean the drain, only to find that I now can’t put it back together. It’s not just me being incompetent either, I had my dad over this evening to try and fix my mistakes, but he couldn’t fix it and it looks like I’m going to have to call out a (real) plumber this time. At least I can say I’ve tried, though, right?

One of the high points of living in Sai Kung though, I must say, is the constant company of the actually rather friendly water buffalo. Contrary to my former beliefs that they closely resemble bulls, hence having me in a nervous state every time I thought about them lest they started chasing me down the mountain where I live, I’ve discovered that they’re actually pretty awesome. The other night, arriving home at around midnight, I dropped my keys in the car park and bent to pick them up, and as I stood up again I found myself, quite literally, face to face with a huge water buffalo. I had a fleeting idea of petting it and making fast friends with it, Dr. Dolittle style, but scratched that idea pretty quickly for obvious reasons. But as I looked around, I noticed that it wasn’t just one buffalo in the vicinity with me, there were at least 4, just milling around outside with nothing better to do than wait for the next day.

Since that night, I’ve stood on my balcony every evening and waited for them to come up, which they do, without fail. I have a feeling if they were a little smaller and didn’t smell quite so funky, they’d make very loyal pets.