The Nomadic Life Travel

How to Celebrate Christmas After A Long Journey Abroad

If you’re like me and haven’t celebrated Christmas with your family, or in your own nation for several years, or are bravely returning home after a RTW trip in the height of Christmas cheer and creature comforts, here’s how to celebrate Christmas after a long journey away:

1. Hug your family

They’re probably letting you crash on their couch/spare bedroom, so thank them for it with the biggest bear hug you’ve got.

By Joseph B

2. Gobble down as many cookies, glasses of egg nog, and other home-cooked delights as possible without puking

I know you’re probably excited to have cheese and proper junk food in your diet again, but don’t push it.


3. Take a long hot shower

Hot water… real water pressures… and showers with the best shower heads, that actually make sense… ahhhhh

Shower Head by Steven Depolo

4. Use this captive audience to your advantage

You’ve been gone for awhile, use this opportunity to share your stories and photos from abroad because who knows how long this holiday cheer will last before they begin grumble under their breath for “would she shut up about Tokyo already…”

Storytelling, Concord Library

5. Turn your brain to mush with a movie marathon

One of the coolest discoveries I’ve made since being home? Our neighborhood movie theater now has plush recliners and sells beer and wine. And there’s no better time to indulge in these creature comforts than Christmas movie season when literally dozens of brand-new, never before seen, movies are coming out! I was just beginning to get a little tired of re-watching Weeds on my laptop…

By Jen Dubin

6. Start a snowball fight

(If you have snow, that is.) My idea of what’s socially appropriate in America might be a little off at present, but when it comes to playing in the snow, who cares? I haven’t touched snow in three years, jerks, let me throw a snowball or two!

Snowball fight in Times Square by Dan Nguyen

7. Act like a kid again

Especially if you haven’t celebrated Christmas at home for the past year, two, or more, feel free to act like a kid again. There’s probably oodles of Christmasy things you missed out on last year while sipping mojitos on a beach, so no need to hold back being excited about them this year!

By Barely

8. Turn your souvenirs into Christmas gifts

In America, I hate shopping, but in Tokyo, it was a blast. I’m also notorious for never bringing back souvenirs for friends and family, so timing my return to America right before Christmas motivated me, for once, to stock up on a few exotic goodies and wrap them up in holiday paper. I get the feeling that there’ll be a lot of “oooo, thank you Jessie… but um… what is it??” this year.

By TimTom.Ch

9. Sleep in

No work, no busses to catch, and no dorm-mates rustling around in plastic bags at 4 in the morning (seriously guys, please stop organizing your backpacks with plastic bags!) I, for one, am sleeping late!

By Kaibara87

10. Catch up with old friends

While I absolutely love all the friends I have made in the past two and a half years abroad, my friends from home are no less important (especially those of you who have been following this blog ;D). I’m looking forward to catching up with you all, and please, let me know if I say something absolutely inappropriate or commit some terrible social faux-pas!

Peace Corps Friends

Happy Holidays, guys! Wherever you may be!


(Only two photos were my own in this post: #2 & #10, credits for the rest can be found by clicking on them)

Peace Corps Teaching Abroad

Where Christmas Snow is Only Ever Made of Paper

Creepy Santa

{Teaching Malagasy students about American Christmas traditions}

I taught my 7th grade (5eme) students how to make paper snowflakes and sing Christmas carols this week. When we started the activity, one student held up the test I had just passed back, jokingly suggesting that he would use that to make his paper snowflake. I shrugged because after all, I had used an old exam paper myself to make the demo-snowflake. After the laughter died and we finally began, I felt graciously surprised at the silent concentration that swept over my students as they tried to follow along with folding their papers into smaller and smaller triangles, then cutting it in all the right places. Somewhere along the way, a small din broke out as they passed scissors around the room – of 50 students, only 15 or 20 had scissors. My own pair even got momentarily lost in a crowd of boys each time I finished demonstrating where to cut a semi-circle or triangle into the folds of the ice-cream cone shaped piece of paper.

Once finished, they all held up their snowflakes – which was an awesomely logical and straightforward craft activity for a largely un-artistically inclined culture – muttering phrases like “milay be” (vey cool) or “good, good, teacher!” One boy even went as far as to kidnap my scissors and speedily made a whole pile of snowflakes, filling up one of the unused laboratory sinks with a paper blizzard.

Our Christmas decorations done with, I moved on to a song. When I taught the Christmas carol during the last class of the day (and of the week, the month, the year), two of my more enthusiastic students shouted the carol at the top of their lungs, overshadowing the confused murmurs of their classmates. We all found it tremendously hilarious when I isolated the aisle filled with my laziest and quietest students and their attempts to follow along with “We wish you a merry Christmas” fell apart at the first ‘merry’. Sadly — or humorously, depending on perspective – regardless of my students’ individual levels, they all sung the “Christmas” part in monotone while pronouncing it “Crees-mas”. “Wish” was pronounced “weesh”. Is it bad of me to say that their mispronunciations gave the whole performance a comical feel?

I felt ridiculous for other reasons as well. Mainly, these students have no idea how much I disdain singing in public and the personal sacrifice I’m making by standing in front of this giggle-prone audience and belting out the tunes to English pop songs. I hate it, but after so many requests to learn English Christmas carols I knew I should relinquish a little pride and work it into a lesson. The tattoo of a music stanza on my arm probably throws them off. (Side note: Interestingly, in every country I go people who see my tattoo have a different idea as to how I’m musically inclined. In Central America, people frequently asked if I played guitar. In America, people generally ask whether or not I play any musical instrument. However, in Madagascar the most popular reactions to my tattoo are either “LA MUSIQUE!!” or “do you sing?” It seems as though women play instruments even more rarely here than in the West, meaning a music tattoo could only imply that I am a singer.)

Anyways, it’s difficult to get in the Christmas spirit while wearing tank tops and summer dresses, even if most of the more prestigious shops, restaurants, and bars owners in town have decked out their establishments in shimmery, Chinese-made garland. However, harvesting my students’ enthusiasm about Christmas and the upcoming two-week vacation certainly helped me be more present about the imminent approach of the Christmas holidays.

Tratra ny Kristmasy daholo!
Merry Christmas everyone!

Photo: (1) Creepy Santa giving Malagasy children candy at a friend’s Christmas work party

*I teach all 200 of the 5eme students (equivilant to the American 7th grade) at a public middle school (CEG) in Madagascar. The students are split up into 4 sections, which study English for three hours every week.
The Nomadic Life

Celebrating Christmas on the Other End of the World

On Christmas morning, while the sun was still down, I woke up on the floor of a taxi-brousse — Madagascar’s cramped, jolopy-esque version of a chicken bus. I accredit the sleeping pills I took prior to the twelve hour bus ride for this amazing feat of scrunchability and indifference towards sanitary matters, but when a pothole jolted me awake, I suddenly realize how gross it was to be passed out on the floor of third-world public transportation (or any public transportation for that matter) and my friend’s dirt caked feet.

Groggily, I growled “move!” at him. I jabbed him in the ribs as I tried to weasle my way back into the row of five passengers squished into a seat intended for three.

He didn’t move.

I jabbed him again, slapped his face, pinched him as hard as I could. Nothing. So I gave up and simply sat on him.

“Beats the floor,” I thought before dozing off again.

At sunrise, we woke up again, sweaty, dazed, and dirty enough to scratch layers of black off our arms as the brousse pulled in to Ambanja, Madagascar. All ten of the Peace Corps volunteers we had fit into the brousse piled out and staggered towards the sidewalk while simultaneously dodging traffic of bikes, cows, taxis, and cars, and making a vague attempt to remember how to walk. Once out of the street and across from the cluster of men tossing bags down from the brousses roof, one of my friends cleared his throat and turned to me. “Merry Christmas,” he said. Without the usual ambiance of freshly made pancakes, coffee, and a grey sky threatening snow, his words felt more foreign than the chaotic scene around me.

“Merry Christmas,” I replied, before schelping my backpack over my shoulder and setting off to find the party at “Mama Peace Corps'” house.


While handing me a plate of coconut rice and roast sheep, freshly killed the day before, Mama Peace Corps’ friend explained “we only have one big party every year, it’s her birthday around Christmas,” she said pointing to one of the little girls running around in white, satin dresses. Energetically they bounced around on the bed, ducked under tables, and ran between peoples legs. The house was filled with guests, both Malagasy and Americans and the table was piled high with crab, rice, sheep, and calamari. Mama Peace Corps had clearly put a lot of effort into making an excellent Christmas meal and welcoming about a dozen strangers she had never met before. Even if I was munching on tropical fruit instead of sugar cookies and gazing out at palm trees and wiping sweat off my face instead of shivering in the snow, it was clearly still Christmas. Being shown such an incredible amount of generousity and warm welcomes while on completely opposite ends of the earth from my friends and family seemed to me exactly what this holiday is all about and in some ways I feel like celebrating it so far from home made me appreciate how we gather with those we care about each December in a new way.