Today was the day I got to experience Trini Christmas. Twice!
First, in St. James - quietly and in a small circle. And then in Glencoe - with music, a big tree, the biggest pile of presents I have ever seen and a whole bunch of nice people.
A little while ago my friend Andrew asked me what my plans for Christmas were and I told him I didn't have any, that I was going to spend as much time as possible with my family (via the internet, of course) on the 24th but the 25th would be a day like every other. He said no. He said Christmas was about family and that nobody should be alone for Christmas and I would come to his house to have Christmas lunch with him and his family. Honestly, how in the world do I even deserve friends like that? I must have been extremely nice in a previous life...
And of course there was also Christmas here at the house. To me that meant, that I had an opportunity to give a teeny tiny bit back to the people who are making me feel at home every day by giving them a little something.
In the morning I handed out the presents. Bernie and Richard got a little fruitcake each, not a big thing but for me it was really more about the gesture than anything else. Those two have been taking care of me the whole time since I moved in here, partly since before then. It's not like living with strangers at all, it's like I moved in with my uncles over here. Absolutely wonderful.
Next was Saviour, Richard's little son. I snuck over to where Richard had set up a little Christmas tree for the boy with his presents hidden behind my back and put them under the tree. Then I told him I'd seen a big fat man with a red hat and a red coat come out of the house and that maybe he should go check what that was all about. We went over to the tree and he saw the presents and looked at me with huge eyes that were saying "Wow, is it really true?". Then he ran back to me and gave me a big hug before fishing the presents out from under the tree. He got a football that my last surfer, Catherine, left for him. That one was for him in combo with Bernie's son Hassan, so the two of them could play together. I hadn't wrapped it, because... well... how do you wrap a ball?! But it did have a big green bow on it, so he got to tear that off. The other present that I'd gotten him - the day before, because it took me forever to find something for him that I liked - was wrapped in blue paper, so he got to rip that open. You should have seen that kid's face when he saw his toy truck with a jetplane on the trailer! Pure joy and happiness, which in turn made me really happy.
The next step was chopping up all the veggies for the salad I was to bring to Andrew's Christmas lunch. I shredded the lettuce and then cut up the cucumbers, tomatoes and carrots. Then I added some cheese and a bit of chicken ham and put everything into a plastic container and into the fridge. Then, shower. Then, getting dressed and ready.
Around noon, Andrew came to pick me up from my house and we went to his place, where his dad and sister were getting ready, his great-aunt was hanging out and his cousin, who's a chef in training, was preparing the delicious lunch. We sat together chatting about all sorts of things for a while, Andrew told me everything about the time he visited Vienna and people started arriving.
This is sorrel, you can have it in Carib Shandy or as a soft drink but around Christmas it's consumed in its most traditional form: as a juice. Well, a tea really. I topped mine up with water, because I was so thirsty and it didn't mix right away which left me with this pretty looking drink.
Yay, Andrew's map of Vienna.
Serious sound system for the party.
At around 2 or 2.30PM all the food was ready and the rest of the family (lots of people!) had arrived - time for Christmas pictures!
This handsome young man is my good friend Andrew!
Then, the food was ready, so we all sat down and ate and drank and chatted.
Lamb and turkey, potato and sweet potato pies, beans with tangerine and cranberries, salad and sorrel pepper. Yum!
Everything was really tasty and for me it was even somewhat exciting, because I haven't had lamb in ages (and I don't usually like lamb, I was surprised how good this was) and I've never had a Christmas turkey! And later, there was cheesecake for dessert. It is now past 11PM and I still feel stuffed... stuffed but happy.
After "lunch" came the time for presents. I had a blast observing it all, watching them handing out presents and opening them and sharing their happiness with each other. They reminded me so much of the way my own family interacts with each other, it was wonderful to watch.
And I also really enjoyed the view over Port of Spain from up on the hill where his house is.
Played around with hand-made special effects for a bit.
But, suddenly, Andrew stood before me with a gift for me. I got a present! A real, tangible one! I mean, I got presents this year, of course I did, from my wonderful family. But they came through the internet, because it wasn't possible to send anything here to Trinidad. And then today I got a present from my friend, which was 100% unexpected! And on top of it, I didn't have anything for him, because I hadn't thought we'd "do" gifts. And I'm really bad at giving gifts too, when they're for an occasion. I'm good at getting people things and make them smile, but not when it has to be for a certain date, like Christmas or Easter or even people's birthdays.
Wrapped up and everything!!!
Now it was my turn to make the face Saviour had made earlier: incredulous, overwhelmed, happy! I got to rip open the paper and then open the little box and then go Woooooow! after discovering what was inside.
Andrew is amazing. This guy noticed how ragged my approximately 15-year-old wallet was and got me a new one. He noticed that! And then he went and got me a new one! Can you even imagine that? How amazing is that?! Very, let me assure you. Very.
I was just completely blown off my feet.
For me, it was already absolutely incredible that he'd have me over and I'd get to spend Christmas with him and his family, who were all so very nice to me the whole day and did not treat me like an intruder even though I was the only non-relative there. But no, he went one step further and got me the only tangible present I received this season.
I don't have words for this. I really don't.
A long while later, after more pictures and more chatting and some coffee and a lot of cleaning up, everybody went home and Andrew dropped me back to St. James. Now here I am, reliving the day in my head and reliving yesterday in my head and wondering how come there are so many amazing people in my life. I hadn't expected much from this holiday season, what with being far from home and in a pretty much completely new place. But even if I'd had expectations, the reality would have exceeded them by so far... just off the charts.
My eyes aren't closed in this picture, they're beaming at my new pretty little wallet.
I'm in heaven, guys.