Wanderlust Wendy

Joyeux Noël!

Merry Belated Christmas to all! Happy Early New Year! After a whirlwind of traveling for the past several weeks, I decided to return to village and host Christmas chez moi. Juliette is the only French left since Jérémy went back to France for the holiday, so I invited her over along with 4 other Americans for the festivity. Christmas here is much different than anywhere I’ve ever experienced.

For starter, it’s the first Christmas where I didn’t have to wear a coat. Even Christmas in Taiwan required layers of clothing. Also, the lack of commercialization diminished the whole “Holiday Spirit” thing. I always found the 24/7 Christmas carols and decorations rolling out after Halloween somewhat annoying, but this year, I missed it, a lot.

I started listening to Christmas music a bit after Thanksgiving, but I stopped because it was too depressing. Kirk had left me with a small Christmas tree that lights up! But I didn’t take it out until Christmas Eve because it was too depressing. I just couldn’t bare getting all decked out in Christmas stuff when there are no signs of the holiday season anywhere.

However, the day before Christmas Eve, I was back in village, hand-sewing stockings for my guests, and was filled with the Christmas spirit. People began saying “bonne fête” and “joyeux noël” to one another. I ssw a few random people in Santa hats. Then Christmas Eve came around and the whole town transformed in matter of hours, starting in the afternoon.

In the morning, I took the hand-sewn stockings to the tailor to sew up the sock part (sewing the names was plenty), and there wasn’t much change. I met up with my friends in Bafoussam and came back to my house. We spent all afternoon cooking and opening the packages that Antoine had delivered from Yaoundé! They came right on time. My house was filled with a chaotic American goodness with packages everywhere. It really was like Christmas!

We had a big dinner completed with green bean casserole, cheesy potatoes, stove-top stuffing, guac, salsa, devil eggs and stuffed peppers. Later, we did gift exchange. I asked everyone to bring a small gift for everyone. Nothing fancy, but just so we would have something to open. The small gifts turned out quite funny. Everyone gave Juliette the most “American” thing they could think of, including Pringles and Gobstoppers. She’s never had Gobstoppers and was marveled at the fact it changes colors.

Later when the kids came by, she was showing the kids the candy. I took a hilarious video of the kids and Juliette, all amazed at this Willy Wonka candy! Culture exchange, I tell ya. Juliette randomly has a shirt that says “Michigan, the Great Lake State” which Kate had freaked out about when she first saw it months ago. (Kate is from Michigan, obviously.) Juliette gave that as a gift and there was a good round of happy scream. For me, Juliette gave me a precious jar of foie gras knowing how much I love food and how French I’ve become.

Later in the night, Juliette, Kate and I went into town to experience some Cameroonian Christmas. This is when I was amazed at how quickly the village was transformed. While it was no where near Oxford Street style Christmas decoration, the villagers had managed to put up lights and bamboo fences to spice things up. We went dancing with the villagers for a while, and it was just a hilarious good time. My favorite moto driver, Eric, came in with his blinding jumpsuit and gave Kate inspiration for next year’s Halloween costume!

I was in a splendid good mood all day. People are so simple here and Christmas was equally warm and happy without piles of expensive gifts, which can lead to expectation and sometimes disappointment. After we got back from some dancing fun, Jim started a bonfire in my backyard. We roasted marshmallows and introduced to Juliette her first smores. The air was cold, and it felt quite a bit like Christmas.

On Christmas Day, Juliette went back to her house for some Cameroonian fêtes and Jim went back to his village. The four of us girls hung out all day in our PJs and did completely girly things. We watched girly movies, talked about boys, painted our nails, ate an insane amount of food (Connie’s pumpkin pie is to die for!) and being completely lazy. I didn’t expect spending Christmas so far away from home could turned out so nicely, but I must say it was one of the best Christmas holidays I’ve had. Simply because it was so unexpected, and so, well, simple.

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