The Karen have a really wonderful tradition.
On 30 November, everyone comes together as a community and stays up until midnight to welcome December. The whole month celebrates Christmas.
We joined in, and I think we’ll make it our tradition, too.
The day was a celebration, too. No classes, and just a few chores necessary for the evening events. Most of the day was filled with volleyball games.
Throughout the day I was very aware of the similarities at the core of our cultures; but the great differences that exist parallel. Volleyball was a great example: the game was essentially the same, with a few added kicks that seem to be permitted. The boys played hard and impressed the girls, who sat on the sidelines cheering and squealing when the ball left bounds in their direction.
But while there were similarities, there were differences. I have never seen quite a game of volleyball. They have Olympic intensity, and I might argue Olympic strength or more. Every smack of the ball was loud in my ear, and my eyes were amazed at the leaping and flipping and somehow landing back on feet.
The gear was far less than Olympic level. About a third wore tennis shoes of some form–mostly the local version of Keds with holes around the toes. Another third wore flip flops or other sandals; the final third went barefoot.
It was very fun to watch, and almost the highlight of the day.
It was beat by Henry.
Mid-morning, we were sitting around talking with some students. They were telling their stories while Stephen recorded them for future projects. We heard some dogs chasing something and barking aggressively; Stephen glanced out the window.
We then spent about an hour feeding Henry bananas and giving him water. He preferred females, we learned pretty quickly. He only let Stephen and the male students get within a distance, but he happily drank from the cup I held.
In the past, he was living with a family in a nearby community. Once he got loose, he couldn’t find his way back. Now, he was quite open to people feeding him, but he kept his distance.
Later, he got into a little trouble. The students found him destroying things in the school and had to catch him. They planned to give him back to the family, but kept him around the school for a few days until we left. I think this was mostly because we loved it. We saved food for Henry at every meal and took it out to him.
In the end, Stephen decided we’ll be getting a monkey soon. Previously, he was hoping for a baby elephant–which does grow into a huge elephant, I keep reminding–so I would prefer a monkey. A monkey is one of the few animals that is cute as a baby and as an adult. However, I’m still keen on the idea of a bunny farm for the neighbors.
The rest of Sweet December was still wonderful. We had a wonderful meal with the surrounding three communities all together. We then had a church service full of Christmas songs and part one of a two-part sermon by Stephen. The evening was full of games, watching Elf, and even a few fireworks at midnight. We had a second service after the fireworks, where Stephen tiredly finished his sermon on the Christmas story and we sang more Christmas carols.
And then we had breakfast of rice soup, and stared at the beautiful sky. We’re not sure what to call this, but it was like a night rainbow–a halo around the moon with very light color to it. Absolutely gorgeous.
And we were absolutely tired. So we crashed at 1am, only to hear the students out doing their chores at 5:30am.
In the following days, we confirmed what their favorite Christmas carol is. We sang Joy to the World twice on Sweet December, and then sang it once on Saturday and twice on Sunday. That is a whole lot of joy.