Tag Archives: Christmas

Vital harbor: Christmas in Vleesbaai

Vital harbor: Christmas in Vleesbaai
Vital harbor: Christmas in Vleesbaai

When I first met Petra in 2018, weeks after arriving in KwaZulu-Natal to begin teaching with the Peace Corps, she invited me to visit her home on Western Cape. This Christmas, I finally took Petra up on her invitation. After a long layover in Singapore, then a short domestic flight, I rode with Petra’s sister and family for four hours from Cape Town, across the mountains, back to the coast.

We arrived in Vleesbaai late Monday, just in time for Christmas dinner. Petra and her husband Preben outdid themselves with lamb and steak grilled in the fireplace, alongside a spread of salads, savoury sides, and cherry cake. We watched twilight creep over the water as I dusted off my Afrikaans to greet old friends and new acquaintances.

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Lion City: Layover in Singapore

Lion City: Layover in Singapore
Lion City: Layover in Singapore

After months of manic planning, with over eight different connections lined up by bus, train, and plane (all booked one-way), the day arrived for my departure from Tokunoshima for the Christmas holidays.

Though my nerves stretched taut as violin strings, I had to smile when the Lord granted me an auspicious beginning in a reminder of his covenant-keeping: A rainbow brightened the clouds as I waited for my first leg of transport, a bus to the island airport.

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Mountain gods: Christmas in Kyoto

Mountain gods: Christmas in Kyoto

Originally published February 17, 2022

My first Christmas in Japan marked my first serious bout with homesickness. Holidays away from home hadn’t tormented me in South Africa or the UK — but this was my first time overseas with no one to visit. There is a big difference, I discovered, between being away from your family, and being without any family at all.

At loose ends for the end of the year, I maximized my vacation time with a trip to Kyoto, the destination most recommended to me by my Japanese co-workers and students.

Before I boarded the plane, I tackled my first full month at work, with all the typical frenzy and festivities.

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Ube nokhisimuzi omuhle: Holidays

Ube nokhisimuzi omuhle: Holidays

Christmas cheer was thin on the ground last year. Despite my best intentions, the week leading up to my final essay submission demanded a slog of sleepless nights and soul-searching doubt. Just when I thought I was free to relax into the holidays, the UK government shocked everyone by declaring a stay-at-home order with less than 24 hours notice.

Even so, God was good to me.

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Drawing Nearer to Thee: 2019 Christmas Weddings

Drawing Nearer to Thee: 2019 Christmas Weddings

Graduation, Christmas, weddings – December in South Africa has it all!

The end of this year – and the decade! – marked the conclusion of my first full year in South Africa. Twelve months ago, I never could have predicted that I would be flying to Cape Town for a wedding, or applying to a masters program in African studies, or joining a family reunion at the same farm where Judy and I reveled in fresh-made dairy last year.

All of these events and more impressed on me the greatest blessing of my Peace Corps service: becoming like family with the people here.

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As We Joyfully Receive: 2018 Christmas in Northern Cape

As We Joyfully Receive: 2018 Christmas in Northern Cape

What is it like to celebrate Christmas in the summer?  For me, it was a multi-day road trip, absorbing South Africa’s rich history and wildly varying climate, then nesting for the holidays at a family farm in Augrabies, Northern Cape.

My dear friend Petra captained the tour, guiding us from one serendipitous experience to the next, until we landed at a home deserving of that Biblical ode: “a land flowing with milk and honey…”

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