“Are you getting excited?” a friend from home asked me one evening.
Oh, you know. Finally being able to listen guilt-free to the Christmas music you’ve been playing since October. Waiting for that first blanket of snow to cover the ground like a carpet of powdered sugar. The lights, the ornaments, the mistletoe and wreaths and trees. All of it. Christmas.
Truthfully, after society forced me to smother my festive flame in early November, I’ve been having trouble getting it going again. And I’m not totally sure why.
Christmas as an expat is something I’ve always dreamed of – ever since my dad told me once of spending Christmas in an isolated German village when he was in the military (I’m actually not even sure if he actually ever told me that story or if I just imagined it as a little girl…). But the idea of being far away in an ancient snowy village during the Yuletide festivities seems so romantic. And I’m nothing if not a romantic.
The problem is, the picture in my head of an adventurous soldier walking down a winding street between tall, narrow houses with slanted roofs and brick chimneys, through a snowfall on Christmas Eve with the sounds of laughter and singing coming from lit windows of a nearby pub… It is just so not like my frantic scramble to find affordable Christmas lights that reach longer than one meter while dropping school supplies and papers to grade in muddy puddles that lurk about the streets waiting to grab unsuspecting foreigners by their heels.
Exchanging the toy camera from the nursery for a real one from who-knows-where.
“I want a biscuit!”
The very sincere pout-whimper combo came from the corner where stood a troubled child who did more to sanctify me in a week than a whole semester of college. We’ll call him Vytek.
Eileen, the lovely woman running the nursery program for English Camp in the šumava mountains, would wrap Vytek in her arms and instruct him, “Say, ‘I don’t want to obey, but Jesus will help me obey.’ Jesus will help us to obey.”
“I want to be obeyed,” was his opinionated reply.
Vytek is four years old and though I don’t like to diagnose children with disorders, I think it’s accurate to say he has more difficulty sitting still than the average munchkin. He also speaks very good English. British English.
It took me, Eileen and our translator Pavlina about an hour to figure out that “biscuit” means “cookie.” It did not take us long to figure out that this little shish-ka-bob also spoke very good Czech (like most kids with at least one Czech parent…). He’d switch in between the two languages like gears in a car so that even Pavlina could not keep up.
I’m not especially great with kids. That is to say, I don’t mind watching 0-4 year olds play for 45 minutes during church service but working an organized program for 3 hours where the children are supposed to listen, learn and occasionally sit still is more than I tend to have the patience for. I regret to say my attitude at the beginning of that very long week may not have been entirely Christ-like even if I managed to fake it pretty passably.