Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas Spirit

    When I first decided to spend an entire year abroad, I had to realize that included Christmas. Christmas away from my friends and family and in a country where it's not as widely spread. It's not as commercialized, it's not so easy to find every store decked out with greenery, holly, Santa Clause, and blasting Christmas music from its radio.
    Thankfully, here in Bosnia, Christmas is a little more common than most significantly Muslim countries. Some stores have Christmas trees (however here they are called New Years trees) and Santa Clauses in their windows, one store even had Michael Bublé's Christmas CD playing. Let's just say I wandered in that store for an hour just listening to it.

     Now, my host family is Muslim. Therefore, every day I wake up to a house stripped of lights, decorations, Christmas music, and the lot. No "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" on replay downstairs, no garland stringing the railing (if we had a railing), and most definitely, no giant Christmas tree in the corner of our living room. The snow here has completely taken over Sarajevo and the view from my house is simply a blanket of white. If you can even see the city, because sometimes all the smoke from wood stoves fill the valley and all I see is grey and white.

    Therefore, this Christmas season, I have made it my mission to spread a little Christmas spirit. I started off with blasting Christmas carols from my laptop. Yes, Irfan thinks I'm strange, but it had to happen. I played my music, made my Christmas cards, and drank my hot chocolate. After phase one was complete, next step was the hardest thing to manage at first. The search for a Christmas tree.
     I didn't want a big tree. Just a little one to go on my desk that Medina could place my Christmas presents under that my mom wrapped and packed for me to bring. My mom suggested chopping one down from my backyard, my coordinators suggested buying a branch from a supermarket, other suggested a wreath instead. But I was determined on my little Christmas tree. It has been a tradition for me, for the past five years, to bring my little, pink, artificial tree with it's pink lights and gold ornaments, into my room. That's the way it's been and I wanted to keep that up. Even if it wasn't a little pink Christmas tree. So I embarked on my mission, determined to find that little tree.
     Yesterday, however, Medina took me to town to buy me a new pair of proper winter boots because Nizama didn't believe the boots that I had brought were sufficient for Bosnian winters. And perhaps she was totally right. On our way down, I asked Medina where I could buy my little tree. She remembers that I've now mentioned several times that Christmas is my favorite holiday and I wanted a tree. A few minutes after I ask her, we trek over to the other side of the street to a small store where I see the most beautiful sight. LITTLE CHRISTMAS TREES. I hope you can understand my glee as I purchased my little tree (intentional rhyme. I'm feeling like Dr. Seuss here) and ornaments and then had to carry it around until I headed back home. However, arriving to History class with a Christmas tree was pretty fun as SHAKE grew jealous of how awesome it was.

My beautiful Christmas tree!
    Also, when I returned home, my new winter boots were now purchased and sitting in my room. Today was the test run and they were fabulous. Thank you Esad and Nizama for my new boots! They are perfect!

    And now we go to today's news. I'll pass over school because there lies no Christmas spirit. Just a bunch of tests and essays, wrapping up the semester. However, when the final school bell rang, I headed over to the church I've been attending where they were holding their Christmas concert. The church has been fabulous and I've loved attending. The people are so nice and already I feel like I belong there. I love that sense of comfortability. I met up with Jovana, Selma, and Nadja, three girls from youth group who I have become friends with, as we waited for it to start. I then took a seat beside Jovana (who is also the pastor's daughter. I told her she was the Bosnian version of me.) as the first people headed up the stage to start.
    There were four acts altogether. A duet with a clarinet and a violin, a mandolin group (I think that's what that instrument was...), the American group, and the Bosnian group. They played traditional songs like Silent Night (Tiha Noć) and Auld Lang Syne (Svjetla u noći), but there were also traditional Bosnian songs (ones I'm not entirely sure what they were about...). By the end of the evening, it was just a lot of fun and a lot of Christmas. Something I definitely enjoy. The girls were so fun to hang out with and I am proud to say I'm making new friends.
     And I'm sorry for no pictures. I lost my camera, remember? However, Jovana took plenty, so when she puts them on Facebook, I will borrow a few :)

    When the Christmas concert was over and I returned home, I expected a quick "Hello, I'm alive, I have volunteering in the morning." type exchange with the host family before I headed off to bed (clearly that didn't happen because it's passed midnight and I'm still writing this never-ending post.), but instead I was ushered into the living room where Nizama then pulled out a little heap out of nowhere. First thing she pulls out was a tiny little Santa Clause on a swing. I started giggling and smiling at the present and was especially happy how Nizama noticed that I was going a little Christmas-happy. She then pulls out a little heart basket and tells me I can put letters from my friends (*cough* IF I HAD ANY *cough*) in there. When I think that's the last of the gifts, Nizama, with a huge smile crossing her face, opens a shopping bag and pulls out this gorgeous dark purple shawl, kind of to be used as a house coat or an extra layer. You can't really see the shawl in the picture, but you can see my scarf which Nizama bought for me in Travnik.
 Esad then pipes in that while they were down in Baščaršija, Nizama kept seeing stuff and would say, "Katie would like this. Let's get this for Katie." Can I just say this right here and now that I absolutely adore my host parents? They are so awesome. I just love them so much and feel so blessed to call them my host parents.

    Anyway, within the next two weeks, I will be attending our church's youth Christmas party with tree decorating and music and all sorts of fun, Christmas-y stuff that I am used to, as well as Christmas eve at Anna's house where we will be attending midnight mass. And then, Christmas morning, I Skype the parents for unwrapping gifts all together, just like it used to be. I just really love Christmas and I am showing people how a typical American (I'm not exactly "typical" though, am I?) spends their holiday.

    Until more Christmas adventures,

1 comment:

  1. It really is the little things that make the holiday special! I'm so happy that you love your home and your host's a great feeling for us to know you're loving your exchange!