Meri Kirihimete from Aotearoa (Merry Christmas from New Zealand)! After my late night adventure involving communion, cockroaches, and not getting to bed until 2:30am, I lazed around in bed until 9:30am this morning, then got up and had breakfast with Frank (for him it was second breakfast, having eaten his first one at 7am this morning). Fay was quite embarrassed to have overslept; she stayed up late last night waiting to hear when I got home, and as a result slept in until 9:30am as well!
After breakfast I put on The Chieftain's Bells of Dublin on my computer, which reminded me of home; it's my favourite Christmas album, and I think Fay enjoyed it as well. Around 11pm we opened presents; Fay was quite overwhelmed with the pile of wrapped gifts on the table for her to open, and was particularly happy to receive the brandy snaps, greeting them with a smile of, "Oh, now this is what I really wanted!" In return she and Frank gave me two pretty necklaces, and a beautiful pen from Taiwan. I also received a homemade pamphlet entitled Essential Communions of visible and invisible forces and The Sevenfold Peace from the ancient Essene tradition" written and illustrated by Skye. My friend Kelsey Lang also sent me a card, and Dee, Ron, and Kaiti sent a card and a facecloth with an embroidered train and a bar of soap shaped like a train, which made me snicker. My mom, Jack, and Grandma Wright have also apparently all sent cards, but they didn't arrive in time for Christmas; I imagine they'll show up over the next few days.
For lunch we had home-baked croissants, something I have never had before: Fay bought the dough and let them rise sitting on top of the hot water tank overnight (for the extra heat), and then we baked them to golden brown perfection in the oven. Accompanied with cheese and ham, they made a wonderful Christmas treat.
After lunch I lazed around in the beautiful summer weather; the skies were sunny and clear today, with a refreshing breeze, and temperatures around 26-30ºC. I sat out on the patio, Tiger the cat curling repeatedly around my ankles, reading the illustrated edition of The DaVinci Code. Lest you feel too much envy for my experiencing Napier's beautiful weather, allow me to relate a little incident: I went into the neighbour's yard to pick a few lemons from their tree (we have permission), and the moment I went to reach for a good-looking one up high, two birds dive-bombed out of the tree, and one pooped all over my shirt! Fay tells me it is good luck to have a bird poop on you, but I think it's just annoying, as I then had to change into another top, scrub the poop out of the t-shirt, and hang it on the line to dry. Sigh, Christmas cockroaches, and now Christmas crap...
Later in the afternoon Dee and Kaiti called Fay and Frank's landline, and not soon after that my mom and dad called on my cell phone. Both sets wished me a Merry Christmas, and we're going to talk again tomorrow, when it is actually Christmas back home in Canada. No sooner had I got off the cell phone with my mom then I came back into the house and Fay was on the phone with Peggy, so I got to speak to her as well. She relayed the message to Stefan that the Operation Christmas Hamper had gone off successfully, and told me my mission for the next few days is to introduce Frank to the internet and all the wonderful tools for communication it possesses... Stefan is angling for Frank to get a laptop and internet connection so the Fletchers in Canada can stay in contact with (and send photos to) the Fletchers down under.
Dinner was definitely not your standard North American Christmas dinner, but then again, why should it be? We're in a different country, hemisphere, and season, after all! We had prawns and crayfish on a bed of shredded lettuce and onion (keeping in mind New Zealand crayfish are a saltwater animal, not the same as the miniature freshwater animals of the same name back home), and the brandy snaps full of whipped cream with dessert. I was in charge of whipping the cream in a bowl with a self-cranked hand mixer, and when the gears jammed I foolishly lifted the beaters out of the bowl and gave the handle a good yank: cream went spraying all over me, the counter, and the kitchen sink! Oops.
We also had strawberries and pavlova for dessert, which was simply sumptuous; pavlova is considered a traditional holiday treat in New Zealand, and is believed to have been created for the Russian dancer Anna Pavlova on her 1926 world tour visit to Wellington. It tastes similar to meringue, but with a slightly crunchy outer layer concealing a softer, moister interior; it's kind of like eating a giant meringue-flavoured marshmallow. It's the perfect dessert to compliment a light, cool, and refreshing New Zealand Christmas dinner; in summer's heat, it simply doesn't feel right to be cooking a turkey or roast ham and eating a bunch of heavy food.
After dinner I did the dishes, then Fay went off to watch the evening news and Frank disappeared into his room to read the paper; I went outside and sat with Tiger for a while, typing on my laptop and giving the cat an affectionate pat every now and then in response to his/her (I'm not sure which!) gentle head-butts and nuzzles for attention. The sun has just set, and I am now back in my room (hopefully cockroach-free!), watching dusk descend onto 28 Bright Crescent.
I suppose I should perhaps feel more melancholy than I do about missing Christmas at home, but the reality is it feels so unlike Christmas here (due to the weather) that my mind can't really accept that it is indeed December 25th; it feels like July back home, and as such I feel like I've entered some quasi-limbo state of perpetual summer. It's also true that being here with Fay and Frank and making their Christmas a little more special (I hope!), as well as experiencing an alternative style of Christmas festivities, has made today unique in my mind, and something I am glad to have done. I am also lucky to be living and travelling in an age where I am able to talk to my relatives and friends back home relatively painlessly via the phone, and post my thoughts and impressions for all the world to see and read on my blog here pretty much instantaneously, so I don't feel isolated or excluded from what is happening back home in Canada. After all, I will be heading home to the Northern hemisphere eventually, and there will be other Christmases in my life; it was nice to experience one that has been decidedly different from all the others.
I am simply exhausted from my late night at the cathedral yesterday (the three glasses of Lindauer sparkling sauvignon blanc might have something to do with it, too), so I am off to bed. Merry Christmas to everyone back home; it's just after midnight on Christmas Day there now. Here's hoping it is as pleasant for you as it was for me.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!