Monday, December 25, 2006

The Best Christmas In A Long Time

This is the best Christmas I've had in a long time, as far as my memory serves really. I spent it with MLA's (extended) family. With all good intentions, she had pre-warned me about every possible obnoxious/weird/loud/drunk character I was going to meet that day. It turned out to be an anti-climax because no one behaved that way even though I was on the lookout. She concluded that they were on their best behaviour because I was there, and that also making it much worse was better so that when faced with a lower standard of bad behaviour, I would conclude as I did, that they were pretty normal people after all. Managing expectation is what she did. Excellent job.

The day started with loads of food on the table, so fully laden there wasn't an inch of tablecloth to be seen. After I had finished, I was so stuffed I couldn't even waddle, and if I had to walk anything more than 2 steps, I think someone would have to roll me like a barrel. There was lots of nibblies, with great dips, my favourite was the french onion dip. Lunch proper was barbequed lamb chops, chicken wings and drumsticks (so well-marinated) and kebabs, with salads, cheese sandwiched in grilled eggplants, minced meat wrapped in vine leaves with yoghurt, basmati rice with minced meat, fish, prawns and calamari lightly battered and fried. Then came dessert half an hour later (probably hoping to give us some time to digest but not quite succeeding). Pecan pie, mud cake, cheese cake, semolina cake, other traditional Egyptian sweets. I was so full from lunch proper that even with my sweet tooth, all I could manage was a piece of mud cake with ice-cream and a slice of semolina cake. Oh and some fruit.

Then like overaged children all flushed with excitement, we pulled a bunch of crackers with novelties inside. It was great fun, with everyone looking over everybody else's little surprises and trying to make trades for something better. And people were nice to me and tried to give me their surprises as well. I ended up with a tiny little silver photo frame and a heart-shaped locket keychain.

They had a secret Santa thing going, but I wasn't told in advance so I hadn't prepared anything. But MLA, sweet kid that she is, placed an extra pressie for me under the tree so that I wouldn't feel left out. She got me this cool pair of Havaianas, knowing my taste she picked out this really nice brown pair with baby blue polka dots and straps. I LURVE them.

We played some interactive Nintendo tennis and bowling (they are quite addictive and you do get a bit of a workout with racing heartbeats and aching arms after a while). And then later progressed to a real game of badminton in the garden. We kept blaming the low-lying branches for interfering with our game when the shuttlecock kept getting stuck in the branches.

And finally at the end of the evening, MLA's brother-in-law and her brother (apparently when they get together, they bring out the worst in each other and get up to all sorts of tricks) started lighting (illegal) fireworks (yes, you can get them from some dodgy character and we have a crateful of stuff). It start innocently enough with a simple sparkler and then quickly progressed to rockets and Catherine wheels. We were a little worried that someone would lose a finger or an eye or burn down the house, but we still enjoyed the little pyrotechnic show in the garden.

I left with a huge plate of food that will feed me for the next 3 meals, and a warm sense of family and love. And an invitation to come to the "real" Christmas celebration on 7 Jan 07, as MLA's parents are Orthodox Christians and that is when THEY celebrate Christmas. I can't wait...


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