Here in Africa we celebrated Turkey Day a few days late, but threw down, none the less.
We did it up potluck style—I brought drinks. Other delicious dishes included guacamole, chickens prepared by someone’s Mom, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes (as they’re called here), tons of amazing desserts, garlic bread, hummus, bruchetta, Pringles, and many things that I’m sure I’m just forgetting due to the black-out stage of my food coma. I finished off the night by commandeering the hammock while other went to the bar. From there I read trashy magazines until I nodded off during an Africa Sunset. Life is good.
The day after our belated Thanksgiving was Diversity Day. We got to watch some pretty killer JuJu Dancers (YouTube it.) along with some less frightening traditional dancers tear it up outside our training centers. Some of our language trainers joined in if they happened to know the traditional dancer, or sometimes, even if they didn’t. Ryan accompanied me while I sang Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’, and then I held the paper of chords while he sang and accompanied himself on the guitar.
That same day I finally, finally got the package from America that was sent before Halloween. It was massive, and I was the envy of all Peace Corps-kind. In it was lotions, candy, Chickin n’ a Biscuit (Lord help me those were good…), jerky (Nuuurrrrr…), and best of all, gifts for my host family.
I’ve been looking forward to this package not just because there’s goodies for me inside, but because there’s goodies for my host family, particularly my younger and only host sister, Audrey. She’s 11, and has absolutely absorbed every aspect of Americana I’ve thrown at her. She watched the Disney Films I brought in French and English, often back to back, and love playing on my iPod, at which she’s become an expert at navigating, despite never seeing anything remotely similar to it before September.
One day I was fishing for what she might like as a present from America. Thinking perhaps she was right on the cusp for Barbies vs No-Barbies, I asked her what she thought of them.
“Audrey, do you like Barbies?”
“Yeah, Barbies… A girl, and she’s little and she’s plastic and…”
“Like nu-nus? (stuffed animals)”
“No, no…like, with hair and clothes and stuff”
Obviously, my French had left something to be desired in the conversation, but it was also obvious that this little girl had not even the slightest idea what the heck I was talking about. I assumed that perhaps she was past the Age of Barbies, and decided to let it go.
Later that week I heard a tiny knock on my door. I opened it to find Audrey asking if she couldn’t come in and hang out for a while. With a two and four year old chasing you around and trying to beat you up, life can become tiring. I let her in and closed the door behind her as she pulled out her school book to show me something.
On my floor she spread out itty-bitty paper outfits, made with lined school paper. Each fit around the neck of a tiny paper doll she had taken out and was now undressing and redressing as she saw fit. She changed each of the outfits after taking the doll out for a stroll down the faux-catwalk that had become of my desk.
As I realized that this girl in front of me had essentially created her own Barbie, despite not knowing that something almost identical was being sent her way at this very moment, I couldn’t help but smile.
Last night on the walk home the kids rushed me before I even made it to the gate. I told them to sit, as I had lots of things in the package that was currently about to kill my arms and would have to sort through it to find their very special gifts. As I pulled out the Barbie I saw Audrey’s head cock to the side and mouth the words on the package. Then, she looked back at me, eye wide with the hope that maybe she had put two and two together correctly and that the ‘Barbie’ thing I spoke of weeks earlier and this doll sitting in front of her might be one in the same and somehow be for her.
All I had to do was nod in her direction and say “Oui, c’est pour toi” before she started jumping up in down, screaming in turn in French “For me? Thank you! FOR ME?! THANK YOU!”
After undoing the million and five ties that bound her new veterinarian Barbie to its box, she played until she literally fell asleep beside the doll.
It’s true what they say, it is better to give than to receive. I could think of a better way to start of my first Christmas season away from home.