Above: A view of a small village among tea plantations here in the Nilagiri Hills of India taken on Christmas Eve. (Our blog is usually about three weeks behind where we are at any given time. Our current location is always on the front page of the website.)
We miss you all. We're having an amazing time and wouldn't trade it for anything, but we talk about family and friends back in the United States all the time. Doubly so today, on Christmas.
Like Thanksgiving, we specifically planned an extra special event for Christmas to try to keep us from missing home too much. We're at a homestay in India, taking cooking lessons with the grandmother, sharing the meals at the family table, and exploring the local tea plantations. The elevation makes this area cooler than our recent destinations and the air feels cool and crisp like autumn in Ohio or New England.
I woke up this Christmas morning to the sound of chants and songs from a nearby Hindu temple. We are in a place where there is a general awareness that it’s Christmas (this region of India has a small but noticeable population of Syrian Christians and Catholics), but the “feel” of Christmas is definitely absent from the air. That is not to say that we haven’t seen any signs of Christmas as we’ve traveled. In Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, there was a giant Christmas tree with accompanying caroling brigade in the mall at the base of the Petronas Towers, an unexpected site in a Muslim majority country. Christian homes here in the tea regions of southern India hand large paper stars outside their home recognition of the holiday.
Overall though, these don’t quite add up to the atmosphere created by the constant chorus of Christmas music, festive baking, and holiday movie reruns normally experienced in the United States that place you in a bubble of the holiday season. The Christmas music we played on our phone felt a twinge hollow this morning, knowing the day would be generally absent from family our favorite holiday rituals. We vacillate between wanting to capture what we can of the holiday spirit and trying to ignore it completely to avoid the sadness of being away.
Besides the holiday, there are other events we have felt a pang inside for missing. An evening celebration for Kelsi's sister who just completed paralegal school. A housewarming party for good friends that, after extensive searching, landed a real home in a city they love. The chance to take a friend out to dinner after a successful (and hard to get) graduate school interview. Even more routine events such as a Sunday afternoon get together for cooking and football or chatting with coworkers in the morning before the work day begins. As awesome as traveling is, we haven't forgotten about home. Life on the road is amazing, but we still miss you all, today especially.