12 December 2013

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...depression

It's great living in Congo and all, but then Thanksgiving hits and everyone either gets excited about their exotic Christmas vacation or they're going home for the holidays. Those left behind get kind of sad. Well mostly Adam gets sad.

I don't know if it makes me a pessimist or an optimist, but I've convinced myself Christmas in Kinshasa is where we need to be. We stayed in Congo last year and it was fun having our own holiday in our own house with 99% humidity outside. And Adam's mom visited so we had a little piece of home.

Going back to the States means jet lagging babies, lost routines and lots of sugar. At least this is what I repeat to myself to get pumped about staying. Oh, and it also costs about $8,000 to get all 4 of us home these days. Yeah, there's that. Adam even made me confirm that our Flying Blue accounts did not in fact have the million frequent flyer miles it would take to get us home. To compromise, I suggested he pick his favorite child and go back to the States. I'd stay here with the picked-over kid. He actually considered this scenario for a bit.

Alone in Cairo. Christmas Day 2008.

So his sadness persists. He floats in the deep end of the pool staring into the abyss while the rest of our friends drink cocktails in the shallow end and ask, "Who killed his puppy? Is he going to be okay?" In the evenings he plays Christmas carols on his guitar in the tempo of sad. And yesterday when we got home from school I said to the girls. "Hey! We missed you two today!" Then Charlotte said, "No. Papa only misses great-grandma."   

This is what it's come to.

When I see him chatting with anyone else who I know is also in a Christmas depression, I have to strategically extricate him from the conversation before he gets pulled down further into his candy cane spiral of sadness. I reminded him that Jill's parents are coming and won't that feel a little like home? No, he says, that will just make it worse. Because he'll just have to see their rosy cheeks from winter and they'll probably still smell like Christmas in Virginia or something. Who knows what he's thinking.  

He's decided that this year, it simply isn't Christmas if he's not at home. But Adam, do you remember our first Christmas abroad when we were in Cairo? Our German neighbors asked us to care for their Guinea Pig. (Because when you stay you become the James Herriott of everyone's left behind pets.) Remember how we spent Christmas Day running all over their apartment laughing and trying to catch their loose Guinea Pig? C'mon, Adam. How many people can say they spent Christmas in Cairo chasing a German's rodent? That was a good one.

Plus, Christmas in Kinshasa is amazing! We have our fake tree decorated with castoff ornaments left behind by friends who have moved away. Seriously guys, who left us the Bush administration ornament and the disembodied Santa?




We have our advent paper chain hung with care on our dead-bug, light bulb blown-out, spider-webbed chandelier. Which for Adam is just a mess of paper circles counting the days of despair.   


Fake smile.

And driving around Kinshasa to Christmas music is incredible. Last weekend someone left their Christmas mix CD in the teacher's shared car. As soon as it started playing, I went to eject because it's important for Adam to drive around this city with eyes unobstructed by tears. But we let the music play and it was the most bizarrly, surreal experience listening to Mariah Carey's All I Want for Christmas while dodging potholes and pedestrians. He won't admit it, but it made him happy and it was almost okay for the street kids to bang on our windows.

In fact I think, I think, the cloud might be lifting. Even though he's vowed to be sad until Christmas is over, this morning when he was staring into the abyss (his favorite focal point these days) he said he wanted to plan a Christmas eve brunch. So he will invite the hodgepodge of characters left in town and we'll play Do They Know It's Christmas?  Because wasn't that song written for expats in Africa missing the snow? Then I will slip a Valium in his mulled wine and everything will be okay.

It will either be the best happy-pill induced Christmas he's ever had or he will pass out until the 26th. There's always next year.

17 comments:

  1. I laughed the whole way through. And then I cried. Sarah, you struck gold on this one.

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    1. Yes, this was the only time I ever asked Adam's permission if I could exploit his troubles. He's a good sport.

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  2. If I wouldn't be soooo sad, I would have laughed, but I'm way too sad for that. The red and green Christmas chain that used to hang from our staircase was magically transported to a Kinshasa Kitchen - sigh. (Please come home next Christmas!)

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  3. omigosh, this is brilliant. I'm cracking up. Sending holiday joy and happiness to you all the way from snowy PA. xxxox

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  4. "And we'll play Do They Know It's Christmas? Because wasn't that song written for expats in Africa missing the snow?" I love it... :)

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  5. Christmas in Cairo... oh the joy! There are always people state-side who could use a Valium-induced happy place come Christmas too.

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  6. This is TOO funny! "A mess of paper circles counting the days of despair" - hilarious!

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  7. I hope this post wins you a Bloggie. I'm sure there is a category for sarcasm.

    http://2014.bloggi.es/

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  8. " before he gets pulled down further into his candy cane spiral of sadness"

    best line ever.

    I love reading about the other side of the world!

    xo from beautiful northern california (though don't tell your husband. we'll pretend it is dismal here)

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  9. My children were looking at the screen over my shoulder as I read this and saw the picture of the rings of paper. "Stop--back up--what is that?" my daughter asked. I explained the concept to her and she looked at her brother and said "Let's go do that." There are only 11 days left now before Christmas, but you have inspired some happiness and getting-alongness in this household this morning, despite the focus of this post. Thanks for that.

    Oh, and I've had a fairly rough emotional holiday season here, too, and I want to throw something at the radio every time it plays "It's the hap-happiest time of the year!"

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    1. Yay! Your own paper chain. Pinterest here we come. And thanks for the emotional solidarity.

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  10. If it weren't for your comical storytelling, I would be super bummed for Adam! Phoenix almost has the same non-Christmasy feel, but we made it to Goshen this year. Hang in there!

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  11. You should fly up here and bring us gingerbread for the Cairean Christmas Party! :) Miss you guys!

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    1. To you and Marcus above, These days I think of how Christmassy Cairo felt. It was cold. There were decorations. We had real Christmas trees. What a place! Especially this year. Thought of your sweet girls playing in the snow!

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  12. I've seen this post in my feed, and I've been wanting to read it. Glad I did. I'm rooting for Adam!!

    Jen :)

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  13. Thinking of you all from frost-encrusted Toronto! Hope the holidays were fine, despite the homesickness and all.

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  14. Hi Sarah and Jill! I just started reading Mama Congo, but I think I've probably already made it through all your old posts because I enjoyed them so much. I love the juxtaposition of the parts of life in Congo that seem so ordinary and not that different from the US with the crazy things that are hard to even fathom (the idea of worms hatching in my skin gave me the heebie jeebies for a while!). Anyway, just wanted to let you know how much I've enjoyed reading and tell you that you've inspired me to try to challenge myself to do something adventerous and outside my comfort zone. I would love to hear more about how y'all decided to move to Congo and what your first few weeks and months there were like. Thanks for writing!

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