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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Christmas at the Fisher Farm

Christmas is not a recognized holiday in Taiwan. I knew this when I went to Asia in 2003 but, somehow, I thought I would find a way to celebrate traditions with my family and friends, despite the customs of my adopted land. That first year, I stubbornly went home at Christmas, and was subsequently fired for breaching my teaching contract.
That visit was a wonderful holiday at home with the people I love, but it took me two months to land another position when I returned to Taiwan. By the time Christmas rolled around again, I decided I had better save my holidays for Chinese New Year, and keep my job.
Christmas 2004 in Taiwan was bleak, indeed. I hung ornaments on a potted banana palm, and smiled at the webcam for my family overseas. After cold turkey and bread pudding (what’s in that stuff anyway?) at the local British pub with other Westerners, I cried myself to sleep in my downtown Taipei apartment.
In 2005, I spent Christmas in Australia. The Aussies do it up big, with glitz, glam and flashing lights. It’s a bit hot to cook a turkey in the middle of an Aussie summer, however, so Christmas dinner is more likely to be king prawns on the barbie. New Year’s Eve was celebrated in a beer garden, in a sweltering 30 degrees at midnight. Half a day ahead of Canada, of course. Again, I felt as though I had skipped the holidays.
I came home to Canada for Good (capital intended) in March 2006. I reunited with family and friends and began the process of recovering from reverse culture shock. I thought I might end up in the publishing houses of Toronto, but by the end of June I had started dating the man who would become my husband. By Christmas of 2006, I was absolutely sure I was in the right place.
And now here we are, another year later. 2007 was very good to me. It taught me many things. I have learned that I prefer simplicity in life. And quiet. After three years in one of the noisiest cities of the world, I thrive on the silence of the pasture at sunset. After the sheep have come in I sit on the back porch beside my husband and watch the sun melt into the horizon.
I have learned a few undeniable truths over the last few years, but it took going far away for them to become real to me. Living in a foreign land, experiencing the idiosyncrasies of another culture and then returning home is an invaluable learning experience.
At the end of 2007, this is what I know: 1. I am blessed to be born Canadian; 2. I am honoured to be the mother of three and the stepmother of two amazing young women; 3. I have some really fantastic lifelong friends; 4. I come from good people; 5. I have enough of everything; 6. I am loved.
As the winter deepens, I look out the kitchen window and see our cow Ginger trying vainly to hide behind a sheep-nibbled pine tree in the middle of the pasture. Betty the heifer looks back at me, and raises her nose to the air. Just as I did when I first returned to Ontario. Canadian air certainly is sweet. Breathe it in, my friend.
I’ve been trying to entice the cows with sweet corn but so far all I’ve gained is the attention of a few dozen very persistent ewes and one downright annoying Donkey. The sheep announce my arrival when I enter the barnyard, and push their noses in my pockets, looking for the cow candy.
It may take a while before the cows learn to trust me, but that’s all right. We have time. Being on the farm slows life down a tad.
Christmas 2007 in the Fisher household will be about celebrating life, new beginnings, and fond memories.
This is the end of what many touted as an extremely lucky year. It certainly was lucky for me. I am content. Goodbye, 2007. Thanks for the memories. Bring on 2008!

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