3 down, 4 to go

The social workers and me - boy will I miss them when we leave.

It's the whirlwind that is Christmas with the Good Shepherd Sisters in Nongkhai.

Party #2. Since I last wrote, we had the best time celebrating with the 200+ people who attended the Outreach Christmas party this past Saturday. After performances by children, teenagers, the Hands of Hope producers, and the Care Center patients (of which I was involved in too many!), the afternoon involved useful gift-giving to people who live in more remote villages in this area. It reminds one of what Christmas should be all about.

John and Lauren perform with the teens.

After a few hours of rest that evening, we three volunteers awoke on Sunday to engage in some intense cleaning of the volunteer house. It took us 7 hours, and we didn't completely finish. We decided to break and head into town before all the shops closed and managed to do a frenzied run through the covered walking market (ta sadet) and Tesco, the large grocery store and attached shopping mall. This all resulted in an 11-hour day and three very tired volunteers.

Party #3. Hands of Hope had its Christmas party, and it was a morning full of thanksgiving prayers, short presentations of a year in review, a slideshow, and the much-anticipated round of 'Buddy' gift-giving (i.e. Secret Santa/Kris Kringle). There were ooh's of excitement and surprised faces when buddies were revealed, and of course John had me for a buddy - which delighted everyone, and is apparently the first time a couple has had each other for a Buddy in the many rounds of 'Buddy-ness' over the years.

After some Korean barbecue for lunch, we all headed to the convent to wish Sr. Mary a Merry Christmas in person - since this was her first year that she was unable to attend the Christmas parties herself. She rallied and put on a good face - as she usually does - even though she was feeling worse than usual and headed to the hospital the next day (thankfully she did not have to get admitted and returned home the same day).

My level of exhaustion reached an all-time high that day, and the night before. Too much going on! And even though this is our second time around, it's still stressful navigating Christmas shopping in a new-to-me country and on a volunteer stipend. Maybe one day John and I will learn how to take it less seriously.

Another previous volunteer and her friend have also been in town, so we decided to go to dinner with them on our only night free. It seemed like a bit too much, but then once we were out, we had the best time. We clearly don't get to go out much and talk to many other native English-speakers, because we all talked their ears off. We stayed out until the late hour of 9:30pm. Our idea of a wild and crazy night.

In the midst of it all, we had previously agreed to do a dance routine with two of the youngest producers at Hands of Hope, who live in the Garden with us. Lauren and I somehow managed to get a few practices in with them, so we'll see how that goes.

And here I am, back on overnight duty and looking forward to our quiet Christmas day with minimal plans and to next week when all of the parties will be over. Hope you are finding pockets of time to enjoy peace in the midst of the busyness and meaningful ways to celebrate the season.

Santa's workshop, aka the Outreach staff wrap piles upon piles of gifts for their final Christmas party for the patients and everyone that lives in the Garden.