Wednesday, November 30, 2011

it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...kind of.

Every Saturday morning, I wake up at 7AM by force of habit an I think, today is going to be the day that I will go for a forty-minute run. In truth, though, I usually get to the twenty minute mark and then I get distracted by something - usually shopping. Last Saturday, it was the Christmas craft sale at the Bougain Villa.

Christmas in Namibia is something that I'm trying to get used to. I'm used to associating Christmas with snow, pine trees, hot chocolate, the usual stuff. Christmas shopping with summer sales is bizarre to me. So are Christmas lights hung from palm trees. The German Christmas markets here serve chilled sangria rather than hot gluvine. And it's been getting really hot these days as it turns to summer.

the images in this Christmas display by the Kalahari Sands Hotel is what I'd normally associate with Christmas...

...but this is what Christmas actually looks like here

The Christmas craft sale at the Bougain Villa was just as odd for me. Set in the beautiful courtyard of the building, vendors sold traditional Christmas items, like cards, fudge, handmade beadwork, and traditional african items like biltong, and less traditional items like airsoft guns. and peculiarly traditional Christmas items like wool mittens and toques, although i have no idea who would have any use for these things in thirty-five degree summer Christmas weather (which was another reason why I wasn't jogging for much longer).

So basically, it doesn't actually feel like Christmas to me, even if the store displays are all trying to push it. Despite this, I had a lovely evening of Christmas music tonight. Lately instead of tutoring the kids at the after-school program in Katutura, I've been singing Christmas carols with them. It's just adorable to watch a dozen kids singing their hearts out - they have fantastic voices.

it's interesting to see which Christmas songs they like the most, and which ones they've never heard of. Their favourites seem to be "Joy to the World" and "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town". They'd never heard of the "12 Days of Christmas" and I didn't think it would go over well because it's so long and challenging, but once the kids learned it, they can't get enough of it and insist that we sing it over and over and over again till my voice gets hoarse. They also seem to be quite gifted rhythmically too - they clap complicated beats while they sing, even without me showing them. Given the fact that Christmas happens in the summer here, I wonder what the kids think about all these references in Christmas songs to things like snow, snowmen, pine trees, reindeer, boughs of holly, being cold.

I feel like maybe someone should "Namibianize" some of the Christmas carols. like this:

Johannes the red-nosed kudu
had a very shiny nose
and if you ever saw it, you would even say "izzit, bro?"
All of the South African colonialists
used it to classify his race
they never let poor Johannes get in any kudu place

then one sunny Christmas eve
Father Christmas did say
Johannes, with your nose so lekker,
won't you drive my minibus, nie?

then all the kudus loved him
and they shouted out lekker, bra!
Johannes the red-nosed kudu
you'll go down in history, ja.

After singing christmas carols, I left Katutura to go listen to Christmas music in a more formal classical setting at a choral concert at the Christuskirche, a historical Lutheran church built in 1910 located on Fidel Castro Street (yes that's the name of the street).

(image from Wikipedia)


A mixed voice, mixed race local choir called the Harmony Chorali Choir was putting on a performance of Christmas carols, classical pieces, traditional African music, and random extras like songs from the Sound of Music and Phantom of the Opera. I enjoyed them a lot. they had a varied repertoire and their rendition of "Ave Maria" was beautiful enough to nearly move me to tears. I also really liked their unique gospel soul arrangement of Handel's Messiah. Most of all, I loved the traditional Oshiwambo folk songs they performed, complete with djembe and coordinated dancing and ululating. Generally I think there should be more ululating in churches.

I also got a big kick out of the fact that many of the choir members, including the conductor, read their music sheets from iPads.

Anyway, after a night full of Christmas tunes, and a promising upcoming weekend of my office Christmas party, I'm starting to get into the holiday spirit. especially the part about not working.