An expat advent calendar ..


So, so very excited for our first Christmas on the sunny shores of Aus in over a decade!

Family arriving tomorrow and then a bubbly New Year’s on the north coast will round out hugging all our nearest and dearest in the best possible way. Seems a dream. Fingers crossed our crazy, squeeze it in renovation, will finish tomorrow and the gorgeous tree I personally felled, in 32 degree C heat, can at last be trimmed.

Don’t you love pulling out your decoration boxes?

Little trinkets you can’t wait to see up and out for their annual show sit patiently waiting in tissue paper beds. This year I have both Aus & Saudi collections to merge on the branches. Little life memory boxes so good, in fact, it’s made my house strangely melancholic tonight. Who knew I would pine, more than a little, for the funny rituals that are “making” Christmas in the heart of Arabia?

Rituals built over 12 years of expat living deep in the desert. Rituals that had become oddly comfortable in their awkwardness. The things I “do” are left long behind now. I find myself mourning their loss, even as I order my free-range-organic-boned-and-stuffed turkey. 😉

Maybe it’s missing friends, maybe it’s counting my blessings for the year just gone, or maybe I will just forever have a piece of my heart in Tabuk Garden Village.

Whatever the reason, as I sit here with the present list ticked and surely a truck load of food bought from the brand new supermarket just minutes down the street .. I am missing .. with an ache in my throat .. the usual struggle of cobbling together our Christmas cheer.

Planned and executed over several months, sourcing goodness from a minimum of three countries on multiple overseas trips (not necessarily all our own), cooking for days to create the things that cannot be bought .. Christmas becomes a big deal when you live on an island in a sea of sand far from convenience shopping.

In order to turn this page, chuckle, sniffle and move on I have created my very own advent calendar of the tricky, yet rewardingly epic adventure, of absolutely nailing Christmas in “definitely-not-Dubai-Tabuk” ..

  1. Plan to commence Oct for best results. Accept you will start closer to mid Nov and don’t panic .. yet ..
  2. Online shop from the US and ship via everyone’s best friend, MyUS. Do not plan to buy local .. the Tag Heuer shop has long since closed on the pedestrian mall and Gav already nailed that gift back in 2005.
  3. Begin pestering compound Astra supermarket for turkeys.
  4. Accept compound Astra will not know if turkeys are possible this year but will try. Accept any immediate mitigation of failure with aplomb and understanding and disregard the thing about big chickens being haram (forbidden in Arabic) and maybe banned this year. Relax. Turkeys arrived 11 out of 12 times for me. What could possibly go wrong?
  5. Admire the compound super-sized Christmas decoration and light show. Be sure not to miss the annual 4 foot illuminated candy cane mounted like a hockey stick & the more often than not upside down baby Jesus in the manger (this one does not last, so be quick).
  6. From late Nov start to embed the words of Tabuk Primary School’s latest production into your very being. You can fight this process or embrace it. Whatever. You will end up loving every tune. As school secretary this is your duty, right and honour.
  7. December 1st transform the TPS reception area into Shelley’s Grotto. Enjoy a thrilling release for all the glitz, glam and colourful tack buried in your soul. Make sure to play carols as the teacher’s come to lunch for fear the teachers miss the transformation and forget to compliment its beauty.
  8. December 2nd decorate your home in a refined and restrained, yet equally glam manner. Enjoy the re-gifted, home-made and restored decorations you treat with loving care .. no replacing these babies at the local store. And who would want to?
  9. The Christmas Fare! Lovingly slaved over by a small team of wives for weeks in advance, we, the people of TGV, officially adore this day. Kicked off with a Santa parade and rounded out with your best friends’ band rocking the night. Silly hats, raffles, warm drinks and cakes. Perfect!
  10. Good time to panic now for those last minute deliveries.
  11. Watch, document with copious pics and cry over the annual TPS nativity. Sing along (silently). Note how cute kiddies look dressed as a menagerie of wee comic animals.
  12. Enjoy the TPS staff Christmas party and hope no one packs the turkey hat ..
  13. Yay! It’s time for the pre-Christmas nip to Jordan! Amman Cozmo OMG-it’s-SUPERmarket, Christmas cheer aflowing, shopping and sushi. A family tradition.
    Breathe deep as you enjoy the glorious cultural leap from Waitrose food shopping inside the mall to goats on the road and a Friday mosque traffic jam outside.The beautiful, accepting, blessed balance of Jordan warms my soul just to think of it.
  14. Create scores of hand-made Christmas cards and deliver them to Hussain at the post office for EVERYONE. Don’t worry if you don’t know their villa number, he does!
  15. Visit Hussain in the post office regularly to collect your own scores of Christmas cards.
  16. Create wall art with all these fabulous Christmas cards .. hearts and stars for Christmas cards, people! Where did that tradition go in our absence?
  17. Speaking of cards, now is a good time to alleviate the panic and make some of yours into IOU’s .. even MyUS cannot save you now.
  18. Getting close to the big gig here so dig out your Nigella “how to brine a turkey” info and prepare to brine like your life depends on it.
  19. Defrost your turkey and spare a wee prayer (but do not disappear down a chute of worry) that your turkey has remained frozen until this moment. Inshaala (God willing) it was not part of the huge pile of frozen poultry on the back of a ute left sitting in the sun you spotted a few months ago.
  20. Christmas Eve. Carols, warm spiced drinks and mince pies. Teeny tiny star ones, gone in a mouthful .. mmmm. Love Actually and the occasional brief visit from strolling pram pushers & bubs in Santa suits. Necessary sharing of warm spiced drinks .. obviously.
  21. Christmas Day. Wake early. Gav off to work. Wrap tinsel around a small, though not-so willing, fluffy pusscat for annual pic.
  22. Make calls to home in Aus. Enjoy their excitement from afar. Possibly feeling a little homesick around this time so make sure to dash out for early warm spiced drinks, a cuddle and a chuckle with the girls.
  23. Oven time for that lovingly brined turkey and a table to lay. Might be just us. Might be with friends. Might be with any number of “bachelors” in need of companionship this year. Nobody eats alone on TGV at Christmas. A table shared is a table blessed.
  24. Gav is home .. it’s Christmas!
  25. Eat, drink, thank, be merry.

Smiling now as I reread my list. No sadness. No regret. Just joyously happy to 100% know without doubt ..  Christmas .. like life .. is what you make it. So why not make it great?!

Wishing you all a gloriously happy, peaceful and loving Christmas. May 2016 be filled with only good things as we skip along this adventure we call life.

Love and sunshine, Shelley xx


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