The Return: on Christmas Vibes, 30, and Debra Messing

Well, that lasted awhile, didn’t it? My last post was nearly a month-and-a-half ago. By my – and your – standards, that is simply unacceptable. It wasn’t that I planned on the extended Christmas hiatus, but looking back, I think it was necessary, to a degree. I needed a little break. I needed to recharge. I needed to focus on my life here a bit – namely, lesson planning for all my classes for the two weeks after the Christmas break (you know, the two weeks that starts today). Also, there was the matter of Christmas parties, of writing Christmas cards, of getting ready for my Thailand trip. And, sadly, some of my dearest friends here – specifically, Erika and Renata – packed their things and left Taiwan for good. Erika moved back to Canada, and Renata headed to Australia to carve out a nice little existence there. So, you know, there was much quality time to be had with them and all of our friends.

So anyway, yeah… my sincerest apologies. I’m sure you all had your own Christmas/Holiday/Hanukkah/Boxing Day/Kwanzaa matters to attend to yourselves; you probably didn’t even realize Nick in Asia had been dormant. Well, now you do, and now we’re together once more, finishing off the expired eggnog, cramming ornaments and decorations out of sight and mind, and wondering once again what our lives will be like when we drag them back out again in 11 months.

What I’d like to do though, over the next couple of days, is backtrack just a bit. I didn’t write anything on here for the last month-and-a-half, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have things to write. Despite what I may have said just a few paragraphs up, I think, above all else, I was just lazy, and that’s why our little blog has gone unattended to.

First things first, though. I hope that you and yours, dear readers, had an absolutely wonderful holiday season. I hope Christmas (or whatever it is you celebrate) was a rousing success, and I hope you rang in 2010 with both fervor and aplomb.

My Christmas was… different… to say the least. The whole Christmas season was surreal here in Taiwan. It’s hard to explain it to someone who hasn’t been here in December. There were Christmas lights and Christmas decorations throughout the city – not everywhere, of course, but in enough places that it was certainly noticeable. The giant bank across from our apartment got in on the act:

So decor was up; many shops and stores were playing Christmas carols; it was even pretty cold out for the entire month. I can’t remember the last time I wore shorts here, or the last time it wasn’t at least a little chilly on the deathcycle at night.

But still, something was off. I’m sure it had a lot to do with being a bit homesick and missing my friends and family at this, my most cherished time of year. But there was something else. It was like, you knew it was Christmas, and it kind of looked like Christmas, but it sure as hell didn’t feel like Christmas.

You know how the holidays just have a feel to them? The reds, the greens, the lights, the pine and peppermint smells, the music, the smiles, the bourbon, the cookies… all of it becomes intertwined within you, and your soul dons a Santa hat and dances for a month straight (though that could just be all the cookies and bourbon causing indigestion and impairing my central nervous system). Maybe I’m just projecting my own personal feelings about the holidays onto everyone, but I’m sorry. I don’t care. I can do that. It’s my blog.

Well, Taiwan, try as it might, doesn’t really duplicate that holiday feel, that Christmas vibe. The lights were up and the carols were filling the cosmetics floors, but it pretty much stopped there. No one wished you Merry Christmas; there were obviously no (real) pine trees anywhere, and peppermint was scarce; no one (save for a few of my friends) even mentioned the phrase “Christmas shopping;” and of course, the name Jesus rings no bells for these people. Of course this is how it is, though. Most of these people aren’t Christian and never have been. Why would they celebrate Christmas? Why would they even care?

Which leads me back to the decorations. Why would they even bother? Is it for me and the other Westerners that comprise maybe .05% of Kaohsiung’s population? The question haunts us all.

So I guess it was nice to have them up, but like I said, there was no holiday vibe that came along with it. It was like a teenager whose mother makes him write a birthday card to a relative in Bolivia he’s never met – you could see the card and read the words, but the spirit of it all fell flatter than Debra Messing.

Ok, now (here comes the catharsis!)… I realize everything I’ve said up above was written from a perspective of what I’m used to, what I’m comfortable with. But I didn’t come on this little adventure expecting to be comfortable all the time and experience all the things I’m used to. So even though my holidays were different and I missed my family and friends back home, I made my own, new adventure. I have new holiday stories.

I had Christmas parties with my students; I found excellent Engrish Christmas cards and sent them off to folks back home; AND, I spent Christmas and the subsequent days in Thailand, losing money but gaining perspective.

Also, I turned 30. So there’s that.

I’ll be writing about all of that and more in the coming days.

Thanks for coming back. The place wasn’t the same without you.

~ by Nick on January 6, 2010.

7 Responses to “The Return: on Christmas Vibes, 30, and Debra Messing”

  1. I think missionaries are more enterprising than you give them credit for. Also, there are a number of non-Christian religions for which the time around the winter solstice is somehow special.

  2. hey Nick. I freaking LOVED the suicidal Santa and Murderous Reindeer cards. If only I knew what all those squiggly lines meant, it might be even funnier. 🙂

  3. I turned 30, too by the way. 😦

  4. […] I implied in yesterday’s post, living here in Taiwan affords me the opportunity to live a completely different existence from […]

  5. I was wondering what happened to “Nick in Asia!” See you in less than 2 months!!

  6. Yay Nick! Congrats on making it to 30! 😉

    Surreal indeed, the whole Christmas in Taiwan thing, even typing it feels weird. I like your analogy of writing to an unknown relative in Bolivia.

    Here’s a quick poem that I wrote in between trainings that may capture the feeling, or at least as I interpreted it.


    Sputtering along the edges of some town that I used to know.

    I reach for a phantom pack of cigarettes and regret the fact that I only have gum.

    I need to think more and imagine less.

    Feel the wet clovers and lichen licked stones that cool the souls or soles of my feet.

    DO NOT ONLY BREATHE in the clouds, the smoke that water becomes, the nourishment of ether bugs.

    If only I could eat the clouds and shit a dream–concrete, real, ripe, and ready.

  7. […] I mentioned in my triumphant return blog, I sent out Christmas cards to a few people this holiday season. Usually, I’m not really the […]

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