When Am I?

I commonly ask myself – usually when China has smacked me in the mouth or tickled my perspective – where AM I? But we’re well into our second year here now, and I’m beginning to accept the fact of my geography. It’s time, it’s “for everything there is a season”, that makes me wonder these days.

Thanksgivings come and go, and the Chinese New Year sparkles and bangs memories of January football Bowl games and Dick Clark into oblivion. That’s okay with me. But now it’s December, another December, but I’m far out at sea about what that means anymore. Oh, there are occasional sightings of a Santa Claus taped up by a shopkeeper who doesn’t know who he is (or what he sure as Jesus isn’t), and the foreigner-friendly restaurants have visions of sugarplums dancing over their cash registers, I’m sure. But my life here mainly revolves around Monday-to-Thursday, and then Friday-to-Sunday axis. When I have occasion to label when I am as December, it’s a head-shaker.

Until this morning, there was no snow. (And the Dalian-deranging white dust on the ground barely qualifies as snow to this chauvinistic Canuck, though I was pleased to see it anyway.) While I am a teacher here, as I mainly am back home, there is no two-week holiday bliss awaiting me. (And no pre-holiday basketball tournaments. No parties. No Turtles. Ah, Turtles…) There will be no family reunions, no homes with bright lights, no crèches, no Christmas eve candlelight service, no plum pudding. Here in Dalian, the only shadows cast by Christmas are the commercial ones, and even they are rather muted in the ex-pat-free zone that we mainly live and breathe in. And my bride’s birthday, traditionally lamented as being overshadowed by Christmas – it’s the 23rd, if you were planning to send a card – is in danger of being neglected when my main seasonal reminders are absent.

But at 7 a.m., my house was filled with the whoops and thunder-footed galumphing of 10-year-old bliss. My little snow goon remembered skiing and snow forts and toboggans. He hasn’t yet remembered that he likely won’t have any of those here, so he was joy en-boyed. He was as thrilled as the year when his southern Ontario father, at about the same age, acculturated into bitter laments over the dead grass of a late December, was transported into delight and renewed belief in the goodness of the Universe: I woke up one Christmas Eve morning to find snow, beautiful snow, covering every tree and house and disappointment. I’d been dreaming of a white Christmas, and apparently Sam had been hoping for a snowball December, too.

In our little nuclear unit, we didn’t make too much of a fuss over Christmas back home, but I still loved many of the feelings of that season. Those cultural warm blankets are harder to come by here. But listen, if you like non-stop fireworks in February, this is absolutely the place to be! (We’re going to Vietnam.)