Nicole and I have enjoyed a busy twenty-four hours. Last night, Christmas Eve, "Dr. Paul" from Nicole's NGO had us over to his soon-to-be in-laws for dinner and festivities. And by "festivities," I mean me dressed up as Santa Claus. Talk about elaborate. During the day Dr. Paul told the gang that I was sick and that "Madame Nicole" would be by herself. I arrived fifteen minutes later than they did--ever killed fifteen minutes in Beirut while dressed as Santa?--and everybody was pretty shocked. Ahead of time, Dr. Paul had instructed me not to speak, since English would give away that I was Madame Nicole's husband. He also explained that "ho ho ho" sounds too American so he taught me a more gutteral version that sounded like the coughs of a sick animal. So Dr. Paul's nieces and nephews, excited to see Santa, were met with me, speechless, gesturing elaborately, giving hugs, and posing for pictures with every possible combination of family members--me (Santa) and the kids, me and the adults, me and the housekeepers, etc. And all the while, I in my Santa outfit said nothing, making the coughing noises that I had been taught. Were the kids scared? Yes, a little bit.
Eventually I took my leave, changed back into civilian clothes, and showed up at the in-laws' place, explaining that I felt better and took a taxi over to join everybody. For the second time, we got to speak Spanish in the Middle East. One of the sisters-in-law is from Puerto Rico. I've said it before and I'll say it again. The Lebanese love to party. At one point, I had a glass of water in front of me and the father-in-law (went to AUB and speaks great English) called over a housekeeper and said, "Get that water out of here!," instructing her to replace it with another glass of wine. We had a good time. Dinner didn't start until about 10:30, and consisted of turkey with the usual trimmings, roast beef with the usual trimmings, zaatar and cheese pies along with hummus and tabbouli, a big tray of deli meats, a big tray of fancy cheeses, and loads of desserts. Nothing like the world's most humongous meal, consumed during the witching hour. Definitely was nice to celebrate family style. The NGO is already sad, anticipating Nicole's departure next summer.
Today was round two of holiday cheer. Several of my colleagues from the English Department, and two of my graduate students came over to our place today for brunch. I cooked pasta with olive oil and garlic (a Christmas Eve tradition, shuffled to Christmas Day), picked up some spinach pies at Snack Faysal down the block, and we ate outside on the balcony. One of the grad students is applying to my old doctoral program and I hope my letter of recommendation doesn't weaken his application too much. Kidding. The other teaches Chinese at AUB and is taking English grad classes to strengthen his own written English and learn more about linguistics and rhetoric. Cool guy.
Now, it's all about packing. We fly to Egypt at 5:00 a.m. tomorrow, so we're looking at a middle-of-the-night taxi to Beirut airport. We'll be offline for a week or so, checking out pyramids and such. I thought I'd never take a cruise but I've made an exception for the Nile, as an homage to Agatha Christie. See you all in the New Year. Come back to the blog on January 2 everybody.
Christmas Pictures Here