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    Indonesian Travel Journal: Happy Holidays!

    Lebaran is this weekend which means I have successfully completed my first Ramadan in a Muslim country. I wasn't affected much. My area of the city has almost as many Christians as Muslims, so the restaurants were still crowded at lunch time. I was more careful about eating, and drinking alcohol, outside during daylight hours and I didn't eat in front of my Muslim co-workers prior to sundown, but other than that, life went on normally.

    Normally, that is, until this week. This week has felt a lot like the week before Christmas: the malls were packed with people grocery shopping for the holiday meals and buying presents for family and friends, everybody had holidays on the brain so work has slowed, many people are leaving the city one or two days early, so traffic is light. This morning when I left my house, it was eerily quiet--the kind of quiet I have experienced upon leaving the house on many Christmas mornings, when nobody has to leave for work or to take the kids to school.

    I've been preparing for the holidays myself, getting ready for a long trip to a gorgeous beach and some of the best coral reefs the world has to offer. But something has been missing, and this morning I realized what it was.

    Although the city definitely has holiday energy, I do not have that familiar feeling in my stomach--that excitement mixed with stress--that has visited me every Christmas that I can remember. I always thought it was because of the number of things to do before Christmas morning--the last minute work, the shopping, the laundry and packing, the seeing friends and attending parties. Turns out, it's more subtle than that. I've had many things to do this week that fall into some of those categories, yet I'm positively relaxed. And, that Christmas feeling doesn't have anything to do with family stress, because I happen to enjoy spending drama-free time with my family.

    So, I've come round to the idea that the stressful excitement comes from an emotional connection to Christmas and all the trappings. Maybe it's partly from an expectation that everything will be the same as always and a fear that maybe something will change. Or, maybe it's sensory memory. When I was a kid, I was always stressed out about what Santa would bring me and excited to get to see my family again after sometimes long periods apart. Perhaps, my body associates that feeling with the run-up to Christmas and takes my emotions on a Scrooge-like ride with the ghost of Christmas past.

    Whatever it is, I kind of miss it.


    **P.S. After today, I will be in town for a grand total of five more days in September, which means long periods of time away from my computer. I'll miss the new activity at Dag! But I'll be back, rested and hopefully not too sunburned, in October!




    Happy Eid al-Fitr, O.

    Yes, Orlando, there is a Santa Claus! ... but he's Muslim.

    Thanks for the link to the great list!

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