Spending my first Christmas abroad

Recently I’ve realized that one of the things we take for granted are special days we spend with our family and friends. Things that are annually celebrated became habitual and eventually get taken for granted. Today, I spent my first Christmas holidays away from home, away from family, away from familiarity. Who would have known that I would get so homesick. It’s only been about 4 months that I’ve been away, but it has been the longest time in my life that I’ve ever spent away from my family. It’s hard, especially being in a country like China that doesn’t really celebrate the holiday the same way it’s celebrated back in Manila.

Yesterday, me and my flatmates and a few other friends went to this place called Sanlitun which is very popular with foreigners. Since we all couldn’t go home to spend the holidays with family (as the airplane tickets going back home are expensive, and we don’t have christmas holidays away from classes), we all decided that since we are each others family in Beijing, we should celebrate it as best as we could. We went to this restaurant called Tairyo Teppanyaki and had the most expensive meal we’ve ever had so far. Costing us over 200rmb, we got served tons of delicious food cooked right in front of us. Despite being away from the normal traditions that encompass Christmas and Christmas Eve, being in joyful company of friends almost makes up for the loneliness that being away from home brings to the surface.

Despite all that joyous food and company though, I couldn’t help but feel lonely as I found myself celebrating Christmas alone. As the clock turned 12midnight, I found myself alone in Starbucks Sanlitun, with my friends still just going around the area and sight-seeing despite the cold weather outside. It was lonely, unexpectedly lonely and depressing. It made me remember how back home, as we grew older, those excited moments for midnight to strike that eventually became just greetings before bed would seem so far away from the me who was presently so far away from home.

For most Chinese here, Christmas is just a time of giving presents and spending it with their girlfriends or boyfriends. It’s completely different from the way it’s celebrated back home. Everything, from the way Filipinos like to celebrate Christmas early and the way we decorate practically everything with Christmas decor, comparing it to how Chinese just put up small decorations and don’t really decorate till it’s near December 25, makes me miss the way we do things back home. It’s not just about gift-giving or spending time with your boyfriend or girlfriend, being away from home has made me realize that it’s about spending time with family and commemorating the day with special food and music (no matter how annoying or redundant it seems), or making the time and effort to go shopping for something someone wants/needs and to wrap it as best as you can so you can see how they react when they open it or thank you for the gift.

As I’m spending another semester here in China after my current semester ends, I see myself with so many things to do. I need to find work either back home or here in China, while still keeping up with my studies in my university. If it’s meant to happen, I hope I can find work here so that I can keep improving my Mandarin while not depending so much on my family. If I can find a part time job here next semester, that would help me out a lot. As well, I would still love to continue to go around places in Beijing, and even around China, as long as I am able to afford doing so and without it conflicting so much with my studies. I’d love to travel and go out on adventures, but still plan what I need to do on a daily or monthly basis. Being the almost overly OC person my friends keep telling me I am, I hopefully want to see myself and my days filled with new things to do.

It seems like a lot of things to hope for with it still being 2010, but with 2011 just around the corner, there are so many things to have to prepare for and to look forward to. Another year, another great adventure waiting to be discovered!

Also being the ICAn that I am, I’m promoting the use of the http://xvr.in/ url shortener! Support to the school next door and to all my friends from that side of the Church. Apparently, it’s made by a friend of mine who happens to share the same birthday as me. Awesome!

A different kind of url shortener for the person who keeps on being different. Because procrastinating while still being awesome is not just a hobby, it’s a way of life! Cram it with http://xvr.in/

Also, this blog post is an entry to this contest here. Join in for a chance to win a leather Starbucks planner from Malaysia, care of a friend who bought them when he was visiting there. Contest is open to those living in Manila.

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