Christmas 1969

From Wiki

Jump to: navigation, search

Christmas 1969 form letter home by Andy Buhler, CUSO, 69-71

It has been rumored that Christmas is on its way; that snows have come to blanket the land; and the mercury has huddled down the bulb to get warm.

From here it is difficult to imagine that December really has arrived. Our marigolds and azaleas, struggling to survive in the parched ground, still retain a few droopy blooms. Some of the stalks of guinea-corn, yet unharvested, stand ripe and heavy with seed near the house. The dry dust of Harmattan hazes out the horizon.

Shirtless, I sit outside the compound house and watch the endless passage of people and of burros heavily laden with bundles of firewood, millet, sugar cane, or laterite soil to make housing bricks. Men, women and children all carry some form of baggage on their heads: perhaps their pots and pans, maybe a calabash full of oranges, or a tray piled high with cigarettes, kola nuts and candies.

I close my eyes and try to imagine snow, Christmas trees festooned with lights, roast turkey and pudding, and strolling carolers bundled about with thick coats, singing in the crisp cold air. However, I can’t dream for too long or I’ll get sunburned.

Here in northern Nigeria about 90% of the people are Moslems. The Fulani are nomads who wander north or south with the seasons herding their long-horned Ankoli cattle. The Hausas are more sedentary and either farm or become engaged in trading. Most of the Hausas live in or around old walled cities: those within the walls in mud-walled compounds, those outside the wall in mud, cinderblock, or low frame houses.

Since most are Moslems, Christmas is not such a celebrated occasion here as it is in the Western world. A few Lebanese stores catering to the European clientele have brought in decorations and cards, and will soon bring in Father Christmas for the kids -- but prices are high because of the custom duties imposed during this time of unrest here. The Moslems are just finishing their month-long fast (Ramadan) and are busy preparing for the three days (December 8-10) of celebration and prayers that they call Sallah. This will be small Sallah with big Sallah coming in February.

What will I do for Christmas? I’ve been invited out for Christmas supper to the home of a couple of British volunteers (VSOs). It might consist of red pepper or groundnut soup, roast chicken with beans and carrots, mashed African yam, perhaps some sweet potato and a grapefruit / orange / banana fruit salad for dessert. Then we’ll light a candle, turn out the lights and with misty eyes, we’ll sing, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.” My two housemates, Wayne and Ken, have chipped in with me to buy our community-effort Christmas present -- a small record player (next Christmas we hope to be able to afford batteries and records for it). It will be nice to hear some of the pops and classics again as a change from African highlife music or drums.

I’ve rambled on long enough. Just let me leave you with a couple of thoughts for Christmas. As you gather around your table with family and friends -- think for a moment of the homeless and the orphans, the aged and infirm. As you longingly eye the turkey -- remember those who are starving. When you open your gifts -- know that many haven’t even the barest essentials. The aged, the homeless, the destitute, the starving -- they are not all over here, some are probably in your own home town. If you can -- visit a lonely old pensioner, help someone in need, give a stranger a smile and be kind to your neighbour, whoever he or she might happen to be.

Personal tools