Archives for category: Christmas

This week I received my first and only Christmas card (thanks Bee!). No worries: If past years are anything to go by, there’ll be a steady trickle arriving from now until Easter. I keep them in storage for the following Christmas.


Lots of you ask me what Christmas in Togo is like. Well, December is the windy, dusty Harmattan season, so the real challenge is getting the Christmas tree on the veranda not to blow over in the early morning. The veranda is festooned with Christmas lights and balloons, and I am celebrating with Andy and Kristen Weathers, their two boys, Javan (9) and Josh (6), and their friend Lynette.

Javan and Josh showed a grim fascination in the slaughtering of two large ducks on Christmas Eve. We’ve been going out for hikes each afternoon, and making 3D models of the Taj Mahal and the Eiffel Tower.

We also had a beautiful time of prayer in the oratory on Christmas Eve, in three languages – French, English and Kabiye. We meditated on “Christ, the light of the world” as represented in van Hondhorst’s Adoration of the Shepherds (below), and sang Silent Night together.

Visited the Musée d’Orsay last week. They have a new acquisition – Edward Burne-Jones’ tapestry The Adoration of the Kings. It’s always been one of my favourite nativity scenes, but to see the original hanging there close enough to touch was one of those special moments. I had a hard job tearing myself away from it.

Happy Christmas to friends and family around the world!

PS. I fly to Togo on 3rd January.

Edward Burne Jones The Adoration of the Kings (1887)

Edward Burne Jones The Adoration of the Kings (1887)

On boxing day, I invited all my employees and their families to a party at my place, 25 people in all. Once I had welcomed everyone, and made sure they were all happily sitting down with a calabash of millet beer, I finally sat down myself. And as I did so I sighed, relieved to be able to take short rest from all the activity.

“Taamuuzi !” said the old lady next to me abruptly.

A new verb to me, but I understood what she meant straight away because of the context: “Don’t sigh!” The old lady went on to explain, “Kabiye people never sigh. It sounds as if you’re bored with your present company or fed up with life.”

This is going to be a difficult one to put into practice. Many times a day I am at a loss to know what is going on around me. I’m learning a foreign language which bears no relation to anything remotely English. I live in a tropical climate where it is often uncomfortably hot by 8am. I’m working on a PhD thesis that is stretching me well beyond my comfort zone. All these things sap my energy, and I am very conscious that I sigh many times a day, if not out of exhaustion then bewilderment.

But if I want to integrate socially here, from now on I need to keep more of a check on myself. And maybe someday I’ll manage to catch someone else out and have the satisfaction of integrating one more new verb into my repertoire, “Taamuuzi!”