We're busy with the holidays.
The kids are off this week and the next two weeks. This week they've been swimming just about every day, we've painted paper snowflakes, listened to Christmas music, worked on a 1000 piece puzzle, and the kids made and wrapped all their Christmas gifts.
Today being Friday, Ian worked a half day before his 3-day weekend. With the weather wonderfully cool for a change (rumor has it the Harmatan, or dust season, is heading our way), the kids and I spent our morning outside. We played with the dog, then had a soccer match, painted pictures by the pool, and went swimming. Ian came home by lunchtime and we took a break to watch a movie before heading to the Christmas bazaar by the SupeRamco. Parking in the SupeRamco lot (it's moderately guarded), we met Monica with her daughter (Monica is a warden for the Embassy, which basically means she's an American contact in the community with the responsibility of keeping track of a number other Americans, should trouble arise in country), and Linda, the DCMs wife.
The Christmas bazaar wasn't really worth the trip, unless you're in the market for shoes, cheap liquor or cheap toys. After about 15 minutes wandering through, we took to the Artisan road right next door. Filled with wood carvings, batik prints, boubous (those long flowing shirt "dresses") and other handmade crafts, it was a lot more interesting and a lot less hassle than the market had been. Granted, you can't stop long at any one shop because while the shopkeeper is a pleasant person willing to bargain or leave you alone if you walk away, the wandering salesmen with their plates of fake Rolex watches or African baubles swarm in and don't take first 10 "Non, Merci" as serious answers. I feel kinda bad when walking around any streets with hawkers because I intentionally look over their heads and pretend I don't hear them even as they're shouting "Madame! Madame!" Honestly, I feel like a snob. And I do want to check out their merchandise, but if you express interest in anything, it's practically a promise to buy. And if you express interest to one person's wares, 3 others with similar wares will appear at your side to get you haggling with all of them.
Some people thrive off that atmosphere. I am not one of them.
So, I miss out on a lot of the neat odds and ends. Except when it comes to chess. In the market, we saw a chess set, but it was unremarkable. Then on Artisan road we saw a vendor with 2 sets, one wooden, one painted bronze figures. Both had fabulous boards, with a border of pressed leather like I'm familiar with from Niamey, Niger. He wanted 70,000cfa for one set (about $140) but in the end Ian decided he didn't really care for the paint job on the bronze African figures, so we passed. Instead, we purchased a fabulous batik print of village life on the Continent. Now to get it framed. That's an adventure for a different day.
So what's in store for the remainder of our Christmas weekend? Christmas Eve we're off to the Management Officer's house for her winter wonderland Christmas village party. The kids have been promised snow and they're very excited. When we get back we'll ask the kids if they'd like to do some night swimming, and we'll have games and movies until everyone crashes. Christmas Day we'll head out to church first thing before opening gifts and having a light lunch. What do I think the kids will love the most? No clue. This year we went -almost- entirely with group gifts, so I hope the kids won't be too disappointed.
Christmas afternoon we're invited to a small potluck at Rona's house (she's our Pol/Econ officer) and on Christmas Monday we're invited to Dave's birthday party (he's our RSO, Regional Security Officer). Though he's said we can't bring him a gift, I'm sure we'll come up with something, probably edible.
So, that's where we'll be this Christmas weekend. Spending time with our friends here in Lome'. And isn't that they way it should be?
Merry Christmas everyone. We wish we were all together, but in lieu of physical presence, know that you are in our thoughts and our prayers for a wonderful and joyous season.