Our first Christmas Overseas was strange to begin with but ultimately great. Usually Christmas Day is spent with either Anita’s family or Graham’s. So this first Christmas in Tanzania was always going to be different. The weather added to the unusualness of the day with high temperatures throughout.
We tried to keep up as many traditions as possible. The day started with stockings for the kids – though the lack of Satsumas and the limited range of little gifts made for depleted stockings overall. Then it was breakfast, as usual we indulged in our Christmas Breakfast of Kidneys and Bacon. The former Beef Kidney from the local butcher and the latter expensively purchased from the nearby supermarket at price of 11000 TZS (over £3). We also added in Oyster Mushrooms (somewhat cheaper at 5000 TZS), our first fresh mushrooms since our arrival.
After Breakfast we opened our presents. Many of these were vouchers for electronic downloads, these were a welcome addition to the physical presents which we had for each other and thanks to my Sister-in-Law. Whether real or virtual we thank all our relatives for their kindness – thank you emails / letters will follow in due course. We are looking forward to choosing and downloading our Books, Music and / or Videos in the coming days.
One major frustration was the internet. Our WiFi contract ran out at 10am, as we had used all our data. Not only did this prevent us from immediately downloading anything from our Christmas Gifts, but also destroyed any chance of a FaceTime chat with my family scheduled for noon. As we scrambled around to sort out an update the remaining 3G connection was too slow to support either video or audio and we gave up. Meanwhile Anita managed to source a top up from the local duka (shop), then embarked on the process of adding credit to the modem (not a straight forward process).
Then began the process of peeling, chopping and preparing vegetables for our shared compound Christmas Dinner.
Four families were going to gather together for a meal, along with relatives from the UK. We created some of our traditional family favorites including Mulled Red Cabbage (courtesy of a smuggled in red cabbage, locally sourced beetroot an apples and red wine with Zanzibar spices!) and Carrots with Orange and Coriander as well as Roast potatoes, ratatouille and peas. Others brought pork and Chicken together with stuffing, sausage meat, parsnips etc. We were also on puddings, the planned Compote of Oranges morphed into Spiced Orange and Plums due to the variability and poor quality Oranges we had. Even so it was delicious as was the Ginger and Mango upside down cake! Others brough Christmas Pud and Ice Cream as well as Chocolate Hedgehog. All in all a great feast by 18 people in our living room (the largest on the compound ). A power cut and heavy rain did nothing to spoil a great meal.
After dinner (and washing up!) we embarked on an afternoon / evening of games including Wink Murder, the Elephant Game, the Chocolate Game and the the Cereal Box Challenge. These were all great silly fun helped by some wine, Kantagi and Amarula to liven up proceedings (in moderation of course!). All in all it was a fabulous party and for all of us made being far from home and loved ones a little less difficult, also creating closer bonds between the different family groups.
After everyone had gone home it was a chance to watch Doctor Who on iPlayer at 9:15pm local time. Sadly although we had restored our WiFi there was so little bandwidth that it kept buffering resulting in an unwatchable program. We resorted to downloading overnight for watching on Boxing Day. A Christmas tradition delayed!
There was however enough Bandwidth to allow us the chance to FaceTime my family again (Anita’s were sadly unreachable on Christmas Day, being away and out of reach of any form of broadband). It was great to speak properly and see everyone at home.
In the end Christmas here was a bit different to usual, but with a sprinkling of tradition and some new experiences to make the day better for all. We certainly miss our families but the ability to contact them using video chat makes things a lot easier.
We hope that all who read this blog wherever you are in the world have had a great Christmas and we wish you all (not for the last time) a Happy New Year!
A Zanzibar Nativity