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Christmas in Dibba

My Christmas day here in Dibba was so different from any Christmas I've ever had. For twenty six years straight, I have spent Christmas in Nashville, Tennessee with my mom, my dad and mom's side of the family. My two cousins have literally never had a single Christmas without me, and I have never spent Christmas away from my family.

Initially I thought that Christmas would feel like any other day here- it was warm and sunny just like it is 99% of the time in Dibba- definitely not the Christmas weather I'm accustomed to. We live in a Muslim country- so Christmas is just business as usual for all of our neighbors and many of our clients. There were no Christmas lights on houses or music playing in stores.

Our local grocery store Lulu did sell Christmas decorations- much to our amazement. I tried to take a photo with my iphone to show you guys- but the security guard wouldn't let me. Lulu had fake trees and ornaments and bows and garlands and everything! We bought a few stars and garlands to hang up around our house. Jen bought adorable cards for everyone and presented them to us on Christmas eve- which definitely helped get everyone into the mood.

Christmas morning I got up at 3:30am to skype with my family back home who were 9 hours behind me. As I walked through the dark of the living room to the front door, I found a package in my path. It was a large tin, full of chocolates. There was a note on it-
For the yellow house, stay good, Love Santa
I have to say, it was really awesome to get a present from Santa all the way over here on Christmas morning! Then I was off to the office to get on skype.
My family was about to sit down to Christmas eve dinner, but they made time to gather around the glow of the computer screen to talk to me. It was so nice to see everyone and chat for a little while. I felt like I wasn't missing out entirely on Christmas.

When I came back home, I had to get some sleep, for I had to be at work at 8am- Tony and I had a  paddling and climbing trip with private clients to lead. When we woke up, Tony pulled out a present for me- a big bag of mixed chocolates- included chocolate covered Cocoa Puffs (where were those when I was 5?) We had assumed our clients would be Muslim- who else would schedule a trip on Christmas day? But much to our surprise (and delight) our clients were American! They were here on vacation. Two of the women were from Texas and one was from New Jersey. I have to say we really enjoyed hearing their southern accents- they brought a little feeling of home to Dibba. We took them climbing in the wadi in the morning, then we went paddling in the afternoon.

Trying to get into the Christmas spirit, Tony and I wore our Santa hats on our kayaking trip- of course they looked ridiculously out of place in warm waters of the Omani gulf.
Me paddling in my Santa hat

Tony in his Santa Hat

Tony- the sea kayaking Santa!
When we landed on the beach, some of our friends were there to greet us. Matty bounded through the water toward me, gave me a big hug to say Merry Christmas. Meg and David were taking amazingly ridiculous photos on the beach and wishing us well. We pulled our boats out of harms way, said farewell to our clients, and headed to Christmas dinner which all of our coworkers had been slaving away all day to prepare.

Meg and me, excited for Christmas dinner

Everyone gathered at the "brown house" for dinner. Our coworkers roasted two giant turkeys, and made all the fixings you find at a traditional British Christmas dinner. All 17+ish of us sat down to a huge table to feast, complete with lit candles and a small speaker playing Christmas songs. Sitting around the table, surrounded by friends in a warm, comfy home- it definitely felt like Christmas. It was really nice to find comfort and fellowship with our friends and coworkers so far from home, and so far from our families.
Our massive table
Before we ate, we had to have a toast, and pull our "poppers," small, tubular things in wrapper paper that you pull apart with a friend. If you win, you get what's inside- a prize, a hat, a joke and a proverb. We all got paper crowns in various colors. Tony got a maze game, I got the world's smalled sewing kit, and Callum (across the table from me) got a tiny water gun, which he promptly used to squirt Luke with.
Tony and me

Callum squirting Luke with his new water gun
We had roasted parsnips & carrots, cranberry sauce, turkey & dressing, brown gravy, bread sauce, sausages wrapped in bacon, rolls, Yorkshire pudding and mashed potatoes. 

My plate, the first serving
Aaron is excited!
Poor Nick! We ran out of plates!

After dinner Santa Matt handed our our Secret Santa presents. I got a really nice box of chocolates, and Tony got a travel mug.

Dessert included mince meat pies and Griz's chocolate log. Griz's chocolate cake log was probably the most amazing desert ever- sorry Mom, Dad, Deborah, Nanny and Lou! I could have eaten the entire thing.
Griz's amazing Chocolate Cake Log
So, what are these weird dishes we were served? Here goes:
Bread Sauce: a creamy, semi-lumpy sauce made with milk, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and shredded bread, you're supposed to put it on turkey- shocking, I know
Yorkshire Pudding: Imagine the moist versions of cornbread- but without cornmeal- made with smooth wheat flour
Mince Meat Pies: small pies filled with chopped, spiced fruit and sprinkled with powdered sugar
Roasted Parsnips + Carrots: Slice carrots, parsnips and onions in large pieces, drizzle with honey, sprinkle with sugar, salt and pepper and bake. MMMMmmm so good!

After desert we all sat down to play Wii together, with Matty's multiple remote control cars zooming around at our feet, and Dee's new remote control helicopter zooming around our heads, the Christmas music still blaring in the background. I kicked butt at Mario Kart racing, by the way. When the residents of the brown house started saying goodnight, we moved the party to the yellow house- for cheese and wine.

On the front porch of the yellow house, enjoying our selections