Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Our first Christmas in Vancouver, and our first Christmas ever away from home. I posted about the build-up to it last month, admitting that I wasn't sure how I'd actually feel on the morning of the 25th. But now that we're here, I feel great.

Of course it's not the same, but it's not depressingly lonely or anything. I rang home at 2am in the morning Vancouver time to say hi on the morning of their day. Then I staggered off to bed before rising seven hours later.

I found a store that sells Irish and UK goods yesterday, so I picked up some lovely apple and pork sausages, rashers, chocolate hob-nobs, custard and Christmas pudding, as well as a few other bits and pieces. I surprised Claire this morning with the breakfast and a genuine Irish Cadbury's selection box! She devoured the fudge bar immediately.

Claire and I just want to wish everyone that reads this a very Merry Christmas, and a safe and happy New Year. We hope 2012 is as special for you as 2011 was for us.

Missing you all, and holding you in our thoughts at this festive season.


Denis and Claire.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

a.k.a. Santa Claus

I haven't really been feeling in the festive mood recently. Or, to be exact, I have been feeling festive, just not as much as previous years. We went to see the Vancouver Christmas Parade, I've been to the wonderful German Christmas Market several times and the lights and seasonal music everywhere have been keeping me jolly and merry, humming tunes while reading in coffee shops.

But it's not the same as all those Christmas's back home. I don't have the same friends to share it all with. I'm not sitting in Gloria Jeans sipping coffee with Bob, dreading that the next song we hear might be "Fairytale of New York"[1], or walking through the brightly coloured evening streets with Jp, checking out those special offers in Game that crop up around this time of the year. I don't have the annual seasonal get-together with my friends from Early Childhood Studies that I never saw often enough while living in Cork, and certainly don't now. I can't make it to the Christmas party, with fine foods, rocking Rock Bands and awesome friends, or the New Years Eve house party, formal wear or otherwise.

It's not that I'm sitting at home feeling sorry for myself, I am having a good time and enjoying Christmas in Vancouver, it was just missing a little magic.

But today I got to be the magic. I got to be Santa Claus.

This morning I was working in a toddler room when the 3-5 supervisor arrived up. She spotted me and made a direct beeline across the room. She opened the conversation with "How would you like to make twenty-four children very happy" and I saw where this was going very quickly. I hesitantly accepted, hoping that she didn't notice that I was screaming and jumping with joy inside.

I had to wait the whole day, over seven hours between being asked and getting to try on the famous red suit. My heart was racing, and there were times I just had to stop doing whatever I was doing at the time and calm myself for a moment.

I put on the costume. It was really nice quality, even including a tummy padding, for us Santas a bit on the naturally slim side! Once everything else was in place, I put on my own leather gloves to almost finish it off, as the suit didn't include any. Then I carefully removed my glasses, putting them in a place even I, in my near blind state, could find them later, and put on the Santa glasses.

The transformation was complete, and I was ready for my grand entrance.

The children were amazed. As each one pressed forward to tell me about their day, or some other vitally important fact I should know according to their view on the current situation as it stands[2], all of them were stunned into silence when Santa addressed them by name! One little boy, the younger brother of a 3-5 made it to my seat and just starred up at me when I called him by name, as I exclaimed "Oh my! Is that really you? Look how tall you've gown. Last years you were this tall, now you're this tall! Goodness me."[3]

Everyone wanted a photo with me, and no matter how close they got, none of the 3-5 year olds seemed to have the slightest clue who was talking to them beneath the beard. Some of the older brothers that I know from the after-school program circled me like sharks for a few minutes, before sneaking up to my ear to whisper "I know you're not the real Santa. I know your name... Denis." When they did, I simply turned to them, smiled, winked and did the Kellogg's-Santa by-the-fire-who-has-been-spotted-by-the-little-girl-finger-to-lip-shhh, and they trotted off happy to have uncovered the truth.

Once I was done, and before I collapsed from heat-stroke (Santa's costume is designed for the North Pole, kiddies, not a crowded classroom), I headed back toward my secret lair (the office) to change back into Denis. On the way, I bumped into one of the toddlers that I had spent the whole day working with. I stopped to greet her by name and wish her a very merry Christmas and got a look of horror and loud screaming for my efforts[4]. In an attempt to make things right, and without any of the 3-5's around, I slipped off the beard and said "Look! It's me, Denis." The reaction was a moment of stunned silence punctured by a louder scream of "Noooooo!!", Darth Vader-style.

Back to normal, I stopped by the toddlers on my way home and found the friend I had upset still with a single tear on her cheek, but otherwise playing happily in the playroom. One of the staff told me they had comforted her by telling her that it was just Denis wearing dress-up clothes like the toddlers do in the home area, to which she had said "No Denis. Scary Santa." I asked her who she met downstairs to which she excitedly replied "Santa!" Then I asked her who was wearing the Santa dress-up clothes. She looked at me with the confused expression that means "Your question makes no sense" and returned to playing with friends. So long as she doesn't associate me with anything scary, I call that a win.

I stopped by a much emptier 3-5 room on my way out to thank the supervisor for allowing me to be a part for that magical moment for the children. I made sure to tell her that it was special for me too.

Today made my Christmas for 2011. I'll be sure to post again if something even more awesome happens, but to be honest, this has set the bar so ridiculously high, I just don't see that happening. It may not be the best Christmas I've ever had (1991, Lego Pirate ship), but it will forever be one that I will remember and cherish.

I can put up with never being wealthy or changing the whole world if I can make one child's world special now and then. Today, I did that twenty-four times over.

[1]- One of the greatest joys of my life here in Vancouver so far was discovering that no-one seems to recognise that song! It gets no playtime here. I may go the entire run up to Christmas without ever hearing it. If I make it, I'll try to remember to play it on the 25th to celebrate.
[2]- I was utterly amazed and impressed with how few of the children told me what they wanted, instead telling me about their day, their friends, or the songs they just sang. Material gifts were unimportant compared to the reason they were happy right this second. These kids are awesome!
[3]- I used that line on as many kids as I could get away with, and every one of them loved it, smiling in shocked silence at how Santa knew them by name and ever remembered them from last year!
[4]- To be fair, if a wild haired man with a crazy beard I've never seen before came up and talked to me using my name, I'd be pretty freaked out too. In hindsight, she was pretty justified in her reaction.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

It Was Also Bravestarr's Horse

I did it! Thirty posts in thirty days over the course of November. I didn't think I'd actually manage it, and only have done so through a slight bit of cheating and bending of the rules. I think the idea is to post daily, but I missed that on two occasions. Despite that, I did get in the thirty posts within the allotted month.

This only stands as a personal achievement. I didn't raise money for a cause or make anyone's lives better because of what I wrote (not that I'm aware of anyway). My friend Cian took part in Movember and raised money for prostate cancer awareness. His was a much better cause, all told. To alleviate my guilt, I donated to his cause. Also, he had a smashing 'tash.

But I'm proud of what I did. The quality of posts meandered a bit, sliding below the imaginary average level this blog aspires to maintain. There were funny posts, nostalgic posts and far too many posts about video games! It started with an angry letter to Google and finished with some thoughts on the value of living. But they were all fun to write. Once or twice I arrived home from work without a single idea on what to post that evening. I would just turn on the laptop and start typing. Those often turned out to be my favourites.

Now that it's all done, you might be interested in some facts:

  • I recorded 1,684 page views from November 1st to 30th across the entire blog, not all for the new material, but there was a marked jump from the 700 view per month I've been averaging since June. 
  • Taken as they stand, my total word count is an astonishing 14,948 words, averaging just short of 500 words per post (498.26), peaking at 1,723 and dipping as low as 112.
  • If you removed the cut'n'pasted poem from my post on the 5th of November (which I obviously didn't write, nor had to retype) from the count, it stands at 14,873, or an average of 495.76 words per post, peaking at 1,723 and dipping as low as 37 in the altered post.
  • The median word count was 419.
  • There were 10 comments left.
  • Currently, the highest viewcount for a single post is 86, for the very first post. Second place has 32 views.
  • There are 22 images and one video
  • The instances of blatant disregard toward the conventions for the proper use of italics and bolding must number somewhere in the hundreds.
  • Occurrences of spelling and grammatical errors are similarly numbered.

I had a lot of fun completing my 30/30 (now you should get the title's reference, if you hadn't before this). Hopefully I'll try it again next year and compare the results.

How were they to read? Generally boring? Too long? Painful to view on account of the previously mentioned disregard for literary conventions? Feel free to let me know in the comments.

And thanks for reading.