….Because on Sunday, Junior (another person I know through church, who goes to my home group and is related to Paul and Viv) offered to give me a ride to church – which meant for the first time all year I didn't have to bike down! – and then up to lunch at his family's retreat in the mountains. So we went to the combine service (Samoan and English) at 9:30am and once that was done headed up to the retreat along the main cross island road. Junior's parents, Peter and Evi, run a spiritual retreat center up on Mt. Fiamoe (or Mount "You want to go to sleep?") called Union of the Two Sacred Hearts. I had been up there previously with Father Kevin (my principal), but it was my first time to actually just go up there and enjoy the scenery. Peter, Junior's father, is a former student of Chanel College and is on the Board of Directors for the school – so we knew each other well before I went up there. So, as amazing as it seems – I actually knew a good deal of this family through church and school and I didn't really feel out of place among them. While no one can replace the family I have back in the states, it was nice to spend Christmas Eve with a Samoan family that I actually know pretty well and treats me like one of their own. It gave me a much different feel compared to how I felt last year where this whole place just felt alien. So I hung out there for a good majority of the day until I received a call from my mom – thanks to the power of digicell I didn't have to race home in order to talk to her. So as I was among my surrogate Samoan family, I was talking to part of my American family on top of a mountain with a gorgeous view.
One question I asked a lot of people (both Peace Corps and Samoans) was "Does it feel like Christmas?" and everyone had varying answers to it – but I think that Candice said it best in that a big part of "The Christmas feeling" is having family around or feeling like you're part of a family. As I was hanging out with this family from church today I realized how true that was – even though I miss it, it's not the cold or the lights or the crowds or the myriad of gifts (although they are MUCH appreciated!) that make it feel like Christmas, it's the family that you have around you and the love that is shared that makes it feel like Christmas. This viewpoint is a lot different from last year where I just felt like I had to be around Americans in order to have that "Christmas feeling". Maybe I'm growing up a bit.
I'll be spending Christmas lunch with this family again on top of Mt. Fiamoe and then later on that night, I'll be heading off to the Great White Cloud….New Zealand. So the next time I update this blog I should be in New Zealand, so Merry Christmas to all who are reading this blog. I hope that you get to enjoy the same Christmas feeling I have over these last few days. Manuia le Kerisimasi ma Manuia Tausaga Fou!