I’m writing this with a bit of trepidation. Not that I’m fearful of writing; rather that I’m about to write about a great, big unknown. You see, like many hapless and slack-assed sorts here, I left it too late to book my flight home for Christmas. I watched the airlines’ unfair but predictable prices graduate to outrageous and astronomical sums between a few clicks of the Refresh button. So then I toyed with jumping ship elsewhere – Goa, Istanbul, even Yemen in one moment of acute desperation. Anything not to be here when December 25 rolls around.
Then that fell through. The reason I’m staying is to save money, so I’m going to sit it out. But then I realised that everyone is leaving. EVERYONE. My flatmates are all merrily skipping back to their respective, undoubtedly frosty-windowed homesteads. Other friends are finally ditching Dubai and moving on to pastures new. And the rest are in couples who plan to wake up on Christmas morning amid cheers and popped corks, before getting very merry and eating their dinner off each other.
Not I. When a friend back home asked what I’d be doing for Christmas, I emailed this description of what I think it will look like. ‘Christmas Day. Heating up pasta in a brown-stained pot. The sun beating down onto a white, desolate beach. Silence.’
Now that, in hindsight, is a little overdramatic. But it is a weird sensation knowing that, as an expat, you’re going to be spending Christmas not just away from family and co, but also in one of the least Christmassy places on the planet. It’s not so much a sad feeling, just an overwhelming sense of knowing that you should really be somewhere on that day, doing something.
So then I started trying to get in on others’ Christmas dinners. People I hardly knew were very polite and, in the spirit of Christmas, surprisingly up for it. But then I realised I would end up with folk I didn’t really know, forgetting names, taking more sprouts than is expected of me.
So after all this to-ing and fro-ing on the matter, I’ve given up. I’m facing Christmas alone and, surprisingly, I’m not too worried about the prospect any more. I have no idea what Christmas Day will hold for me; I might end up strolling on the beach, taking a dip in the sea or lying next to the pool all day with a good book. Maybe I’ll bump into someone I haven’t seen for ages who’s in a similar expat predicament. I just don’t know.
But what I do know is that now I’ve stopped freaking out about it, Christmas Day seems like a much-needed day off with a generous helping of soul-enriching solitude. And I do know that there will be turkey. Somewhere.