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Entries about christmas

Saddest Epiphany

St Albans

I don't think I can do this justice to be honest, so I will just say that Dad's funeral and the gatherings afterwards in the church hall and then at our house were inspiring and heartwarming. The church was full, the tributes were amazing, the music beautiful and very fitting and the Christmas tree had deliberately been left up for Epiphany. The rain held off until after the burial - in fact the sun came out at one point - and in the church hall afterwards it was clear to me how many people's lives Dad had positively touched. We had spent ages creating photo boards that were put up around the walls; these were poignant to look at but also showed just how dedicated he was to family and friends, how many strings he had to his bow, his sense of humour and so much else.

Speaking of poignancy, however (and I'm sorry if anyone finds this upsetting to read), the moment I found the most affecting during the whole day was when the hearse arrived outside our house to take us to the church. Mum said something like "Dad's arrived" and I suddenly remembered the bright sunny summer's day when we moved into this house back in 1993. Then a contrasting image from the early hours of Christmas morning invaded my thoughts; the image engraved onto my brain of him leaving the house, unconscious, carried in a wheelchair. I was standing in the hall and I saw his eyelids fly open as he got jolted on the last step or two of the stairs; I got a glimpse of his eyes for a second or two but could tell he was not seeing anything. I guessed right then that he was probably not going to re-enter the house.

Posted by 3Traveller 10:36 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged united_kingdom christmas dad st_albans st_peter's_church Comments (0)

Tragedy

St Albans and London

In this blog's original appearance, on Travelpod, I wrote this retrospectively in January 2014, although I dated it to the day after the events happened. This was because I was not up to posting anything at the time.

This is something I truly hoped I would never have to write here. I don't know how to write it so I will just write what comes into my head.

Dad has died. My lovely warm kind loving Dad, always so generous especially with time and help, who despite a wide range of terrible puns could be very funny...

In the early hours of Christmas morning he lost consciousness and never woke up. He had a massive bleed in his brain which could not clot due to the cancer having spread to his liver.

There were only four of us in the house at the time; him, Mum, Dave and I. The paramedic was brilliant but he couldn't get Dad to open his eyes. I was there in the room while he was there so I saw how good the guy was. Then once backup arrived with the ambulance they carried Dad downstairs in a wheelchair and put him in the ambulance; Mum got in too and off they went to Watford. It was 5.30 am when I watched them depart, came back inside and went back to bed. I couldn't sleep at all. I was unbelievably glad that Dave was with me. We stayed behind to start Christmas dinner preparations, ring round to tell people what had happened, be here once guests started arriving and just hold the fort in general.

I found out later that Dad had some seizures in the ambulance. At least I know that since he had already lost consciousness by then, he almost certainly wouldn't have known about them. Nor, later that day when he was transferred to hospital in London and had emergency brain surgery, would he have been aware of that. He had gone already by then, really, in bed.

Mum came back home for a couple of hours to have some Christmas dinner and a rest. Then we opened some presents. There were twelve of us there by then. Although part of me had guessed that morning that Dad was not going to wake up again, Christmas dinner and present opening was a distraction and made another part of me start to override the other, convincing itself that everything was going to work out OK actually and Dad was going to come back at some stage. I'd be able to give him his special Montecristi (Panama) hat, for example.

So when Mum came in and made an announcement, having slipped out to ring the hospital and see how Dad was doing, it jolted me back to reality. The hospital had asked her if she was coming... indicating that it was now time to come and say our goodbyes. So that is what we did.

They had to wait for 24 hours before doing more brain tests, so we went back to London the next day (well, Mum stayed the night at the hospital; the rest of us went home and then came back). We arrived just in time for the consultant to come and tell us that the brain tests had told them what we had already guessed - there was no brain function left and only the breathing machine was keeping him going. Although I think we had all already guessed this, it was still horrible to hear. So we all said our final goodbyes to Dad before going home. The hospital was great and let us take however long we needed.

I love you Dad and always will.

Posted by 3Traveller 09:28 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london united_kingdom christmas dad mum st_albans Comments (0)

Home soon for Christmas

Guayaquil


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Edit from January 2019: In this blog's original appearance, on Travelpod, I wrote this entry retrospectively on 20th January.

The first leg of my flight home for Christmas began in the evening - a night flight to Amsterdam. I took special care packing because some of the Christmas presents I had for people were quite delicate. So into bubblewrap went the bottle of Zhumir (aguardiente) and glass jar of chimichurri before they went into my hold luggage; into my hand luggage went the clay bowl handmade by a Kichwa-speaking tribe in the Amazon, the tagua nut tree decorations, straw angel tree decoration, polished stone llama and turtles, Montecristi (Panama) hat and the bag of yuca crisps. To protect the Montecristi even more, I put it inside the leather 'Rodeo Montubio' hat I'd got for Dave.

My emotions were pretty complex as I sat on the plane. My joy at the prospect of being home for Christmas was also tempered with some news I had received about Dad. The week before, I found out that his cancer had returned, this time to his spine; then a couple of hours before I left for the airport today, that it has also spread to his liver, lungs and abdomen. Chemotherapy was lined up for him in January. I suspected that this Christmas might be his last one, so I wanted to make sure that it was happy as possible. I couldn't wait to see the look on his face when I gave him his Panama hat and told him that I had bought it directly from the source where it had been handmade - a famous workshop in Cuenca. It wasn't the standard kind either but the grade above. I knew he was desperate for one!

I was flying with KLM for the first time and I had a very positive experience. It did feel strange to hear Dutch being spoken after so many months of Spanish! The food was very good, I managed to get more sleep than I thought I would and I watched the film 'The Butler' which was excellent. However, although I had a window seat, it was directly over the wing, so I couldn't see much below.

Posted by 3Traveller 07:37 Archived in Ecuador Tagged christmas dad ecuador guayaquil Comments (0)

Christmas is coming...

Guayaquil

So Christmas is creeping up quite quickly now, but I have to say that it feels a little bit peculiar being here in hot and sticky Guayaquil at this time of year when it is so alien to what I'm used to in the UK. Last Sunday I went to a Thanksgiving party two American colleagues of mine held at their condo and it felt surreal to be swimming in their pool in 30-32 degrees on 1st December, knowing that in the UK it was freezing cold!

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The party was great, by the way. Company was typically amusing and the pool, weather, food and drink were all lovely. I brought fresh green beans as my contribution, fried with chopped red onion and leek in herby butter. Roast chicken, stuffing, mashed potatoes, mini empanadas, shrimp ceviche, massive shrimps barbecued in their shells and sweetcorn made up the rest of the savoury dishes; there was lemon meringue pie and chocolate cake for dessert.

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Last week I took a few photos of what I see on a typical day here in Guayaquil. I haven't included here any of the school, but here are three of Alborada Sexta, where I'm living - my street, the main street where I catch the bus, and a local hole-in-the-wall empanada counter;

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There are a couple of others from my typical day - the place opposite where I get off the bus, and the outdoor food court where I often get lunch.

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I began teaching three new classes three weeks ago, due to several teachers' timetables being moved about at the same time. My five-hour Saturday intermediate 1 class of public-school English teachers has been replaced in my timetable by a four-hour Friday upper-intermediate 4 class of public-school English teachers; in the evening I now have a pre-advanced 1 class instead of the intermediate 1 class I had before; from Tuesday to Thursday I now have a pre-intermediate 3 class between 4-6pm. Four of the students in the latter class are also English teachers. The Ecuadorian government recently said that all Ecuadorian public school English teachers have to attain B2 standard by a certain time next year, so that's why we're teaching so many teachers.

With the exception of a pre-advanced conversation class I had once a week for a month, in my first six months I was almost exclusively teaching pre-intermediate and intermediate 1 classes. I do enjoy teaching those levels but it's good to be getting experience of different levels now too.

I'd had my intermediate 1 evening class right from when I first arrived here in May. They were pre-intermediate 1 then. I was a bit sad to lose that class because I enjoyed the rapport and observing the dynamics between different students. I felt really touched in the last lesson I had with them but also a bit embarrassed because they were saying some really nice things and for a few seconds I didn't know how to react. Then, a few days later when their next course began, I happened to be passing through reception when two of my now -ex-students stopped me and gave me a present which they said all of their class had contributed towards. It was a wooden painted model boat and a doll from Esmeraldas province made from a coconut husk. They said that they got me those because they remembered me showing them a little llama keyring handmade from twisted reeds that I bought from a market in Cuenca and guessed that I liked handicrafts. I had not expected this at all so it was a really lovely surprise!

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When I got back to my flat after work that night I put them on my bookcase. Now they have been joined by a little Christmas display, courtesy of an amazing parcel I received from Emma and Kate the other day! This was the contents (sorry to make another list of food, but I want to record this for posterity, so here goes!);

An Advent calendar card
A Christmas book ('Why was the Partridge in the Pear Tree? The History of Christmas Carols')
Two glass snowflakes that unfortunately got broken in transit
Three robin decorations
Strawberry milkshake poppets
Revels
Strawberry bonbons
Two Chocolate Orange bars
A bag of rum balls
Treacle toffees
A mini box of Quality Streets
A white chocolate Lion bar
Sweet peanuts
Two boxes of candy sticks
Candy cane
Chocolate coins
Two Dairy Milk mousse snowmen
Two 'Merryteaser' chocolate reindeer
Chocolate Father Christmas
Smarties chocolate penguin
Lindor Chocolate Moment
Milkybar chocolate penguin
Bag of 'Popping Puds'
Tube of strawberry Millions (a bit like Dweebs, but chewier and softer)
Dairy Milk Chocos (like Rolos)

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I've just put the card, robins, snowflakes, candy cane and chocolate coins in the display. The book will join them once I've finished reading it! I'll eat the candy cane and chocolate coins on the day I fly back to the UK (the 20th). Everything else will probably have been eaten by then!

Posted by 3Traveller 15:31 Archived in Ecuador Tagged parties christmas sisters barbecue ecuador guayaquil english_teaching ecuadorian_cuisine Comments (0)

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