this year, the holidays have caught us WAY off guard and with a long list of presents that remain to be purchased – talk about last minute! i tried to convince my family to do a “green” christmas and give each other “handmade, re-gifted or recycled” gifts, in light of the dire economic situation that our country is experiencing, but they didn’t buy it :( even our christmas tree, which languishes in the middle of our living room without a single glittering light or multicolored globe hung on it, is a sad reminder of our neglect (i’ve managed to make some good progress on it last weekend, though).
the recipe for holiday disaster began cooking early on, more precisely, in late november, when, after three weeks of unadulterated vacation bliss, we got stranded in cambodia, unable to return to bangkok to catch our return flight to the u.s. it turns out, a group of thai protesters had picked the exact day of our departure from cambodia to occupy all of bangkok’s airports in an effort to force their prime minister out of office. this single act of defiance effectively paralyzed all air traffic in and out of the country, marooning thousands of tourists and business folk alike. tension could be cut with a butter knife at the bangkok airways counter in siem reap, cambodia, as western tourists attempted to “reason” with timid thai airline employees (in a very un-thai way, should I say) by frantically waving arms overhead and screaming expletives at the top of their lungs.
by the third day of the coup, and after several hours of overseas phone calls to continental airlines and countless more hours spent in internet cafés looking for fares online, we were able to get a regional flight out of phnom penh to hong kong, where continental had rerouted our return home – at no additional cost! i never thought i’d say this, but god bless continental airlines! and god bless my dear juan for cleverly maneuveriing through layers of bureaucracy at the local travel agency to get us back home in one piece.
on 3rd of december we landed back in houston and with our bags still packed and barely over (or not really over) the jet lag, launched right into a another crazy-busy week. it all went downhill after that. the bags never got unpacked, the christmas decorations sat idle on our living room floor for weeks, and a flurry of holiday events, a weekend away to kansas city, a visiting friend from kuwait, and some late (and very early) hours at work to make up for lost time, reduced our holiday “prep” time pretty much to nil.
thus, we find ourselves at the brink of christmas and, much to our dismay, having to send our holiday greeting "electronically". however impersonal this may seem, it does not diminish the sentiment within, as we wish happy holidays to those who are very close to our hearts despite the multiple continents and time zones between us.
in spite of the near-miss in s.e. asia and the last minute holiday rush, we really have nothing to complain about as 2008 has been good to us: we continue to be in excellent physical health, we still have a job – which, sadly, is more than can be said about thousands of our compatriots – and we continue to enjoy the love and companionship of our family and friends, the source of all our strength.
thus, it is with great joy that we bid farewell to a good year, and welcome a new one with brutal optimism. may you have a recession-proof holiday with plenty of reasons to celebrate, and may the party continue well into 2009.