Ah, Christmas at Harnas. Last night the staff, volunteers, guests, and family all met together in the boma (an outside eating area). While we waited for Santa Claus to show up, the Bushmen and their families broke out in spontaneous songs. So rhythmic and addictive, everyone was clapping along while they sang.
Then Santa appeared. This year it was Marieta's boyfriend Derek. He came to hand out presents to bushman children, volunteers, and staff. But what he hadn't counted on was his Great Dane, Lexi. She adores Derek and never leaves his side--and gets a little jealous if people come between her and him. She's definitely a "Daddy's Girl"--despite her size, she's a puppy at heart. Well, she knew it was Derek behind that beard and red outfit, and she couldn't understand why all these people were coming between them. Derek had to keep pushing this huge dog out of the way so the children could come up and get their presents. It was pretty hilarious--Santa with his own bodyguard. I told him later we should have just put antlers and a red nose on her and then the children wouldn't have been confused about why they had to fight a dog to get to Santa.
This morning we had a short program with the children singing and dancing and re-creating the nativity scene, then a nice brunch. Everyone ate together and the rain stayed away so we could all eat outside. Then everyone was off to take care of animals and relax for the day. Very low-key.
America has become so money-oriented when it comes to Christmas. It's all about buying, buying, buying. Christmas starts at Halloween and just escalates until Dec. 25. I've been here at Harnas 5 out of the last 6 Christmases and I've really come to love the simplicity and authenticity. Children singing. Few gifts. Friends coming together. At times my eyes blur with the grateful tears for the basic and simple human connection--dogs and cheetahs included. Merry Christmas.