Friday, December 24, 2010

"Hippy Hollyday"

At the start of December, we made an advent calendar, a way of counting down to the Big Day.  Each of us took a little time to paint, draw, and glue our contributions. 





Groom's little cartoon panels were my favorite addition to the calendar, so I asked him to scan them in and compile them.  If you haven't been visiting his blog of our time in Turkey, do head over to http://www.layingfallow.com/:



In the last few weeks, as we've counted down the days, opening a new door on the calendar each day, we've also gotten together with new friends and made crafts, done some secret shopping, mailed off letters to Santa requesting specific gifts (Paco sent Santa, under separate cover, a question:  "What is your favorite kind of cookie?"  Santa replied a couple weeks later, surprising us with a note tacked to the fridge:  "Sugar!"), and put up the most hilarious fake Charlie Brown Christmas tree ever.  As someone who doesn't particularly like the tree-mounting and tree-undoing aspects of the holiday, I was delighted to hang only a handful of ornaments on a tiny little bit of Not Much.


And now it's Christmas Eve, and Paco swears he won't sleep at all tonight.  I assure him, in a vaguely threatening tone, that Santa doesn't come unless kids are asleep.  Our Girl is several years past Santa belief, so we anticipate she'll conk out nicely.  As Paco riddled out how Santa is going to get down one of our chimneys, what with them being blocked by soba pipes ("Oh no!  Santa is going to get sucked into the soba pipe and get burned up!"), it occurred to us that, because we have two tons of the stuff to fuel the sobas, there has never been an easier year to put a lump of coal in someone's stocking.

Note to self:  line stocking with plastic bag.

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For our pagan-leaning family, the celebration is as much about The Solstice and sharing gifts and appreciating darkness and light and eating cookies as anything else.  However, despite my heathenish spirit, I find myself contemplating the power of Christ:

This week, as we sat in a government building in a city near our village, filling out form after form, walking from one office to another, paying fees, getting help from some friends with translating, chasing down our residency permits, we heard a voice ask our friend Gulcan, in accented English,

"These people you are with, where are they from?"

Gulcan answered, "They're from America."

I lifted my head from an application form and saw a beautiful seventeen-year-old girl sitting a few chairs down.  While she had the exotic coloring and bearing of a Middle Eastern female, she wore a cross around her neck.  This poised teenager continued, "If they are from America, why are they here?"

Gulcan filled her in:  "They are applying for residency permits so that they do not run into any visa problems in the next few months."

"No," clarified the girl, "I mean why are they in Turkey?"

"Well," Gulcan told her, "They want to learn about the country and culture and learn some language."

The girl, still a bit confused, gave a small chuckle.  "So they came here on purpose and left America?  Are they Christian?"

Gulcan checked in with me (because it was nearing the end of the work day, I kept at my task of hurriedly copying down passport numbers onto four forms before the offices closed) on the religion question and then explained, "They are not religious. They will go back to America after some months here, but, yes, they chose to come here.  Why are you here?"

At that point, this girl gestured to her family, who were sitting all around her, "We are Iranian, and we are Christians.  We had to leave.  With secrecy and great difficulty, we have made it into Turkey and have gotten this far.  Now we are trying to get a refugee status so that we can be safe and try to make some money.  Our goal is to get out of Turkey and one day, God willing, get to America.  All we want is to get to America so that we can worship freely.  That's why I can't believe there are people here today, in this same place, who left America on purpose."

To her everlasting credit, Gulcan (the owner of an inn) moved closer to the girl, wrote down her phone number, and, in a complete "there's room at the inn" moment, had a quiet conversation about being paid under the table.  

That day, as the lights overhead flickered off--the workers were trying to clear the building--we turned in our paperwork to get permission to stay in Turkey, and this Iranian girl and her family turned in their paperwork to get permission to stay in Turkey.  

Eventually, our year here will end, and we'll head to America. 

Eventually,

and this is my wholehearted Christmas wish for these Christians on the run,

so will they.

14 comments:

unmitigated me said...

One of those amazing things we forget to appreciate. Maybe she'll end up in Dearborn or Dearborn Heights with her family. We have a tremendous population of people from Arabic-speaking countries.

Merry Christmas, Jocelyn!

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

As many troubles as we have, America is still a great country; this story is a wonderful reminder of that.

Merry Christmas from my pagan family to yours!

kmkat said...

What a great story. I hope they make it. It is easy to forget to be thankful for what we already have and take for granted. In our case, it would be that no one forced us to pretend to be religious.

Merry Christmas to you and your family, and may Santa find his way magically through the maze of soba pipes!

ds said...

Wonderful story; I hope that girl and her family make it, too.
Merry Christmas, Jocelyn, to you, Groom, Girl, and Paco (for whose sake I trust that Santa will not get stuck in one of the soba pipes)!!!

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Oh man, that just gets you in the gut.
Our church has a sister church in Baghdad. Pastor Ghassam has already shipped his oldest son north, far out of town to keep him safe. A third of his congregation has left town. My heart breaks for those poor souls all over the middle east looking for safety, hearth and home.
Merry Christmas--so far this post has been a lovely gift on mine!

yogurt said...

Merry Christmas to you, your family and to the Iranian refugees. May they find a safe haven.

Jeni said...

I only hope and pray if this young woman and her family do succeed in getting to America that she (and they) find neighbors who are accommodating of them. Sadly, so many in this country today hold so many prejudices especially towards people from the middle east and they forget that not all that many years ago, many of our ancestors were also met with similar prejudices simply because they didn't speak English or because of their religious beliefs. This is something that annoys me to no end when I see/hear people expressing bias and prejudice towards people who are here, for the same reasons as our ancestors came here -for freedom to speak, to go to school, to work, to worship! Perhaps the person helping you will be able to help this young woman and her family in their quest for religious freedom and I do sincerely hope that they realize that goal once they arrive on these shores.
And here's hoping you and your family had a beautiful holiday as you learn more and more about what we have here and what we really should treasure too!

Midlife Jobhunter said...

Best Christmas story I've read or heard this year. Odd what we learn when we listen to others.

Merry Christmas. Hope the visa thing went well and while I'm at it, eager to hear of the new year celebration in Turkey.

Cheers to you.

Julie

Pam said...

Hope you and the family had a wonderful Christmas Day Jocelyn, and my best wishes for the family you encountered also.I so much hope they find what they are looking for. I love Byron's illustrations of your life in Turkey!

alwaysinthebackrow said...

So, did Santa make it safe and sound? How did that sleigh work in the sands of Turkey?
I too hope for the best for the young woman and her family.

Mother Theresa said...

I finally caught a break and found a wifi connection that was on the loose. Happy holiday wishes to you and your family...and I really hope that Christmas wish of yours does come true.

lime said...

her question is so deeply profound. your choice is as unfathomably strange to her as her plight is unimaginably difficult for us to comprehend. i echo your wish for her family. i have goosebumps after reading this.

Star said...

Wow. What an eye-opening experience. Thanks for sharing. Happy New Year to you and yours.

monica said...

US of A : the land of the free and the home of the brave, indeed...