Buddy the Elf, What’s Your Favorite Color?

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This year Christmas was different, to say the least. I began the holiday by saying goodbye to three friends with whom I had become closest since arriving here. My roommate Keith, Amy, and Lorena had all planned to leave China in time to be home for Christmas, so right before the holiday we had to part ways. I was not terribly unsettled about those goodbyes. Maybe it was due to the fact that I truly believe I’ll stay in touch with them (and I’m definitely inviting myself to the U.K. to visit them).

My friend, and new roommate, Katie, seemed more upset than I was about not being home for Christmas, so we drowned her sorrows in hot chocolate, Christmas candy, and classic movies like The Santa Clause, Elf, and The Polar Express.

On Christmas day I forced Christmas cheer upon my Chinese roommate (who doesn’t celebrate Christmas). I had the honor of giving him his first Christmas card he’s ever received and later I taught him how to create paper snowflakes. To make ourselves miss home less, Katie and I went to get massages and lunch together and afterward, we joined a friend and his co-workers for a big American-style turkey dinner. The wonderful air of relaxation I found after a full spa day and delicious meal confirmed that was the best money I have spent so far in Beijing.

The Real Housewives of Beijing

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Most of the people I have met while abroad are in a similar situation as I am and gaining the same sense of independence that comes with renting an apartment in a foreign country while working or interning full time. The exception is two of my friends from the U.K., Lorena and Amy, who are here during their undergrad studies to teach English and placed with a Chinese host family. They are full of stories from an entirely different perspective of life here in Beijing; mostly their host moms treating them to nice dinners, traditional Chinese home life, and the mothers having each other over for in-home facials and beauty treatments (à la Real Housewives).

I finally got to visit them this weekend and it was perfect timing–Christmas lights were roped across front porches to create a decadent Christmas-y feeling. I almost felt like I had left the bustling city for the suburbs. Almost.