Friday, December 18, 2009

Tropical Affairs: Santa Claus Forever

Robert Raymer at St. Christopher's International School in Penang

When I was asked to fill Santa’s shoes as a last minute replacement at St. Christopher’s International School in Penang, Malaysia, I tried to beg off. Who has time for this? “You’ll get to ride in a fire truck,” Angela said, twisting my arm, knowing she was running out of expats to ask.

“You mean a real fire truck?”

My adult expat eyes lit up like Christmas ornaments.

I was so excited about the fire truck and meeting Santa Claus personally (and I do mean personally), I could hardly stand still while Angela and Anni (let’s call them elves) dressed me in a red flannel Santa outfit, complete with one stuffed pillow, and an old pair of black boots. Next came a scruffy white beard and a long red stocking cap.

Only the large-buckled black belt was missing. Instead of having a black belt (not even brown), my trusty elves wrapped a black scarf around my pillow-shaped waist – a black scarf that later unwrapped itself as I stood proudly on top of the fire truck waving to three hundred and sixty expat children from all over the world.
All three hundred and sixty of them laughed as I re-wrapped my scarf. Sud¬den¬ly I had this not-so-Christmassy feeling that this was going to be very long day.

I gingerly climbed down the fire truck, careful not to fall; nor did I wish to trip as I entered the auditorium and land on my face. Just when I began to relax, my beard started to slip.

Now which of these little monsters, I wondered, was going to try to yank it off? The little monsters promptly transformed themselves into angels as they sang for me three Christ¬mas songs, including a favorite, “Jingle Bells”.

All of them sang beautifully except this cute little girl in front, who kept asking me in her skeptical five-year-old voice, “Are you really Santa Claus?”

Deep-down inside, having walked in Santa’s shoes, I really did feel like Santa Claus. For suddenly I had this overwhelming desire to give children all over the world, no matter their race, color or creed, new toys. I wanted to give them plenty of food to eat, and plenty of love, so they’ll grow up to be loving adults who can later bestow the gift of love onto their children, and their children’s children.

The real Santa Claus can do all that, and more. A lot more.

Beneath my Santa outfit, I was merely a humble expat trying to bring a little joy to the school children, who wanted to believe that somewhere there really is a Santa Claus. Not one who arrives in a fire truck (though that’s not a bad way to go), but in an open sleigh pulled by reindeers that can really fly.
-excerpt from "Santa Claus Forever" Tropical Affairs: Episodes of an Expat's Life in Malaysia

***Here's the link to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie.

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