Thursday, January 10, 2008

Christmas season

2007 was so full, and absolutely flew!! I had two weeks back in Atlanta before Christmas after coming back from Cameroon. Ed sings in the choir at his church and December is a very busy month, as he sings in several Christmas concerts. This is Ed and a budding conductor at the post-concert party one night. Doesn't he look great in his tux? He actually took me out to dinner still in his tux after the concert.And out to dinner at a German restaurant with some of my friends from work.I went to Seattle from December 22-30. I have been spending Christmas with my dad's side of the family almost every year since my parents went back to Cameroon, and my Uncle Ted and Aunt Cathy have adopted me for Christmas. Their daughter Jennie is exactly my age, so it all works very nicely! On Christmas mornings, we open stockings and Christmas presents and have a scrumptious brunch made by Aunt Cathy.Here are Jennie and her husband Jay, very pleased about having a goat given to an African family in their name. Jennie often has to work some days between Christmas and New Years, and I hang out with Jay, who is an archeology graduate student. He's my sushi buddy!

On Christmas afternoon, the extended Thwing family gets together - my dad has 5 brothers - can you imagine that many Thwings in one room?! Here I am holding the newest great grand child, Christian - don't you love the camouflage pacifier?
My grandmother, who had broken her hip in November, is recovering nicely and was able to join us. Doesn't she look fabulous for 87? (Christian and Jennie are with her.)After lunch, we have our Christmas gift exchange. We do the kind of white elephant exchange (except with good gifts) where people get to pick gifts by number and there is unlimited stealing. It's a ton of fun and laughter (we had 34 people there this year!), and in the end, everyone gets something they like. Everyone has to unwrap their gift so everyone can see - and decide if they want to steal when it's their turn. :)After the gifts, we have a birthday cake for Jesus -but every candle represents someone in the Thwing family. As the grandkids were born, then got married, and now are having kids themselves, the candles have multiplied - there are now 40 candles on the cake. My Aunt Cathy goes through everyone by name as she lights the candles. It's really special for all of us!We had a very beautiful sunny day near the end of December (after our white Christmas), and went down to the beach to enjoy it. Doesn't this look like great beach wear - parka and Starbucks cup. :)Sunset was very pretty. Jennie and I have taken hundreds of pictures together in almost this exact pose over the years - and for many of the last few, my smile has been literally frozen in place. :) I guess there's a reason I never went to visit Jennie and Jay when they lived in Fairbanks, Alaska. :)Good bye 2007!
I'm back in Atlanta now, and as usual have had my two weeks here before I leave again, this time for two weeks in Angola, where I'll be setting up for a health-facility based survey to try to determine how much malaria transmission in taking place in Luanda, the capital city. I'm bringing some learning Portuguese CDs on the plane with me. :)

Oh, and other good news is that I officially accepted a full time job in the malaria branch to stay on after EIS is finished at the end of June! I don't think a lot will change, except for my supervisor, and to some extent, my salary. :)