A month in the US

I am back in Panama. A month in the States went by so quickly. Something that I always wonder about is how going from one country to another is kind of like going to another dimension at the same time - especially if the countries are far apart, with quite different everyday realities.

Life in Panama is unique and the everyday rhythm is different here. So is the US, Estonia and Dubai. Whenever I am in one of those places I feel like the other countries are so far away, like a distant dream. It would have been easy to forget all about Panama had I stayed in the US for a longer time. Now being back here Panama seems so cool and real, and the US seems to be in another dimension, with its people and reality.

The highlights of my trip were spending time with the people there and observing the holidays over there. I've written about Thanksgiving and I want to say something about Christmas too.

I find it quite fascinating how Christmas traditions are different in different countries. In some countries its the Christmas Eve (24th) that is the most important day, for some the Christmas Day (25th). In the US Santa Claus comes while the children are sleeping through the chimney and leaves presents in the stocking or under the Christmas tree. In Czech Republic is the Baby Jesus (Jezisek) who delivers the presents:

"Small children are not allowed in the room where the Christmas tree is being decorated. So, the parents decorate the Christmas tree, prepare all the presents and light the candles. The children are told that during the evening when no one is watching, the little baby Jesus, Jezisek, comes and brings the presents and the children don't really have any real idea about what Jezisek looks like. Then the grown ups ring a bell, slip out of the room, the children enter and there it is- in the darkness the tree is all lit up and the Christmas presents are under the tree."

In Estonia the presents are delivered by Santa Claus himself - directly to the children. Santa Claus comes by during the evening of the Christmas Eve, walks in the door and has a big bag full of presents. Everybody, children and adults equally, have to recite a poem, sing or dance to redeem their presents from the Santa. Preparing for Santa's coming is an important part of December as children are memorizing poems and songs. Nobody gets a present without doing something first - you have to work for your present.

Here is a difference I saw between the US and Estonian Christmas: in the US you don't have to do anything to get presents, thus the appreciation for the presents is lower. If you don't immediately like what you got, you throw it aside and run to open the next one. In Estonia the children appreciate the presents more because you had to work for them. At the very least, you pay more attention to it and try to figure out what you got and how it works. I might be biased, but I feel the Estonian version is better in that sense.

I see a parallel with money. You spend easily money that was given to you for nothing, and are frugal with hard-earned income.

Other than that Christmas was fun, warm and full of love and good food like I guess it is everywhere.

It was kind of hard to leave the US and the people there - it's always hard to leave I think - but it is so very nice to be back in sunny, happy and warm Panama.

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