Monday, December 27, 2010

A Very Drunken Christmas

If I could describe my Rwandan Christmas experience in one word, it wouldn’t be “different,” or “Rwandan,” or “spiritual”…no…it would be “drunk.” Granted, I’ve had my fair share of drunken Christmases, with “caroling” at the Minturn Saloon, sneaking glasses of wine from Mr. and Mrs. Flowers, and having a fresh brew-ski at Two Elk Lodge…but nothing that would compare to the 24 hours that just happened to me.

Christmas started with a family Skype call – me on one computer, James on another, the rest of the family at 17 RFR – to read the Polar Express at 6pm my time and ridiculously early hours their time. This did mark the occasion as the first family Skype call this year where we did not all cheers a beer to each other during the call. I then went to the local Catholic Church to meet with the CCHIPs Project Director and her family for the service. It was an awesome service: there were sooo many people packed at all the doors, and even standing around a bonfire outside, singing Christmas carols – which all had the same tune, at least, of the common carols I know. The biggest frustration was recognizing the song, but not having a clue of the words to sing along…

Mitchell Family Christmas Photo!
(James on the computer)
My last fully sober memory of the 24 hour period was arriving at Jeanne d’Arc’s house, noting the lack of emphasis on presents/her absolutely beautiful crèche, and thinking how wonderfully religious a holiday Christmas is when it’s not marred with distractions of presents and stresses of vacations.

And then Jeanne d’Arc handed me a glass of Mutzig.

Let’s pause, as I introduce you to Jeanne d’Arc. Firstly, she is an absolutely amazing woman: she was the youngest of something like 30 children (her father had 4 wives), escaped her way out of 2 arranged marriages, became the most educated person in her family – by 10 years, and is now the Project Director of a growing NGO. She’s also incredibly nice, but in a frightening and demanding way.


- When I got sick, JD comforted me by saying “You will get better” but in a way that made it come off more like an order than words of comfort – in addition to getting sick, my newest problem was now the fear of how JD would react/punish me if I didn’t get better.

- At Elie’s brother’s funeral earlier this year, JD kindly took care of me, in a situation where I had no idea what was going on or how I should act. But, her way of taking care of me was by forcefully linking my arm and dragging me along with her saying “You will stand here now” and “Now we pray”…which again instilled more fear than comfort, as I started to worry of what would happened if I did not stand still, or pray correctly, or did not do exactly as she said – even though she was only saying it so that I felt more comfortable about what I did.

Let me also add that I only just learned recently that the story that she goes around beating up husbands who beat their wives is just that – a story. For about 3 months, I had fully believed that her way of “doing good” was actually beating up men.

Now, you hopefully understand why I HAD to drink the beer that was handed to me. And by handed, I mean JD walked up to me, pretending to put her arm around my shoulder and say something comforting to me, but instead grabbed my hand, pried open my fingers and forced a glass into my hand; set the still half-full bottle at my feet and forced me to sit down on the couch.

And then the game began. The game being: Eli trying to drink as little as possible to stay sober in front of her boss, and everybody else trying to make Eli drink as much as possible – either for the entertainment value or in order to be good hosts.

At first, I started to realize that every time my glass got about half empty, it magically became full again. This wasn’t good for me, because I like finishing things, and will generally continue drinking (or eating) if my glass (or plate) is still full – no matter how full or drunk I am. I’m pretty sure it’s genetic.

So I tried to drink a little more slowly. But the slower I drank, the faster my hosts re-filled my glass. It soon became difficult to take a sip without instantly being topped off.

Next, I started to realize a few more things:

1. I was drunk.

2. I was the only person that was drunk.

3. In fact, only one other person in the room was even drinking alcohol.

My tolerance is actually only about 2 Mutzigs. I was definitely 4 in at this point. There’s a fabulous video of me dancing to Shakira’s Waka Waka…a video that I must get my hands on if I ever have any intention of running for political office, or maybe even advancing within a company.

Around this point JD said to me “You will spend the night. Here is a toothbrush I bought for you.”Again, this is an example of JD not so much inviting me to do something as demanding it. I considered going home for one moment, before I realized there was no chance that I’d get home…so I agreed…and was awkwardly guided to a bedroom that had obviously been cleared out for the guest (I wonder how far ahead JD planned for me to stay? When did she buy the toothbrush?)…drunk dialed my parents…and fell asleep without even brushing my teeth.

Times when you don’t want to wake up at your boss’ house:

1. Ever

2. When hung over

3. After hooking up with your boss

…thank goodness Christmas morning constituted only 2 of these for me.

Secondly thank goodness JD’s family decided to give me until 1pm before starting again to force-feed me alcohol. This time including Scotch at the neighbor’s house…with the 4 single and eligible men. I can only describe this afternoon as slightly less nightmarish than the night before…because I had a better idea of what to expect ahead of time. It was only during the pause in my glass-refilling, caused by somebody running to the store to buy more beer that I was able to make the madness stop and get a word in before the next bottle was automatically opened, guilt tripping me into finishing it. By the time JD rolled me into the family car to go out to a restaurant for Christmas dinner, I was well on my way to drunk…again.

At the restaurant, I had to only hear the word “Mutzig” come off JD’s mouth as she ordered for me to yell “No! Please! No more beer! Just a tea! That’s it! That’s all I need!”

JD looked at me with the most confused expression: “You will have a beer” she said. Exhibit F of the 24 hour period of JD being forcefully nice.

Exhibit A of me finally standing up for my liver: “But JD…I’m drunk.”

Confused look from JD.

And then I finally realized…something I had forgot to think during this whole bender is that JD doesn’t drink. She has no sympathy or understanding for my lack of tolerance or ensuing drunkenness. So in the spirit of Christmas, I chose to forgive her for her lack of understanding, just not drink my beer when served, and thank her for my very drunken Christmas when she returned me home 24 hours after I first left the house.

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