I hate Christmas. It's not being Jewish that makes me hate Christmas, it's being half Jewish in a divorced family that probably does it. As a teenager, my father found religion again (the Jesus-type kind) and Christmas was not fun despite the presents. I'll save the rest for my therapist, but let's just say that I like to politely excuse myself from the whole thing.
I'm not out to ruin anyone else's fun. Thais just like to decorate and give presents at Christmas, just about any excuse for a party is good enough here. I usually talk to my very well-off students about the spirit of giving and organize some charity giving to a non-sectarian orphanage. Some Secular Humanist friends and I go to a Christmas buffet at a gay bar. That's about all the Christmas that I can tolerate.
What did you do for Christmas?
Ah, you know, dueling gay Santas and drag queens, the usual.
As you may have heard, Obama won the election. There was a victory party here and it was one kickass party. My opinion of expats was elevated as well as just about everybody's blood alcohol content. I can't remember how many strangers I hugged, it was a bonding moment as it’s been an embarrassing eight years to be an American overseas. Among the revelers was another teacher from my school. We exchanged the obligatory, 'Yes, we fucking did's,' and began to talk the whole hope and change political thing. He stated talking about this possibly being an end to the Zionist agenda and a bunch of other crap of that nature. I am grateful that I was too wasted to remember most of it, but I got the gist.
This year I've been teaching about WWII to Third Grade (it's in the British Curriculum.) I do not like to think of the Holocaust as only a Jewish issue and I did my best to teach about the value of every human life. Some of my colleagues (also teaching WWII) did not know that about half of the people died weren't Jewish. My boss grimaced when I said I was showing Life is Beautiful because it was 'a holocaust movie'. When he asked if it was 'kid friendly' I responded by gasping that he had to see it and loaned it to him. He asks me fewer dumb questions now.
Our school in the traditional half-assed last-minute way also decided to celebrate World Religions (Week? Month? Dunno, but it's in December.) They made posters about each religion and hung them around the school. It was a nice gesture in theory. During our morning assembly, several close friends within the staff (they know) told me that if I saw what was around the corner, I'd scream. I'd be deeply offended. Well, being sensible and all, I opted not to go around that corner. (If only everybody did this.)
Nearly every teacher that knows stopped into my classroom that day to see my non-existent outrage. "Have you seen the Jewish poster?" No, I hadn't and really I was letting them down as the token Jew and all. I nearly got away with it if it weren't for my pesky boss. He asked for my Jewish opinion on the poster, assuming that I'd seen it. (A friend calls it my Jew-pinion and she's cool enough goyim and it's funny.)
So, it was now in my official capacity to give my Jew-pinion (I have a BFA in Visual Arts, but no, that's never the opinion I get asked for.) Taped onto the poster was a note signed with initials that was a pathetic half-hearted apology, the picture was a big Star of David with pictures in each of the points. One picture was of Hitler and there was a swastika. There were the Torah scrolls and some other relevant pictures as well as the Nazi stuff. I then got to explain why it was offensive to the bosses. Apparently, just a Jew-pinion is not enough, and, "It's a fucking swastika" is not a valid enough argument, but, "It's a fucking swastika in a religious symbol," works.
Now this poster was made by a few kids that had never had my third grade class that googled 'Judaism." The fact that these kids need to google it is enough to say that they are not anti-Semites, to be an anti-Semite knowing what a Jew is a prerequisite and if it's not, it should be. I was and still am okay with the Thais involved.
The Christmas show was impending and my colleague is always foisting tragically awful songs to teach the kids that I never end up teaching. I was told to teach Jingle Bells and was pleased with that, or as pleased as I could be having attended a public school that even banned A Christmas Carol. (Go CHS, Cougars!) Well, it was switched to Silent Night. After hearing the news and taking several deep breaths, I summoned all that was left of my diplomatic language and replied, "I am not teaching a fucking Jesus carol to a bunch of Buddhists. Why the hell did it change from Jingle Bells?" (I didn't have much diplomacy in reserve at that time.)
I tried to cooperate, I did. We were all in need of our Christmas vacation and a bit grouchy. The translator/Gal Friday hadn't cancelled a meeting with a parent that day and I had to deal with a very angry parent. And I had volunteered to make the same member of staff glittering snowflakes. On my way out she told me in a chiding way to wear red or green. Now, I have no problem with red nor green, but it didn't take much to exhaust my patience at this point. (See above 'diplomatic reply.')
We had just been paid and I was due a shopping trip. I no longer enjoy shopping in Thailand, but now I had a mission. One blue wig, blue dress, fairy wand, yellow stockings, matching shoes, glitter and the biggest Star of David necklace ever transformed me into the Hanakkauh fairy for the Christmas show. Finding all this in one day in non-tiny sizes in Bangkok was a feat and afterwards I barely had the energy to make the Star of David wand. But dammit, I was educating people with the use of glitter, so it had to be done.
Only the Westerners got the joke. The Thais asked me what anime cartoon I was supposed to be. The Kindergarten loved me, whatever I was. It was quite a way to 'come out' and it made suffering through Silent Night bearable.
Oh, and the initials of the teacher on the poster belonged to a very embarassed Obama supporter. He came to my classroom right after the show and said he wasn't an anti-Semite. I pretended to believe him as getting pwned by a blue wig and glitter has got to hurt. I figured he might have learned a lesson:
Even in Thailand, be careful, we walk among you!