Sentell…the Global Citizen!

The other day, I was talking with an associate in London and he asked what I was doing for Christmas. I responded, “I’ll be spending Christmas with the in-laws in Kigali, Rwanda.” He chuckled and said, “boy, you really have become a global citizen!” It is true, my life has taken on a very international flare. While I always joke with my wife that I grew up in a small “village” in the American South and I am a fiercely proud American, I recognize that my sphere of influence has grown to include a very global network. I was thinking on the flight to Kigali last month that I have only spent one Christmas in Alabama since moving to South Sudan in 2013. I spent two Christmases in Germany (2013 and 2014), one in Alabama (2015) and this year in Rwanda (2016). We were supposed to be in Bangkok this year but our friends (who once lived in Germany) were back in the US for the holiday season so we rearranged our travel plans and headed to Kigali.

To me, Christmas is all about family, so the first Christmas I spent away from Alabama was very difficult. Each year when I was living in the US, I would make the journey back to Mount Vernon, Alabama to open gifts with my parents and visit with relatives. We would also find time during the week to break out competitive nature by playing board games or a new card game I had just learned. This was Christmas to me, spending time with loved ones. While I didn’t get to go to the US in 2013 and 2014, I spent Christmas with extended family – the Goods.


Reliving our childhood by doing kartwheels in Kigali.

Last year, Sheila spent Christmas with my family in Alabama. I tried to tell her that on Christmas Day we mostly spend the day at home enjoying each other’s company and playing games. She was mystified that we didn’t go to church on Christmas Day. Honestly I can count on one hand the number of times I have been to Church on Christmas Day, and that was because Christmas fell on a Sunday.


Christmas 2015 in Alabama

I didn’t know what to expect with Christmas in Rwanda. At first I was amazed how the country operated like it was on any other Sunday. Shops were open and restaurants were filled with people. We went to church and had a nice lunch with Sheila’s family. After lunch we took a few Christmas pictures in our Sunday best and relaxed by doing cartwheels in the yard. By late afternoon we all went our separate ways, I found a cozy spot in the front yard to read my book, Sheila was helping her mom in the house and her brother went down for an afternoon siesta. In the evening, we played tourist in Kigali by checking out the new Radisson Hotel and the very colorful convention center. We finished our Christmas Day with a spontaneous date night at one of the new restaurants in Kigali. It was the start of our own Christmas traditions.

I agree with my London colleague; I have become a citizen of the world. The traditions I once held so tightly have become a thing of the past. Sheila and I are now making new traditions to celebrate holidays, both American and Rwandan and even sometimes Nigerian. Who knows were we will be next Christmas…only time will tell…


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