Let's start at the beginning: carol singing. Jennifer is very talented musically. She plays the piano extremely well. For those that know, she can play a Bach two-part invention. If you know what that is, you know Jennifer is really good. Jennifer also sings beautifully. She'll never own up to it, but she is very musically talented. Penang has recognized her talents and taken full advantage during this Christmas. First, Jennifer was asked to help judge the annual Carol Singing Competition at the Queensbay Mall. Here she is, complete with a nameplate that says "Jennifer", a pencil, and a scoring sheet.
Now, the organizers probably didn't realize this at the time, but there really was no better choice of venue, at least for Jennifer. The competition was held on the all-pink Barbie Fashion Fairytale stage, which is very Jennifer Pink. There were eight groups that performed, and all did very well. Some of the favorites included "O Come, All Ye Faithful", "Silent Night", and, of course, "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas". Here is the choir from the local Chinese girls highschool.
Here is Jennifer handing out the trophy to the first-place winner, who is also a nurse at the local Adventist hospital.
Penang didn't stop there with the use of Jennifer's musical talents. Jennifer performed with the Penang State Philharmonic Choir on two separate occasions during the month of December. The first performance was a capella at the Penang Turf Club. Jennifer is the one with the blonde hair.
Jennifer also performed to a sold-out crowd at the famous E & O Hotel on December 23rd. It was a marvellous concert accompanied by the full Penang State Symphony, and we were happy that Jennifer's mom and dad could join us as well. They sang all of the familiar carols, and also some original pieces written just for this performance. Again, look for the cute blonde towards the left.
"There's a tree at the E & O..." Jennifer, Craig, and her mom (RaNae), and her dad (Craig) stand in front of the tree in the lobby of the E & O Hotel before the performance.
As I mentioned, Jennifer is not only a talented singer, but also a talented pianist. She plays the piano to accompany the singing at church every Sunday. She is also the musical director for the church choir. As such, she programmed the entire Christmas pageant that our little branch performed this year. She also made all of the costumes, assigned the roles, and wrote the script of the best Christmas pagent that Penang has ever seen. In the words of President Choong: "Wow, I had no idea we were doing this".
After the Christmas Pagent, we enjoyed a visit from Father Christmas himself. He seemed to be in a bit of a hurry to make other stops (he is busy this time of year, you know). So, he simply danced a Christmas jig and uncermoniously tossed gifts from his big old sack into the crowd.
Next are the cookies. Now, because Jennifer has, according to her mother, a defective gene, she must throw parties. We only had two Christmas parties at our house this year. Jennifer baked Christmas cookies and we had or guests decorate them and take them home. The first party was with some other expats that I work with who have children close to Craig's age. They were really creative and really cute. And, as you can imagine, most of the cookies were eaten right after being frosted.
Jennifer also offered to throw a party for my team that I work with in Malaysia. Knowing what excellent parties Jennifer can assemble, I couldn't turn her down. Cookie decorating was a first for our guests at this party, which also included a gift exchange and a home cooked "traditional American" Christmas dinner (also courtesy of Jennifer). Starting from the left, you have Joey, Catherine, Chloe, Li Ting, Jennifer, and Craig.
Jennifer's trainer, Gary, aslo popped up for a quick visit and a taste of Jennifer's culinary handiwork. He was very impressed, and commented positively on the surge in energy he felt after having such a great meal.
You might be saying to yourself, "wow, Jennifer sure does a lot at Christmas time". You're right. But there are two other parties that she also threw at Craig's school. The first was a Christmas celebration for the entire school, complete with a visit from Father Christmas who arrived in a convertable BMW, which was preceeded by a motorcade escort.
Here is Craig with one of his best friends, Navid, who is from Iran, at his classroom's Christmas celebration.
The night after the school Christmas celebration, Jennifer baked a few dozen red velved cupcakes and decorated them with green frosting so that they looked like miniature Christmas trees. She took them to Craig's school for his last day of term party.
Here is Craig playing musical chairs at his end of term party. The children got to wear party clothes instead of their school uniforms. In Malaysia, that means a batik shirt. Since we couldn't find a Christmas-themed batik, we let Craig pick one out. He very appropriately chose one with a lizard pattern.
And of course, there was Christmas. As I mentioned, we were blessed to have Jennifer's parents join us. They aren't like your typical in-laws, we all get along just fine. At least I do. I don't know if Jennifer's mother will ever be the same after I permanently altered the lyrics to "Oklahoma!" in her mind. But, that's another post. Jennifer's parents loved it here, and Craig really loved having his grandparents around. Here is Grandpa doing what he loves to do at Christmas time.
Even though we are halfway around the world, Jennifer and her siblings arranged to carry on the tradition of the Jessop Family Christmas Pagent. We did this one virtually by huddling around webcams and cradling cell phones, but everyone dressed up as shepherds or angels and it was a lot of fun. "Shepherd" Craig was excited to see and hear all of his cousins in Texas.
Santa comes early to Malaysia, and Craig heard the sleigh bells ringing late on Christmas Eve. He was excited to open all of the stuff that Santa brought, and also all of the presents he has only been able to stare at for the past few weeks.
Craig would triumphantly hold up each present after he opened it, and recite a victorious little jingle. He loved everything he got, from books to toys and clothes to a harmonica (with which he promptly entertained us all with his rendition of Silent Night). He wouldn't take the Ben 10 shirt off for three days.
We had a wonderful Christmas and enjoyed all of our visitors. We're so grateful for our new friends in Malaysia that we can share the Holidays with, and we're also especially grateful for Craig and RaNae braving the 30 hour journey weaving through airports and security checks to join us.
Last but not least, I'm grateful for Jennifer and Craig. Jennifer works hard to make sure we're enjoying every minute of our time in Malaysia, and Craig is quite happy to tag along. Here we are on Christmas morning at the Penang International Airport, enjoying a quick snack before we get on a plane for our next adventure, and a trip of a lifetime. But that's for the next post. Thank you Jennifer! Merry Christmas!