December 25, 2000
It's our fourth and final Christmas on Northern Magic.
Our first holiday season on board, in Florida, we were neophytes, excited and nervous about our approaching first encounter with the vast empty sea.
Our second Christmas found us in Australia, having crossed the Pacific and weathered two terrible storms that others, less fortunate, had not survived. We were in need of healing, and the balm of Christmas and the kindness of new friends gave us that.
Last year we were in Malaysia, for the first time celebrating this most special of holidays in a non-Christian country. We struggled a bit to create a bubble of festive spirit around our tiny floating home. Surrounded by strangers, we had only each other.
Now we've arrived in Egypt. It's the land of Moses, the land where an infant Jesus found refuge from the wrath of Herod, and the place where we will celebrate our last Christmas away from home. Once again, we are alone in a country where for most people, Christmas is just another day. We work extra hard to make sure it isn't just another day for us, too.
The boat is filled with Christmas music and our little tree is decorated. Buying presents has been hard this time, because there are no toy stores here; there haven't been any for more than a year of hard travel in undeveloped countries. Our children's expectations this year are very modest. We're even making our own wrapping paper, because there isn't any to buy. Especially now, we do miss our Canadian home, the Christmas hustle and bustle, our family, our friends. Next year at this time, we keep on saying, we will be home.
Yet we're already feeling nostalgic about the fact that our adventures are almost over. The most important and precious thing about our experience is the way it has brought us into contact with so many wonderful people. This year we think especially of our struggling friends in Kenya. Thanks to donations sent in by readers, the futures of Boniface, Hamisi and their families look much brighter today than they did a year ago.
This is not the first time readers have shown their generosity. Earlier in our voyage, you provided books, supplies and a teacher for a remote island in the South Pacific. You also contributed desperately funding to help the endangered primates of Borneo.
But now, dear readers, you have really outdone yourselves. Thanks to you, one African family owns a milk cow that will provide much needed income, another boy is about to start high school, and a capable young man is now receiving the vocational training he needs to lift himself out of poverty.
With the additional contributions that are even now still arriving, we have collected enough money to ensure that additional members of this family will get basic education most Canadians take for granted. We have now received more than $6000 in spontaneous contributions from readers.
Among them is one truly amazing young Ottawa family who, after reading about the plight of Kitsao Katana, couriered a cheque for $1000 so that he would not be deprived of the life-saving surgery he needed. A warm-hearted Ottawa hairdresser also responded to the challenges faced by the father of our friends, Boniface and Andrew. "I cannot get their father's plight out of my mind," she wrote, "and with Christmas coming, I find it hard to justify buying presents when his life might be saved."
Yesterday I received an e-mail from Andrew, who wrote, "that someone had offered to carry this gigantic task of paying for the treatment of my father was overwhelmingly touching news to me. I will not know how exactly to thank that person. You are the only ones who can adequately express my sincere gratitude to him or her."
Imagine what our world would be like if everyone followed this example, showing that political, geographical and religious boundaries are unimportant compared with the bonds of humanity that connect us all! Like Andrew, we are overwhelmed, awed and humbled by the faith and generosity of our readers. There can be no better manifestation of Christmas spirit than this.
So from Boniface, Hamisi, Andrew, Kitsao and their families, and from us on Northern Magic, we thank you for your interest and support, and send you our warmest wishes for a wonderful, meaningful and loving Christmas.
But our special thanks go to all of you who made sacrifices so that strangers in a far away land could have a future. It is our wish, this Christmas - no, it is our prediction - that the love and generosity you have shown will be returned to you tenfold. God bless you all.
Herbert, Diane, Michael, Jonathan and Christopher Stuemer
Sailing Vessel Northern Magic