Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving: At Home & Abroad

Our first Thanksgiving being married & still neither of us can bake a turkey.
Thanksgiving is not a world holiday. It is purely an American one. It didn’t seem that important when I was living in California, it was far from my favorite. This isn’t to say I didn’t value my time with my family, I did, but the majority of excitement I felt for Thanksgiving was my joy at having a week-long holiday and delicious stuffing.

Living abroad Thanksgiving takes on a different meaning. It is the first real holiday we celebrate alone. No family nearby. No house to return to. No traditions to value and uphold. Things I formerly took for granted I now miss.

I don’t get to help my mom set the table or create place cards. I don’t get to watch my sisters’ help bake and serve all the food, and thank my lucky stars that I am the “creative” one and not the “chef”. I don’t get to enjoy the fact that we are all old enough to enjoy the wine on the table and still young enough to demand our own flavors of pie. I don’t get to go on a walk down the lane, shoot skeet or fly kites. Most importantly, I don’t get to hear my dad’s jokes or my aunt’s laugh, my uncle’s politics or some sisterly bickering. I don’t get to feel my grandma’s hug, whisper secrets to my little sister or admire my cousin’s awesome feathers and nighttime adventures.  I don’t get to celebrate that it is my middle sister and I’s first Thanksgiving as married women. And I don’t get to tell my mom all my worries and have her wisdom and assurance that everything will work out.

Our Many Thanksgivings: Honduran, Missing at Home (notice the sign), Traditional
Thanksgiving is just another day when abroad. In Honduras, we always taught on Thanksgiving and then were given the next day off. Therefore, I always spent my 3-day weekend having an adventure. One year I called my family from the airport as I flew to a Caribbean Island, another year I rafted down a river as they enjoyed their meal and my last year I visited the Honduran capital for some culture.

In Kuwait it is recognized even less. There is no holiday attached at all and the school week is completely normal. Students attend classes, teachers follow plans and Thanksgiving passes by with little to no fanfare. But since there is no holiday and thus no adventure, the homesickness is more acute, and, as I called my family at 11:00 at night, just as they were beginning their meal, I wished I could shoot across time and space and give them all a real hug, instead of digital one.

However, I was not the only one to fill this way, and other, more inspired teachers, did something about it. They decided to host a Kuwaiti Thanksgiving with all the trimmings, which is how, the night after Thanksgiving, I ended up eating turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, potatoes, green bean casserole and numerous other delicious foods. And while I may not have had my family there, having close friends and familiar food made it a whole lot easier to celebrate and give thanks!

Our First Kuwaiti Thanksgiving 
So Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, wherever you may be! And if you are Canadian, just pretend I am wishing you this in October instead!

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