Today is one of those days. One of those days that I’d like to trade in my globetrotting shoes and spend a day in my hometown with family and close friends. It’s a day I’ve always associated with quality family-time, extreme newspaper searching (for Black Friday deals, of course), amazing home-cooked food, games of football hide and seek in my great aunt’s backyard, and the smell of hickory roasted turkey coming from late great-uncle’s grill.
Thanksgiving 2008 with “the cousins”
As a world-traveler and expat, though, you are often not able to celebrate holidays at home, and for the past three years I have celebrated Thanksgiving abroad.
In 2010, I celebrated Thanksgiving in Leeds, England. I was pursuing my M.A. in TESOL Studies at the University of Leeds, and just happened to be the only students from the United States (i.e. leaving any Thanksgiving planning totally up to me). Luckily, I met a few other U.S. students who were studying in Leeds for a semester that wanted to celebrate with me and Ele. Being Thanksgiving, though, I wanted to share it with more than just some U.S. students I hardly knew–So, I decided to make it an international Thanksgiving celebration and I invited my closest classmates and new friends in Leeds. I never imagined it would be so wonderful. We had fairy bread (made by my amazing Aussie friends), Greek dips and salads, turkey, macaroni and cheese, pecan pie, green bean cassarole & sweet potatoe cassarole (made by me and the U.S. students), Japanese pancakes, German potato salad, Thai curry, and much more! The food was delicious, but the company was even better. Being with my new “international” family and sharing with them a tradition close to my heart was a great way to spend my first Thanksgiving away from home.
Australian Fairy Bread
About to eat!
In 2011, I celebrated my second Thanksgiving away from home here in Barranquilla, Colombia. I had only been here for about a month and a half, and Neil, an American co-worker here at UniNorte, offered to host a pot-luck Thanksgiving dinner at his apartment for any and all UniNorte professors that wanted to celebrate. It turned out that there were not only U.S. professors there, but Colombian, Ukranian, and Canadian professors, among others. The food was, again, wonderful–lots of traditional U.S. Thanksgiving foods and also lots of international foods, and, again great company. As I didn’t know a lot of people all that well yet, it also gave Ele and I a chance to spend more time with people we would, in the future, come to love as dear friends here in Colombia.
Thanksgiving 2011 with my co-workers!
Thanksgiving food 2011- (Kudos to Masonya for the pictures)
This year, I had Thanksgiving on a Tuesday. Yes, a Tuesday. That happened for two reasons: 1) The hostess decided to have the Thanksgiving dinner that night and 2) Our end of the year party for UniNorte language professors is tonight (Thanksgiving). This year Thanksgiving dinner was hosted by our friend Katie, who is a ELF (English Language Fellow) from Georgetown University. She orderd a pre-cooked turkey, I took homemade macaroni and cheese & creamed corn; there was pumpkin butter desserts, mashed potatoes, Russian salad, rolls, and more. It was a wonderful celebration that made me reflect on just how lucky and grateful I am to have made so many incredible friends here in Barranquilla.
Amazing napkins sent by mom & used in our 2012 Thanksgiving dinner
A portion of my 2012 Thanksgiving meal
While a lot of expats struggle more with Christmas holidays & celebrations, I find Thanksgiving away from home just as tough to deal with. While it doesn’t really get “easier” to celebrate these holidays without those I love the most, it does hurt a little less when you are surrounded by good friends & “foreign family.”It’s definitely a different experience celebrating traditionally family-oriented holidays with friends and new acquaintances, however, it helps you see things in a different light, and it has helped me to create a new concept of “being grateful” (maybe more on that in another post!).
Today, especially, I am extremely thankful for my international community of family, friends, and co-workers here in Colombia. They make my life (and Ele’s too) “that much better.” 🙂 I am very thankful for the life I have been blessed with and the people I’ve crossed paths with all over the world, both recently and in the past–they have helped me become who I am and helped to make it where I am.
Cheers to being grateful…