A Very Expat Thanksgiving


A very broody turkey (photo by Swaminathan)

I have probably talked about Thanksgiving abroad when this blog was in its ‘travel’ iteration, but I’ll discuss it a bit again before the main point of this post–telling you what I’m thankful for.

This will be my third Thanksgiving away from family. It is very strange to have Thanksgiving with the same group of extended relatives with the same foods at the same place for 23 years and then suddenly have to make do with whatever Thanksgiving you can find. Luckily J and I have found a group of young expats who seem to like to cook and have enough courage to take on the beast that is the Thanksgiving feast (I may need another 20 years before I tackle that).

So each year we gather on a weekend before/after Thanksgiving or on Thursday evening–we don’t get Thursday and Friday off work as holidays you know–at our host’s house providing offerings of side dishes, desserts and wine. It is always delicious and maybe even more fun–the people around the table are my age and we can pass jokes back and forth instead of worry about if weird aunt May will be offended or if I’ll be able to avoid great uncle Al’s endless talking. Every year is wonderful simply because it is another year we have managed to keep the Thanksgiving tradition despite being away from our families.

There is always a mixture of pleasure and disappointment. You are happy to be here with friends, but you still miss your home where you first learned about the tradition. One advantage is that combining so many Americans in one room means that there is a supply of Thanksgiving sides you have never heard of. (Who knew I’d like parsnips when cooked correctly?) Of course, unless you make it yourself, you will never be able to have some of your family’s most famous sides (homemade mac n cheese is not the same without velveeta). We also have to get creative on many sides:  cornbread is made with polenta (as cornbread mixes are harder to find), sweet potato dishes more often come from fresh rather than canned yams (never seen the canned variety here) and any cans of Libby’s pumpkin seen in stores must be bought in bulk and hoarded (it becomes a rare commodity). Then of course there is the issue of a turkey. Turkeys are especially hard to find here in November since they are traditionally eaten on Christmas, previous year’s hosts had to call individual farms to arrange for something. No huge tubs full of butterballs in stores here!

There is nothing like Thanksgiving with your family, but having it with a group of expats is the next best thing. Now, on this day I’d like to say what I’m thankful for because it is Thanksgiving, but also because it is important that I remember how good my life is.

  1. A loving and supportive husband that is always looking for ways (e.g. fine dining, chocolate, hugs) to bring a smile to my face.
  2. Family (especially mother) and friends that have always cared for me but are checking up on me more often since I revealed I’ve been having trouble and keep sending their love to brighten my day.
  3. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for once again buoying my mood, confidence and writing skill over the month of November. (2,555 words to go! Too bad this post doesn’t count.)
  4. A job where I can dress semi-casually, as my casual clothes are much warmer than the ‘business’ ones.
  5. Being in a place where I feel I have options and am strong enough to rely on myself/take advantage of those opportunities.
  6. Being able to take part in a painting class at the Art Academy (and paint nude models without giggling).
  7. Only 12 work days until I’m back in the US for Christmas!

These may be boring, honestly I think they seem strange to publish, but I think its important that I use gratitude regularly to bring some positivity into my life. None of the items on this little list are earth shattering, but having love, support and your health are really the most important things. Happy Thanksgiving!