Tomorrow will be the first time in four years that I celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States. The last three were spent in South America–first in 2008 at 16,000 feet above sea level on an extinct volcano in central Ecuador, later in 2009 with some Argentine milanesas at a new friend’s house, and lastly in 2010 at a pot luck dinner filled with expats and a few Argentinians. I remember the first year abroad, winding down the day alone at the hotel and realizing that it was Thanksgiving. At first it hadn’t even dawned on me, and with no media reminding me of the date, and no family or friends around who were also celebrating it, I simply went along as if it was a normal day. Later in the week a few of the volunteers got together and made a dinner, making up for the lack of family.
The next year I was in Argentina as a newbie, and though I’d just met a girl named Tamara, she invited me over to her house with her sister and friends for dinner. They made what they knew best–milanesas, as well as some other vegetables and fixings. We had some wine and because it was a beautiful spring night, we sat outside late into the night, something I’d never thought possible on Thanksgiving. I still had to work that day and it was depressing being on GChat while no one else was, so the day dragged on until the dinner. I still had work in the morning, so I had to bow out of the conversation around 12:30 am, while everyone else was still going strong.
The next year an American friend invited me to a coworker’s apartment for a joint pot luck dinner, where foreigners from all over the world (and even a few Argentinians) were meeting up. Everyone was in their mid-20’s-30’s and it was a refreshing mix of familiar accents and stories. This year I’m finally back in the U.S. and I’m thankful to be with family and old traditions. Like so many Thanksgivings past, we’ll be waking up at the crack of dawn to drive down to Brooklyn, New York and my grandma’s apartment. Later on we’ll probably head in to Manhattan with my dad and cousins to go out in the Village. I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving too.
I’m back in Boston (Sharon now, but who’s keeping track?) for the Thanksgiving break, getting away from Washington, DC for a week. On Saturday afternoon I took a flight out of Reagan National Airport and was amazed to find that we landed in Boston a half hour early. In all of the flying around the world that I’ve done, I’ve never been on a flight that got in so ahead of schedule. My old friends Dan and Scott picked me up at Logan International and we got ready to head out for the night, meeting up with old friends at a surprise party. Really, the Thanksgiving break doesn’t start for another couple of days, but since all of my classes for this week were canceled, I decided to take the days off of work.
The flight prices vary considerably, and by leaving on Saturday I was set to save about $400. The drastic price difference is the only reason that I’ve been able to come back home, and originally I was just planning on meeting my family in New York at my grandma’s. So instead, I had a good night out with some friends, followed by a brunch in Boston with my parents and sister, and will spend the next couple of days at my parent’s house studying and working on my final papers. On Thursday morning we’ll be leaving early to head down to New York, where we’ll have a feast with the family in Brooklyn. On Friday we’ll head down to New Jersey and I’ll visit my aunt and uncle who I haven’t seen in years, as well as cousins and their children who I’ve never even met. Finally, on Saturday morning I’ll take the Amtrak back to Washington to get ready to start up with school in the final stretch. It’s a real life version of “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.”
Thanksgiving is always the hardest holiday to be away from home, and since this was my third year away from family and friends on Turkey Day, it was gearing up to be a lousy week. Things were made better by the fact that Monday was a holiday in Argentina, and the weather has been beautiful lately, which always makes things better. But even knowing that it’s a bummer to be away from home on the holiday, I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t had a chance to get to sad or homesick. I don’t have too many American friends and only recently met my buddy Brian, so I figured I’d spend Thanksgiving alone, but Brian knows a whole crew of English teachers and invited me to someone’s apartment for a feast on Thursday night. I couldn’t be happier.
My Thanksgiving in Ecuador got me a great meal hosted by my friend Lauren, and with new Ecuadorian friends we made a micro-family for the evening. Last year I was invited to my first “Thanksgiving a la porteña” hosted by a local, with no turkey but milanesas instead. At that point I was feeling homesick and it was a great treat. This year was a bit different, with more of a party than a sit down dinner, and it involved people from all over the world. Not only the U.S was represented, but Argentina, Germany, Colombia, etc. Basically, those who were away from their families met up, and others who were friends joined in to share in the strange and foreign holiday.
Our host went above and beyond, preparing two turkeys (I have no idea where she got them), pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, salads, pies, and a mountain of little pastries and desserts. Since everyone brought something to drink, the house was shortly turned into a bar. We went around the room saying something we were thankful for and then it was every man for himself at the table. I spent the night mingling and talking to some new people, and it made me wonder about the advantages of teaching English. One of the biggest reasons I could see is that you get to meet so many other people like you who are also looking for company and support.
Next year I’ll be back in the U.S. to enjoy a Thanksgiving Americana. I can’t wait to celebrate with the family again.