Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that as an Australian, I don’t really understand. I know it has something to do with the Mayflower (a boat) and Pilgrims, and that’s about it. Oh, and like every other holiday, you can buy tacky shirts that say “Happy Thanksgiving” on them at Walmart (see below). People talk about what they are thankful for (I’ll get to that in a minute) and people eat. People eat a LOT. After picking up my hostkids from school the day before Thanksgiving, Miss 3 started asking me about Pilgrims, and when I told her I didn’t know the answer, Master 5 piped up that “the Pilgrims only came to America, not to Cyndi’s world”. Smart kid.
The original plan for Thanksgiving was for my host mom and I to run the 5km “Feaster Five” road race in Andover (apparently fun runs on Thanksgiving morning are common in the US) but a few days before Thanksgiving I got a Staph infection under my arm, so unfortunately wasn’t able to run, so I stayed in bed and had a lazy morning while the family went off and did that. I was a lot disappointed, but a little relieved – mainly because it was only 1 or 2 degrees Celsius when the race was on…
We were going to a family friends place for Thanksgiving dinner, so there was no giant turkey roasted in our house. Instead, we spent a good chunk of the day preparing desserts – I baked a pavlova in the morning as my contribution (to replace the sunken dissapointment I baked the night before), and then my host mom baked pumpkin pies (for which I learnt the pumpkin actually comes in can-form!).
Thanksgiving dinner was fun. I was a little worried, since there was a dress-code (no jeans – eek) which meant that I literally had no choice in what to wear, as I own about 8 pairs of jeans, and exactly one dress. When we got there everyone was dressed up, men in suits and ties, ladies in dresses – but the atmosphere was fun, happy and relaxed (possibly influenced by the wine) and I had a great time.
Dinner obviously was the highlight of the night – the turkey was about an 8kg bird, and was huge. We had mashed potatoes, mashed squash (which is the equiv. of our pumpkin) with some kind of nuts and brown sugar (I think?) on top, peas, gravy, cranberry sauce, rolls… It was really good. Like really really good.
My pavlova was a hit – I ended up making a double recipe and it was huge. I covered it in whipped cream (note to Aussies making pav in America – the whipped cream from a can isn’t the best to use, as after a little while it looses it’s ‘whipped’-ness and becomes runny), strawberries, kiwifruit and grated chocolate. I don’t want to brag, but there was a lot more pavlova eaten than pie, in my opinion 🙂
It was interesting to see, while driving up North, to see the complete emptiness of parking lots at malls and grocery stores that are usually packed – Thanksgiving really is a national holiday unlike anything else, as it is centered around family, rather than religion, and is even more widely celebrated than Christmas. I like the sentiment that a lot of people take time of our their day on Thanksgiving to make known what they are thankful for – because as members of a first-world society, we really do have so much to be thankful for.
I am thankful for so many things in my life. I’m thankful for the opportunity that I have to be in the situation that I am – that I can have these experiences, that I can live in a different country, that I can travel and see new things – and in turn, I am thankful to the people that love and support everything I do, even if it is something as crazy and scary as packing up and moving overseas for a year.
I am thankful for my wonderful host family here, who treat me like I belong, like I am a part of the family, and who do their utmost to fit me into their schedule, even when I am here to fit into theirs. For my gorgeous host kids, who always have another cuddle, another kiss and another funny comment to give to make me laugh and smile and remember why I am here.
I am thankful for my wonderful friends here, who have made my time here so far crazy fun and so much more manageable. My best friend, Christina, because I honestly don’t know what I would do here without her. My friend Maria, who understands and listens and joins in on my whinging and ranting when I need a whinge. My friend Kristen, who is the little slice of ‘America’ in my group of international friends, and is always there to talk and understand.
And mostly, I am thankful for my family and those special people at home who love me, support me, ground me, and miss me… You are the reason I am here, you are the reason I am making the most of this by doing as much as I can and making memories, and it is your love that keeps me going.
Happy (Belated) Thanksgiving.