I’ve spent Thanksgivings in Germany, Peru, Georgia, and now Colombia. Besides making me miss my family, and, even more so, the tradition of stuffing my face with delicious foods, it makes me miss fall. All those great things about fall that you get sick of hearing about when you’re in America during that time of year – pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin pie, pumpkin everything, pretty leaves, jack-o-lanterns, hot chocolate with marshmallows, scarves, boots, reruns of Halloweentown on ABC Family, enough cold to make a bonfire sound good, but not so much that it’s torture getting out of bed in the morning – they are all truly as great as all those 20-something girls on Pinterest think they are. And it kind of sucks missing out on it.
In Armenia, with it’s warm climate and lack of pumpkin-fanaticism, it’s hard to even pretend it’s fall. But, still, we try.
I tried to create a little Thanksgiving spirit with my students. I started with a powerpoint about Halloween. The students seemed mildly interested during the first couple of slides, which talked about the history, and traditions – pilgrims, the Mayflower, giving thanks – but when I got to the first slide about the food, with a picture of a juicy turkey filled with stuffing, they perked right up. How American of you, I thought.
The following slides, explaining turkey, gravy, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, deviled eggs, and pie were met with longing looks and pleas for me to bring some of it to class for them to try. Surprisingly, all 3 of my classes practically begged me to bring bread rolls for them when they saw a picture of a pan of them coming out of the oven. I was like, “Guys, this is just bread. You have this in Colombia.” To which they responded that it would taste so much better if I made it. Nice try.
Then we talked about Turkey pardoning, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and how people in the U.S. kill each other to buy cheap TVs on Black Friday.
And then it was time to eat, because it’s always time to eat on Thanksgiving. I brought out the egg cartons, and my students gave me a funny look and asked how we were going to cook the eggs at school. “We don’t cook them in the U.S.,” I said, “we just eat them raw.” They all froze and gave me horrified looks. Then I tossed one of the eggs to a nearby student, who nearly had a heart attack trying to catch it, before I told her I had already hard-boiled it. I brought out the “American style” mustard, the mayo, and the dill pickles that I had bought in like a gallon-sized jar in the import section of the grocery store, and then painstakingly cut into pieces to make relish, because all they have is sweet relish, which is gross and costs like $6 here. We made some delicious deviled eggs, and they seemed to be big fans, although a few were a little wary of the pickles, which aren’t a big thing here.
I had a great time Skyping with my family after work. Baby Sean had a great time too…
And then I got invited to a Thanksgiving get-together. One of the other volunteers from the U.S. that works at my school is living with a Colombian guy who took it upon himself to give us a little taste of home. He prepared a very nice Thanksgiving dinner, complete with sliced turkey lunchmeat garnished with a nice sauce, a strange but delicious fruit/corn salad, and fried yucca. His family joined us, and it was a lot of fun. I hadn’t met any of them before, but they were all really nice and we had a good time.
Dinner was followed by wine, and a discussion of all the dirty words we needed to know to really fit in in this region of Colombia. That was followed by a new bottle of wine, and an attempt to teach us how to dance salsa and bachata. That was followed by me realizing it was 1:00 a.m. and heading home so I could get some sleep before school the next morning. It was a pretty good Thanksgiving, and I must say I preferred the post-dinner salsa dancing to post-dinner football. Just something to think about, America.
But to my delight, my Thanksgiving celebrations didn’t stop there. On Saturday, I got invited to a Thanksgiving potluck with some fellow Americans/Canadians who are in the area teaching with SENA or the local bilingual school. I was in Filandia, that day, so when I got home, I rushed to the grocery store to buy a pie pan, butter, chocolate, oreos, cream, and sugar. I had seen this on Pinterest, and I was gonna make it happen.
Unlike pumpkin and pecan pie, this pie actually had ingredients that I could find in Colombia. And unlike apple pie, this had a crust made out of oreos. I was sold. It was super easy to make, and in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I tried not to feel too bad about the amount of oreos and caramel I ate during the pie-making process.
The Thanksgiving party was a lot of fun, and I got to meet a lot of other teachers that I hadn’t had a chance to meet before. Not to mention, there was stuffing and gravy. All the food was delicious, and my pie turned out to be a hit. Note to readers: If you’re going to a party where you don’t know a lot of people, bring a pie made of chocolate, caramel and oreos. People will have to be your friend.
So, with two dinners under my belt, I have to say that I’m pretty satisfied with my Colombian Thanksgiving!