Life Abroad

On Gratitude

November 26, 2019

Only a few days till Thanksgiving, but I think I’ve got everything sorted: 

Our South African friends are bringing pumpkin pie and pecan pie.

Aussie friends are attempting the sweet potato casserole (and are slightly perplexed by it).

Our English friends will bring roasted potatoes to supplement the mashed potatoes our other English friends are bringing.

We have one Kiwi friend on broccoli and another on dinner rolls—though those may come from the Filippino bakery—and one Ethiopian friend bringing stuffing.

Last but not least, my American friend and I, who are hosting together…will order the turkeys from the American Club.

But we’ll also do the grazing table! And did I mention we’re hosting?!

It’s not your typical Thanksgiving and maybe not even your typical Friendsgiving, but at least we hew to tradition when it comes to the gathering, the menu and the gratitude. 

We’ll have 35 kids and 30 adults and I honestly don’t know what we’ll do with all those little ones. I’m frantically scrolling through Pinterest pages and turning up a lot of printable turkey-shaped mazes and word searches. Somehow I doubt those are going to keep the kids busy enough to not wander off to explore the jungle (my house backs up to an actual jungle, complete with families of wild boar and giant porcupines. And snakes, but let’s not talk about the snakes right now). So maybe we’ll feed the kids early and pop on a movie? One that’s age appropriate for all 39 and which all of them will agree on… Easy!

Thankful for…Pinterest printables

And as for the adults, I’m told by the Internet and hostesses of Thanksgivings past that we’ll need to provide plenty of wine, and lots of opportunities to speak in front of a large group about one’s innermost feelings. In that order. When I invited one friend to our feast, she immediately asked if there would be public speaking. Yep, I’m afraid so!

Thetables set for our Expat Friendsgiving
Now just add friends

I cringe at the actual standing up and speaking to a crowd part, but being able to express to our friends the immense gratitude we have for each other is what I love the most about Thanksgiving. It can be a very lonely thing to be an expat, to feel untethered from your family and the traditions you were raised with, to be confronted every day with a culture that’s always a little foreign. Which is where these amazing friends step in and provide the panacea to all of it: they’re a surrogate family willing to take on traditions that are definitely not their own (see: sweet potato casserole, above). They bring the enthusiasm for our customs that make us feel we’ve truly created a home here.

And as important as the traditions are, they’re actually the least of it: these are the same people who were there to pick up my kids from school and tennis and have them for extended playdates and sleepovers when I needed to fly 7,000 miles to go home to an unwell parent. So I’m feeling pretty grateful right about now, and even a tiny bit less nervous about saying so in front of everyone. If no children are carried off by wild boar and there is sweet potato casserole, I’ll consider this Thanksgiving a success.

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