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November 25, 2010

I am a huge fan of Thanksgiving, if only because I’m a huge fan of family and copious amounts of autumn foods. But I was away from both today, and because of scheduling issues, I wasn’t able to get together with any friends to celebrate either [on this exact day, that is. I might do something fun on Sunday in belated honor of this holiday]. So as with everything else in my life that’s been turned upside-down since arriving here, I am finding the beauty even in this unconventional Thanksgiving.

My Thanksgiving started when I woke up from a startlingly vivid dream to the sound of my friends tapping on my window…because I’d failed to meet up with them at our usual spot to walk to Arabic school together. I slept through my alarm. Oops. I told them to go ahead without me. I did, in fact, catch up with them along the way, thanks to some speed-walking down the stairs. I was flustered and laughing and shouted at them from a few yards away…probably shameful, but I was feeling too victorious to care.

My Thanksgiving continued when I found myself with an unexpected extra hour on my hands due to a change in schedule at school, and I was able to chat and vent and relax with some excellent people about all kinds of things before going back home.

It included my visit to the pharmacy to pick up some essentials and say hi to a lovely Iraqi friend who works there (I’m fuzzy on the details of how, since technically it isn’t legal for her to do so). Seeing her smiling face is always a bright spot in my day, and getting to see her in her workplace was a treat.

It extended through my English classes in the afternoon, where I simultaneously dealt with some of the most difficult and some of the sweetest kids I know here. Yes, I had to physically restrain a six-year-old from hitting another boy, but he started giggling in surrender once he realized I wasn’t going to let him go until he calmed down, and it was so cute that I started laughing too (and he did mostly behave after that). Plus, in the third class–the oldest age group, and therefore the most advanced–I forced them into a discussion of Thanksgiving and all the food we eat on this glorious holiday in “my country.” Halfway through describing cranberry sauce, I realized that I’d given myself an almost impossible task. Especially when I was still stuck explaining “cranberry.” No, not a grape. Or a cherry. Or a strawberry. Or a raspberry…you know what, let’s just pretend it’s a combination of all of them…

By the time I got home, it was dinnertime. And I had no turkey, no stuffing, no mashed potatoes, no cranberry sauce, and definitely no pie. Just a quickly thrown-together meal of whatever I had on hand in the fridge and a much-needed break to stretch my legs and relax. I ate, and chatted with some friends online, and called home to talk to my family. And yeah, it was an epically anticlimactic Thanksgiving. But it was one that reminded me how much, in fact, I have to be thankful for.

When I tried to explain why we have this holiday to my students, I ended up talking about how, unlike in this part of the world, where phrases like “Praise God” (alhamdulillah) and “Thank God” (ashkur’allah) are a part of everyday usage, we’re a lot more forgetful when it comes to gratitude and counting our blessings. So maybe we need this specially designated day to remind us to stop what we’re doing once in a while, take a step back, and let our hearts be filled with awe at what we see.

So I’m thankful for friends, here and home. For laughter, whether at my own foolishness or at a squirming little boy’s grin. For the ripe pears I bought at the dukkan today, and the glimpse of the gorgeous sunset I caught through the window during class tonight. For the way I always find Arabic phrases floating around in my head now even when I’m not actively thinking in or about the language. For Skype. For water (one of those things I never appreciated enough when I didn’t have to worry about it). For learning, and doubting, and questioning, and resenting, and learning some more. For my great, big family–you all–all over the world. Most of all: for this maddening, confusing, thrilling country and the adventure that’s brought me here.

i'm also thankful for the amazing view i always get from my apartment.

Ashkur’allah for all this and more. To the most generous Giver of good and perfect gifts:


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Hei-Jung permalink
    November 29, 2010 5:26 pm

    Thanksgiving was not the same without you and Elliott. Had your Uncle Chris and Aunt Jenny over with their 2 kids Marcus and Jacob. Jacob is already 19 months. Your Uncle Alex and his parents came as well. I ended up playing with Jacob and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I wondered why it was that I was playing with Jacob a lot of the time and your father made me realize that it’s because Stephanie is not here to play with the kids. Jeremy as you may know made a Thanksgiving feast and Grandma brought her famous mandoo stuffing and I made mandoo with her. Enough for every family to take home frozen. But it seemed too quiet and too orderly without you and Elliott.

    • December 3, 2010 2:09 pm

      thanks for the low-down. can’t believe marcus and jacob are that old already…p.s. i listened to your thanksgiving sermon and loved it! 🙂 miss you mother.

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