27 November 2014

Throwback Thanksgiving

Another Peace Corps Thanksgiving.  I'm on the train on my way from Casa to Rabat, about to have Thanksgiving supper - I say that because it's from 2pm to 5pm, so "supper" feels like the appropriate antiquated word for eating at that time - with hundreds of Peace Corps volunteers that I've never met.  And I'm reflecting on both my last 7 Thanksgivings, since Peace Corps came into my life, and also on what I'm thankful for this year.  Since it's technically #ThrowbackThursday, I'll give you a bit of a look at where I've been for the past few years.

The Thanksgiving of 2007 will always stand out in my mind - we were at the end of our training, and although I can't quite remember if we had already sworn-in as Peace Corps volunteers or about to swear-in, I'll always remember that all 68 of us took over the kitchen of the center in Fes, and made Thanksgiving for over 70 people.  I don't know why I didn't help much, but I have photos of my friends Danice, Diana, and I hanging out with our CBT counterpart, Idriss, and making hand-shaped turkeys and feather headbands.  There are also pictures of people who would become my life-long friends in chef coats and hats, as well as POTS of mashed potatoes.  It was definitely a delicious night, and will stand out as one of the best Thanksgivings I could have had being so far away from family.

Thanksgiving 2008 involved 2 celebrations - one with Danice (again!) her friends from Notre Dame, and my host mom-sister.  I have distinct memories of us taking two-day-old bread and using a rock to make it into bread crumbs for green bean casserole.  This was the year that my mom was a champion and sent me a whole box of Thanksgiving fixin's and called it "books" so customs would let her send raw cranberries overseas.  Probably the only "unethical" thing she's ever done.  And it made everything worth it because after a year away from home and without seeing family, the taste of MSG-filled cream of mushroom soup and freeze-dried onions were much welcome.

The next year's Thanksgiving was also epic, because we had just COS-ed and begun our 3-week no-airplane journey back home.  We were in Barcelona, renting two apartments in the Gothic quarter, and had some of the best chefs of Peace Corps with us to make a lovely dinner for 21 culture-
shocked, slightly tweaked out RPCVs who were about to board a two-week cruise back to America.  This Thanksgiving also featured a rendition of "Do Re Mi" rewritten for Peace Corps Morocco that deserves it's own blog post, and much love and warmth in the candlelight of our Barcelona apartment.

Thanksgiving of 2010 I don't think I have photographic evidence of, but it involved another turkey tagine.  I was working for Morocco Exchange and it was the first day of one of our 4-day trips.  I had gone to a fairly swanky restaurant the day before, and asked them to prepare a late lunch for us that involved turkey tagine, to surprise the students.  I knew the feeling of having your first Thanksgiving away from home - I had experienced that while studying abroad in Spain, just as they were doing at the time - and so I wanted it to be special for them.  We felt the same warmth with new friends and eating turkey despite being away from home, and this dinner made it one of my favorite trips that I hosted with MoEx.

In 2011, I was back with Peace Corps friends.  We met at a friend's mom's apartment in Evanston, Ill. and my dad and his new wife got to meet some of the most important people in my life.  We had wonderful food, talked about Thanksgiving/Christmas movies we used to watch, and of course, drunkely Skyped those who were far away from us, including "real" family, Peace Corps family, and other loved ones.

2012 was a big year for me.  I was with my sister in San Francisco, and she brined the turkey by herself - it was amazing by the way.  I also got to have a little Peace Corps flavor in my life that year because my friend David was also living in San Francisco at the time, and came over as well.  Before I left Philly, however, I also met my new friend, Fer, an Iranian at Penn who I came to see as one of my best new friends from that period, and who I hope to visit one day in her home.  We met that night when she asked me what I was drinking, and then we talked for at least an hour about education, pedagogy, and I recommended that she read Pedagogy of the Oppressed.  The beginning of a beautiful friendship.  I'm so thankful to have her in my life - even though we don't see each other that much - because she constantly reminds me how awesome women scientists are, as well as Iranians.  She's the one in the funky hat sitting across from me.

And now we're up to last year, 2013.  I went home to visit my mother and had a lovely Thanksgiving
with just her and me.  Before I flew home from Baltimore, though, I had a pre-thanksgiving meet up with Peace Corps friends - in line with the theme of this blog post of course - and we talked about how we had come, and that's where the idea for the reunion we had this past May really solidified.

So there you go.  My trail that has led me to today, my 8th Thanksgiving since I embarked on this experience that changed my life.  I hope that this will be another memorable event in a line of wonderful memories for which I am so thankful.  And now, in no particular order, my Thankful list - for those of you who are still with me:

  • This year I'm thankful for Whatsapp, because it allows me to stay connected with the most important people in my life.  I mean, I guess I'm thankful for the internet in general, but if we had to be specific, I couldn't have decided to embark on this next adventure without knowing that I could maintain the relationships that are most important to me.  I am especially thankful for Whatsapp group chats and the comfort they give me, every morning, when I wake up to 22 messages from my best friends.  How did people do the Peace Corps before the internet, I mean really?
  • This year I'm also thankful for my volunteers.  They say when you're volunteering, you always get more than you give, take more than you could ever bestow upon people.  And it's true even in this management role, with these young Moroccans.  They inspire me every day with their optimism, their patience, their willingness to do something that is so outside of their cultural context and their comfort zone.
  • I'm also thankful for Morocco, and especially Peace Corps Morocco.  Some people never find direction in their lives, never find a purpose, and it is because of this country that I have a guiding principle and, if we're being honest, a reason to keep on "keeping on."
  • Finally, this year I'm thankful for the hard things that have happened to me in the past year or so.  I don't have a hard life, and I'm very aware of my priviledge, but I have faced what are ,for me, some of the most difficult situations of my life since leaving Penn, and I am thankful for the pain they brought, the lessons I learned, and the fact that they remind me how lucky I am to have the good things in my life that I do, and that I am lucky just to be alive.
Thanks for reading, dear friends and family, and I hope you have a wonderful and warm Thanksgiving, wherever you are.

1 comment:

Colleen Daley said...

2014-Meeting people in Hotel Oscar, uncomfortable but fun with so many PCVs
2015-Friendsgiving with Julie & Michael and daughter, kiddos, at my house
2016-Another friendsgiving with students and Jihane, Rachid, & Otmane + teachers friendsgiving