It is Thanksgiving Day here in the PRC. My children, who attend the American school, do not have today off as a holiday. With ovens too small to fit anything other than two Cornish game hens, many American expat families are opting for Thanksgiving in fancy hotels. A small number of kitchen adventurers have spent many days chasing groceries all over the city in a mad hunt to replicate the American feast; cans of pumpkin and cranberry, carted over in suitcases, have been pulled out of pantries in anticipation. There exists the small, if naïve, hope that the ovens won’t ruin the pies and guests won’t miss the nutmeg from the filling. As long as the wine is good, no one will notice, right?
Since Mr. Understanding is working today also we are postponing the harvest fest for Saturday evening. The St. Regis hotel is delivering the majority of the fixings to our house where we will dine with two other American expat families. Unlike a “cooked” prime rib dinner I once ordered for Christmas from The Palm restaurant in Mexico City, the St. Regis’ reputation is solid. All there is to do is rinse off the dishes I bought with Maria, set the table, and vacuum the cat fur off the couches. If only.
In any event, this “Thanksgiving” has got to be better than last year which we spent in the police station in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil being fingerprinted for expiring visas which some HR bozo had failed to note. Lunch was at McDonald’s and dinner was at a Marriott restaurant in the Costa de Sauipe. The temperature was close to 100 F and there was little or no air conditioning at the police station. We hit a new low in expat holidays abroad. Mr. Understanding ditched me and the children there the next day for his first trip to China. Not that I’m bitter.
So although for nearly 12 years we have missed the Thanksgiving hoopla – the food, the football, the family and friends, the Christmas shopping the next day – sometimes it is actually better. There is no television with which to compete, no bickering, no goofball guests, no travel delays, and, best of all, there are drastically lowered expectations. You get to know your neighbors better and maybe the woman who brought the maple and pumpkin cheesecake becomes your new best friend or at least someone you can call in an emergency.
The Thanksgiving spirit is hard, but not impossible, to recreate outside the fifty states. But we try because really, Thanksgiving is a state of mind and that is one place you can travel to no matter where you are in the world. Cheeseball, anyone?