Thursday, November 28, 2013

A very traditional Thanksgiving

Left to right: cole slaw, cranberry sauce, some bird,
apple pie I mistook for meat pie, carrots, wait-that's-not-chocolate-
it's-a-cinnamon-brownie!, rice that's hotter than the hot sauce,
and some kind of crumble that was too hot for me.
The last two years, I think I've done better at celebrating Nostalgia Day than Thanksgiving Day. While still being thankful overall, I thought a lot about what was missing, what was unusual, what was uncanny, and especially what was just Wrong about Thanksgiving in Nigeria. Much of it isn't even Nigeria's fault - I mean, in order to be a Traditional Thanksgiving, it has to be at my aunt's house, the one they sold more than 20 years ago. Some crowning foods just don't exist here.

I wondered what traditions and nostalgias my little boy was picking up, celebrating American Thanksgiving in Nigeria. Would I some day read his blog post titled "It's just not Thanksgiving without jollof rice and bleached cabbage"?

Ah well. We do the best we can. We are grateful for what we have, not for what we don't, right? Of course right. AUN is a wonderful institution for even planning a big celebration.

Today though I realized I am actually celebrating a Very Traditional Thanksgiving. In some ways, you can't get more traditional than to celebrate Thanksgiving as an expat.

My four pilgrim forefathers who were there on the Mayflower were wanderers in a strange land, a tiny and very opinionated minority in a land of people who looked and spoke differently and who ate strange foods. The first two years were very hard. They watched as friends left one by one - in their case to death and in mine to other jobs in other lands. Finally they threw off their socialist ideals, embraced private property, and enjoyed the bounties of the land with new friends. As far as Hallmark versions of the holiday go, I think I've done this just about right!

I leave for home in two weeks. 14 days. I am thankful for the number 14.

1. I am thankful for the sweetest little girl, who hugs the Daddy doll and says, "You're my best friend."
2 I am thankful for a bright little boy who takes as much delight in reading to me as having me read to him.
3. I am thankful for another little boy on his way - almost halfway there.
4. I am thankful for my beloved Joy, who reads scriptures and fun books with me, who takes such wonderful care of my children, who has done far more work than I have on my job market this year, and who I miss so very terribly.
5. I am unusually thankful for Christmas. I've been singing Christmas songs, recording them, and sending them to the kids so I can sing with them. I was delighted to put up the tree a bit early this year so I could think of going home.

6. I'm also thankful to be here. I'm thankful for a good job, doing work I really enjoy doing, that pays well enough to take care of my family and to help out a few other people.
7. I'm thankful for good colleagues I enjoy being with.
8. I'm thankful for for a remarkably large percentage of my students. They're good people and I look forward to what they will become.
9. I'm thankful for Nigerian sunsets - every single day.
10. I'm thankful to be among friendly, smiling people. Friendly doesn't begin to do them justice.

11. I'm thankful for stuff, real and digital: air conditioners, Nintendo 3DS, Youtube and Crunchyroll, ebooks, juice, living across from a chicken farm, fake flower garlands, hot water, Google Alerts that keep me up on news I can share in my classes, a Christmas tree, Hob Nobs, feedly to replace Google Reader, ....
12. I'm thankful to have lost all my summer weight and a few pounds more.
13. I'm thankful to have my first journal publication coming out next year.
14. I'm thankful that I have permission to hold sacrament meeting (church) every Sunday even though I'm the only one there.