This year, as with every year, I’ve got plenty to be thankful for.
I was nervous for this thanksgiving. This was my first thanksgiving without my family. Even when I was in college, I was only a four to five-hour drive away, so I was not sure how I would deal with the impending holidays.
It was rough. In the week or two leading up to the day, I had some rough days. I had great days filled with learning, teaching and laughter, but I also had days with frustration, tears and anger. Though the good outweighed the bad.
My group in sleepy Sloboda decided that we would have thanksgiving at ‘our place,’ our teacher’s house in Sloboda, and we would invite our link group and our other teachers to attend as well.
We put some thought into our menu. If you weren’t aware, cuisine is a bit different here in Ukraine meaning mashed potatoes would be easy (I eat those at least 3 times a week), but other thanksgiving staples posed a bit more of a challenge.
Other groups decided to get a bit more creative and worked to blend Ukrainian delicacies with the classic thanksgiving fare, but we in Sloboda decided to attempt to get as close to a good old fashioned American thanksgiving as we could.
We had mashed potatoes (of course), macaroni and cheese, turkey, salad, pizza and apple cider. The cider is a staple of the Carter household and it was a hit, if I do say so myself. The pizza was from our teachers and I loved the addition to our meal.
Rather than the usual pumpkin pie, we had apple empanadas, courtesy of Katie, Ofelia and Shaun of our link group, which were absolutely delicious.
During dinner we shared what we were thankful for, just like at home. After dinner, we played games and music. I dominated at UNO, just like at home.
All the same, I think the best part of this thanksgiving was that it wasn’t just like at home. There were elements of this thanksgiving that were reminiscent of my thanksgivings at home, but it was also a beautiful and unique thing that I loved. I loved the bustle of the kitchen that reminded me of cooking with my mom, I didn’t love peeling potatoes and the cut on my finger would agree with me. That will remain Sydney’s job. I loved good conversation and fun games. I loved the music. I loved this day.
After the dishes were done, the leftovers packaged away and the goodbyes said to our friends who made their way back to the city, I went back to my home across the street. I ran into my host mom who asked me about thanksgiving, specifically about Obama’s final turkey pardoning, which I loved and you should probably watch it if you haven’t already.
I went to bed content. It was a good day spent with good friends. Around 1 in the morning I randomly woke up, I contemplating getting up to get water or just going to sleep when my phone started to ring. I answered the facetime call to see a table of smiling faces looking at me and making fun of me for not turning on the light. (It was 1 in the morning and I didn’t want to wake my host family).
I was able to join dinner at home and it was great. We had the same jokes, the same stories and I loved it. It was the perfect end to a great day. It really felt like I was there and, rather than that being disheartening, that felt incredible. I miss them dearly, but having that technology makes it a little easier and it makes it feel like they’re not quite so far away.
All in all, I still love thanksgiving and I’m excited to start playing Christmas music (finally).