There are plenty of things to be thankful for when you live in a foreign country: being in a lovely city filled with friends and energy, people who have helped make your rapidly changing life a little bit easier, the fact that you’re able to experience and live abroad at all!
This group of adorable 5 year olds who diligently learned a nonsense song about turkeys and even behaved extremely well while you filmed them singing… after you told them you would send the video to Washington and President Barack Obama might even watch it:
I can’t express enough how thankful I am to everyone I have encountered in Chambéry: friends, teachers, strangers, colleagues, French, American, Italian, and more.
But all of this is of course to tell you about how I celebrated Thanksgiving in a country where people ask about “that holiday where you eat the big chicken…I think it has something to do with the Civil War?” I never really thought about how American a holiday Thanksgiving is, until I realized that not a single country outside of North America celebrates it! We couldn’t even celebrate on the day, because most of us had to work all day! I know I’m nearly a month behind in finally writing about this, but since all assistants follow each others blogs and my blog feed was saturated by Thanksgiving posts, I like to think that I’m doing a service to the blog-world by de-concentrating the posts a bit! So, you’re welcome.
Effectively, I celebrated three separate Thanksgivings, all very different from one another.
Date: Thursday, November 27
Location: Restaurant du Lycée Hôtelier Challes-les-Eaux
Personnel: les colleagues de l’école
This dinner was not at all meant to celebrate the holiday, but it did happen to fall on Thanksgiving Day. The entire school went for dinner at the restaurant run by the Lycée Hotelier, essentially the trade school dedicated to food service and other hospitality services. It was a bit of a bizarre experience, as one of the assistants in the preschool sitting across from me was having some sort of personal crisis and spent the entire evening staring out the window in tears, not eating a single bite. But I passed a lovely evening getting to know Estelle, a student teacher at the school, who I rarely cross paths with, as we are always in different classes, but whom I hope to become friends with as the year goes on. We ate from the fixed menu which I can’t entirely remember, but featured some sort of chicken curry and enormous cream puffs. One of the teachers remembered half way through the dinner that it was Thanksgiving and shouted down the table to ask if I wanted to eat a turkey. Ha Ha Ha…
Date: Friday, November 28
Location: chez Giulia
Personnel: “the Italians”
Because there are so many assistants in Chambéry, we decided it was going to be extremely difficult to have everyone for one dinner, even my huge apartment would probably have trouble hosting all of us. So, I planned a separate American dinner for my non-anglophone friends. But since I had to spend the whole day and afternoon in Grenoble (more on this later), I couldn’t really prepare Thanksgiving dishes…so I opted instead for another American classic: grilled cheese and tomato soup! Plus Betty Crocker cookies for dessert. They were a huge hit, eaten from fancy paper plates sent by my mom to add a festive flair. They have been cooking amazing Italian dishes for me several times a week, so it was a lot of fun to eat something so American! After, what started out as a joke turned into literally an hour of four adults sitting around a table, very seriously and with utmost concentration coloring hand-turkeys.
Date: Saturday, November 29
Location: chez moi
Personnel: “the anglophones” (plus my French roommate)
This dinner had it all! Even though our party of 11 was only 45% American, everyone pitched in with a dish or two, pristinely organized through the most epically defaced Google Doc of all time. I was in charge of the mashed potatoes, stuffing and a hilarious pumpkin spice flavored pudding my mom sent me. We had a tiny turkey, but enough food to satisfy everyone and even leave us with some leftovers! The evening was filled with Beyoncé dance parties, hysterical party games, and lots of great company.
It was really a lot of fun to share this bizarre and kind of inexplicable American tradition with people who were so eager to partake. Although I was jealous of the picture my mom sent me of their fat American turkey, I will treasure this first Thanksgiving away from home. ✽