Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thanksgiving with an African Twist

Well, it's that time of year again when haggling thoughts of what the Pilgrims really ate take over, but I can be pretty sure they didn't eat stewed crocodile, or Zebra meat like the African lion feast on no matter what day it is. While you at home may have already started watching your favorite holiday shows, or baking a wide assortment of goodies in your warm and cozy homes, with smells of cinamon and vanilla filling the air, some of us are sitting here thinking about running around the village and chasing a turkey to kill for Thanksgiving dinner. That's right, Peace Corps Service requires just a little ingenuity---it's not exactly over the river and through the woods to grandma's house this year---it's more like, let's even find a turkey in this god foresaken country and maybe keep it as a pet.

So, I sit here, in my not so cozy habitat, thinking of Thanksgivings' bounty of offerings, families gobbling down a scrumptious feast, and how in the USA, the average person consumes over 4500 calories on Thanksgiving day---they eat over 530 million pounds of turkey, 45 million turkeys are actually cooked, and did you know that domestic turkeys can't fly, but wild ones can fly over 55 mph but just for a short distance. Dang, all of a sudden, the sting of being on another hemisphere is making me feel really, really bad for these turkeys---though truth be told, if I were sitting at your Thanksgiving table, I doubt anyone would get more than a mouthful because I would've devoured it while the carving took place!

Lucky for you, I'm not at your dining room table, instead, it's early evening, and outside on the dirt paths, there's no holiday parade, no brightly ornamental floats, or melodious marching bands. Rather, my view is of my neighbor and Keoki running around trying to corner a chicken for dinner---I guess there's a little turkey in all of us!  Laughing at the site of Keoki and the plump woman running all over the place made me ponder of our traditions, and how many people have really ever even thought of taking the time to be deeply thankful on Thanksgiving Day, or is just the pumpkin pie they're thinking about. Quite frankly, being in the Peace Corps has made me thankful every minute of every day for the things I used to have, and the little I have now. I'm thankful for a flushing toilet when it works, for water and electricity when it's on, for having dental floss, for listening to the reverberating sounds of village kids sing my African name as I walk about, and for the kombie driver's avoiding the cow coming through the windshield and killing us all.

The holiday season was initially started in order to celebrate the harvest, and here in Africa that couldn't ring more true. No, Thanksgiving is not even a glint in the eyes here, but Pula, Rain, now your talking---it's everything to these folks, it's what they're most grateful for. Living in a small rural village certainly churns your eyes and heart to an entirely different meaning of being thankful and finding gratitude, because people here learn to improvise and make due with what they have.  And so, with the crescent moon hanging overhead,  I reflect on how small things can become huge gifts in the life of another.  No matter what you're grateful for, be sure to show gratitude for ALL you have, because there are those who have only the rain to look forward to!

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