Expat Life: A Different Sort of Thanksgiving
Those of you who are in - or from - the United States will probably be aware that today (November 22nd) is Thanksgiving. (If you are not from the US and would like a brief primer, you can refer to this post I wrote last year, outlining the basics and lamenting the fact that the Asia Vu family would not be spending the holiday with their loved ones.)
As it turns out, we won't be spending this Thanksgiving Day with our loved ones, either - not even each other, since MrL and I both have to work. Son#1 is, of course, still at University in the US, and Son#2-whose school does close for Thanksgiving - will be spending the day at Lotte World with an assortment of his friends from a variety of countries and cultures who either a) don't celebrate Thanksgiving or b)whose families are working like we are. (Let me add that, for a 15-year-old boy, a visit to an amusement park with your friends is always preferable to hanging out eating with old people, so he's not upset in the least.)
Never fear, though: we'll still be celebrating - just a bit later, on Friday evening with the other expats and their families from MrL's office.
But this year, I will be working on Thanksgiving Day. The school where I teach - while international - is not American and, therefore, quite reasonably, does not celebrate American holidays. MrL's company is on a Korean holiday schedule. So, Thursday the 22nd will see MsC and MrL heading to work just like on any other day.
I originally was not going to mention this on the blog, because I didn't want to sound self-pitying. You know: "Oh, poor me, my husband and I have to work on Thanksgiving and one of my children is 6,000 miles away and the other one will be spending the day without his family and not eating turkey, alas and alack." First World Problems, right?
I will admit to initially having felt a tiny bit blue about the whole thing, but then I decided that, if I couldn't share Thanksgiving with my family, I would go ahead and share it with the students that I teach every day. Accordingly, over the last few weeks, I trolled the internet for some good material, looked out a couple books with simple descriptions, and even found a couple of great little videos on YouTube that explain the American Thanksgiving in relatively simple language, including one which makes up for what it lacks in depth with a really catchy tune, entitled, "Let's Have a Dinner - Thanksgiving!"
After the general explanation, I decided I needed a song, so I managed to dredge up from my own childhood a tune about a despondent turkey contemplating his own mortality (compliments of my mother, a former primary school teacher) and whose refrain consists of 'Gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble, I would like to run away! Gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble, I don't like Thanksgiving Day!'
I planned on following this with a charming tale about a turkey who (successfully) evades a rifle-toting farmer (Run, Turkey, Run!-destined to be a classic, I'm sure.)
And of course, I planned to cap it all off with a true American childhood Thanksgiving classic: the hand turkey.
As I dug through all the material, it really was like a walk down memory lane for me: the songs, the stories, even the crafts - from my childhood, and my own children's.
When I taught my first lesson on 'American Thanksgiving' on Monday, I think I had more fun than the kids did. I'll teach that same lesson 4 or 5 more times before I leave work on Friday, and I'll enjoy it every single time, I'm sure.
It has been such fun to share the Mayflower and pilgrims and pumpkin pie and family dinners for the first time with these kids! I have looked forward to every class and sharing every activity with them - yes, even the hand turkey.
In a way, I've been re-living all of my Thanksgivings by sharing them with my students.
Today, even though I'll be standing in front of a classroom instead of sitting down at a table with my family, it will still be Thanksgiving. I'll be sharing those stories, those traditions, and the custom of - for one day at least - reflecting on all we have to be grateful for.
And I will be thankful.