We rang in 2017 with a low key celebration at our Japanese friends’ home in Vevey, Switzerland. When Shu answered the door in bootie slippers and a Moroccan djellaba, I knew it was going to be a good night. He and Nana donned my handmade party hats like the incredibly good sports they always are. Following a terrace bonfire, a distant firework show, and numerous glasses of wine and sake, we slipped into 2018.
Countless events have passed since then, and seemingly have been devoured in a time vortex. Somehow, the calendar has flung itself to the week of Thanksgiving.
Naturally, I think of my family who will be gathering in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. But, Vevey was our first home together. The place we shared “Our First Thanksgiving” with our family of friends. We started our own traditions, some of which were slightly forced upon us. Like having roasted chicken instead of turkey. A special-ordered frozen turkey would have cost us circa 150 U.S. dollars, so we embraced the fellow fowl.
Vevey was training ground for me to learn how to cook with different ingredients, and exercise a little creativity in the kitchen. (Those reading this in the United States, please take a moment -for my sake- to be thankful for your abundant food choices in the myriad of grocery stores.) The supermarket in Yangon may have very inconsistent stock, and definitely some black market goods... But, it is a supermarket! Myanmar has been teaching us to manage expectations and maintain a flexible attitude, so our 2017 Thanksgiving menu will do the same.
All that being said, there is another international lesson that I am grateful for having learned:
There is always more than one way of doing something. And, those ways that are different from yours are just as real, and just as valuable.
My home country is founded on immigration. Pilgrims road up from Europe, and started all kinds of who-knows-what. Good and bad. History, of every land, has a bias of its teller. My ancestors came, and we left- for our own visions of betterment and a different life.
Today, we hang our hats in a country that is 9,125 miles (14,685 km) away from our birthplace. We look so different from the locals that it is common for them to ask to take photos with us.
For me, these contrasts are eye opening. Not, negative. Honestly, I often think of a friends’ comment that I should dress like a Disney Princess, walk down Yangon’s streets, and see what kind of commotion I would cause. The people here are precious, so it’s my pleasure to take a photo with anyone.
In light of the holiday, I seemingly am moved to share my appreciation for what is different. Not what is, or was, traditional to me. Though, I am grateful for those who came before me to lay out such a path of opportunity.
The United States is comprised of people from around the world. Undoubtedly, this fourth Thursday of November will mean something different to each of them. We are American, and have been in various places around the world on Thanksgiving Day. Each year, I think it means a little something different to us. But, I think different is worth all of the gratitude that I can give.