Thanksgiving overseas

I may begin to wax poetic here, which feels a little odd for me since I’ve never really taken Thanksgiving all that seriously. One year when I was active duty and stationed in England I had completely forgotten it was Thanksgiving. I just showed up to work like any other Thursday and thought it was weird the base was so quiet. It wasn’t until leadership brought in a whole mess of food that I remembered which Thursday it was. With that kind of cavalier attitude toward turkey day, the introspection I’m feeling now is surprising.

Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday. Not Christian, mind you, because there are lots of Christians elsewhere in the world (for instance, those native to European countries) that don’t really celebrate it despite a passing familiarity with the idea from our entertainment output to the globe. I read somewhere that the Pilgrims dug a lot more graves than they built huts, so there’s certainly a predominantly Christian flavor to Thanksgiving- but never forget it’s also ours as Americans. (This is also evidence to me that football is the REAL American sport, because we don’t sit down to watch that perverted version of cricket that sissies call America’s pasttime after we gorge ourselves. But that’s a topic for another day.)

So, from my deployed location, we paid roughly $40 for our buy-in to a catered Thanksgiving meal, and this is where you know certain dishes just don’t cross cultures. Some guys here were pretty disappointed, to be perfectly honest. I say it was worth the money just for the story! Yeah, some of the food was terrible, but you know what? I’m really and truly grateful. My spirits are high, my coffee cup is full (as is my belly), and nobody’s shooting at us. Just thought I’d throw that last bit in there for some perspective. So we had beef as tough as shoe leather (and for once, I’m not exaggerating) instead of turkey. Big deal! It had lots of rosemary, tasted ok, and wasn’t yet another peanut butter sandwich! You just had to chew it more. A lot more. And the green bean casserole was more quartered mushrooms than anything, with green beans diced up like green onions- but it was tasty. And the pies…? Well nobody’s really sure what’s in the pies. We think those dark things are raisins, but even after eating it we question what the filling is. They don’t taste like any apples or pumpkins we’ve ever had… And I’m laughing the entire time.

I’ll let the other guys gripe. I don’t care. Because while I’ll whine from time to time about suffering through poor internet service, the fact of the matter is we’ve got it pretty good. See, we get to LEAVE here eventually. And come on, after growing up eating so many Thanksgiving dinners at a fire station, how cool is it to be chowing down in an aircraft hangar with some of the most sophisticated aircraft in the world as a backdrop? So they don’t know how to cook traditional American meals here. So what? I didn’t know what the heck their space alien-looking fruit was until a day or two ago.

I don’t really know how to communicate what I’m feeling right now- I’ve eaten better meals in the states and been less satisfied. Was the food worth the money? Heck no! But I laughed and had a good time, and think it’s more than worth it for the story. And when I look at the huge spread of not-very-good food, the fact is we still have a LOT. And that changes just outside the fence line.

So enjoy your turkey day. Take real inventory of what you have (or in some cases, what you don’t) and realize there’s so much to be thankful for. As Americans we are really and truly blessed- and only the most selfish see it otherwise. Considering how “crappy” this Thanksgiving is here, I don’t know that I could’ve enjoyed it more and I truly hope everyone who reads this gets a chance to truly embrace what Thanksgiving is all about, rather than just roll through an annual routine. God bless you, and have a happy Thanksgiving.

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