Sunday, November 30, 2014

Giving Thanks For The Simple Things In Life

Living and working abroad comes with so many perks-- exposure to a new culture, meeting new people, eating new foods, seeing new things. It also comes with it's fair share of downfalls-- homesickness, missing the life milestones of family and friends, spending holidays thousands of miles away.

Since leaving Ohio almost three years ago, I've spent every holiday (except Christmas) abroad at least once. I haven't attended an Easter service in English in three years and I forget what it's like to be cold on Halloween. Despite the fact that I've now spent Thanksgiving away from home three times, it hasn't gotten any easier. 

Part of the struggle is that neither Honduras nor Brazil actually celebrates Thanksgiving. It's hard to feel like a holiday is approaching when the majority of the people around you don't know or care that it's approaching. 

Part of the struggle is that Thanksgiving is such a family oriented holiday, and yet I find myself far, far away from my family.

But the good news is that I'm not alone here in Rio and I wasn't alone in Honduras. I made incredible friends in both countries-- some of them North Americans, some of them Hondurans or Brazilians. People who understand the difficulties of being away from your family and friends for so long and during such meaningful times. People who have taken me under the wing and welcomed me into their country.

So while my Thanksgivings have been less than traditional, they've become more and more reflective of the lifestyle I've come to love-- a blending of cultures coming together to celebrate the differences and similarities in all of us. 

This year our table was adorned with the typical turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, etc, but placed right a long side the traditional dishes were Brazilian risoles and palha italiana. Last year, in Honduras, we had the typical Thanksgiving trimmings, but we also had Canadian Swiss Chalet sauce and Honduran baleadas. And when I looked around the tables, I didn't see a family that I was blood related to, but I saw a family that I had built for myself. 

Thanksgiving hasn't looked the same for me in years, but the feeling of Thanksgiving has always been present. The gratitude you feel for the people in your life, the happiness and laughter shared, the exhaustion yet pride that comes with cooking a Thanksgiving meal, the contentment you feel when you look around your crowded house and see the faces of people you care about it-- these feelings are universal. 

Thanksgiving may be an American holiday, but the sentiments are felt everywhere.

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