I’m not sure why but I was not looking forward to Thanksgiving this year. In general, I have a pretty take it or leave it attitude about Thanksgiving but this year it was more than that. I was thinking of Thanksgiving as one more thing I had to “get over with” before I could go home. I was too focused on the things that were coming after Thanksgiving that I wasn't thinking about all the reasons that November 24 (or in our case, November 26) was going to be awesome.
The holiday did not go off without a hitch – I received some heart breaking news in Lima, had to ride a night bus with forty hyper 10-12 year-olds, and forgot my favorite shirt in Lima (hopefully to be recovered before my trip to the States). Overall, though, it was exactly what I needed.
On Thanksgiving Day, thirty(ish) volunteers arrived in Trujillo, the capital of La Libertad, the department north of Ancash. I spent the sunny day watching two friends doing tricks at the skate park, wandering the mall in awe, eating delicious fresh fish, and, once again, having pizza for Thanksgiving dinner.
The next day, we divided our group and conquered the market, buying enough food for all of the traditional Thanksgiving dishes. With potatoes and turkeys in tow, we took buses two hours north to Erin's beach site, home of the longest left breaking wave in the world. In the afternoon, we lounged on the beach before working hard on supper prep for the next day.
Saturday was our much anticipated “fake Thanksgiving”. We woke early (for me, at least!) for a Turkey Trot 5K on the beach. I thought living at altitude would help but running on sand was still difficult. I’ll admit that I walked and caught up with friends much more than I ran.
I helped some friends prepare their contributions to the meal but my favorite part of prep was carving one of the turkeys. Another volunteer had tracked down two 13 kilo mammoths and after a quick lesson from Elke, I was put in charge of carving one of them. There was something very primal and oddly satisfying about ripping and cutting apart that turkey. I offer my services for next year. Over an hour and a half later, we had enough turkey to feed a small army.
Despite being in Peru, it was a delicious meal of turkey, garlic mashed potatoes, sweet potato pie, veggies, sweet potato biscuits, gravy, stuffing, homemade applesauce, and pumpkin, apple, and strawberry pies. We shared our meal with Erin's host family, friends from her site, and some surfers from our hostal. Since I couldn't be home for Thanksgiving it was the next best thing.
We had an awesome beach bonfire that night and spent a sunny Sunday playing cards on the beach before heading home that night (which is when I encountered the bus full of talkative 10 year-0lds on a field trip and seriously considered murder).
Lesson learned. Sometimes it's easy to become so wrapped up in the excitement of the next best thing that it's easy to miss all of the unexpected wonderful moments I experience everyday. I was so focused on going home that I forgot all about how amazing it would be to celebrate and spend time with my good friends here – people who support me and care for me like a family.
In that spirit, three things I can be thankful about right now, as I sit in a combi, in a seat that is lacking the six inches of room that would allow my legs to fit behind the seat in front of me and is full of people speaking Quechua:
that I found this piece of paper and a pen so I could write this blog entry instead of being bored,
that I’m comfortable in a thermal shirt I acquired today in a bag of stuff my friend Pete left behind,
that I was able to catch up with some friends today that I didn't see at Thanksgiving and that I’ll be seeing another friend from a faraway department later in the week.
So as I try to focus on the here and now, I can't help but thinking about how I’ll be feeling in 13 days. As much as I try to appreciate the experience I’m having here my mind can't help but wander to how wonderful/amazing/spectacular it's going to feel to be holding, hugging, and hanging with my nieces (and, you know, other people too).