Sentani team Thanksgiving, 2012. Photo by Erica Feunekes.
When we first moved overseas, I wondered how it would be celebrating various holidays, especially my favorite one, Thanksgiving. Without crisp, cool weather, my grandmother’s dressing, and post-feast football, what would Thanksgiving be like? Is it even possible in the tropics?
Tarakan team Thanksgiving, 2010. Photo by Tripp Flythe.
But then, what is Thanksgiving all about, anyway? Giving thanks, and being with your loved ones. Giving thanks? We can certainly do that regardless of where we are. Being with loved ones? While not our blood relatives, our MAF teammates are as precious to us as family. And Thanksgiving is about feasting, as well. I am always amazed, year after year, at the feast we’re able to come up with on our far-flung islands. Looking at a plate of food from our Indonesian Thanksgivings, you’d never know you weren’t in the U.S., except maybe the “sweet potatoes” aren’t quite as orange as they should be. You learn to appreciate and savor the turkey all the more, especially if it’s the only turkey you eat all year, and it cost you $30. Our post-dinner games make up for the lack of football, and some years we have pre-recorded a game to show.
One Thanksgiving we were in Singapore for the birth of our daughter. She was only a week old, and we were staying in a borrowed apartment that had one burner and a microwave. My husband canvassed Singapore, looking for a pre-cooked turkey, and came home with a tiny rotisserie chicken. With that and some microwaved broccoli and sweet potatoes, we feasted. We gave thanks—for each other, for our new baby, for our humble meal.
I have found that celebrating a holiday stripped down to its essence actually gives the holiday a deeper meaning, and our Thanksgivings in Indonesia have been some of our most memorable.