A Moveable Feast: The First Expat Thanksgiving


"I miss my dog...and my mom...[not necessarily in that order]...and pumpkin pie...and...and...a dishwasher," I choked out in the midst of a meltdown - and no, not the first. I've been an expat for four months, and today is my first big holiday abroad. I know I sought after this path, but I will admit - sometimes I just really wish I had the same genetic mutation as Nightcrawler (teleportation, for all you non-nerds). This is all so ironic because when I was home, I was wishing for teleportation for the opposite reason. I was warned in my first week here to be wary of "culture shock," and I swear I can go through the stages in the span of an hour. 

For example last Tuesday we had to get some documents notarized for Aaron's visa. We found the office, were able to communicate clearly in Spanish, and I walked off feeling swell. On our way home, we decided to grab some dinner out; I tried to order my chicken with onion rings instead of french fries: "No quiero papas. Solo quiero cebolla," I repeated over and over with my voice becoming increasingly frustrated and anxious each time. I pointed at the menu and used every charade I could think of. When my food came, I had french fries and onion rings. Sigh. Apparently they don't do substitutions in Colombia. I eventually accepted there are worse things than having extra french fries but not without a little grumbling. 

I woke up ready to face all the stages today. Thanksgiving isn't a national holiday here, so I'll spend my day at school with my coworkers and students. We are having a special assembly and celebration, and there are rumors of turkey in the cafeteria. After school, I'll walk straight home, FaceTime my family, and probably get hung up on a couple of times as my baby niece plays with the screen. Later I'll go downtown with some new friends and give away ham sandwiches to the homeless, and tomorrow Aaron and I will do our best to bake pies in a giant toaster oven and have a couple of Colombian friends over. Despite the sketchy origins of Thanksgiving, I just can't say no to a celebration in which we express gratitude, spend time with family, and eat comfort food made from scratch. It's possible that living abroad really increases my already high ability to romanticize, but either way, this year, Thanksgiving will have to be my moveable feast. And at the end of it, I'll remind myself of all I have to be thankful for: my loving boyfriend who is here with me, our supportive family and their upcoming visits, my job at an inspiring school, the opportunity to travel and learn a new language, and all my kind friends in Colombia. 

We ate well and cheaply and drank well and cheaply and slept well and warm together and loved each other.
— Ernest Hemingway

Ashley Peak

Teacher & traveler seeking bright sides and adventures. I recently left my position as a Title 1 middle school teacher in Spokane, WA for a position in Manizales, Colombia teaching English and Geography at a bilingual private school. I'm passionate about education in action, the power of literature, and traveling the world. Optimism Rampage is a place for me to reflect on the adventure. β€œStuff your eyes with wonder. Live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds. see the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. Ask no guarantees, ask for no security, there never was such an animal. And if there were, it would be related to the great sloth which hangs upside down in a tree all day every day, sleeping its life away. To hell with that . Shake the tree and knock the great sloth down on his ass.” -Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451