It was very strange to be celebrating Thanksgiving in a foreign country today. Haiti does not celebrate Thanksgiving and so it felt like any other day - just a normal Thursday. However, I have been away from my family and friends for 3.5 months now and I was not going to let this Thanksgiving go by without some sort of celebration. It would just be too sad to not do something.
So about 3 days ago I asked Belorne if we could have a Thanksgiving feast for dinner today. She agreed. Then I asked if we could also invite the staff to partake in Thanksgiving dinner. Thankfully, she agreed to that, too. :)
Around 10 a.m. we set out for the grocery store to buy the necessary materials for an excellent Thanksgiving feast. On the menu was: turkey - fried (Haitian style) and roasted, sweet mashed potatoes, regular mashed potatoes, green beans, peas, rice, stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy, spice cake, and (most importantly) homemade applesauce. Also, we were going to make punch for our drink. Lots of stuff to buy!
It was a fairly normal shopping trip, except that most of the folks there were celebrating Thanksgiving, too. Everywhere we turned ex pats were saying to us, "Happy Thanksgiving." It felt good to be among fellow celebrators.
What was super hilarious, though, was that the store had stocked up on turkeys for Thanksgiving (as a big portion of their business is done with people who work for International NGOs.) However, these turkeys DEFINITELY had to be shipped in and so they were SUPER expensive. We bought a 20 lb turkey today for a little over $50. Crazy!
We arrived back at the GH and began preparations for the meal around 1 p.m. Most of the things we were making didn't take much prep work so that was good.
However, there was one dish that took quite a bit of work... the applesauce.
Now, some of you may think that applesauce is a strange dish to have at Thanksgiving. I found that out today. I mentioned that we were having applesauce to some of our guests and they said, "Oh, well...okay. I've never really thought of applesauce as a 'Thanksgiving dish.'" That's when I would say, "Well, then you've obviously never been to a Thanksgiving on Brucker Family Farm in Dahinda, IL!"
Yes, every year my Aunt Amy makes an AMAZING homemade applesauce for Thanksgiving. This year, as I would not be in Dahinda to celebrate the holiday, I e-mailed her for directions so I could make it myself. It's always my favorite dish at Thanksgiving.
But, I discovered that it takes quite a bit of work to make this one dish. We had to peel, core, and cut up around 40 apples for the amount of people we had to feed.
- Deanna and Belorne help me prepare the apples for the applesauce -
Then we had to put all of them in a pan over the stove with just a little bit of water added. After that I added sugar and cinnamon...
And it was PERFECT. Seriously, once it was done... it was worth all the hard work. Especially since I had some helpers along the way. :) In fact, one of the teams we had staying at the GH, without knowing which dishes we made, decided that the applesauce and the stuffing were the two best dishes of the night and demanded recipes. It felt good to be a chef!
It was also delightful to invite our Haitian family (the staff) to partake in Thanksgiving meal with us. For the blessing before the meal we ended up singing the Doxology and we all sang it in English while our Haitian brothers and sisters sang it in Creole.
It felt wonderful to spend that time with the people here I know and love even when I could not spend it with my family at home. It really made the experience that much brighter for me.
- Madame Claire and her mashed sweet potatoes masterpiece... yum! -
I am often in awe at how God has truly blessed me and when I take the time to think about it, I am reminded how it is my job to share my blessings and bless others. It truly was amazing to spend this Thanksgiving in Haiti - a 3rd world country, in the midst of some political turmoil and violent rioting, while also in the midst of a growing epidemic, while also in the midst of still trying to pick up the pieces of their lives that were destroyed/altered during the earthquake. Seriously, how blessed am I!?! How blessed are we!?!?
Today I am thankful for food. I am thankful that I have enough food to share.
I am thankful for family and friends. I am thankful to have a strong enough support system in my life to be of support to others.
I am thankful for health, for shelter, and for an (easily obtained) education.
Lastly, I am thankful for knowledge of this great, loving God. I am thankful for a family who taught me about this God. I am thankful for children's ministers, youth leaders, and other influential adults in my life who helped shaped this faith in God and taught me to listen to God's call. I am thankful that I get to wake up every day knowing I have a divine Creator who knows me and loves me in spite of all the stupid stuff I do. I am thankful for the hope that I have - for myself, for my friends, for my family, for Haiti - and I am thankful that I get the opportunity to be a small slice of that hope to others each and every day.
I have a lot to be thankful for.
P.S. I will be posting all of my Thanksgiving photos to Facebook so check there soon to see them! :)
Edit: Click here to see my photos from my Haitian Thanksgiving.