The Protojournalist
1:08 pm
Thu November 28, 2013

Project Xpat: Thank You For Posting

Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 6:36 am

Thanksgiving — like the universe — is expanding.

Traditionally a time for Americans to pause and give thanks to a Supreme Being — for health or harvest or happenstance, Thanksgiving is evolving before our very eyes into a holiday where we give thanks to each other as well.

Just this week we received Thanksgiving-themed thank-you notes from a doctor's office, a lawyers' association, a New Jersey congressman and others. Can Thanksgiving-themed gift cards be far behind?

It's not a bad idea. Saying thank you to more people.

So, in the widening spirit of the season: Thank you everyone for sending us reports of Thanksgiving 2013 celebrations in other countries. Thank you for sharing your photos and stories with us. Thank you for helping us get glimpses into what it's like to be an American where you are. Thank you for showing us your food. And your families. And your friends. And your surroundings.

Thank you to colleague Melody Kramer for juggling the social media aspects of the Xpat Project, which is scheduled to continue until Christmas.

Thank you to all other NPR colleagues, especially those working the long holiday weekend to continue to give the LURVers — Listeners, Users, Readers and Viewers — of NPR meaningful stories.

Thank you to our NPR bosses for letting us experiment with this idea — not knowing whether it would be a triumph or, well, a turkey.

And, year-round, thank you to you.

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As part of Project Xpat, NPR asked American expatriates to send stories and photos of their 2013 Thanksgiving observances in other countries. Now follows an edited sampling — updated now and then over the next few days:

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Lacking an oven, some other expat friends and I decided to go for the low-stress, low-budget version of Thanksgiving: takeout. A lovely Canadian coffee shop in town serves 'Thanksgiving dinner' sandwiches and pumpkin pies for homesick expats, so we pre-ordered a few, made some mashed potatoes to accompany, and sat around our apartments saying what we are thankful for. — Hannah McDonald-Moniz in Vientiane, Laos

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Thanksgiving for expats at the Harare International School: We invited friends from all different countries to the party, and taught them football, and shared our special day. — Ryan Mullen in Harare, Zimbabwe

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My American friends and I decided to join all our families together for a communal Thanksgiving feast. While we were open to having to make substitutions, mee goreng — fried noodles — instead of stuffing, we ended up with a surprisingly traditional meal: Cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes and honest to goodness stuffing graced the banquet table. Turkeys were a bit hard to find as they are not usually stocked until Christmas. Ours came frozen from Australia. We sadly had to give up on the idea of watching football or the Macy's parade over the Internet since it was only 5 a.m. on the U.S. East Coast. However, gazing out over the Andaman Sea and listening to the waves wash over the beach helped remind us to be thankful for our expat life while holding onto memories of home. -- Michele Chan-Thomson in Penang, a small island off the west coast of tropical Malaysia

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My colleagues here at Lincoln Community School celebrated Thanksgiving fittingly for its name as a truly international community, with nationalities ranging from American to Ghanaian, Canadian to Romanian, Iraqi to Australian, South African to French just to name a few.

Our Canadian physical education teacher, Mr. Murray, organized a gridiron Turkey Bowl on the school field. Instead of playing in the snow, as many of us would do back home, we sweat buckets in the West African heat and humidity.

One of our American science teachers, Mrs. Roy, spearheaded the celebration to combat feeling 'wicked homesick' for her hometown in New Hampshire. The result of her and many others' efforts left everyone with bellies full of all the essential holiday fare procured from local markets, the privilege of the U.S. commissary, and special delights brought in via suitcases.

It's nice to feel connected to home and share the joy and positive spirit of the holiday with our host country and so many others. Although we did not get to enjoy a Friday of recovery from our turkey hangover, we were thankful for the day, the bountiful food, and the fellowship. — Nisse Welchman in Accra, Ghana

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Each year, Rhodes House allows the American Rhodes scholars to prepare a Thanksgiving meal for about 150 scholars and friends. This year we had 96 pounds of turkey!

I've been in the U.S. for only one of the past six Thanksgivings, even though I am not a permanent expat. I've grown quite used to the random mixtures of foods, friends and families that constitute an expat Thanksgiving. It's therefore for me become more of a holiday to celebrate togetherness in what I think is a very inclusive idea of family, citizenship, group membership and gratitude. And in this year in particular, dining with so many wonderful people in the hallowed halls of Rhodes House — and with the next installment of our stipend entering our bank accounts this morning — there really is so much to be thankful for. – Steffi Bryson in Oxford, England

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Aboard the MS Statendam, a Holland America cruise ship. Several expat crew members — and one Scottish wellwisher — wishing everyone a happy Thanksgiving. -- Cressida Hanson, somewhere off the coast of Mexico

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All three of us live in Mangochi. I am a maternal and pediatric HIV/AIDS researcher at the Clinton Foundation, Annie Pro is a master's in public health student in tropical diseases, and Pat Ray is a Peace Corps volunteer and secondary school science teacher in a rural village. We made today special by sharing stories of our fondest memories of family and autumn in the Midwest. Wine and bowling dominated the discussion. — George Pro in Malawi

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My best friend and I spent our Thanksgiving in Changzhou. We're volunteer English teachers and college students, so we're broker than broke.

Instead of worrying about hunting down turkey, anything cranberry, or pumpkin pie, we just found all of our favorite foods in China and brought them together: Naan bread from a Muslim friend downtown, hazelnut hot chocolate and a blueberry filled cake from a Chinese bakery, and some chicken and mashed potatoes from KFC. We spent the evening with another friend, sitting in KFC sharing all of our stories and memories in China, as well as stories and traditions from back home. -- Heather Viland in China

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We went to Leiden where many of the Pilgrims who were going to come to the U.S. ended up staying. Many of their descendants still remain, and they have a huge celebration every year. There is a church founded by one of them, and his relative spoke at the ceremony yesterday. Afterward, we went to a hotel for a traditional U.S. Thanksgiving buffet surrounded by fellow American families. — Farrah Ritter in the Netherlands

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The wine glasses are filled with hot whiskey made by British expats. In the pot is mulled wine made by Irish expats. And the feast was arranged by myself and a few other Americans. We each brought dishes and enjoyed a wonderful meal. We are a group of teachers that have come together to work on the education system. -- Patricia Cullinane in Kazakhstan


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As a Thanksgiving grinch and expat in Kenya, I was hoping to get a pass on the turkey and trimmings. But then we had the Westgate terrorist attack here in Nairobi. "United we stand" became the national theme and resilience the favorite flavor. So I'm cooking a turkey for the first time in my life, specially ordered from the local food shop.

"How much will it cost?" I asked. "No worries, I'll give you a good price," was the reply. What could I do but order 3 kg of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, too.

While friends are posting photos of their beautifully laid Thanksgiving tables, I'll be joining dozens of yoga teachers from difficult backgrounds and their families at the Africa Yoga Project. We'll bend and build our core muscles, then sit down for a feast. Shoes optional. -- Valerie Gwinner in Kenya

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Today, I will be introducing my British friends to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. But yesterday, I attended a British rendition of Thanksgiving — complete with American flags, stars and stripes bunting and a cardboard cutout of President Obama. This was a part of a 'Thanksgiving' themed formal hall at King's College, Cambridge, in England, where I am currently a graduate student. We feasted on unique variations of the usual classics such as savoury pumpkin tart appetizers, chicken, kale, and cranberry cheesecake, while the King's College choir entertained us with songs by the Jackson Five. We even had the privilege of dining with a British Obama, decked out in a patriotic tiara and American flag. -- Elizabeth Dzeng in Cambridge, England

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Heather Boylan from Colorado — with Jen McKay from Oregon — enjoying turkey on Double Six Beach in Bali, Indonesia.

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I grew up in the Pacific Northwest. From Thanksgiving to New Year's, my dad indulged his holiday season with hot buttered rum drinks. When I was young, my sister and I drank hot buttered tea. I still remember the first time Dad deemed me old enough to have a rum-spiked version.

I have been living in the Bahamas for five years. Even though it's consistently 80 degrees throughout the holidays, I continue the tradition of hot buttered rum for the holiday season. This Thanksgiving I will be cooking a turkey dinner for a fellow American, a Canadian and my Australian/Bahamian husband. Instead of pumpkin pie, we'll be enjoying a warm hot buttered rum for dessert. -- Mariah Moyle, Dunmore Town, Harbour Island, Bahamas

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Since South Korea doesn't have many American style Thanksgiving dishes ... I requested duck, which I knew I could get easily and could get Oma — mother — to make for us. Spicy grilled duck with veggies and spicy duck bone soup, of course with soju. -- G. Salandi in Seoul, South Korea

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I'm a Native American Indian expat living in the United Kingdom for 15 years. I am sending this pic of me on Thanksgiving which consists of several burritos from the only Taco Bell anywhere near London. I think there's some irony somewhere about a native Indian having to do Turkey Day at a Taco Bell overseas. Cheers. -- Chuquai Billy in London, England

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I've been teaching English at Jishou University for the past five years. Every Thanksgiving has been different, but always enjoyable. This year, some of my junior-year students offered to cook dinner at my flat. The food was Hunan-style, meaning lots of chili pepper in almost everything: fish, pork, tofu, vegetables. We also had tomato-and-egg, thousand-year-old eggs and fruit salad — with cucumbers! And rice, of course. -- John Wheaton in Jishou, Hunan, China

The aftermath of an outdoor kitchen used by Peace Corps volunteers-in-training to prepare a Thanksgiving Day feast. -- Amber Lucero-Dwyer in Kamonyi, Rwanda

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I teach English at a school 150 km north of Chiang Mai, Thailand, in the small town of Fang. Today, I spent my time helping celebrate Sport Day, an annual event people take a month to prepare for. The morning started with a parade down the main street followed by what amounted to an all-day party. The free lunch they served the teachers today was a plate of steamed and pickled vegetables along with sticky rice and roasted pork.

In the evening, my Thai wife and I made carnitas and served them over steamed yams she had gotten at a local market. Yams are my connection to the Thanksgiving food I had in the U.S. before I left for here two years ago. Most of my expat friends here are British — leaving me to my own devices for Thanksgiving. — Roy Florey in Thailand

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I teach at an American School in Kuwait and live in an apartment complex-compound with my colleagues. This year to celebrate Thanksgiving we organized a potluck progressive dinner. Everyone signed up to bring one dish — an appetizer, main side, or dessert. We started in one apartment for apps, then moved to another for the traditional main course — turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole and all — and finished at another for desserts, including pumpkin, sweet potato and pecan pies! All in all we celebrated as a pseudo-family of about 50 people. The only things missing because of being in Kuwait? Beer, bacon and football. — Holly Walker in Kuwait

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My husband and I live in Christchurch, New Zealand, and this year was my first Thanksgiving since I moved here from Chicago in 2010, and even longer for my husband who has been living here since 2008. We had a wonderful feast with two other American expat couples. We divvied up the foods and each took responsibility for a couple of items. I volunteered to make the mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, from scratch, out of necessity. It turned out fabulously, and much easier than I always imagined it to be. Actual whipped cream in lieu of Cool Whip was simply divine.

Turkey is unbelievably hard to find here, but we managed to find a butcher shop that sold turkey breasts. The meat turned out so perfectly, and was certainly the highlight of the evening. We all chipped in to cover the outrageous expense of the meat.

A Kiwi friend gifted us one can of Colt 45 that he bought from a specialty-import beer shop for $6 — saying it would be a great addition to our "America Day." -- Caitlin Metzel-Manthei in New Zealand

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I'm a Peace Corps volunteer in Vanuatu, an island nation in the South Pacific. A group of volunteers happen to be in the capital for a disaster management training. We're heading to a War Horse Saloon, a bar decked out in a gaudy American Southwest theme, for a turkey and trimmings flown in from Australia. -- Kelly Parshall in Lulep Village, Paama Island, Vanuatu

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Thanksgiving in Taiwan: My apartment had no oven, cutlery, serving dishes, and only one table. There was no pumpkin pie or turkey to be found, which is why I am on the floor putting cranberry sauce on a cheesecake ... but it was a wonderful Thanksgiving with friends! -- Hannah Smith in Taiwan

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