What a strange feeling to wake up and go about a normal day when you know everyone is celebrating in the U.S. The people of Santa Isabel were so kind and thoughtful to make our day special though. All classes started the day with a special Thanksgiving prayer, and some classes devoted entire periods to learning about the holiday.
My first class was with the first grade girls, so I just briefly shared how I celebrate, but the fifth grade girls were so sweet! They had decorated the chalkboard with hearts and wrote, “happy thanks giving” haha! They all shouted it when I came in and were really well-behaved while I taught. I had printed some fill-in-the-blank worksheets on the first Thanksgiving and how we celebrate today. The day before, I had taped the different answers to the bottoms of their chairs, so I had them find their slip of paper. We worked through the history sheet first and they seemed to be paying attention. I think it helped keep them engaged because they were checking to see if their word fit. Before the 2nd worksheet, we watched a clip of last year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving parade I found online and ate popcorn that the homeroom teacher brought as an American treat. The girls seemed pretty fascinated, so we discussed more about how I celebrate the holiday and worked through the second worksheet. As our final activity, I gave them a paper with a Thanksgiving themed border, so they could write down what they were thankful for. Miss. Mary and I shared some examples of what we would say and a couple of the girls wrote down some really nice thoughts. I really enjoyed that class!
Then it was lunchtime and bless the chef’s heart…he tried to give us a taste of Thanksgiving. We had turkey (the first I’ve seen since I’ve been in Europe), sliced potatoes, a vegetable casserole kind of dish, interesting looking gravy, squid rings (tricky little things because they look like onion rings), and rice pudding. The teachers were so kind to us and they really tried. It kind of made me miss home more, so I was a little down after lunch. The sweet 1st graders cheered me up with their hugs and antics though.
I tried to avoid social media as much a I could so that I wouldn’t get too homesick, but after school, I talked to a few friends and checked in with my family. It truly does make you appreciate something so much more when you are away than when it’s right in front of you. My sweet host family had made plans to have dinner with two other families that were hosting WKU students, so I also spent the afternoon watching Patricia prepare the dishes she was bringing. She made one of my favorites which is beef tenderloin with an olive oil and onion sauce, so I was already looking forward to dinner.
The host moms really outdid themselves! I walked into the house to a crowded kitchen of familiar faces and into the living room where I sat down with the other Americans to snack on chips and olives before dinner. There was an adult table and a kid table both set with beautiful dishes and crafted napkin holders. The family had already decorated for Christmas and everything was so homey that I really did feel like I was at a Thanksgiving celebration. I was just with a different set of family and friends.
As we sat down for dinner, the parents asked if we said anything or prayed anything special. Sarah explained how some families go around the table and say what they are thankful for. They liked the idea, so the kids and Americans all shared. It was nice to have the opportunity to thank our hosts families for everything, and I think they enjoyed learning about our holiday. It might not have been a southern Thanksgiving meal with all the fixins, but it was the best substitute I could ask for. The table was full of dishes including shrimp cocktail, a Spanish omelet, salad, a tuna and tomato bread appetizer, a fig and bread appetizer, quiche lorraine, herb potatoes, and beef tenderloin. The conversations, food, and laughter were so heartwarming. It truly has been one of my favorite nights so far. We finished up the dinner with a delicious brownie cake and expresso.
We also got a small taste of Black Friday as the main shopping streets were having a late shopping night. It wasn’t the crazy rush for deals like in the U.S. But the stores did stay they open until 2 or 3am. The moms offered to take us out, so we headed to Passeig de Gracia. The atmosphere was very lively with lots of music and young people milling around. It seemed more like a party than a shopping event, so we kind of just took it all in and looked in a few stores. We were worn out from a full day of school, so we headed home around 1. This Thanksgiving was like none other and I am surprisingly grateful for that. I got to share the holiday with a new set of friends and family, and it only intensified my thankfulness for everything I have back home. Thank God from whom all blessings flow!