Saturday, December 4, 2010

Turkey with a Side of Dumplings

I was handling home-sickness well until Thanksgiving hit. Attending class like a normal day, I imagined my mom putting the turkey in the oven and dreamed of my school friends on planes and trains headed for home. They don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here in China – how was I to find the holiday spirit?

Although absent from my family table, I knew I still had many things to be grateful for. My close friend from Georgetown had finished her study abroad program early and flew from Australia to explore Shanghai with me. Luckily she was still here during Thanksgiving, so we were able to be each other’s family at the university’s Thanksgiving buffet dinner. My host dad accompanied us to the dinner, and while he opted for the shrimp dumplings and Chinese mixed noodles, I enjoyed his reaction when he tried turkey and cranberry sauce for the first time.

Even though I was not able to spend Thanksgiving in the US, I was fortunate to share it with my Chinese family and new friends. Being their first host student, my host family had never celebrated Thanksgiving. My stories of watching the Macy’s Day Parade while preparing food and saying what you are grateful for around the dinner table intrigued them – they had never heard of such traditions before. Sharing my culture with them was the greatest gift I could give this holiday season. The next morning when my mom rushed me awake to show me news clips of the parade, I could see they how much they were trying to make me feel at home. This is truly what family is for.

While I longed for my American family during Thanksgiving, I know that I’ll be thinking about my host family on Christmas. There will be no lotus cakes to accompany the Christmas ham, nor tea to follow dinner. But I will have these memories and new Chinese traditions which I can now share with my American family.

Happy Holidays.

"Handicap Bathroom," is that so hard to translate?

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