Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Note on Thanksgiving

The Holiday season is in full swing here in Hungary.  As we lit the third candle on the advent wreath this weekend, I realized how fast the time has passed since celebrating Thanksgiving.  And that I didn’t mention anything about it yet!

I took the opportunity in late November to teach my host community about American Thanksgiving.  At the Tanoda, the students and I googled pictures of Thanksgiving dinner and spoke about traditional American dishes.  Some foods were familiar, while others seemed completely foreign.  I also of course attempted to make a grammatical lesson out of the spirit of Thanksgiving. 

I imagined the kids holding up the signs I made and making perfect English statements about what they were personally thankful for.  I brought my camera to film them and envisioned creating a video to capture their thoughts and cute Hungarian accents.  The video would be paired with some sweet inspirational music and the production would be an emotional one, making people who read my blog posts cry, getting hundreds of facebook likes and shares and possibly even making it to Buzzworthy.com.  So here folks is what I got: 

The day we did this activity, the kids were not in the mood to listen or cooperate to what I had in mind.  They had already been in school since 8:00am that morning and it was now 4:00pm in the afternoon.  The last thing they wanted to do was work on their English and listen to me nag.  We ended up playing card games and listening to music.  And though my expectations were not academically or creatively met, it ended up being a great day and I was reminded that my agenda is not always the agenda that needs to be followed.

A few days later another YAGM volunteer, Chelsea, came to stay with me in Piliscsaba.  She serves in Szombathely, not too long of a train ride from me.  I had this great idea that together we would make my host family a huge Thanksgiving dinner to celebrate as a family.  (Side note: I do not regularly cook.  I do not regularly shop in a grocery store.  Cooking is not on my list  of top 10 favorite things to do.  On Thanksgiving Day I usually sit in the living room and watch football while other people are in the kitchen.)  Regardless of these facts, I took on the task of cooking a dinner with the expectation of filling the table with delicious food and giving my Hungarian host family a taste of American Thanksgiving.

Chelsea, YAGM volunteer in Szombathely, and incredible
pumpkin pie maker
Three groceries stores and one broken oven later, I was ready to order pizza.  I broke the oven, like I didn't even think that was possible.  I was over this dinner thing.  But my wonderful friend Chelsea took over and kept her spirits high, making homemade pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, chicken pesto, and a delicious candied walnut salad.  My contribution was peeling the potatoes and watching the pumpkin pie cook in a neighbors oven for 45 minutes.  While Chelsea labored at the stove in our house, I sat in a neighbor's kitchen and for 45 minutes conversed solely in Hungarian with a stranger.  My expectations of the night and dinner were completely off, but I gained so much from that conversation with a stranger that I now call a friend.  And Chelsea pulled off a WONDERFUL dinner...props to you girl.

Chelsea, Thad, Ole, Me, Mari, and Ursula (Central Europe YAGM Family)
enjoying Thanksgiving leftovers and lots of UNO playing!
Chelsea got to make those homemade pumpkin pies again later that weekend when all the Hungary YAGM volunteers traveled to Bratislava, Slovakia to celebrate Thanksgiving with our coordinators and other ELCA volunteers.  It was a wonderful weekend of food and fellowship.  On Saturday we gathered for a Thanksgiving dinner and I was absolutely blown away by how delicious everything was, it seriously tasted like home.  I guess most of my expectations surrounding Thanksgiving were turned upside down and it has reminded me to keep my expectations in line, or rather to not have any at all.

It's nice to experience things as they are, and not have to compare them to how I envisioned them to be.  I've taken this knowledge into the Advent season and am fully enjoying the Holiday season in a new culture.

More later on Advent and Christmas

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