Happy Thanksgiving! Living in the states, we all have become accustomed to the U.S. Holidays and all they represent from the availability of traditional holiday foods, decorations in homes and retail stores and cultural norms such as exchanges of iconic greetings and spending special time with friends and family.
Living outside the U.S., one quickly realizes that you can’t just run down to the local store and necessarily find a can of Ocean Spray cranberry sauce. Finding a turkey in Ecuador was nearly impossible on the part of the coast where we lived. A local gringo restaurant owner had a source for turkeys and always hosts an annual Thanksgiving feast at his restaurant for local expats. Tripp Martin at Puerto Amistad in Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador never charged a penny for this feast and Diane and I attended, joyously! Tripp and his wife, Maye, and their staff always pulled it together.
This year, Diane and I weren’t sure what to expect here in Mexico. Although we live in a modern city (Cancun) with tons of amenities and plenty of shopping opportunities, I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to find enough of our favorites to pull off a traditional Thanksgiving meal. I was THRILLED when, walking through the Superama store (owned by Walmart) about ten days before Thanksgiving, I saw a freezer case filled with turkeys!! Seriously, I could hardly contain my joy!
There were no small birds so I pulled a twenty-pounder from the case and placed it into my cart.
“Babe, Look! A turkey!!! We have a turkey!” I did a small victory dance much like an end zone celebration performed by football players after scoring a touchdown. I didn’t care what the security guy was saying, I was gonna’ celebrate and he couldn’t stop me!!
I realized at that moment how much tradition means. Living in a foreign nation means adopting and adapting to local culture. Diane and I both have done that quite well over the past few years. At least I think we have. That said, being able to hang on to a bit of one’s home culture is important, especially when it involves a turkey! I began to plan our Thanksgiving meal before we left the store, something I hadn’t done until that moment.
A few days later, I found two cans of cranberry sauce tucked away behind some green beans in a different store. I snagged them, immediately! Fresh veggies rounded out the meal. We were gonna’ have a real Thanksgiving dinner.I was elated!
We had recently met a very nice couple who lives in our complex. They are from Canada and manage a remote wilderness fishing lodge for 7 months a year. They had chosen Cancun to spend their “off” months. Although they weren’t U.S. citizens, they readily accepted our invitation to join us for our traditional, Thanksgiving culinary celebration. Bryan had been trained as a professional chef and while I wondered how he’d react to my amateurish cooking. I needn’t have worried! Bryan and his wife Mona were WONDERFUL guests. We had one of the best days we’ve ever had, cementing a new friendship and learning how to make spectacular gravy while we were at it!
While living overseas separates us from family and old friends, it also provides ample opportunities to make new friends and stretch personal boundaries. Yesterday was about enjoying a bit of U.S. tradition while living in Mexico. Today, the day after Thanksgiving, has been spent munching on leftovers as is also the custom. In a day or two, Diane and I will likely be sick of turkey! I’m glad I sent a bunch of leftovers home with Bryan and Mona or we’d be eating turkey for the next week! So far, Carmine has been enjoying a bit of turkey mixed in with his regular dog food and he’s not complaining!
I’ve necessarily taken a few days off from my regular routine. Tomorrow, it’s time to get back on track with my normal exercise and meal regime. No regrets!
On a more somber and personal note, my best friend of some 20 years has been in the hospital in grave condition. He has recently been removed from life support and is being moved to a hospice facility tomorrow. He awakened from his coma today to find his daughter next to his bed. My phone rang this afternoon and it was my friend, calling to say a final goodbye. Although weak and slightly confused, his message was clear.
Isn’t that the way of life? The bitter mixed with the sweet? The yin and the yang?
As I’ve often said, do not let fear be the thief that steals the life you want. The reality is that none of us knows how many ticks remain on our personal clocks so spend every tick of your clock doing what feeds your soul.
Dedicated to a great man and my best friend, John Norris.