since kenyans don't celebrate or generally know anything about thanksgiving, it was a great opportunity for me to enlighten them about the history of this great holiday. i called together my community and regaled them with the tale of christopher columbus's voyage to the new world, where the indians welcomed the pacifist settlers with open arms. they didn't speak the same language, but that didn't stop them from becoming best friends. to celebrate this friendship, and to commemorate the beginning of their long and fruitful relationship in the new world, they decided to have a party. the indians dressed up in their deerskins and feathers, while the pilgrims polished the belt buckles on their shoes. the indians thought this was funny. they all had a big laugh together over a feast of turkey and mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese and pumpkin pie. then the pilgrims killed all the indians.
actually i didn't tell anyone anything about the history of thanksgiving. mainly because i suck at history (my awesome story notwithstanding). instead i told anyone that cared that thanksgiving is a time when families and friends get together and appreciate what they have. especially pumpkin pie. i always appreciate the hell out of some pumpkin pie.
this thanksgiving didn't entirely fulfill my description. although friends were abundant (yeah, i'm popular), my family was absent and the pumpkin pie was atrocious. not only was there only one pumpkin pie for about 40 people, but it was too sweet and gelatinous, like a soft flan... but in spite of the pie, and the lack of family, i managed to enjoy myself. every year embassy families are asked to host peace corps volunteers in nairobi, and since no one is going to pass up a chance to sleep on a real spring mattress and watch tv and eat doritos, pretty much every volunteer came into nairobi for the event. tony, sheila,callie and i stayed with my friend bob kerr, who is something like the head of public affairs at the embassy (on thanksgiving day he had to run out to the tv station to support the ambassador who was giving an on-air interview). bob was a peace corps volunteer back in the 80's in lesotho, so he has a good idea of what we miss when we're out in the bush for so long. his freezer is always stocked full of doritos and oreos and lucky charms and other stuff that's really really bad for you but so so good. don't ask me why he keeps it in the freezer.
on thanksgiving morning bob and tony and i drove out to the embassy compound for a football game with the marines (the girls stayed home). it had been raining most of the morning so not many peace corps volunteers showed up, apparently opting to sit in their comfy armchairs and zone out in front of the tv and whine that it's wet outside. we played for about 4 hours until we were sufficiently muddy, bloody, bruised and could call ourselves men and go home. after a hot shower and a cold soda i was back to normal, except for my swollen lip, and we piled into bob's van with his wife and kids and drove back over to the embassy compound for a potluck dinner with several other embassy families and their respective volunteers. a huge table was set up and decked out with candles and probably cornucopias, and luckily there was also a kid's table in the other room. not that i don't like bob's - or anyone's - kids, but it's not really thanksgiving without a kiddie table. i was also lucky that they didn't make me sit there, even though i was first in line behind the children to get food. the 5 different turkeys were all good, as was the sweet potato pie, mac&cheese (though not close to comparable to nana's), green bean casserole, cornbread, etc. later that evening we packed into bob's living room to watch 'annie hall' and eat doritos and cookies with milk. after the movie ended the girls went to bed while the guys stayed up to watch the football game, which was shown live on the armed forces network.
bob's family was very welcoming, and since i'd never met them before it was nice to interact with them somewhat. bob's wife is puerto rican, so his three kids are bilingual - which is good for the maid, who's venezuelan and doesn't speak any english. it was fun for me to practice my spanish a little bit, too, though simultaneously obnoxious because i kept mixing it up with swahili and probably sounding like an idiot.
happy belated thanksgiving. i hope your pumpkin pie was better than mine.