Thanks. Gracias. Tanks Mon.
The “real ting” here in Guyana is the food. The topic is on the lips of every passerby, every merchant, and volunteer alike. It is a source of living for restaurant owners, farmers, and market sellers. “What did you cook today, Lin?” is a common question from every Guyanese person who calls to check in on me. “You’ll have to know how cook for him” is a common piece of advice for brides about to marry. Maybe it’s a way of life, like in the south, food is such a focus for a lot of people, it shouldn’t be a surprise to me that Guyana is the same.
Today, we celebrated the gods of food by honoring an American tradition: Thanksgiving. The weeks leading up to this holiday in the states are pretty predictable. People get many canned goods ahead of time for the pumpkin pie, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, corn dishes, etc. They buy the turkey when the grocery store has a sale on the biggest you could possibly conceive of buying. The potatoes are bought and are ready to be mashed to smithereens. The table is dressed the night before or the morning of, during the commercial breaks of the Macy’s Day parade. Appetizers are prepared; the chips and dip, the small sandwiches, the bite-sized delectable goodies all to tide over the hungry family members during the football game and leading up to one thing: THE DINNER. Everyone sits around the table. It’s the same in almost every American home.
Let me now paint a picture of a Guyanese Thanksgiving. Weeks leading up to Thanksgiving are spent doing the same thing we always do. Go to our jobs, sweat enough during the day to warrant two to three showers a day, navigate the insane drivers (LA and ATL has NOTHING on these drivers) in a bus or taxi, wake up with the roosters, avoid the pick-pocketers during the holiday madness, explaining our white or pink skin and purpose in Guyana to the millionth person who of course wants to marry to get a visa to the states, and finding something edible to eat that isn’t chicken feet, cow face, curried food, bread with peanut butter, rice with something (again), or channa. You can only imagine how the Thanksgiving food made all our mouths water, just thinking about the delicious home-cooked all-American meal. It was to my delight that several fellow PCVs had decided to brave it and try to cook a somewhat similar meal. I had intended to attend a fellow PCVs house in Mhadia (Region 8) for the holiday, after all, why not see a different part of the country and enjoy Thanksgiving with some friends? However, the fee for seeing this mountainous and cooler part of the country is a little out of my price range on our budget of $200 a month. I opted to go down the road to a community not far from me and join some of the townies in a more local Thanksgiving. To my utter delight, the hostess’ dad had sprung to send some money for a turkey for his little girl and her friends. The remaining meal additions were up to us. FANTASTIC!!!
Today, I’m proud to say, I had turkey (almost unheard of here), mashed potatoes, vegetarian casserole, biscuits, cranberry sauce, gravy, and appetizers. Of course, things were substituted, but that was no matter. Each bite was the best bite I’d ever had of any Thanksgiving food anywhere. To put it simply, living in a country where American food is not only expensive but rare, eating anything American-like is a pleasure unlike any other. And might I add, all of our food was fresh-straight from the market, made with all organic foods. Funny how in the states, a meal I had today would cost someone much more because it was organic, but here is much cheaper because it’s not canned or boxed. Then came the deserts. Oh sweet Jesus. The heavenly pumpkin goo (I can’t call it anything else), the apple pie (yes! It was better than Martha Stewarts!), the candied apples (thanks Mom) and real pumpkin pie. Again, all fresh and organic…well not the candied apples, but we’ll pretend it was.
To be honest, I thought today was going to be a let-down and a disappointment. I thought I’d be sad all day being away from my family and the comforts of home. Instead, I found comfort in my friends who were sharing today with me and each other. We all literally gobbled the food and I even got to take a plate home. We laughed. We told everyone what we were thankful for. We relaxed. We talked about our jobs, our frustrations, our accomplishments, our funny moments and as the sun set and we went back to our homes, I beamed from the inside out. Today was truly a memorable Thanksgiving. I wouldn’t have wished it any other way.
I’m thankful for:
- Real turkey and gravy on Thanksgiving day
- Being a PCV for almost a year (!!!)
- Getting complimented on my Creolese by other Guyanese
- Throwing together (at the last minute) an HIV/AIDS walk with my 15 grade six students
- Screens on my windows that keep out the mosquitoes
- The unique music I hear everyday
- Running water at any point during the day
- Having electricity
- Having a fridge if not for anything else except to have cold water
- A phone to keep in touch with anyone I want
- A host family that has become my family here and will continue to long after I leave
- The experiences I have had and will continue to have here
- Losing 30lbs on the Peace Corps Diet
- Not freaking out when I see a cockroach or giant spider or poisonous centipede or other creature that could potentially do serious harm or scare the daylights out of me
- Trying everyday to believe that the above statement is true
- Being comfortable just being myself
- Being able to laugh everyday, whether with someone, at someone (oh come on you do it too) or at myself
- My friends here and home who continue to support me no matter what
*see my facebook for pictures...it takes too long to load pictures here :)