I wanted to post a little something about our very special Tanzanian Thanksgiving.
First of all, when I organized this trip in my head Thanksgiving was "my last hurrah" and my sort of goodbye treat to myself. This means that I saved a lot of my outing costs to buy cheese, cream of mushroom soup, broccoli, amarula, etc.
The other American volunteers along with Ciara and me planned this elaborate meal and then decided that taking on three dishes each, all taking a considerable amount of effort to make, we would delegate smaller dishes to the other volunteers to lighten our load. We bought ready-cooked chicken for the bird. We bought rolls from a local restaurant. We made the British volunteers bring the stuffing. :) The next hurdle in planning was the fact that for the three or four days prior we had electricity for only about six hours at night, and no water pressure. The tank refills itself when the power is on so we were running very low. All of these things were discouraging, but we decided that Thanksgiving was an important tradition we wanted to share with the other volunteers and that we would have a plan if the worst was realized.
That Thursday started out more special than any other Thanksgiving morning I've ever had. Izzy, a volunteer from the UK made us a little banner with American Flags that hung over the kitchen table that said "Happy Thanksgiving to all you lovely American ladies." The fact she must have spent hours making this sign and also decorating little hats for us to wear that looked like something Uncle Sam would have on his rack made us all feel so special. I shed a few tears thinking how considerate she was for trying to make us feel like we were at home. I walked to my shift that morning feeling like it was actually Thanksgiving, and I was so thankful to be here enjoying the people I'm with and sharing my love with the babies.
The power went out at the baby home around 8am and I knew it had gone out at the vol house as well. I just looked at the other volunteers as if to say "u*** oh" but we all assured each other it would go back on.
When I got home I chopped and prepared and set aside everything all ready to be put into the oven that would never come on. I got so discouraged because I had spent literally from 9am until around 2pm preparing everything and we all just sat helpless and prayed for the power. Not to mention the large toaster oven we have takes double the time to cook everything than is recommended so we were going to have to get started on the sweet potato casserole, broccoli casserole, mango crumbles, and reheating of everything else ASAP.
The dinner started at 7:30pm and by 4:30 I was so frustrated and feeling sorry for myself that Ciara and I left the house (with broccoli casserole in a makeshift "oven" I tried to create on top of one of the propane burners) and we went for a walk to gather our composure and find all the things we have to be thankful for. Of course, we ended up at the baby home, cuddling all the tiny tots and hoping they would feel as bad for us as we did for ourselves. Looking back I am somewhat shocked at my poor attitude but I had been waiting for this dinner and thought it would be well worth missing out on other group volunteer activities throughout Mwanza. I think I was also so sad to be leaving in a little over a week and wanted this dinner to be perfect for all of the others celebrating their very first Thanksgiving!
The stress melted away as time passed. The other failed dishes of mine were inconsequential as the other dishes were brought to the table and we realized just how much edible food we had made on three burners, no power, and no water.
I looked at our full table, thanked everyone for coming and welcomed them to an American Thanksgiving-Tanzania style. I explained everything we had: herb rolls from Binti's, buttered and peppered corn, broccoli casserole, two types of stuffing (seriously the best I've ever had), onion gravy, garlic mashed potatoes, chicken, sweet potato casserole, stir fried veggies in balsamic sauce, cooked eggplant and aubergines, German Christmas cookies, mulled wine, and s'mores for the fire later.It was a meal without rice! Without beans, chipati, and chips mayai! It was a Thanksgiving Miracle, and it was so beautiful. We were having a feast, and it was going to be really good. :)
The pressure was off by that point, and everyone knew I was stressing, but were all so excited for our holiday and we sat around in our common room and shared what we were thankful for. It was really quite special. Hannah had a friend from home come with his Tanzanian friend who thanked us for including him in such a special occasion and he also thanked God for bringing him to our home have such an amazing meal! We finished most of the food between the 13 of us and sat in the candle light with head-torches just chatting and happy to be together which is what the day was meant to be. We sat outside by the new fire pit and drank mulled wine and enjoyed the stars. The power came back on around 10:30pm as if to say the day was over and we could get ready for bed without the candles tonight. It was another thing to be thankful for.
I missed everyone at home terribly, and admit that for the first time there were some moments during the day that I really actually wanted to be at home, but I had the best Tanzanian Thanksgiving that there will ever be! I shared some of my special traditions and joked about how stereotypical it seemed to have made our meal in the manner we did. God was smiling at all of us Thursday and we made the most of what we had which turned out to be much more than what a lot of other Americans could have afforded this year! How lucky we were to be together, to be healthy, to be doing this work here and loving our full tummies, full hearts and the babies that filled them!
We had a long day but all the money, time, sweat, and tears that went into it made for an extraordinary holiday. I have so much to be thankful for, and hope that everyone at home was able to find the things in their life that shouldn't be taken for granted. I have less than a week left now, and as I look back at this experience as a whole I realize that ever day is spent at least in part giving thanks for the many wonderful things I have in my life. I have been shown so much kindness and love and have learned so many valuable lessons.
I am sad to be leaving so soon and to be going back to a country where Thanksgiving is only one out of 365 days in a year because in Tanzania you give thanks EVERY day.
See you all soon!