In China on Thanksgiving by Emily

I can never remember if Thanksgiving is the 3rd or 4th Thursday. Tim said it is the 4th — and on the 28th this year. The kids’ school had a grand celebration on Sat. the 16th between the dates of Canada’s and the U.S.’s Thanksgiving, to commemorate both.

Mamaw and I were skyping and she asked if I was cooking a turkey and I said no because we don’t have an oven, and we only have one burner. She wondered if the Chinese sell turkey and I said that I hadn’t seen it in stores or restaurants. However, I said, I was in the copy room at school and overheard the secretary tell the principal that the turkey would arrive at noon. Obviously they found one somewhere, unless they were talking about a person.

I asked the kids how they wanted to celebrate. Sumner said he wanted to check out a French bakery by the lake, and Zoe smacked her lips, saying that she longed for a chocolate cream layered cake at the corner bakery. I wanted to go for a bike ride, and Tim thought we should try out a new restaurant.

Tim said that since we don’t have access to turkey, we should opt for a Turkish restaurant. However, Hangzhou doesn’t have a Turkish restaurant, but it does have one Middle Eastern restaurant. Sumner, especially, was excited about the possibility of mercimek corba, a red lentil soup. The kids are quite familiar with flat bread, salty shriveled black olives and hummus, having spent half their lives in Turkey.

Tim invited his office mate, a Chinese woman named Zhengping, to dine with us. When we met her at a bus stop, she said that she’d told friends she was celebrating Thanksgiving with Americans.

I winced, “Oh. I’m sorry. This won’t be traditional at all.”
She asked if a turkey was some kind of big chicken, then said that she’d never eaten Middle Eastern food. I told her that I hoped she liked it.

She grimaced at the yogurt — not sweet enough — but liked the falafels, and along with us, devoured the hummus. We ordered more hummus and bread. The lamb was tasty, but I missed the moist dark meat from a turkey. Zoe ordered roasted chicken and talked about her favorite Thanksgiving dish, the cranberry sauce “shaped like the inside of a can.”

We carried out one of our traditions. That is to go around the table and share something we are thankful for. We all, in one way or another, spoke about how our time in China was impacting our lives.

Zoe said she was thankful for Skype. We all agreed. When I was about 20 years old, my artsy friend Patty, introduced me to words that she saw on a colorful piece of artwork: Thank you Lord, for eyes to see the colors. Besides being in China, I am grateful for eyeglasses that enable me to still see, a living God to believe in, the freedoms of my homeland, and adolescent hands that still let me hold them.

After dinner, we rode the bus back to our neighborhood and trudged across the broken sidewalk to our corner bakery. Around the table, we used plastic spoons to dip into a shared creamy cake, indulging our gratitude for a few moments more.

Happy Thanksgiving to friends and loved ones.

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10 thoughts on “In China on Thanksgiving by Emily

  1. Wow, only just saw this post and it is December 15th! Love your stories and the glimpse into your life in China. Love and joy to you all, this blessed Christmas time and in 2014. Patty

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