December 01, 2007

Giving Thanks and Laughing Out Loud

Had the captain of the Mayflower sought a shortcut to the new world by way of the Mediterranean, sailed past Italy, and then taken a right at the Adriatic, the pilgrims might have ended up in Macedonia. Luckily for those puritans—and unluckily for millions upon millions of latter day turkeys—he did not, and today very few people here understand why America celebrates Thanksgiving. Most of those who do know are probably former and present Peace Corps host families. That’s because every year PC hosts a big Thanksgiving bash for all currently serving volunteers, new trainees and their families, and staff.

This year the dinner was held in a large restaurant in our hub site, where 200+ people gathered before a stupendous spread of traditional American and Macedonian dishes. If I really strained, I could stand at one end of the tables and almost make out what food was at the other end. Making this colossal collection even more impressive was the fact that it had all been prepared by the volunteers and their families.

Thanksgiving...Macedonia style

Our village was in charge of stuffing and I have to say…really, it needs to be said…it’s only fair…being totally honest and objective…triumphant music, please…our stuffing was by far the best. Using a generic recipe, Jillian and Lela perfectly recreated that ol’ American classic with a mix of homegrown vegetables and spices and homemade bread. And what exactly did you bring to this effort, Dan? Glad you asked. While my official title was simply Supreme Grand Marshall of Taste Testing, the list of my small, invaluable contributions runs a bit long for this entry.

With the family and last year's volunteer, Patrice

After dinner came the night’s second act: presentations by each community. This was a chance for the volunteers from each site to get up in front of the entire group and perform a skit or present a slide show about their experiences together. The seven of us from the village came up with a slide show which told the story of the first Thanksgiving, but instead of the pilgrims and Indians, it was we volunteers and the people of our village. Staged pictures were included and it went over very well.

But the best part is, about five minutes before we were to present, our language coach approached Jillian and I. The plan was that I was presenting the slide show in English and he was reading the Macedonian translation. Except now he had this great idea that Jillian read the translation—never mind that she hadn’t even practiced it once and the script was way beyond anything we had studied. Extremely nervous and stressed, she went for it and did a tremendous job. The crowd was pretty much blown away when I told them the story.

One of us has it really easy...

Also on the list of memorable occasions this week was, not one, but two birthdays within our host family. Our host sister, Ana turned 14 and on the same day our host father turned (I’m sure he’d want us to say 24)...a year older. We had a little bash here at the house, featuring some excellent pizza (courtesy of Lela) and an amazing cake (courtesy of the local cake maker, who lives next door). For the celebration, Jillian handmade a sign and hung it in the living room...the family loved it. After dinner there was much pizza left over and I explained to Lela that we could eat it for breakfast, as many do in America. When there proved to be a similar amount of cake left over, I jokingly told her (I thought) that, why not, we’ll eat that for breakfast, too. Well, what do you think was on our plates the next morning? Two slices of pizza and some cake. Lela was genuinely shocked to learn that I was kidding. We’ll never forget that breakfast.

With our host sister on her birthday

Two weeks until we move to our permanent site...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I do not doubt the total supremacy of your stuffing. I am, in fact, not surprised to hear that your stuffing reigned supreme. Had someone asked, I would have predicted this outcome, even though I know Jillian's childhood stuffing experiences revolved around the kind that comes out of a box and rhymes with "Rove Pop".

I am, though, shocked and surprised that Jillian can speak a foreign language. Her Spanish is awful. Though, I've always suspected that was a genetic predisposition against that language itself, as mom's Spanish is beyond awful, and mine consists of the ability to proclaim that there is a hungry llama in my pants.

I am glad to have this suspicion confirmed by Jillian's newfound Mad Macedonian Language Skillz (yes, I said "Skillz").

Dan, you make a very charming snail.

Love you guys,