28 November 2008

my second expat thanksgiving

My second Thanksgiving outside of the U.S. of A. certainly lacked the ambassadorial zeal of my first. I was in the Philippines for Turkey Day '05, and I took it as an opportunity to share a bit of American culture with my coworkers. The biggest challenge, as some of my dear readers may recall, was finding a turkey. Filipinos don't have much use for the bird, so I had to travel to a supermarket in a well-heeled part of Manila where the Americans tend to congregate.

No such heroics this time, perhaps because Americans are a dime a dozen in Cambridge and my raison d'être here isn't primarily about bridging cultures (though I suppose that can be part of it too). I was thankful to be invited to a party that someone else was organizing, and thankful that for the first time in four years I was not the one responsible for the turkey. I shared Thanksgiving with about fifteen Americans and a couple of curious non-Americans. We were mostly Williams and Harvard kids, and we space in which we convened is one those delectable Cambridge oddities: John Harvard's room. The founding benefactor of Harvard University was an Emma guy, and each year some lucky Harvard grad gets chosen through an elaborate selection process to live in what was allegedly his room.* Actually it's more like a suite, with a large wood-paneled living room, a kitchenette, a bedroom, and a guest room. The only drawback is that there's no bathroom... in fact, you have to go down the stairs and across the courtyard to get to one, just like in the good old days. But the big perk of being the "Harvard Scholar" is getting an entertaining budget for the year, and ours has been particularly good about spending hers on entertaining.

I volunteered to bring mashed sweet potatoes with maple syrup, and I committed a small act of blasphemy by purchasing Canadian maple syrup, which was all that was available at Tesco. (I wonder if Big Maple has some kind of protectionist racket going....) I tried to atone by buying a bottle of California red to bring for the festivities. The food was great and the conversation lively, though somehow it felt a lot less like Thanksgiving than any other Thanksgiving I've had... including the one in Southeast Asia. We put a little bit of a Cambridge twist on it by having a glass of port with our pie at the end of the night.

While we're on the subject of thanks, I'd like to thank all of you for reading! While I like to tell myself that this blog would still be worth doing even if nobody was really reading it-- since in that case it would basically function as a journal, which isn't a bad thing to keep-- getting the occasional posted comment or mention of the blog in an e-mail or phone conversation helps me to stay motivated. Hope you all had a lovely holiday!

*There's reason to believe the provenance of the Harvard room, like so many other cool stories around here, is bunk. Like the story about the undergrad who demanded "cakes and ale" from an astonished proctor during an exam and cited an obscure, 400-year-old, never-revised university statute saying that gentlemen who sat for exams in excess of three hours were entitled to request cakes and ale. I wish that one were true!

1 comment:

maureenpow said...

Shawn,

You are on for mashed sweet potatoes for Christmas. Counting the days to your arrival home. Thanks for the Thanksgiving day call! My skype head set is good to go!

Love Mom