So as of writing yesterday was Thanksgiving, and it was the second Thanksgiving I’ve spent away from family. The first time I was in Oman and I remember just sitting around all day, watched X-Men 2 on TV and really felt a bit homesick. I lived a good 45-minute adventure from my good friend there, and transportation was always a shit show, so I just kinda chilled at home. So being in Peru, I definitely didn’t want to repeat this experience. And thankfully, a day after, I can say that this was a very memorable Thanksgiving.
It sounded that for the most part, volunteers from Peru 14 clustered together in their various regions to celebrate in whatever style was available. Some had lunch while others gathered on the beach with volunteers from current groups. I spent the morning visiting an annex of my community known as ‘Las Pampas’ and doing an inspection of some of the water wells and organizing a meeting for the following week. Lunched with the family and got some things together, and headed off to meet two other volunteers who are about an hour or so from my site.
Oddly enough, while picking up some lovely campo wine I ran into another American in my town. Her and her Peruvian husband where in town for a few days visiting his family before heading back to California. Pretty weird.
So Travis and Melissa went into Trujillo to pick up some household stuff and also the Thanksgiving dinner materials. I didn’t know what they were grabbing, so anything was in the air. Travis’s friend, Yuri, is a trained chef so maybe we were going to be dining on something exquisite. I finally rolled into the plaza and met Travis and Melissa and it turned out we were preparing spaghetti with homemade sauce that evening.
After walking around the town a bit, we crank up the iPod speakers and begin the complex art of spaghetti-making, much to the bemusement of Travis’s family, who sat in the kitchen watching and talking to us. Yuri was always looking over our shoulders closely to see what we were doing and giving us a few pointers here and there. Every now and then we attracted an audience as the kitchen was more like an open-air garage (CORRECTION: they were turning the space into a restaurant). We also were playing feel-good songs on the iPods, lead by Travis’s large country collection, and followed by Melissa’s varied musical selection (we were also singing along at times, much to the chagrin of our Peruvian friends). By eight or so, we had everything ready and invited a fair amount of guests: the whole of Travis’s family, his two socio-communitarios, and a few other friends of Travis…about 13 or 14 in total. We started dishing out the spaghetti, Travis said a few words of explanation and then we dug in. Not quite a turkey dinner with the trimmings, but it worked. After we were done, everyone said a few words and we thanked them for coming and sharing this experience and custom with us, and they thanked us for the invitation and for simply being in Peru to work and we all agreed we were thankful. We spent the rest of the night talking, and listening to some Beastie Boys and The Clash.
It truly was a unique and rich experience to celebrate Thanksgiving in a manner so different, but with the same ideas at heart. Preparing the meal with Travis and Melissa was a lot of fun, and was also a good break from being at my site and having my meals prepared for me. Talking and getting to know our guests was also a really incredible time, as we talked and joked throughout dinner and even though I had just met them, they were still very warm, open, and acted as if we had been friends for years. I was really taken back with how welcoming they were to the three gringos and their half-assed attempt at making a dinner. And although I was far away from home and the usual Thanksgiving with the family, I didn’t feel homesick this time around. Even if my Thanksgiving was in Spanish.