Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving



Thursday we celebrated Thanksgiving. It was my third international Thanksgiving. It was Jeremy’s fifth. The second international Thanksgiving for the boys. I love Thanksgiving abroad. Being in the DR is interesting because so many Dominicans are also Americans. The supermarkets know…or perhaps envision they know…the details of a Thanksgiving meal and stock their shelves accordingly. My family has always been more of a “from-scratch” kind of Thanksgiving family, so the shelves of canned gravy, canned cranberry sauce and boxed stuffing don’t go far for me, but one quickly gets the messages for whom these things are intended…they’re also stocked next to the hundreds of Butterballs that have been imported for the occasion.

We were super fortunate to have my dad and his wife here for the week. We went all out and the day was absolutely perfect. We had turkey, cranberry sauce (made from fresh cranberries that I bought last year on a fluke and then froze), stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, fresh bread, toffee pudding, pumpkin pie, lots of wine, coffee. Truly, the whole nine yards and then some. We invited a few friends over, let the kids run around and stuffed ourselves in phases. Perhaps the only thing lacking (by most Americans’ standards) was football – we don’t have cable. And, perhaps shamefully, our table included more soccer fans than American football fans.

Since Thursday I have been really struck by how at-home we feel. I think there is this image that people have that if you’re abroad for a major holiday you must feel like you would rather be “at home.” I have been wondering if that’s true. I know I certainly wouldn’t have traded our Thanksgiving for anything – it was wonderful and joyous. We felt blessed to be surrounded by so many friends and the added bonus of family from home. If we hadn’t had friends over too, would we have felt differently? Without family, would the occasion have been dreary? What about no one? What if we didn’t have the boys? If we were a childless couple would things have been sadder?

I guess, in conclusion, I do think that a Thanksgiving without friends or family would have been kind of depressing. Of course, the people are more important than the food and being surrounded by love and acceptance makes Thanksgiving (or any holiday) perfect. From the FS perspective this means we might be free to have a pizza Thanksgiving, a curry Thanksgiving or even a sushi Thanksgiving someday because somehow, I’m certain, in this life the fabulous friends just keep on popping up just as the dreams keep coming true.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Five




Our oldest turned five. I cannot believe I have let the last two weeks pass without blogging about it – it was an adventure in food and culture. You know you’re neglecting your blog when such a perfect blog opportunity presents itself and you decide to watch Glee instead….or you just know how freaking amazing Glee is.

Anyway, I plotted and schemed and researched about how to make the most fabulous cake – Mystery Machine? Lego? Fire truck? When I finally decided on a crazy stackable Lego cake and spilled the beans to the birthday boy, he was like, “Jodi (yes, he calls me Jodi…going on about 4 months of it), I really just want a white cake with strawberries, in a circle, with a number 5. And some cupcakes too.” I sadly let go of my ridiculous Lego fantasies, but was also totally relieved to realize he wanted something I could fulfill. The kid hates surprises anyway….unless they have wheels.

So, about 2 weeks ago twenty-five 5 and 6 year-olds made their way with their teachers from the school to our house for a little “field trip.” November is the month of the family so we turned it into a little mini-lesson and did some Skyping with grandparents. I provided a snack of cheese sandwich, apple slices and Cheetos and a juice box. And, of course the cupcakes for desert. I was trying to win them over with the Cheetos I won’t lie. They were a hit, along with the juice boxes and cupcakes. Most of the kids (except for mine and the children of one of my American friends) turned up their noses at the sandwiches and apples. Ya’ can’t win ‘em all I guess.

There was one moment when I looked over at my son and he had commandeered an extra juice box from the fridge and had a huge plate of Cheetos. I told him to put them back and he looked at me with his big brown five-year-old eyes and his teacher said, “Oh, pero los quierre (he wants them).” I felt out-numbered and, anyway, you know, birthday and all. At least I had stuffed the piƱata with cheap toys and not Tootsie pops. Today I had to remind Vilma that cookies are not a snack even if they’re served with a slice of cheese. My faithful five-year-old had reported her. I think that’s funny – the word galletas can mean cookies or crackers. He’ll be kicking himself tomorrow come snack time. So big and yet still so innocent! Five.


Chili's...just kidding...kinda'

Today in the car on the way home from work we saw a sign announcing that Chili’s will be coming to the Blue Mall (the Blue Mall is one of the many, many malls here that just scream money laundering…but that’s another story). We kinda’ laughed at it. I hate Chili’s. Being from Austin I have no idea why anyone would feel the need to eat there. If you can get actual food that is not from some sort of microwaveable kit…or whatever it is that makes all their food turn out identical from Lubbock to Lisbon…why would you eat it?

Anyway, can I tell you the depth of sadness that exists from the brief moment when I was like, “Mmmm chicken strips with honey mustard sauce.” And Jeremy said, “Nachos.” We suck. It’s so gross. Will we? Won’t we? Only time will tell.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Absentee



This year we voted absentee.

We follow the news back home regularly – sometimes with horror and sometimes with pride. Being abroad puts a whole new spin on the gap between our daily reality and the daily reality of folks back home. Even the economic problems seem kind of far away for us. We know some people who are struggling, but I think we know many more who are doing pretty well or for whom things haven’t changed all that much. Admittedly, we might have a surprisingly conscientious group of friends.

Anyway, this year I looked at my ballot, decided to read up on the people I didn’t know and then voted straight party. I have been following a few nationally important elections, but not much about Texas. It’s sad, but honestly, for a liberal, Texas can feel like a hopeless place. It’s also a little sad because I definitely have a lot of pride about being a Texan, but when I hear crazy stuff about secession and text books and abstinence only education I think, “Wow, am I glad I’m outa’ there!” I kid you not, I feel like I betray my friends back home just a little bit every time I think that. They’re mostly social workers. Poor Texas social workers – no hope for you I’m afraid.

I love voting. I think it’s important. I actually feel really proud when I do it. But, voting absentee is different (even if I still feel great when I check off my boxes). It can highlight that sense of being an outsider.

Sometimes, I feel like we live in a bubble. We do live in a bubble. In fact, many bubbles – the DR bubble, the State Dept bubble, the Embassy Santo Domingo bubble, the house with screens and AC bubble. Occasionally, this bothers me. It makes me feel like I can’t be informed enough – that I’m missing something. And then, I look at the bubble of back home. The bubble that includes questions like, Where’s the Dominican Republic? Do they speak a foreign language there? Aren’t you scared to leave the US? Don’t you worry the boys will grow up without friends? It makes me think, “It’s like they live in a bubble or something!”

And so, in the end, I voted. From my bubble – perhaps a bit out of ignorance, but I voted. I believe this gives me the right to keep calling myself a Texan…or at least an Austinite. This was my first election abroad. Of course, it won’t be my last. I give myself an A for effort. It’s probably always a bit of a crapshoot anyway…right?