Thanksgiving, Mexican Style
Stuffing doesn’t really make sense. At the weekly family gathering this Sunday, my aunts asked me about Thanksgiving food. Turkey: acceptable. Mashed potatoes: they have them, too. Cranberries: heard of them. But when I got to stuffing, the only explanation I could really come up with was that Americans cook turkey with bread inside of it. Nobody seemed to think this was a good idea.
In addition to the realization that stuffing is actually really weird, being abroad during Thanksgiving has given me an opportunity to think about my life and my blessings in way I haven’t before. Although I personally live in a comfortable middle-class Mexican home with a family that vacations in Disney World, I’ve seen more poverty in the last three months than I ever have in the United States. When I went to San Cristobal, I rode a bus for 13 hours that passed nothing but little pueblos of subsistence farmers. I’ve always known I live in one of the richest nations in the world, but that idea never meant anything real to me in the same way the word “snow” doesn’t mean anything real to someone who has never felt it. This Thanksgiving, I feel a deeper gratitude for the luck that has allowed my life to be comfortable and without want.
I also, for the first time, have had to live without any of the people who I love most. Although this has made me stronger and more independent, it’s also made me realize how necessary and important these relationships are. While making one friend at a time, it’s easy to ignore how complicated and long the process of creating a relationship is. When trying to make all new friends at once, it becomes clear how valuable and rare a developed friendship is. Not being able to attend my family’s Thanksgiving has a similar effect. I’m surprised at how much I miss it and how much I want to be there.
I’m also grateful for this opportunity. I’ve now been participating in the IFSA-Butler study abroad Mexico program for a little more than three months, but I hardly recognize the photo on my student ID that was taken my first week. I’m more independent, more resourceful, less ignorant and a (slightly) better dancer. While I was fighting my way through the first difficult month, I couldn’t have imagined all of the positives I would take away from this experience.
Yesterday a friend invited me and a few others to eat at his family restaurant. His whole family came out from the kitchen to kiss us, assure us that “my house is your house” and urge us to order anything we wanted (all of which, of course, was delicious). We ended up spending about three hours eating lunch, at the end of which three old men with guitars serenaded us. When my friend asked for a particular traditional Yucatacan song, his grandma, mom and aunt came running from the kitchen and started clapping and dancing. I’ve never been so grateful to be in studying abroad in Mexico.
Tonight I’m having Thanksgiving dinner with other program students, many who have become my best friends. True, we’ll probably end up eating tacos instead of turkey, but celebrating Thanksgiving feels more appropriate than ever.