Arts & Life
10:30 am
Sun November 24, 2013

Expatriates Make Do Or Do Without For Thanksgiving

Originally published on Mon November 25, 2013 12:03 pm

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Here in the U.S., Thanksgiving's no problem, right? You go to the grocery store, you pick up your turkey, your cranberries, various other holiday delights and you're good to go. But putting together a Thanksgiving meal outside of these United States can sometimes require more creativity. We caught up with some American expats determined to conjure up the holiday. Jessica Osbourne in Seoul says there's one Thanksgiving food she can count on.

JESSICA OSBOURNE: Even in Korea, where they don't have candy yams or stuffing or it's really hard to get a turkey, potatoes are always very doable. And we just buy a couple and blend them up at our house, and voila.

MARTIN: In Jerusalem, Shaina Shealy's fusing Thanksgiving with Hanukah.

SHAINA SHEALY: Usually, latkes are eaten with sour cream, and I'm planning to make a, like, cranberry orange spice yogurt dip to replace that sour cream and bring some Thanksgiving nostalgia to the traditional Hanukah food.

MARTIN: It's summertime in New Zealand, and Susan Partington has given up on slaving over a hot stove. Instead, she and her family invite fellow Americans to a restaurant for fish curry or pizza or whatever.

SUSAN PARTINGTON: The most important thing to me is that we all have to go around the table and say what we're thankful for. You know, it doesn't really matter what you're eating or where you are; it's just that feeling of being thankful.

MARTIN: In Spain, Regan Watson mixes her American and European friends - but there's a catch.

REGAN WATSON: Americans like to talk about their feelings a lot but not everybody else usually does. It's been a little bit tricky for some of our guests to really put themselves out there and share. But it's really special when they do and everyone's really respectful. And the last time, we passed around a big turkey bone and used it as a microphone.

MARTIN: NPR producer Jim Wildman recently spent a year abroad with his wife and three sons. This time last year, they were in Barcelona to watch a big soccer game. After the game, they were driving to southern France and they stopped for lunch along the highway. As they sat down to eat, Jim noticed his car's hazard lights were flashing and he walked out to investigate.

JIM WILDMAN: And as I get closer, I start to see shattered glass on the ground. And as I walk back to the back of the car, I see that all of our stuff is gone - our bags, our blankets, laptops, digital cameras. Thankfully, we had our passports and phones with us in our pockets, but everything else was gone.

MARTIN: That's got to be such a blow, after this big high of this game. You returned to France. What was happening for your family emotionally?

WILDMAN: We were shaken - completely violated. Our world had fallen apart, and not just because our stuff had been taken. But this was such a violation of the spirit of our trip. You know, we went to see the world and the world struck back. So, we were in Southern France and I was in the mountains above the town. This is the day before Thanksgiving. And I think to myself my family is shaken. We are in need of fellowship. We need Thanksgiving. So, I pull out my phone and I start Googling churches in Southern France with expat communities. So, I found this guy who was a pastor of a church in Carcassonne, France. He answers his phone. And I just story vomit, you know. Blah. We are broken. We're traveling the world. Hi, this is Jim Wildman. We are looking for an American family who plans to celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow. Do you have anybody in your congregation or of anybody that you know that would be doing that?

MARTIN: Who would let us come?

WILDMAN: Who would let us come, yeah. So, this guy says, I do. They're new missionaries from Texas. Don't know what they're doing but you should give them a call. So, boom. Da, da, da, da, da, da. I call this number. Hello? Hi. Is this Angie Clark? Yes. So then, again, story vomit. Hi, this is Jim Wildman. We have just been robbed. We really need Thanksgiving. Do you know of anybody that's celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow? And there's a pause. She says I guess that'd be us.

(LAUGHTER)

WILDMAN: They weren't even planning on celebrating Thanksgiving. But once she heard from me she decided that they were going to do Thanksgiving. The next day, there was an American-style Thanksgiving. There was a turkey. There was dressing. There were cranberries. And we took sort of a selfie portrait of all of us at the table, and it is one of the most meaningful pictures from our 12 months abroad.

MARTIN: What did you learn as a family from that experience?

WILDMAN: It taught us one of the most important lessons. We set out to see places but now when we think back on milestone moments from that trip, it's about the people that we met and the people that opened their hearts and their homes to us when we were in need. And we will never forget it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: That was NPR producer Jim Wildman. We'd love to hear from you. If you're celebrating Thanksgiving away from the U.S. this year, send photos of your holiday feast to protojournalist@NPR.org. Or post them using the hashtag NPRexpat. This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. Have a great holiday. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.