This past Thursday was the American tradition of Thanksgiving or, as my Parisian friend calls it, “the day when you welcome the English to your colonies.” Or, as another non-IES friend summarized “ the feast where for dessert they had pumpkin pies and smallpox blankets.” While I miss my family (and the Zimbabwean family we normally celebrate with – including my aunt’s famous performance of “The Stanky Leg” African style) I must admit that this year was the best Thanksgiving I’ve ever had.
Thanksgiving #1: A French Thanksgiving with Americans
On Thanksgiving day itself, after four hours of class, we IES students got all dressed up in our Sunday best and went to Chez Francoise which – despite being in the basement of an airport no less – was fancy, expensive, and beautiful. After much debate over which utensils were for which dish and whether the wine glass was the small one or the big one (what? It’s not like we had adults to copy!) we were all settled in and ready to stuff our faces. But before we dug into our vegetable soup, one of us suggested that we go around and give thanks. So we went around the table one by one and, wouldn’t ya know it, most of us were pretty damn thankful for the opportunity to spend an entire semester in Paris, France. Some of us were grateful for the opportunity to travel the world, some of us were happy we got to immerse ourselves in a language that wasn’t our own, and still others of us were just happy to meet each other.
We went around the table a few more times, each saying the best thing that happened to us in 2013 and then the thing we were most excited to face in 2014. Before the wine had even been served I was filled with warm fuzzy feelings. It was the first time in my entire life that I hadn’t spent Thanksgiving with my family, but I guess sometimes it takes being away from them to realize how much they’ve done for you and how much they mean.
After a lovely (but in no way Thanksgiving-based) French dinner, we traipsed off to an American bar where we caught the tail end of a football game and listened to a French live singer cover R. Kelly’s “Ignition.” We toasted to our last few weeks in Paris and danced and gave thanks. One can only hope that cranberry-vodka is an acceptable cultural replacement for Thanksgiving cranberry sauce?
Thanksgiving #2: An American Thanksgiving with the French
Friday night I was prepared for feast round two when I headed off to the outskirts of Paris to dine with my non-IES friends. We were a motley crew with a few Americans, one Mexican, one Swede, one Austrailian, one Frenchman, and one Colombian but we managed to scrape together a non-traditional meal. To my shock and awe, it was like a real, live adult dinner party. We brought wine and gifts to the hosts, the lady (and by lady I mean girl five years older than me) of the manor cooked an absolute feast, and the food was served on actual plates made of not-plastic! Of course, France doesn’t really sell turkey so we made do with chicken. The hors oeuvres course was a little bit multicultural (nachos, camembert, and candy) but nonetheless delicious and by the time the sweet potato pie came around we were all adjusting our belts. Around eleven at night I looked around and we were all leaning back in our chairs sipping wine and I had this weird feeling that I was doing something adults do. It was like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, I swear. I may not be all grown up, but it’s nice to know I’m old enough to find a little bit of family wherever I go.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Clancy Tripp is a junior at Claremont McKenna double-majoring in Literature and Film Studies with a minor in Gender Studies. In the past few years she has lived in Indiana, California, Washington D.C., and Chicago studying and working in arts and literacy education. Good luck keeping her in the same place for more than a year. True to form, she will be spending the Fall semester in Paris, France where she will spend as much time as possible with local French children, explore every arrondissement, and sample every pain au chocolat available!</span></p>