While the history of Thanksgiving is not a joyous or proud moment for Americans, the legacy of spending time with family while sharing food extends beyond the atrocities the holiday was based on. I have come to recognize that all (or most) of American culture is tainted with colonialist, racist, and many other oppressive practices, however, we have found a beauty and comfort in reclaiming these things. Thus, Thanksgiving is celebrated by even the most conscious being as a day to reflect on what is important in life and the blessings one has received. Chileans even believe that Thanksgiving is almost more important than Christmas to Americans…While that fact can be debated, the IES Abroad center recognized the importance of this day for us and decided to make it magical with food sharing and connection building. The center bought and prepared seven turkeys well dressed in iceberg lettuce and lemons. Each family brought a dish, a variation on salad from carrot raisin with mayo, to avocado and hearts-of-palms drenched in lemon, and greasy quinoa with cilantro. The students were in charge of desserts ranging from store-bought apple and lemon pies to homemade chocolate chip cream cheese cake (not a single pumpkin or sweet potato pie in sight).
I was thankful and appreciative at the effort put forth and the creation of memories with our temporary families (including my IES Abroad cohort), but I also really wanted to be home celebrating in New Orleans with my family while eating food that fuels my soul. I felt very guilty and ungrateful for not relishing in the opportunity to be in Chile. Nevertheless, a part of me wishes there was no acknowledgement of the holiday, so as not to create more longing for home for the hollow attempt at Thanksgiving… Therefore, I was torn between feeling grateful and bitter.
BUUUUTTTT, home is so near and thus GRATEFUL wins!
I am already beginning to reflect on my time abroad, jumping the gun a little but taking mental notes and pictures of the moments, views, and people I will miss. I’m trying to collect every ounce of Chilean culture and store it in my mental rolodex. The fact that the center put on a Thanksgiving dinner speaks volumes about the character of Chileans. I have never felt more at home in a different city than I do here. Family is important to Chileans and while sometimes a little smothering, they show that they genuinely care about us students. They’ve made it a priority to incorporate us into their families. My host mom, Amanda, enjoys getting creative in the kitchen so I don’t get bored with the food. She calls me her niña. She wants me to like her boyfriend. She has planned fancy family dinners where the discussions are lively and vary from beaches, to sports, to politics, to tourism, and back around to the superiority of Chilean pisco-sour. She bakes me gluten-free, dairy-free desserts. She made me a home. I can't fully express my gratitude with words, so I will attempt it with a picture of us enjoying food.