Several months back, one of the other Peace Corps volunteers in our area mentioned that she was having Christmas at her place. I said, that sounds fun, why don’t I do Thanksgiving? It was agreed on at that random moment over breakfast at our favorite hotel that our regional family holidays would be split between our two households. It was also at this point that Jon and I made the great promise of getting a turkey, a true feat to do in this developing nation that loves to eat chicken. When I was sent back to America for medical reasons, people began worrying, what will we do for Thanksgiving? They didn’t tell me this of course, until after some miracle occurred and I actually could return to Tanzania.
So, the planning began. I told Jon that his only major responsibility would be taking charge of locating a turkey and cooking it. As a vegetarian, I really didn’t want to be involved in this. Now don’t get me wrong, Jon was helping out in so many other ways, but that was his major role.
A month in advance, I began the planning process. I made the facebook event group, sent out text messages, and talked it up. I thought we would have 12-15 people. When the RSVPs started coming back, we had 15 people including Jon and I. Then, we needed to determine what would we eat, what is available here to make this as authentic as possible? Jon’s great math skills came to use when we had to calculate how much of everything to buy. The problem still remained, however, where are we going to get this turkey to fulfill everyone’s excitement about our promise of a turkey.
We had a few leads. One was that my friend said you could get turkey in his village, a live one that would need to be transported 6 hours from where we live. The live, evil turkey (we hear they’re mean) was our last option. Another friend told us of a woman who lives about 3 hours away who claims to sell turkeys. After a week of trying her, she never responded to our text messages and never called back. Then, we found from another American living in our area that there is a British woman outside of a city about 4 hours away who sells turkey. Jon gave her a call, and alas…we had an 11 lb turkey reserved for $60 USD. Thanksgiving was already starting to shape up.
So, how to solve the issue of 15 people in our small house without guaranteed electricity, running water, or a real stove or oven? It took careful and precise planning. We arranged with our school to borrow enough tables and chairs to fit everyone at a long table in our living room. A friend was asked to plan to sleep in his tent in our backyard, fitting 4 people in there. We borrowed couch cushions from the school to make one large cushion ground for people to sleep on in our living room. And we asked all guests to bring their own plates and silverware. A few extra friends were asked to bring extra pots, knives, spices, and other prep material.
It seemed all way good to and then in the last few days 5 extra people joined the RSVP list and our party of 15 was bumped up to a party of 20. But, this is Thanksgiving, everyone needs a place to go eat with an adopted family. We were happy to welcome them in as well.
We celebrated Thanksgiving on Saturday instead of Thursday so that everyone would be able to make it - teachers and all. Also, since Jon and I are both teachers, we didn't want to miss school to prepare for the day. But, on actual Thanksgiving Thursday, Jon took off to get this bird, a trip that took him in total 12 hours. We left the turkey at our favorite hotel to remain in their freezer until Saturday so that it wouldn't go bad over the next two days.