A Chilean Thanksgiving
Friday, November 27, 2009
This Thanksgiving was definitely a memorable one for me. Yes, I ate too much. Yes, I felt guilty at the end of the day. Yes, I was exhausted at the end of the day. But there were different reasons for all of these "regular" thanksgiving feelings that made this thanksgiving memorable.
For one, I am in Chile. For the first time in my life, I spent thankgsiving without my family. I went to work and did not eat turkey or mashed potatoes. It was incredibly hard. By 10:30, I had full on cried in the arms of a co-worker. By coincidence, my office was going on a "team retreat" to a nature conservatory. We walked for about 25 minutes, which was great, but the main event was the traditional Chilean Asado- or a giant barbeque with lots of meat, chips, and other unhealthy foods.
Feeling sorry for myself coupled with the fact that it was Thanksgiving so I "should" be eating a lot, I did manage to eat a lot. But, as I could have guessed, the food did not solve my problem. It never does solve any of my problems, however convinced I am at the time that food will make me feel better.
I missed and continue to miss my family more than anything and did not want to be so far away. I am currently on, what others will describe, as a great amazing adventure and a wonderful life experience. I am living in Chile with my boyfriend, working for a microcredit organization, learning spanish and living another culture. Usually, I do love it, well, at least like it. Lately, I have been feeling like a failure. My spanish is not advancing as well as I hoped and I feel very alone. I feel like, especially at work, I have a huge wall up between me and the people I meet because of my language deficit.
Come thanksgiving day, with all my recent frustrations, I wanted more than anything to be sitting at my family's thanksgiving day table, holding my niece, helping my mom cook and watching the parade. Instead, I felt so alone and isolated by my language.
So, my answer for the day was to eat. I even knew at the time that it was not productive or healthy or the answer to my problem. But, i couldnt think of anything else to do.
I felt like a failure because I ate too much, because I am not yet fluent or confident in spanish and because I was not with my family on one of the days where family is supposed to be most appreciated.
This thanksgiving, however, I learned some valuable lessons. First, its just a day. In a different culture, you realize that the meaning is imposed by the culture, so it can just as easily be placed or taken away from any day in the year. Second, the food is not what is important. I ate a lot of food, but a thanksgiving it did not make. What is important is who you are surrounded by. I am lucky that I have a group of coworkers and friends that support me and care for me. I am extremely lucky to have a wonderful boyfriend that supports, loves and cares for me. I severely miss my family, but I was surrounded by people who truely care, which was something to be thankful for as well.
At the end of the day, I was exhausted. I felt like I had been on an emotional rollercoaster. But, I think it was important for me. I learned a lot about thanksgiving, my weakpoints with food and myself. Despite the crying, I think this was one of my most memorable thanksgivings and I am thankful for what I learned from the day.