Thursday, November 22, 2007


Although it is a North American holiday (Canada celebrates it too but on a different date), I’m always partial to the idea of the Thanksgiving holiday. Having a day to stop and reflect on things that you are thankful for sounds such a good idea especially when we now hardly get to count our blessings when we go though our busy day. To me, Thanksgiving is also a day to take a step back and review that no matter how bad we thing our life if there are still things that we can be thankful for.

I still remember the first Thanksgiving dinner I ever attended. It was my first year in Madison and I have just been there for a couple of month. Prior to coming to the States, one of my American professors, who was returning back to the State at the end of the last summer semester I was at KPP, extended an open invitation to all of his students to come and have our first Thanksgiving dinner in the States with him and his family. A bunch of us from his class decided that we would get together once the date came and take up his invitation when we all reached the States.

Out of the 10 of us who attended his class that year, only 5 of us who happened to be at the same university managed to get together and make plans to go to my professor’s house. We had hoped that our other classmates from the other universities would make the journey but it turned out only us 5 who came. A flurry of emails flew between us and Prof as the date came closer to finalized details on how to get to his house in suburbs outside of Chicago. We were all really excited as the day came as it would be our first American roadtrip ever.

It so happened that only one of us had a valid drivers license to drive in the State so he obviously became the designated driver for the whole trip. I was assigned to be the navigator since I was the only one of the remaining people who had a fairly good sense of direction. The rest (who incidentally were all girls) were in charge of making sure we had all the items that we need for the roadtrip and the gifts that we would bring for the Prof. All 5 of us packed all our things into an old station wagon borrowed from one of our seniors and left Madison the day before Thanksgiving.

I don’t remember now how long the journey took but I remembered making quite a few number of stops whenever we saw something different to see during the journey. It was actually our first time ever traveling out of Madison and there was so much that we have never seen before on the journey. We made pit stops for bathroom breaks, meal breaks or just to be silly and take pictures of things we saw along the way. It was quite fun actually and really felt like a roadtrip especially when we didn’t really have a particular timetable to follow on our journey to Chicago.

We reached Chicago just as the sun began to set. Everyone was tired from the extended roadtrip and wanted to get ourselves to where we planned to spend the night. We had called ahead to some friends of ours in town and made plans to stay overnight at their place. We were lucky that the directions that they gave us was easy to follow since Chicago was much larger than we expected. Once we had our sleeping arrangements set, we went out with our Chicago hosts to grab a bite to eat before turning in for the night.

Early the next morning on Thanksgiving Day, we called up the Prof to get directions to his house and to know what time we should be there. Since we were already quite close to where they were, they told us to turn up early so we can pitch in with the dinner preparations. This was even more exciting for me personally as not only did I get to share a traditional Thanksgiving meal with our gracious hosts but we also get to help prepare it. We said good bye to our friends who also graciously allowed us to spend the night and went straight out to the suburbs of Chicago to where our Prof’s house was (unfortunately the exact name of the place where it was has slipped my mind now).

We reached the house just after noon and the preparation for the Thanksgiving dinner was well under way. The girls who came with us took it upon themselves to help out in the kitchen with Prof’s wife while us guys went to setup the dining room area for the dinner. Both the Prof and his wife did not have any other relatives to share Thanksgiving with and their children were still quite young at the time so they have been opening their home to students like us to share in the festivities for years. The year that I went there was actually quite special for the two of them as it was the first time that his Malaysian students from when he was teaching at KPP came to his Thanksgiving dinner.

We were all famished by the time that dinner rolled around. Our hosts really went out of their way to make sure that we had a choice of a variety of traditional American Thanksgiving meal dishes as well as making sure that they only used halal ingredients to cook them with. We had a huge turkey with all the trimmings, candied yams, home made bread, pumpkin pie and other dishes associated with the occasion. The dinning table was full of serving plates piled with food that it was hard to imagine anyone finishing it all. There were just about 10 of us (some of Prof’s other students in his then current university also joined us) but I could swear that there was enough food to feed 30 people.

Before we started our meal, we went around the table to tell everyone what we were thankful for that year up to Thanksgiving Day. For me it was very easy to put into words as the opportunity of being able to share in an American tradition in the United States was something that I would always be thankful for on top of the other things that I have been blessed with. Once everyone had they chance to share what we were thankful for, we shared a moment when our hosts said grace and we recite our doa makan to ask for the blessings of the food that we were about to share.

The meal was exactly how I imagined it to be from what I saw on TV. Prof carved the turkey up for us and we all took portions of the bird from the serving plate that was passed from one person to the other. Same thing does with all the other items on the table. We had good food, good drinks and really good company to share on that Thanksgiving night. For a time, we all felt like it was a big family while not related by blood but was strong nevertheless due to the bonds that we all shared. I remembered not being able to stop smiling at the thought that we all had a really great opportunity to experience a slice of American life that we would have never been able to do so had we not taken up the invitation.

Once the dinner was over, we stayed for a bit to help clear up before we had to make our way back to Madison as some of us had to work the following morning after Thanksgiving. Prof’s wife was really disappointed that we could not stay the night but we didn’t really have much of a choice. We thank our gracious host for opening their house and sharing their Thanksgiving meal with us. The Prof’s wife even made us take some leftover turkey sandwiches, potato salad and pumpkin pie back with us to have a long the way which was quite impossible since we were all filled to the brim with all the food we had before. We left their place feeling really happy that we had the chance to really experience the occasion first hand.

I will always be thankful for that opportuinity as I do with all the blessings that I have in my life. This year especially I have so many things to be thankful about. I continue to have a job that gives me the satisfaction and stability that I need. I have my health and the opportunity to further improve it since I joined the gym. I have old friends that I continue to appreciate as well as made a bunch of new friends that I would have never thought of making had I not made changes on how I accepted myself. I’m thankful that I still have my family around me even when we don’t see eye to eye on things sometimes. I know that they will always be there for me if I need them. I’m also thankful for the chance to know several special individuals that have made a large impact to my life this year. Above all I am thankful to received all the blessings that I have this year as well as being where and who I am.

Take some time out and think about what you are thankful for and keep them in mind so they can keep you warm inside even when you think that you’re down in the dumps.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.

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