Saturday, November 27, 2010

Gracias en Gracias

What better place to celebrate Thanksgiving (Dia de Gracias) than in Gracias, Lempira, a town about 2 hours away in the next department.

This was probably the only chance in our lives to celebrate a major U.S. Holiday in a town of the same name. After all, it’s unlikely you’d ever be somewhere called Christmas or Easter on that exact day.

Gracias cityscape

Hanging out at the Spanish fort

One of the churches of Gracias

Thanksgiving seems to me one of those holidays that becomes more important when you don’t have the opportunity to participate. In the U.S., it’s an event you look forward to with excitement (mostly for gorging yourself) but at the same times perhaps a little dread, will Aunt So and So be there and insist on talking my ear off, will your step-mom be able to act sane after three bottles of Chardonnay…etc etc. I have to admit that Thanksgiving was never my favorite holiday or the most anticipated.

Then all the sudden, you’re living in Honduras and haven’t seen your family in 9 months and at the mere mention of November, you are already planning the details of a big gringo get-together to celebrate. Perhaps it’s that we look for any excuse to get out of site, speak English and drink uncontrollably, but it’s also that longing for a sense of something familiar, something American that marks this time of year.

And so we found ourselves among good friends and new volunteers, along with a few random gringos who just showed up, sharing a Thanksgiving feast together to remind us of home. It may have been one of the finest Thanksgivings I’ve attended, we really did it right. Two 9 lb turkeys, one stuffed and oven baked, the other deep fried in 5 gallons of oil in a huge cauldron heated over a wood burning fire – that was a feat. Real mashed potatoes, homemade macaroni and cheese, delicious red cabbage, classic green bean casserole, and of course my family’s famous sausage stuffing (it was a hit Mom). We topped it off with pumpkin and pecan pie, chocolate cake and cinnamon rolls, followed by rousing and controversial games of beer pong, Peace Corps Jeopardy and Celebrity.

This is how you fry a turkey, Peace Corps style

A real Thanksgiving meal

Peace Corps Jeopardy

Things we are thankful for:

Things you should be thankful for that you probably take for granted:

Each other

Being able to easily get together with friends and family for the holidays without having to take cramped, 4 hour bus rides


The fact that candles are primarily used for ambiance and romance, not much needed light


Constant hot water infinitely adjustable with separate knobs

Ceramic water filter in a bucket

Potable tap water that you don’t have to worry about accidentally swallowing in the shower

Dial-up speed internet in our house

Broadband speed internet on your cell phone

People who throw water on the street to keep the dust down

Paved, dust free streets that don’t contribute to constant sinus infections

Tarps and the kindness of strangers

The fact that riding in a pickup doesn’t mean sitting in the bed with a tarp over your head to stay dry from the rain

Finding a bottle of sage for my stuffing

Having mega-grocery stores which carry every item known to man, most likely within a 5 minute drive from your house

Not having Leishmania (another story for later)

Not having to worry about insects that carry chronic, monster, tropical diseases that can only be treated at Tulane

The aforementioned tarp in pickup truck scenario

But what we are most thankful for is having the opportunity to live in another country and experience the culture, constantly meeting new people, not only from Honduras, but from all over the world, and sometimes even a bunch of guys from the University of Michigan (there was a group that joined our Thanksgiving dinner who started a microfinance organization down here). We complain a lot often about all the failings of Honduras, but we are incredibly happy to be here. There is no way you can really understand how fortunate we are in the US until you live someplace like Honduras for a few months.

We hung out with this friendly baby gecko during lunch

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