Hello Friends and Family,
I have had a great week here in France feeling thankful and getting into the holiday spirit. Usually, I’m one to shun Christmas music until after Thanksgiving so I can properly celebrate my favorite holiday. But being in a foreign land where they don’t celebrate this holiday will do some crazy things to a girl. Exhibit A, starting to listen to ‘Christmas Radio’ on Pandora in mid-November. I have to admit, I’ve been getting a little swept away by Michael Buble. Last week as we approached the Thanksgiving holiday I was worried that severe homesickness was looming in the distance. However, I have my amazing American teammates to thank for making it feel like I wasn’t so far away from home.
We decided that we were going to do it big. We were going to make a festive dinner and celebrate this holiday right. The celebration was just going to have to be a day early because our Thursday schedule was going to be far too busy to cook a proper Thanksgiving meal. So on Wednesday we set off to the grocery store to find what we needed. I had to make my mom’s green bean casserole. I knew once I bit into some of that I wouldn’t feel so far from home (turns out I was right). I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to find some of the ingredients, but they were all there! I did a little jig right there in the grocery store when I found the fried onions in the ‘foreign foods’ aisle. Korrin was determined to make her sister’s famous yams. Funny thing about trying to shop for yams in a French grocery store…the translations aren’t always clear. Here they are called ‘patates douces’ and they keep them in the same section as tropical fruits. That’s confusing. We were so close to walking away from the yams thinking this couldn’t be them, but at the last second we decided we’d give them a try.
Later on we all prepared our dishes in our rooms and then met downstairs by the oven to bake our creations. The receptionist downstairs was very confused as to why we were celebrating Thanksgiving a day early. She was giggling and asked us, “But isn’t Thanksgiving tomorrow?” Mind you, this woman barely speaks any English, but she still tried to call us out about our own holiday.
When we sat down to dinner that night we had all the major players: green bean casserole, homemade mac and cheese, buttery mashed potatoes, and those famous yams. We ended up having rotisserie chickens as finding a turkey here proved to be as rare as finding water in the desert. The smell of Thanksgiving filled the air. Now, I want to tell y’all about these yams. They might be the best thing I’ve ever eaten. No kidding, and I wasn’t alone in this. As I looked around to everyone else’s plates they were also saving the yams for last so they could savor the flavor. Nobody wanted them to be gone. So bravo Korrin, you nailed the Thanksgiving Yams.
After dinner we were completely stuffed. It was fantastic! I felt just like I would have if I had been home for Thanksgiving. We needed some time to digest before dessert so we decided to play Ellen’s Heads Up charades game. Let me tell you, it was hilarious. My favorite category was when we had to hum out songs for the person guessing. Trying to hum Taylor Swift’s We are Never, Ever Getting Back Together proved to be quite a challenge. I thought I was nailing it, but no dice. As we were all gathered around the table full off of dinner and laughing together I really felt like I was home. I’m so grateful for Bianca, Tyreese, Korrin, and Jenna as they have been such an amazing support system for me. I know they’ll always have my back and they’re always down to have a good time. So special thanks to my sisters and brother away from home. We capped off the night with some funfetti cake (box mix sent from America!) because Apple Pie is sooooo Thanksgiving 2013. I went to bed that night feeling incredibly full, happy, and lucky.
I surprisingly wasn’t very homesick on Thursday. I was still so happy from the day before. Also, I think it’s almost easier to be somewhere that doesn’t celebrate a holiday that you are missing out on. Everyone here was going about their daily lives. So I wasn’t constantly reminded that I was missing out on something at home. And thank heavens for Skype! When I called my cousins Megan and Michele in Maryland they were headed to the beach with my Aunt Sharon and Uncle Matt for their sunrise walk, and they took me along with them! The sunrise sure is beautiful on the east coast. That evening I was able to skype my family and grandparents who were in town visiting. I felt like I was right at home, especially when they sent me a picture with my fathead at the Thanksgiving dinner table!
While our town didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, they’re all-in for Christmas. There are red carpets lining the streets, and they alleyways are aglow from hanging Christmas lights. It’s absolutely beautiful, and as I walk through the town I feel like I’m in a movie. On Sunday we went to Nantes which is about an hour away, and there is a big Christmas market set up. First, we went to the movie theatre that plays movies in English so we could see the new Hunger Games. However, I don’t know how many of these French people at the English movie fully understand English. There are times when one of the actors says a funny line and we are the only four people in that theatre laughing. Sometimes we’re dying laughing while everyone else is silent, and then I almost feel awkward. After the movie we ventured around the Christmas market and it was so picturesque. All around people had set up little booths to sell their hats and scarves, homemade goodies, and toys. At one place there were literally chestnuts roasting on an open fire. We treated ourselves to what seems to be an European Christmastime staple, hot wine. It’s a special kind of red wine made to be heated up and it has a small hint of cinnamon. It was steaming in the cold air and was very cozy as we walked around the market.
I’m so happy that we are finally into the holiday season! I’m excited to experience my first European Christmas, and my family will be here so soon! I hope everyone back home is staying warm and enjoying the holiday season as well.