I have a confession to make. It's not easy for me to say, because I try always to be grateful for my life, through the ups and downs regardless. But on Thanksgiving last week, sitting in my hotel alone, eating the same dinner I had eaten for days before, and working away on my project for work, I'll admit it: I was pretty miserable. It was the first time that I had been away from home on Thanksgiving, and while the holiday may not mean a lot to many American families, it always has for mine. Tonight though, maybe a few days late, I was blessed to be invited into the home of some fellow American expats, people I didn't even know before, for their version of an expatastic American Thanksgiving. I can't even express how thankful I am.
To give some context, rewind a few days to Wednesday of last week. I was out to dinner with a new friend, Bic, a friend of a friend from Ghana. (It's amazing how the expat social network works, but that's a topic for another post entirely.) She brought another friend with her named Stacey, and they mentioned that a few of Stacey's friends were having some people over for a Thanksgiving celebration on Sunday, if not on the actual holiday itself. I said that I was bummed that I didn't have any plans, and they said they'd see what they could do.
Well a few days later, I officially scored an invite. The hosts all worked in the oil and gas industry, which is very common for expats in Nigeria. I had never met any of them, but they warmly invited me into their home, and into their little expat family. I had no idea what to expect, but boy was I pleasantly surprised. Everyone was so kind and welcoming; the people were all interesting, and the food was absolutely phenomenal. (The hosts had imported every last vestige of your typical Thanksgiving feast from the US right down to the canned cranberry sauce.)
Sitting at their dinner table, surrounded by so many wonderful new friends, I couldn't help feeling deeply thankful for them, for this life, and for everyone I know. The last couple weeks have been unusually stressful on the job, and there have been times that I've felt lonely working all the time without a solid support system around. But this one evening snapped me out of my slump and reminded me that I have so much to give thanks for: for the greatest job I could hope for; for finding warm and supportive people everywhere I go, and most profoundly, for truly being able to live out my dreams.
While I may have been pretty miserable on Thanksgiving itself, it seems the holiday may have come at just the right time to remind me of all I have.
I'm so happy to hear that you found so many wonderful expats graciously inviting 'strangers' into their home for a Thanksgiving feast. Please thank them on behalf of your family back home who miss you, too.
I second what your Aunt Mimi wrote. We missed Thanksgiving with the family also, as your dad was sick, so I know first hand some of your feelings for the holiday. Aunt Debbie is taking some Thanksgiving food to your dad, but I am packing my apartment for the big move. I am so happy for you that you shared the holiday with others!
Another good blog, Ben! So glad you were able to have a Happy Thanksgiving in Accra! All best, Randy
Isn't it amazing how expat social networks work? I am seeing that here in Oman too. By meeting friends of friends of friends, you can establish a giant network spanning an amazing number of countries. Trying to take advantage of this as I try to find a roommate in a new city! Happy late Thanksgiving! Just found your blog but it's great :)
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