The turkey is running around in the yard, the warthog is frozen in the freezer downstairs. We have sign ups for who is going to help with the various food items, all the ones that we know from home. And we know who is going to end up doing the majority of the cooking, the volunteers who will spend the next two days in the kitchen taking charge and making sure that the food all gets cooked in time. That it all gets done in time for the meal.
The turkey’s name is Hilary, the warthog’s name was Bill. The turkey was bought from a farm run by a white missionary in one of the districts, the warthog was killed from a game reserve nearby. This is Thanksgiving in a new country.
There are nearly forty people in my province, who will be at the main Peace Corps house for the holiday. This is Thanksgiving in a new country. This is Thanksgiving with new friends.
We buy tickets on turkey roulette, where an area has been divided into squares, and you can bet on which square the turkey will poop on. The two winners split the fifty kwacha pot, getting enough to buy some fried chicken and chips from the fast food place across from the grocery store.
We take turns trying to Skype home, Skype parents and friends, and by the end of the night and the next day you see various people in the yard trying to get in touch with parents with siblings with boyfriends and girlfriends back home. The days here are dry and hot and long. Rainy season hasn’t hit Solwezi with full force yet and the heat has been building on itself for the past few days that we have been here. It is hot, so hot, and the sweat pours into the corners of everything possible.
We spend Thanksgiving morning sitting around and watching movies, getting over being sick and getting ready to eat heavily in the afternoon. And by the afternoon, while food is being cooked, and the electricity is going in and out, we sit outside sweating in the sun, watching the rain cloud approaching, the rain finally come in.
We play outside, we make water balloons, we sit in the rain filling balloons while the rain drenches us to the bone. We wait until the rain stops before arranging a game of capture the flag, four people on each team and two buckets of water balloons in the middle for pelting at anyone carrying the flag.
We win two out of three games before throwing the rest of the balloons before heading inside to finish drinks, shower, and gather for dinner.
Before dinner we circle up as an entire provincial family. We read out loud things that we are thankful for before heading in for dinner. And immediately the power goes out.
But that is what happens, that is sometimes what happens when you are in a city with spotty power. So we sit around the porch, on couches and benches and the floor, eating food piled on our plates in the dark, with candles or flashlights to see our food. And we complain that eating in the village has made us less able to eat as much as we usually would. And we go back at midnight for seconds or thirds or fourths.
And in the morning we don’t have any bread to make traditional Thanksgiving sandwiches, but I pile food into a mug and make a Thanksgiving sundae instead.
And finally Thanksgiving is over, and the people slowly leak out of the house. Bags are packed and food is removed from the refrigerator. You go to your bus or your lodge to stay another night in the city. Or stay around and continue watching movies and reading on the porch and waiting for it all to calm down. And Thanksgiving is over, the first holiday in country is over and done with.