My First Thanksgiving As An Expatriate

Let me start by saying that my expectations were fairly low as Thanksgiving was coming upon me. Its difficult to find the kinds of American foods we are all used in America out here in Korea and  since most of us are just out of college, our skills in the kitchen leave something to be desired. Luckily for us we came to find out that you can get pretty far in life on blind enthusiasm and  an alone.

Also luckily for us, Busan’s first Costco recently opened up (only Korea’s second in the nation) just a month ago, much to the delight of the expatriate community. We managed to get our hands on a bird, about 18 pounds in all I would guess. We really had no idea how many sorry American’s would be showing up with nowhere else to go to our dinner that night so we went quite overboard during our initial shopping escapade. I had given Mill and Jessie a hard time for buying a car when they came to Korea considering how good and cheap the mass transit is but it certainly came in handy when trying to drag enough food to feed a small army back to Gimhae.

Again, one of us was lucky enough to be blessed with an apartment that could both accommodate a small crowd (certainly unlike my little studio apartment) and contain an oven in it. Quite a rarity in Korea for any single waygook (foreigner) to have either of those things, let alone both!

So we set ourselves to cooking at about 12pm that afternoon. Well actually we collectively decided that we would put off Thanksgiving dinner until Saturday because no one had Thursday or Friday off of work as it is a little know holiday in these parts. Then again, our Saturday afternoon would be Friday evening in America so I am sure that some of you were settling down to eat some leftover turkey right about the time we were fixing to eat ours. It was a really nice day outside so I opted to take my bicycle rather than ride the buss or take my scooter. Derik’s apartment (the one with the oven) was in Jangyu, technically a part of Gimhae but still about an hours ride away from my home in Samgye-dong. The air was cold and dry but the sun was out which made for a very relaxing and pleasant ride through the rice patties as I followed the river to my destination.

At around 4-5 o’clock the guest finally started to appear and the tiny RSVP list was quickly overwhelmed as is usually the case with any event that takes place here. I think all of 14 people had been previously committed to the event but in the end I think we served something like 35ish. I stopped counting after a few bottles of wine had made their way around the apartment. What was surprising though was that the Americans were quickly out numbered, only 9 of us in all. I don’t know if it was the lack of space to stand in the apartment or the constant flashing of cameras but I began to feel little like animal in a zoo with everyone staring at us as we went about our holiday rituals. At the end of the night someone finally decided to make a toast which turned into a round of American cultural education as every took a turn standing up to say what they were thankful for.

All in all a great Thanksgiving in its own right and a welcomed surprise to my mental image of me eating a bowl of noodles and a side of Kimchi for this years “feast.” Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope it was a blast!


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