Celebrating a distinctly American holiday abroad is a little weird, but I had a really wonderful experience. I actually had two Thanksgiving dinners: one with my host family, and one with the other YES Abroad students and the Fulbright Scholars who are in Sarajevo hosted at Emily (who works at the American Embassy)’s house.
First of all, our schools gives off for holidays which students celebrate because there is a lot of religious diversity. For instance, we have school scheduled on December 25th, which is Christmas for some of us, so the school allows us to take off on holidays. By that same logic, the five American students were allowed to take off from school on Thanksgiving day! Because my host mom was working anyway, I went over to Savannah’s house with the intention of working on scholarship essays, etc. but actually watched New Girl and How I Met Your Mother with her and her host sister. We had a nice time. I went home in the afternoon to help set up for dinner, and pretty soon everybody arrived for the Thanksgiving meal.
The dinner with my host family was very nice. My host mom found and cooked a delicious turkey, and also made American-style pumpkin pie from a Jamie Oliver recipe (side-note: Jamie Oliver tends to be considered the authority on foreign cooking in Bosnia. He’s a British cook with several television shows on 24 Kitchen). Everything was delicious, and I invited my friend Imana. I thought it would be fun, because she had shared Bajram with me. I didn’t quite self-induce a food coma, but I was full for a long time. We had mashed potatoes, turkey, gravy, pumpkin pie, bread, and then musaka and spinach pita for my vegetarian host brother-in-law. Here are a a few pictures from then:
My second Thanksgiving meal was on Saturday at the house of a woman who works at the embassy. The first challenge was finding her house: street numbers here never seem to make sense to me. We walked up and down (literally, because of the hill) her street for a while, and then called her. She found us eventually. We were welcomed into her home, which on the inside looked almost exactly like any home in Wausau built from 1960-1970 which was since renovated. I think what made me the most nostalgic was the white plaster, peaked ceiling with dark wooden beams running from one side of the ceiling to the other.
Soon after we showed up, the Fulbrighters arrived. One woman, Debby, and her husband came first. I felt very fancy while sitting on the arm of a plushy chair (that I was sharing with Emma) and eating hors d’oeuvres. However, that didn’t last very long after I offered to carve the turkey. It was Emily’s first time cooking a Thanksgiving meal, and I’ve prepared, cooked and carved countless turkeys (while sleep deprived!) with the community supper I always volunteer for back in the states. I also helped make impromptu gravy: from watching my mom, I was able to throw some flour and cream in with the turkey drippings and whisk it on a pan on the stove. I was destroying the fowl beast on Emily’s kitchen counter when the other Fulbright Scholar, Seth, arrived. He is a graduate from Whitman College and currently teaching English at an Islamic College. I’ll get to Whitman College later. I gleaned the last bit of meat off of the carcass and plunked it on the sideboard, then we all served ourselves and sat down to eat. Here’s some pictures!
The food was marvelous. Everything was cooked in a very American style, and this time I did eat myself into a calorie-overload coma. In addition to the wonderful food, we had wonderful company. Everyone there was really smart, interesting, and fun to talk to. As is inevitable, the talk of, “So what colleges are you applying to?” came around, and I mentioned my list. Seth asked if I’d ever heard of Whitman College. I said, “Yeah, they sent me a letter once and looked really cool, but…” at which point the recruitment session began. I have to admit, I was completely swayed by his glowing description of the college. Ultimate Frisbee? Check. Frisbee Golf (Frolf)? Check. Special Interest Houses? Check. Environmental Awareness? For sure. Outdoors-y people? Yes. They have an interest house called the “Outhouse.” Really exciting study abroad opportunities? Of course. All in all, he convinced me to apply. Besides, it’s in Walla Walla, Washington. How often will I get to say, “Wright, Whitman College, Walla Walla, Washington?” Not enough, that’s for sure.
When I got home around 9:30, I talked to my entire family using “Google Hangout.” It allowed everyone to have their own screens, like a conference call, and it was so great to talk to my whole family at the whole time. They’ve just gotten their Christmas trees. Alright, here’s a weird Wright Family Tradition. The day after Thanksgiving, while all the kids are still around, we go out to a Christmas tree farm near our house and cut down not one, but two trees. We put one up outside and one up on the inside. It’s always an adventure, and one of our favorite parts is seeing how high of a tree we can convince our dad to let us get. We have a tall ceiling in our living room, and no ceiling outside. The tallest we’ve ever gotten has been 24 feet, something that “will never be repeated,” direct quote from Papa Wright. Somehow, though, Aaron and Dylan (my older brothers) managed to get away with 21 feet for outside and 17 feet for inside. I am forever impressed.
In addition to that excitement in my American household, I myself got great news! I have been accepted to Hamline University! I was very flattered by my acceptance letter, as it came with a handwritten note. Recognition as an individual was one of the reasons I applied to small schools in the first place, but I was very pleased and excited! Even if it’s not my first choice, it is still an excellent school which I can see myself at. I’M GOING TO COLLEGE! I still don’t know where, but I’M GOING TO COLLEGE! WOOHOO!!!!
Happy Thanksgiving, all.