“Gananjie kuaile!” I said enthusiastically as she handed me the roasted pumpkin seeds and pumpkin soup. “Happy Thanksgiving!”
“SHENME?!” She looked at me confused as she shouted out a nice, loud WHAT in my ear while scrunching up her face in confusion.
I began to explain in Chinese: “It’s an American holiday today. We eat Turkey. It was the time when the Pil…never mind. Thanks for the porridge…”
I kept walking away from the stand, realizing how nearly impossible it would be to educate this person with my limited Chinese vocabulary on the history of this beloved American holiday where we all break out our stretchiest of pants and shovel food down our throats like there is no tomorrow, all while claiming we are honoring a time honored tradition of the Pilgrims and the Indians first meeting over a meal. You forgot about that, didn’t you? Too busy eating that 13th piece of pumpkin pie, weren’t you? I thought so.
Over here in China, Thanksgiving Day looked like any other day.
It is freezing. The colors were changing. People are going about their own business like any other Thursday. The ATM machine didn’t work, a cab didn’t wait when there was a red light, a Chinese person hawked up a massive spit right behind as I went to get lunch. All normal.
Yet, in this mixed culture environment in which I work, we are trying to be festive about the holidays and celebrate those that many of our population would celebrate back at home. Thus has begun the explanation of what does Thanksgiving mean? Why do you eat turkey? I send people the Red Bull ad link, and then have to spend 10 minutes explaining why that’s so funny and NOT true. “You mean, Red Bull didn’t exist back then?”
So I go on my way, boiling down the holiday to that time of year when Americans eat a lot, and on this particular day, we eat turkey. And lots of it.
But as I sit here celebrating Turkey Day in the most un-American of fashions with a bubble tea for a drink and plans to get tofu soup for dinner, I do remember the “Giving Thanks” portion of Thanksgiving that is such an integral part of the day. So to honor this tradition of gratitude, here is what I am thankful for:
1) Thank you, China, for offering up bubble tea for just under a buck for my Turkey Day lunch.
2) Thank you, Shanghai, for getting your pollution under control today so I could breathe in some fresh air on my bike ride to work.
3) Thank you, ATM machine, for finally giving me my money after four failed attempts last night at different machines.
4) Thank you, Spring Airlines, for having such ridiculously cheap flights that I can spend my Thanksgiving day planning my weekend trip that will take place in 10 days to go to Bangkok.
5) Thank you, Mr. Duck vendor, for giving me some duck to eat this evening because “while it may not be turkey, it’s about as close as you are going to get to a Thanksgiving dinner while in China.”
Happy Turkey Day everyone!