Thanksgiving in Laos

Happy thanksgiving to all of my American friends, and to anyone else who has decided to adopt the holiday – it’s one worth adopting I reckon (for the food, if nothing else). Mike’s been up in the field for the last two days, but I celebrated Thanksgiving with friends here who generously opened their backyard to all of the Americans in town, and their spouses.

The food was glorious and very Little House on the Prairie. The turkeys had been alive and flapping around the host’s bathroom until the day before the feast. Someone scoured an entirely different city for a box of sweet potatoes (rarer than gold here, for some reason) and transported them up tenderly by bus for the sweet potato casserole. The woman who made the green bean casserole was lamenting the fact that she had had to make it with real green beans instead of canned – “it just doesn’t taste the same”. And the deserts. Oh yum. There was pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and some chocolate cream thing on top of oreo cookies that is not at all a traditional Thanksgiving desert but which I dreamed about last night. I am so in love with Thanksgiving food.

It was warm and sunny and we ate under a tent in the backyard with extra shading provided by nearby palm trees a giant umbrella mounted on the back of the truck. It was a lovely break in a busy week, but at 3pm sharp I sighed, got up, walked home, and got back to work.

Poor Zulu has spent significant time this week begging me to stop typing and play with him, and a great deal more time curled up in the corner next to me, sleeping. He’s about twice as big as he was when we brought him home and he’s currently at that charming stage of puppyhood where he is gaining in strength and speed, but has not yet learned not to bite us playfully with his razor sharp teeth. He has learned the commands “come” and “sit”, but only obeys them when he feels like it. When he’s wandering somewhere he shouldn’t be wandering, sniffing something he should not be sniffing, he never feels like it. In other words he resembles nothing more than a furry four-legged toddler with the mouth of an angry shark.

Zulu, however, will get more attention this weekend because the resilience report is almost done – I think, I hope.

I’ve learned a couple of things during this process.

I don’t enjoy working to a deadline and trying to write fast. I can do it, it is probably even be good for me, but I don’t enjoy it while I’m doing it.

I get frustrated and insecure when I write first drafts that I think are merely decent, and not amazing. Then I can start to wonder if I’m actually certifiably dumb, and feel like a failure and a fraud of a human being. I realize that this is all probably rather far from rational, but sometimes I can’t snap myself out of it for ages (a whole day, maybe two… sometimes even three). This is a real problem, because my first drafts are rarely amazing.

I must talk about wanting to drown myself in the Mekong more than I realize because my patient husband, after listening to me vent about the report draft last Friday night after I’d spent five straight days working on it asked, “OK, what else are you feeling? Do you want to drown yourself in the Mekong?”

“No!” I said, shocked, then, “I hadn’t quite gotten to that stage, but now that you mention it…”

Most of these lessons are not exactly new lessons, so I don’t know why I continue to feel surprised when I am ambushed by this sort of ickiness during certain phases of working on a big project.

So, back to Thanksgiving, I am thankful that this report is almost wrapped, and that it looks as if it’s shaping up to be a piece of work to be proud of. And that’s just one thing I am thankful for. Here are some others: I’m thankful that Mike’s coming home tonight, for family and friends, for relative health, for running water, food, money, and the sense that life means something important that stretches beyond the here and now. I’m thankful for the adventure of living here, and for the view from the bamboo bridge we crossed this week to get to a restaurant over the Khan. Life is good.

A friend of mine (hi, Lynne) asked an interesting question on her facebook status today? What is something that you’ve experienced this year that you’re surprised to find yourself thankful for? Do share…

7 responses to “Thanksgiving in Laos

  1. I actually did adapt thanksgiving. Not the food part, the being thankful part. Believe it or not! I do love to host a dinner though, but this year I seriously was just thankful. The weirdest thing is: I am thankful for working hard at the moment, because it slaps some sense in me lately 🙂 THAT has never happened before aside from the almost usual “friends, family, health, good ressources and peace in my country”…

  2. Something I’m thankful for now – getting a poor mark on one of my midterms. It taught me to be more humble, and also to work harder and stop thinking I can just float by like I did in high school.

    Of course, if that mark hurts my overall GPA, I might change my mind… 😛 (Just kidding. Mostly.)

    Were marks a huge deal when you were in uni?

    • Heidi, marks were a HUGE deal for me most of my seven years at uni. I was such a nerd. I didn’t learn to stop caring (as much) until the 6th or 7th year. It’s hard, because I think studying hard is great. But I also think I missed out on some neat people time sometimes because in those early years I was studying too hard for too long.

  3. I guess I should share one of mine, too. I’m thankful we didn’t get the Mekong house, now. It was such a cool house, but I think it may have been rife with problems and it was much further out of town so it wouldn’t have been nearly as easy to get out and walk around and come in to restaurants.

  4. The surprise I am so thankful for this year was having my invisible friend come to visit. You see, this woman from Ohio wrote me after reading one of my online articles. We started corresponding via email and found we had so many things in common. A similar family/faith background, similar health issues and she had a wonderful sense of humor (which included pulling lots of practical jokes).

    I’m sure you’ve had many of these relationships, Lisa – just like at what happened with Mike! For me this had never happened before. We had been writing and calling each other for over 4 years when I suggested we meet. She was so reluctant to do this fearing it wouldn’t live up to the wonderful e-penpal relationship we had developed. Then she saw the movie Julie/Julia. Have you seen it? There is a moment where Julia Child meets her editor for the first time, face to face. This convinced my friend we should make an effort to meet.

    So over the Labor Day weekend in early September, she and her husband flew to Calgary to spend 4 days with us. The first few days saw us travelling to Waterton and Glacier National Parks for the spectacular mountain views. When we got to the US Border at Glacier, the guard there asked where we were from. When he found out one couple was from Ohio and one from Alberta he asked how we knew each other. All four of us started laughing simultaneously. That was the beginning of a magical, adventurous four days that we will never forget. It developed a new reltionship between our husbands and took our relationship to another level, that is what I am most thankful for.

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