Even though many WorldTeach volunteers spend their holiday season away from their home and families, they certainly do not spend it alone. Alyssa, a WorldTeach China volunteer, recounts her non-traditional Thanksgiving surrounded by her new friends and colleagues.
Winter has finally arrived here in China, but without the typical holiday festiveness in the air. Holidays are the hardest time while living abroad and you need to make sure you find ways to make it your own. As I sit here, freezing my little buns off because China has yet to discover central heat or insulation, and because winter in Changsha consists of rain, lots of it and a constant temp between 39-45 degrees F, I realize I am still happy to be here. This past week was Thanksgiving and although it felt weird and not nearly like a normal Thanksgiving, it was still special.
Thursday, I taught my two classes of students, who were very eager to learn about Thanksgiving, (Gan En Jie) and even gave me gifts and cards to share their appreciation for Miss Alyssa. It really moved me and made me realize how much of an impact I have on these childrens’ lives and how important it is they grow up knowing more than what they are surrounded by. After class, Jack and I hopped on our usual gyspy bus to big bus route and made our way into downtown for an expensive but much needed all you could eat Thanksgiving dinner buffet at the Sheraton hotel.
We were joined by thirty of our closest friends here in China. It was truly enjoyable. Everyone indulged on turkey, mashed potatoes, wine, desserts, real coffee,chocolate fountatin, pretzels and the list could go on. We spent close to 5 hours just talking, laughing and fulfilling the waiguoren stereotype to its fullest, including a dessert eating contest off spoons.
Everyone filled their bellies to their fullest and just enjoyed each others company with the make shift family we have created. Friday, thank god China does not do Black Friday, was filled with relaxing, sleeping and once again a nice evening with friends for dinner and games. Saturday, we headed off bright and early to Hengyang for our 2nd Thanksgiving celebration with all of WorldTeach. We had a fun train ride, playing cards and loosing yuan as the Chinese men watched over our shoulders, curious of our actions.
Our fellow volunteers, Julie and Lisa, opened up their homes, kitchens and hearts to all of us lonely waiguoren and delivered us a feast we could never forget. We had stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn, KFC, pasta, beans, and some apple cobbler to top it off. The rest of the evening was spent relaxing, playing games and snuggling up with one and another. Of course there was lots of wine, beer and bai jiu involved and a hard nights sleep on the floor, but it was a Thanksgiving I will never forget.
Now Christmas is fastly approaching and our Spring Festival vacation. It’s hard to believe four months of this journey is over. Time flies in China. However, as I said during our chessy what are you thankful game: I am thankful for the wonderful opportunity WorldTeach has provided for me, and the wonderful people I have met and befriended.