January 3rd 2010
When our fellows come from other countries to work with us, they have the opportunity to learn about the American culture and experience many “firsts” including their first American holidays. Charity (from Uganda) shares about his first Thanksgiving experience.
My first ever Thanksgiving celebration!
It all started with several mini-Thanksgiving dinners… then four big Thanksgiving celebrations with the AfterSchool program kids and their families… and the grand finale on Thanksgiving Day!
Initially, I watched others prepare seven turkeys for the first AfterSchool program feast and observed the American tradition of preparing turkeys. I then observed more closely as I inquisitively watched Garret (one of the Camp directors) stuff several more turkeys, little did I know that the following day was going to be my turn to spearhead the turkey baking crew for yet another thanksgiving dinner! With Garret’s strategy fresh in my mind, I managed to bake my first ever gigantic turkey which took at least five hours to prepare!
I was overwhelmed by more than 10 invitations from friends who were willing to celebrate Thanksgiving with me! I managed to spend Thanksgiving weekend with two families.
A friend of mine, named Denise, invited me to spend Thanksgiving Day with her family in Bridgewater, New Jersey. Denise’s father picked me up and we made the trek to Bridgewater. I was welcomed by very jovial and wonderful people at Denise’s house. I felt so good, loved, and secure.
A few minutes after our arrival, a very big golden-colored-nicely-baked turkey was laid on the table ready to be feasted on. The previous days I had been enjoying turkeys but this one looked extraordinarily delicious. It was not long when we were all called to sit around the dinner table to begin enjoying the nicely baked turkey. Denise’s father opened up the meal with a prayer in Spanish (of which I did not understand and my friend had to translate afterwards.) After the prayer, Denise’s mother unsealed the turkey out of a transparent bag, and as she did, the aroma of the turkey filled the room and I couldn’t wait to get a taste! In addition to the turkey, Denise had prepared homemade stuffing which tasted so good that despite my full belly, I had another helping!
Needless to say, the feast was a wonderful. This was a very warm feeling for me. I had never experienced anything like this huge celebration for Thanksgiving and all the traditions that accompany it.
After Thanksgiving dinner and ice cream for dessert, my friends asked if I would want to go out for Black Friday. With all my innocence and naivety about this American day, I joyfully embraced it with passion and excitement. We went to the Mall (Best Buy) at Mid-night, and to my surprise, there were already more than 100 people lining up outside the mall! We later discovered that the first person in line arrived at 10:00am on Thanksgiving Day! That was hilarious!
So, in true Black Friday tradition, we stood in the growing line, anticipating the 5:00am hour when the doors to the Mall would open. When they did, the crowd swarmed in and started shopping. As for me, I roamed around Best Buy observing this phenomenon and I was stunned by how much money people could spend in a short amount of time. Carts were overflowing with 50 inch LDC TV’s, two to three laptops each, video cameras, and all sorts of electronic.
That experience blew away my mind! It was fun and crazy. I had a wonderful experience with these American traditions… all that just within 12 hours!
By Charity Alinda
UPI Fellow 2009-2010.