Other than Christmas, Easter, and New Years’ Day, Colombia and the United States do not share holidays. So for the last three years, I’ve spent the very American celebration of Thanksgiving Day with other expats eating turkey imported from Peru (which, incidentally, is the word for turkey in Portuguese). We have sweet potato pie and pumpkin cheesecake made by folks who’ve been scavenging the country for months to get the appropriate ingredients. Thanksgiving with friends isn’t new to me – I haven’t been home to Florida for the holiday in about seven years, opting for the less expensive and longer Christmas season to head south. And here, we drink wine and laugh and never have much time to get really nostalgic, considering it’s a regular workday.
But for me, there’s a slight strangeness at the fact that, back in the States, I would have probably never interacted with most of these people. When you live overseas, you form bonds with people in a way that never would have happened back home: my best friends in Washington were other young, upwardly-mobile, semi-bourgeois Black Americans with a sprinkling of three or four white classmates from my graduate program. In Bogotá, my best friends were (are) an actor from Ecuador, an Irish attorney steeped in hip-hop lore and Black American literature, a seventy-year-old Irish-American New Yorker who rode down to Alabama during Freedom Summer and has lived in Colombia for 40 years, a gay ex-Mormon missionary from Seattle who was sent to Colombia twelve years ago and never went back, and a stout Frenchman born in Malta to a British father who (the Frenchman) formerly ran an art gallery in Paris and now runs a Mexican restaurant in Bogotá.
Amazing who you meet on the outside. I’m thankful to the cosmos for these relationships and these experiences, which never would have happened had I never left the comfort of familiar surroundings. And I’m thankful for having been born in the United States, which issues a pretty strong passport that allows me to have these relationships and experiences.
Happy Thanksgiving, to all my fellow expats and to all my peeps stateside.
Prayers to all those affected by yesterday’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai and by continued attacks and instability in the Middle East.