Thanksgiving Stateside Edition: Seven Things I’m Grateful For

My face betrays the stress of hosting my first Thanksgiving, plus in a foreign country, plus where there are no Thanksgiving-like foodstuffs to be found. But I managed to make this tray of stuffing from scratch in an oven that didn't regulate temperature. Thumbs up to that!

You guys. It’s Thanksgiving. Seriously?!  How did the beginning and middle of 2011 fly by so quickly?  On this day last year, I was frantically cooking my heart out to prepare a Thanksgiving feast for my Brazilian friends.  On this day two years ago, I was doing the same but for a group of newly acquired expat friends in Buenos Aires. It’s been a wonderful, crazy (sexy/cool? oh hey TLC) journey since that first Thanksgiving that I spent out of the country, without my family and in the company of near-strangers.  This year, back in the U.S. and with my family at my side, my life has changed tremendously, for better or for worse.  It being the holiday of thanksgiving, it’s a natural time to reflect on how lucky and blessed I’ve been in the past couple years. So in the spirit of cornucopias and gourds and the Pilgrims and Native Americans, here’s a select list of things I’m grateful for this Thanksgiving: 

1) I mean, this goes without saying, but I’m just gonna give it a shout-out because you know, ’tis the season.  Family and friends.  You guys complete me. And had me at hello. Ironically, these next few months, perhaps even years, will be when I need supportive family and friends the most, so thanks in advance goes out to all the people who will have my back and listen to me vent and whine and cry, or who’ll raise a toast with me when I’ve finally made it. (Good god I hope I finally do make it one day.)

2) Making it safely off my flight home and onto solid ground.  During my flight home from New York City just two days ago, I experienced probably the worst turbulence I’ve ever experienced in my 26 years of air travel.  Twenty solid minutes of stomach-churning, heart-in-throat rocking and pitching 30,000 feet in the air is enough to make even me terrified.  In moments such as those, you begin suddenly to think of “What Ifs” and it made me realize that those cheesy inspirational slogans–“live every day as if it were your last,” “no regrets,” and “I knew I should’ve used my savings on a trip to Bali” (okay that one I made up)–actually do have some meaning. Life goes by more quickly than we think (I think?). And death doesn’t always come by calling on a sunny day in its Sunday best, when you’re expecting it for brunch.  (Whoa, this is getting heavy.)  Not to mention, life circumstances and opportunities change. Do what you believe in and do what you love to do. And don’t bank on there always being tomorrow, or next summer, or next year to do them.

3) My sweet apartment in the sweetest location in Manhattan. I lucked out big time when I moved to NYC because I happened to have a friend of a friend who needed a subletter in her apartment right in the East Village, just above the Lower East Side, but within easy walking distance to Soho, Nolita, Noho (is that a real neighborhood?), Union Square, the West Village, and Alphabet Cit-ay. My friends come to me, and when I go out, I usually just have to walk a few blocks to get to the bar.  Super extra flashing star points (watch out Mario Bros. reference) because that also means I can drunkenly stumble home from those bars afterwards, and as I’m not usually too much of a hot mess, I make it home safe and sound without ever having to wait in the subway or take a cab. (Important side note: This dream spot has its expiration date, and I will be needing a new place to live starting Feb. 1.  Anyone who has any leads should immediately hit me up and I’ll repay you tenfold in kindness and smiles.)

4) Pho. This stuff just doesn’t ever get old.  This food is one of god’s greater creations, and I missed it for two long years while I was in South America. (I ordered pho once–knowing already that I would be disappointed–from a pan-Asian-ish-type restaurant in Rio because it was the first and only time I’d ever seen it on a menu in South America. Super weak sauce + busch league = lamest attempt at pho I’ve ever tasted.)  Though I’ve got my own favorite place for Pho, a friend recently showed me a place in NYC’s Chinatown that could hold its own in the ring as well.  Yes! I’m back in a land where these foods are accessible.

5) The healing power of runny egg yolk, cheese, tomato, and avocado.  I’m lucky enough to be one of those annoying people who can drink a ton the night before and shake off a hangover with a good stomach full of food and a Vitamin Water.  By 2p the next day, especially if I’ve ingested the above foods, I’m usually good to go.  Chipper like a golf wedge (get it?).

5) Global warming. I kid. But not really… This fall has been pleasantly not freezing, and since I haven’t had to suffer a New England winter in ten years (two of the last which I spent in tropical climates), I’m very grateful I haven’t had to hibernate just yet for the winter.

6) Being the child of wai guo ren (that’s “foreigners” for you non-Chinese speaking folk).  It’s taken me my whole life to arrive at this point, because of course when I was a kid, all I wanted was for my parents to be Americans, and to just get it. And there are times when I do still wish that.  But I think often it’s just parents (and not just Chinese parents) that just don’t understand, am I right?  Now though, I’m starting to see how finally I’m the one in the cool club: I can speak Mandarin and pick up other languages with greater ease because I grew up in a bilingual (sometimes trilingual) home.  And when I go home I get to eat the bombest food ever.  And I like that I part of my identity is that of a foreign country. I think it’s part of my galavanting, wanderlusting spirit.

The first place I ever traveled to outside the U.S.: Taipei!

7) And lastly, I’m very happy and thankful that I’ve had the wonderful opportunities I’ve either sought out or been given to travel around the world.  I realize that lots of people don’t have the ability or the means to be able to travel, and I count myself one of the fortunate ones.  I do have to thank my parents for instilling in me a love of travel.  My family always traveled, whether it was a trip to visit family in Taiwan, a bus trip through the Rocky Mountain states, a vacation around Italy, or a cruise in Alaska.  My parents’ style of travel doesn’t exactly jive with my own, but I was on my first across-the-world flight to Taiwan when I was 13 months old.  My life has been shaped so much by my travel experiences that I can’t imagine what kind of person I would be without them.  But now that I’m back in the U.S., I’m already itching to get out on my next trip!

What are you thankful for this year?

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