Thanksgiving came early this year to Dali, Yunnan Province, China. That’s because Thanksgiving is not actually a holiday in China and not wanting to teach our Friday morning classes in a post-feast stupor, Collin (pictured with me above) and I decided to host Thanksgiving dinner for students in our adult classes on Wednesday night and give ourselves actual Thanksgiving Day to recover.
Unfortunately, fewer than half of our adult students were able to attend (again, Thanksgiving is not an actual holiday here and the day we chose ended up working out poorly for quite a few of our students). But the ones who came seemed to have a good time and enjoyed the food, or so they said!
They definitely liked my wife’s sweet potato pie, which you can read about here if you’re interested. If they were only pretending to like it, well, they deserve Oscars. My wife’s pie was definitely the star of the dinner.
It’s hard to choose between the two funniest descriptions, overheard in Chinese, of our strange foods. One student said that my stuffing tasted like Chinese medicine. Actually, I thought it turned out well, especially since I used enough bread for this batch. Maybe it has to do with the seasonings (thyme and rosemary) that they had never heard of. Or maybe it was so bad that it really did taste like Chinese medicine.
The other funny description was of Collin’s sourdough bread. This was also very new for the students, and while they seemed to like it (and I thought it was good, too, FWIW), they kept calling it “ugly bread” in Chinese.
I guess the winner for funniest description is saying my stuffing tasted like Chinese medicine, if only because it turned out exactly as it was supposed to but didn’t quite bridge the cultural gap in culinary taste. The stuffing was the only leftover nobody wanted to take home (except for me, and Collin if he wasn’t just being nice). Collin’s bread was in a little more demand.
Our menu also included roast chicken legs, which I marinated in lemon and lime juices, olive oil, garlic, garlic powder, dried oregano, dried rosemary, salt, and black pepper. Collin made a huge batch of mashed potatoes, which were excellent. And I made a gravy from the chicken drippings, butter, flour, milk, salt, and ground cayenne and black pepper. We all ate too much and have too many leftovers, which I guess is what Thanksgiving is all about!
And, Thanksgiving is also about being thankful. This year, I’m thankful for my wife, Ligaya Beebe. We’ve been together for more than seven years now, and married almost two and a half. We’re in the process of trying to move back to the US, and it is stressful at times, but I’m really happy and thankful that we’re doing it together. I’m a lucky guy.
I’m thankful for my parents and my brother, who have all been supportive of me in spite of my decision to live abroad for so long. I couldn’t have asked for better, more loving parents, and I’m grateful to my brother for picking up my slack over the years.
I’m also thankful for the friends I’ve made in China over these 11 years. They’ve helped me spend nice Thanksgivings away from home and family. I often regret that I haven’t been home for more Thanksgivings, and it’s been a real help to celebrate my favorite holiday with friends both foreign and local while living in China.
I’m also thankful for the opportunity Shambala Foundation has given me to play a lead role in creating an English-language training center. It’s very rewarding. We moved to Dali in 2013, started designing from scratch, opened Ivy Language Academy with 18 students in March 2014, and now we see a training center with 60+ students enrolled, plus we designed and are implementing the English-language curriculum for a private primary school, and we have our foot in the door of the educational tourism industry thanks to my wife’s leadership and hard work. That’s success by any definition. I’m thankful for the opportunity to make it happen, and I’m grateful to the organization’s leadership and the team that really made it all possible.
Finally, I want to say thank you to everyone who reads this blog. Honestly, the blog doesn’t have much of a readership in terms of numbers, but I’m very grateful for both the encouraging words and the challenges to think things through more deeply. Writing this blog is fundamentally an egotistical exercise, and if it somehow attracts readers who find it interesting and/or want to debate the ideas, well, that’s more than it deserves, and I’m thankful for it!