It was Thanksgiving! I hope everyone had a lovely, highly American time with lots of turkey and pumpkin pie and family. I didn’t end up having any of those things, which was definitely a bummer, but my Thanksgiving actually turned out to be pretty wonderful in its own way. I ended up celebrating Thanksgiving on Saturday because site announcements were on Thursday- which was really exciting and merits a whole different post that I’m going to get to! Soon! So I spent Thursday finding out about my future and then calling family late Thursday night because that was Thanksgiving morning in the US. Anyway. The real holiday happened on Saturday, when all of the Manshiya volunteers got together for a Thanksgiving lunch. And it was delightful! There was a ton of food, lots of mashed potatoes and stuffing and roasted chicken (sadly, no turkey to be found) and even cider! We of course went around and said what we were thankful for…and of course it turned out that we were all thankful for each other. And we meant it. It’s hard to be away from family on any holiday, and this was the first of many. And I’ve only known these people for a month, but with the 12 of us sitting on the floor together, drinking our cider and eating our weight in mashed potatoes…it really felt for the first time like we were a family. We hung out on the farshas talking for a long time, until around 4 when the girls needed to start heading home. But then we all stopped by Megan’s house for chai and pomogranites and biscuits, because no one can resist an invite from Om Mohammad. She’s the cutest little lady in the world, and she loves having volunteers over and smiling at them and trying to learn English. So I stayed until like 5 when it really was getting dark, and Trista and I walked home together.
When I got home my host family fed me again (so much food, always.), and I found out that one of my host sisters who was two months pregnant had had a miscarriage while I was gone this week. I was really really sad to hear that. Lana is one of my favorite host sisters…she’s always trying to help me with my Arabic and she’s really funny and kind of sarcastic, which of course I love. Sometimes she just looks at me from across the room when everyone’s talking in Arabic and we both laugh because it’s clear that I understand nothing. She’s great like that. Anyway, after dinner all of the women went over to Lana’s house together to visit. There were a lot of women already there, including another couple of other volunteers and their host sisters and moms. Lana was sitting on one of the farshas in the middle of the room with lots of blankets, and we all sat around her and drank tea and said nice things to her. I sat with the other two volunteers and the three of us hung out and did the best we could to follow the conversation. From what I could understand, all the women were telling stories about their pregnancies and their daughters’ pregnancies and miscarriages, and giving all kinds of advice on what to do and eat during pregnancy…(Apparently the secret is a spoonful of olive oil a day, and lots of apples). A couple of the women had brought their kids along, and we just sat around comforting each other and drinking tea while the kids ran around and played on the farshas and watched cartoons. And I know it was a really sad occasion, but I was surrounded by all these women and children that I’ve gotten to know and really love this past month- and they were supporting each other and showing their love just by sitting there with Lana when she needed them. And right then and there I just felt really at home.
Om Ahmed and I headed back home with my host sisters and their kids around 8- and because it’s a new moon right now I could see a ton of stars out there on the edge of the village. And while I was staring up at the sky I saw a shooting star streak across the sky. I didn’t make a wish or anything (because supposedly I’m an adult). But it still felt special- the same way it did when I was a little kid in my sleeping bag staring up at the sky. And this was a weird Thanksgiving, maybe the weirdest I’ll ever have. But somehow way out here in the middle of the desert with all these people I only met a month ago, it still felt special, and it felt a little like home.