Green giving way to burnt orange and deep red. Nature turning to golden brown hues. Breathing crisp air, skin tickled by cool breezes. The crackle of freshly fallen leaves breaking apart underneath boots. Tucking my nose into the folds of a hand-knitted infinity scarf while dashing from the nip in the air into warm spaces. Wrapping my fingers around a warm mug of coffee and breathing in the scents of peppermint, nutmeg, or pumpkin. I miss it. My heart aches for it. Fall.
I love Thanksgiving. And while I recognize it can be a time of reflection on the sordid history of the colonization of the Americas (check out Hidden Brain’s fascinating podcast about the history of American Indian enslavement), that’s not what I love about it. Modern day Thanksgiving is about gratitude and the sharing of life over delicious food. There is no pressure to hunt down the favorite gift, or plan the perfect date night, or put together an ironic/scary/sexy costume. There’s no blowing out candles and no battling crowds for the best spot to watch fire works. There is just a table, decked out by fall favorites, and gathered around by friends, family, acquaintances, and/or strangers. That’s what I love about Thanksgiving, the non-requirement of it all. The simplicity of bodies, food, conversation, and laughter. The chance to ruminate on gratitude, break bread, and look another human in the eye. It’s a holiday that checks in. Asks how you’re doing. Finds out what you’ve been up to and urges you find a reason to be thankful, even in the midst of hard things.
This year has had a fair share of both hard things and amazing things. Joyful things and sad things. Fun things and boring things. There have been tears, but there has also been so much laughter. This year, I am grateful for my wonderful Thai community. My students. My host family. My counterpart and the teachers at my school. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be here and to do this job. And I’m grateful for the friends back home who reach out and stay connected.
But mostly, I’m grateful for the other folks that are figuring this out with me. I get to spend Thanksgiving with friends who have become “home” for me here in Thailand. Friends that were strangers eleven months ago. Friends that know what it’s like to be here and not there. To be happy and sad. Lonely and content. Confused and joyful. Challenged and able. Friends that navigate the emotional wasteland that is everyday life here, and lean into those tensions with grace and tenacity. Friends that act as sounding boards, or force (much needed) hugs, or give pep talks, or deliver a swift kick in the ass – depending on what the situation requires. My heart is overwhelmed with gratitude for you wonderful and resilient people.