It’s 1 a.m. I’m uncomfortably sprawled out on my bed, and I’m still stuffed. Thanksgiving without your family abroad can make homesickness feel almost nauseating – this heavy sinking feeling that can’t be lifted with any amount of Nutella you stuff into your mouth. However, if you’re spending it with 24 other relative strangers on the same journey, it’s heart-warming. Suddenly that sinking lifts, and you think, “OK, I can do this again.”
This year was the first I spent without my family for the feast of thanks. It’s the one holiday where I’m responsible for all things culinary – with the exception of the “turkey.” With this perturbing homesickness poking me as the holiday approached, I was hoping for something that would cure my ailment. As if the turkey fairies heard my plea, a fellow masters student named Henna said she wanted to host Thanksgiving two weeks before Turkey Day.
I jumped at the chance to participate. Suddenly, we had a 16.75-pound turkey named Cinzia, 25 enthusiastic international attendees, a menu to match our diversity, and enough wine to fuel a small army contingent with drunkenness.
It’s not about the turkey, the stuffing, or the mashed potatoes. It’s not about the beer, wine, or prosecco. It’s not even about the overindulgence and sensory overload of the sights, smells, and sounds that pass through the night – from the pungent turkey broth to the smokey-sweet smell of Nebbiolo. It is about the moment – the celebration we have with the people around us in this strange bubble of unreality. Because, in what other world but fantasy would you combine 25 individuals from 10 different countries to study food, journalism, and the sociology that encompass the two?
That nauseating sinking feeling dissipated as the wine was poured more and more freely with abundant glee. Jokes were shared; swear words in foreign tongues exchanged, and each of us left stuffed with food and memories.
The comfort in knowing you’re not alone is a human one, but I think it goes deeper than that. It’s a sort of bandage that heals the loneliness – the self-awareness in knowing that all of us are feeling that sinking feeling at some point. After all, most of us are in this foreign land trying to cope with all elements of living abroad – from learning patience to surviving without knowing Italian.
I walked home alone, but satisfied. The night ended at 12:45 a.m. with a call to my blood family as I sent a mental thank you to my adopted one here.