Monday, November 29, 2010
Over the River and Through the Woods
Extremely busy days just now--preparing for the holidays with its special Christmas program for the community and my family visitors (yay!), getting various presentations ready for a week at IST (In Service Training) which begins a week from today in Sibiu, finishing our budget report, and completing the 30 hours of language tutoring by December. I'm waiting for my tutor right now and decided I could take a few minutes to let you know that Thanksgiving was indeed well celebrated by the PC volunteers in Romania--and true to our third directive, we also shared information about this quintessentially American holiday with our students and colleagues. I made presentations, using video clips from the History channel's website, pictures, and personal anecdotes 18 different times during the week and had my students make the "hand turkeys" American children make and had them present them in English with an emphasis on the thankful part. I must say I have never felt more keenly the significance of and true appreciation for this holiday as I've felt it this year. Those of us volunteering on the west side of Romania (too far to go to Bucharest for the American ambassador's big Thanksgiving Dinner) had our own gathering in a lodge at a national park near Arad. We did indeed go "over the river and through the woods" to make this celebration happen. Twelve of us met on Friday and cooked and prepared toward a big dinner on Saturday for ourselves and our Romanian guests--about 40 or so. It was a collaborative effort in the planning and execution--trying to pull together the ingredients to faithfully represent a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. We did pretty well, missing only the cranberry sauce, which is something Romanians know nothing about. I found sweet potatoes finally (from India) and put those into spicy little iced cookies since I was told there wouldn't be oven space for a souffle. I was also the gravy maker and was anxious for days ahead trying to figure out how to make it without the "drippings" from the roasted turkey. (Ours was grilled in pieces over a fire.) As it turned out, the fat from beef and chicken, which I had saved in my freezer and the broth that came from two large turkey necks, which I cooked at site, formed the stock and many herbs and seasonings were added. It was a hit on the mashed potatoes, dressing, and meat, and I even had Romanians wanting the recipe (gravy isn't part of their cuisine). Recipe? I could never duplicate this particular gravy. Nor this particular Thanksgiving, for that matter. And though--like most holidays for PC volunteers--there is sadness at being away from loved ones back home, the pleasure of cross-cultural sharing is a grand compensation and will make these times memorable.