I study the menu, running my finger along the laminated sheet as I try to decipher the eclectic assortment of Burmese dishes. Today is Thanksgiving, and I’m determined to have a proper Thanksgiving feast. In the end, I have to substitute a tomato chicken curry in place of the turkey, with a side of steamed white rice for stuffing. I know finding cranberry sauce will be impossible, so I settle for a bunch of grapes. But though I lost my beloved pumpkin pie this year, I have gained so much more to be thankful for.
I’m thankful for my fellow Dragons here, both peers and instructors. We’ve shared laughter and tears, germs and endless amounts of curries. They have become my family here, driving me to grow and supporting me as I test the limits of my comfort zone. My experience here would not have been the same without them. I’m thankful for their parents too, for giving me the chance to spend the last three months with their kids.
I’m thankful for my family on the other side of the ocean too. Alexander and Cat, Mum and Dad. They believed in me when I first said I wanted to spend 83 days in this mysterious country 16 hours away from home, and helped make my dream into a reality. I’m especially thankful this year for my grandfather. He is the reason I chose to come to this country in the first place. He worked for many years for a charity called Prospect Burma, an organization which is dedicated to helping talented Burmese youth gain access to higher education in renowned institutions all over the world. I recently visited the headquarters of the charity in Yangon, and meeting some of the alumni I know I’m not the only one who is grateful. My grandfather truly loved and believed in this country’s future, even when the world said their was no hope. I’m thankful I can call this incredible man my Fafa.
And of course, I am thankful for the people of Myanmar. They have fed me lunch, even though we don’t speak a word of each other’s language. They have offered me their beds, even though it means they will have to sleep on the floor. They have welcomed a bumbling foreigner like me into their country with open arms, even though I still can’t pronounce their names. Myanmar is an unbelievably beautiful country, but it is the warm smiles of the people I met here that amazed me the most.
Happy (late) Thanksgiving to all across the ocean!
(If you’re interested in learning more about Prospect Burma, check out this link: https://prospectburma.org/)