One word to describe how I'm feeling right now: bliss. I'm currently sitting in my living room on the sofa across from our freshly decorated Christmas tree finishing up some of the leftover pie from last night's Thanksgiving feast. Easy to say that this weekend may have been my favorite weekend while abroad.
As every American knows, this past Thursday was Thanksgiving and seeing as I'm 3,828 miles away from home I couldn't quite make it home in time for dinner. In fact my Thanksgiving day was spent like no other I've had before--mainly, because I was in class for most of the day. It's odd because it didn't even feel like Thanksgiving, which makes sense because the holiday isn't celebrated here. But, I skyped with my parents during one of my class breaks and it was around 11 AM in D.C. so the Macy's Day parade was still going on. As cheesy as it is, I love watching it! Normally, my mom and I are the ones up on the morning of Thanksgiving watching and getting ready for the cooking so it was kind of sad not being there to lie on the couch while the smells of Thanksgiving were being prepared. It was a quick Skype session and after I had to return back to class. When I got home from class, my host dad's sister was visiting Paris for the day/night so we had a big dinner! After dinner, I was able to Skype into the Thanksgiving dinner with my own family which was really fun to be able to "sit around the table"!
|Photo courtesy of my brother, but here's the family all together around the dinner table!|
As much as I would have loved to be home for Thanksgiving, I wouldn't trade the experiences and opportunities to travel and meet new people that I have had while abroad and for that I am thankful. I also knew that I would be having a Thanksgiving dinner of my own with my host family and two close friends! A couple months back at dinner, my host mom and I were talking about Thanksgiving and I mentioned that I would love to celebrate the holiday with them and cook the meal (even though I've never cooked a full Thanksgiving meal solo). My host mom was super excited about this and said that I could invite some friends over if I wanted to. We decided on a date for the dinner, which was this past weekend, and soon my friend Nick and I started planning the menu. Thankfully, Nick loves to cook and is really good at it so our chances of having a successful turkey dinner were much higher than if I had cooked it on my own.
On Friday, neither Nick nor I had class so we spent the day shopping for everything we would need for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. We were planning on having turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, green beans, and we even baked two pies (because you can't just have one dessert at Thanksgiving, right?). We managed to get almost everything from Monoprix, a French grocery store, and the fresh market. Everything except cranberries. I don't know anything about where cranberries are grown, but boy are they impossible to find in France. All the stores we tried had dried cranberries, but none of the regular ones except for the American store called Thanksgiving Dinner (clever name, I know…) thats located near the Marais, or the Jewish quarter of Paris. After spending the day shopping, Nick came over and we baked one of the two pies. We made an apple pie and it smelled amazing!
|The best mix possible: apples, cinnamon, brown sugar|
|If only you could smell it through the screen|
Saturday was technically our "Thanksgiving Day" and where I would normally be up at 8 AM, this time I actually slept in because we were planning on having our turkey feast at night around 8 PM. Nick and I met up at 11ish to pick up the turkey from the market and grab a couple other things. Let me just say that picking up your turkey at an open-air market is completely different than picking up a turkey from your local grocery store. For starters, my host mom had to place an order in advance for the turkey to be prepared because it still had it's butt feathers, neck, and head on it. So thankfully we had didn't have to deal with that except we did still have the neck on it…but I won't go into those details because Nick was the one who dealt with that. After picking up the last few things, Nick left for the Marais to get cranberries and I went home to drop off our turkey. I then did the healthy thing and went for a run because I knew I would be feeling stuffed and grossly unhealthy after dinner. At 4 in the afternoon, Nick came over and we started cooking. We decided to make the sweet potato pie first, then bake the turkey, and then the stuffing at the end. Meanwhile, we were cooking multiple different pans of things on the stovetop but after 4 hours we had a full edible meal that was great!!
|A little egg yolk fiasco|
|Here goes nothing!|
|Sweet potato pie|
|Little taste of home with Mom's stuffing recipe|
|Nick cooked while Willa & I enjoyed hanging out|
|A job well done|
|Nick, Willa, and I|
|My amazing host family!|
|The delicious sweet potato pie (and ice cream of course!)|
|The best host parents a girl could ask for!|
|A little cheesy, but Thanksgiving is about all family and pictures? Right??|
The night was wonderful and as corny as it sounds, I couldn't stop smiling the whole time. It was better than I could've even imagined. We had delicious food (and tons of it) along with great company. There were so many times throughout the meal where all I could think about was how lucky I was to be living in Paris with a host family as amazing as mine. I am so grateful for the time that I have had with them and just thinking about leaving them in two weeks devastates me--they're a second family to me and I couldn't have asked for anyone better. We spent the night deep in conversation about things that ranged from where we go to school to what we thought about French politics…and bonus it was all in French. The evening went til 12:30 and I enjoyed every minute of it! I couldn't have asked for a better international Thanksgiving!
Today, was a lazy day in the morning. We woke up late, had brunch, and lounged around for a while. Then this afternoon, my host dad and I went out to pick up our christmas tree!!! First Thanksgiving and now Christmas?! Love it! This was especially exciting for me because it was the first time in maybe 15 years that I have picked out a REAL christmas tree. Since I was really young, we have had a (beautiful and realistically looking) fake christmas tree so I haven't been able to pick one out in a while. But, today was the day! We were going to go out as the family except my host brother was really tired and my host mom opted to stay home with him. When my host dad and I got back with our tree, my host mom's mouth dropped. She said that they have never had a tree as big as this one! Except, in my opinion the tree isn't really THAT big…but at least it's not a Charlie Brown tree. We decorated the tree, danced & sang christmas carols, and indulged in leftover Thanksgiving pie. Which brings me back to my one word to describe the weekend: bliss. I got to celebrate one of my favorite holidays even while I'm abroad, I got to partake in the preparation of another great holiday, and I got to have my friends and host family get together over good food. What more could I ask for?
|The Unveiling of the Tree!|
|The excitement that comes from putting the first ornament on!|
|We picked a lucky tree|
I don't know if I could really do justice in words how I felt this weekend, but I do know that in fourteen days it will be one of the hardest goodbyes I have to say. The longer I'm in Paris, the more I don't want to leave. It will be a bittersweet moment for sure. I'll be going home to my family and friends, many of whom I haven't seen since May or August, but leaving Paris and the people who have made my study abroad experience so wonderful will definitely be difficult. But until then, I'm not going to think about it! Plus, this weekend I'm off to Dublin and Belfast to visit one of my family friends. So cheers to that!