For those of you who are reading this BLOG and happen not to be US citizens here is a quick lesson on the history of Thanksgiving, one of Americans’ favorite, if not yummiest, holidays. And NO it is not just because we get to overindulge ourselves with traditional foods and not feel guilty— it is all about family (some would say football) and being thankful for the bounty we have enjoyed over the last year.
One of the first recorded US Thanksgivings was celebrated in 1621 by the English Pilgrims and the Indians. The Pilgrims had left their native land in search of religious freedom. They suffered a brutal first year in the elements, half of the settlers died, but the Indians were gracious and taught them how to plant corn and gave them seeds. Thanksgiving was a celebration of their friendship, survival, and giving thanks to God for what was good. It was not a formal US national holiday until President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed it a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens,” to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November.
Thanksgiving has taken on a different perspective for me this year, living in Rwanda, and I thought I would share my “gratitude” list with you.
I am thankful for…..
- the “Indians” who have helped me adjust to this new land, too many to name but my housemates, officemates, the PIH’s executive director, my travel buddy, and my dearest new friend Katie. They have each, in their own way, helped me to adjust to my new home, to learn, to reflect, to listen and to be patient.
- GSK for promoting volunteerism around the world in a time when many companies are more concerned about the “bottom line”.
- family and friends who are supporting me with their prayers, texts, calls, emails, BLOG notes, and even care packages from home.
- our night guard who can swing a “wild broom” and get the bats that enter our home at night.
- the mornings when the water heater and pump work and I have hot water for a shower.
- the lizards that scurry along my bedroom walls eating the mosquitos and spiders.
- the fact that I can afford malaria prevention medications.
- Mama Jan Vie, our house keeper, who hand washes our bedding and clothes, then irons it so we don’t get Bot flies, as well as, boiling and filtering our water so we don’t get parasites.
- the mongooses and rare birds that play outside (or inside) our offices, reminding me to pay attention to the beautiful nature around me.
- the fact that the rains have finally begun and the roads are no longer dust bowls and food is growing in the fields.
- Hans, our local village restaurateur at INKA Plate, who delivers a taste of home, in the form of a cheese quesadilla and fresh guacamole.
- the hills that surround the village and Izu, the former house dog, who “adopted me” and used to love to hike the ridges with me (she recently moved to a new home).
- being an “Umukecuru” here in Rwanda. Literal translation “old lady”, however I am told that when a Rwandan calls me an Umukecuru it is a sign of respect, not about the obvious lines on my face. I have learned to appreciate my age (it also gets me a seat in the front of the car vs. the trunk for the 2 hour rides to Kigali).
- the stunning sunsets, over the far ridge, that I can enjoy from my porch.
- how dark it is in the village at night, the stars sparkle more brightly here.
- the gelato store in Kigali, a rare and wonderful treat.
- living only 10 kilometers from the National game park, literally having a safari in my backyard.
- having the opportunity to visit Uganda and see a hospital started by a friend of mine for the Ugandan Batwa people, not to mention the beauty of the Impenetrable Forest, where the mountain gorillas live.
- the eager children who chase me to work each day because they want to practice their English and they know me as the “sticker lady”.
- the familiar way all local Rwandans greet me on the street, with a smile, a handshake and good wishes for the day -“Amakuru!”
- the fact that the snakes are more afraid of me than I am of them (they must be very fearful).
- Amazi, Amazi, Amazi-Water, Water, Water!
Wishing you each many days filled with Thanksgiving in the year ahead.