Giving Thanks Abroad
This article was written by Will Felix, an Education Abroad Peer Advisor who studied abroad in the Netherlands last Fall
Last fall, I studied abroad in Rotterdam (The Netherlands). I made a great group of friends, hailing from the states and countries all over Europe. One of the things my American friends and I would talk about was Thanksgiving and how much fun it is – the great food and the history of it all. My European friends were surprised to hear about the different combinations of food. Some had never heard of eating gravy with mashed potatoes. As Thanksgiving grew nearer, my American friends and I decided we would host the best Thanksgiving we could… but it would not be easy. I lived off campus, with no oven or real kitchen to speak of. Two of my friends lived on campus, with a sink and a stove, but no oven. Two other friends lived in a third floor apartment with a small kitchen and, ding ding ding! An oven. Next was finding a space to serve Thanksgiving dinner for 20+ people. Most of our friends lived on campus, so we decided that was the easiest place to go, and we could push tables together in someone’s room to eat. So we had the basics. We had a place for dinner, we had an oven (though not in the same place), we even found a place in Den Haag which had frozen turkeys we could buy.
You’d think everything would go perfectly, right? Think again.
Four of my friends and I had already booked a trip to visit Italy and would not be returning until the day of Thanksgiving, so we had to reschedule the actual dinner. When we returned, my friend and I took an hour train ride to Den Haag to pick up a frozen turkey, and a big one at that. The bugger weighed 24 pounds and we took it on the train back to Rotterdam. Our meal being the next day, I volunteered to defrost the turkey. I don’t know if you know a lot about defrosting turkeys, but the best way is to leave it in the refrigerator for at least 2 days before the big day. We had about 20 hours. There is another way, which involves keeping the turkey in cool water for 9 hours, where you have to change the water every 30 minutes. So that was GOOD NEWS, we could have it defrosted just in time for dinner because it had to cook for 4 hours. The problem was, the defrosting process had to start at 2:30 in the morning, changing the water every 30 minutes, so I went ahead and set my alarms. Every 30 minutes, I would fall out of bed, drain the water, fill it up again, groggily get back in bed and fall asleep just in time for the next alarm. 9 hours later, I wrapped the thawed turkey up in a towel and brought it to my friends’ apartment where the oven was waiting, pre-heated. Turkey in the oven, I took a nap that would rival the kind of nap you take when you finish that big final.
We divided up the other aspects of the meal, from mashed potatoes to broccoli, from gravy to stuffing. Once the turkey was done, My friend and I had the challenge of bringing the fully cooked and steaming whole turkey to campus, which was about a 15 minute walk. This is when we channeled our inner Matt Damon in The Martian, we had to get real creative, real quick. We found a cleaning bucket, scrubbed and washed it, lined the inside with aluminum foil, put the turkey in a bag, put the bag in the bucket, and covered the whole thing with more and more aluminum foil. Great, we had a turkey transportation apparatus, let’s just walk outside and start the 15 minute walk to campus-BOOM. The rain and thunder started almost as soon as we walked out the door. Did we think to go back inside and get an umbrella? Did we think to go inside and even get a rain jacket for ourselves? No. We ran. With a turkey. In a bucket.
The meal turned out to be amazing, everybody had a blast, and the turkey stayed hot. What I took away from my Thanksgiving dinner was this: when everyone has a common goal and gets together to work toward that goal, some amazing things can happen.