Thanksgiving in Botswana

When you make the decision to move across the world, you don’t think about all the small things that will change. You don’t think about what it will be like to miss all of the holidays you have spent your whole life celebrating. 4th of July was a little weird – but since the 1st of July is a holiday here were were still able to celebrate and spent the weekend camping in the middle of nowhere South Africa. It was kind of a bummer to work on Memorial day, Labor day, Columbus Day…..but no tears shed. We amazingly found a Halloween party to join in so we wouldn’t miss out on our favorite costuming holiday. But Thanksgiving was the first big holiday we have hit that really made us homesick. Even throughout all of medical school and residency I somehow never had to work on Thanksgiving. Last year was my first year to completely miss the holiday due to our travels in Myanmar. We were so enmeshed in the local culture that we didn’t even notice missing thanksgiving – we celebrated Myanmar’s Tazaungdaing Festival including the Taunggyi Fire Balloon festival, robe weaving competitions and the all night vigil at the incredible Shwedagon Pagoda on November 25. Missing thanksgiving was a small price to pay for those awesome experiences.

But this year it was much more daunting to be away from family and friends on Thanksgiving. We have been away for almost a year now and we are really starting to miss everyone we left behind. It was super weird to work on November 24 – especially because it was one of my outreach clinics to a village 3 hours away so I couldn’t even spend the day with Garrett. I also just really really love thanksgiving food. Stuffing mashed potatoes, honey baked ham, sweet potatoes…..these things make me soo happy!

fullsizerender-8-copySo we decided that we weren’t going to just let this holiday pass us by. We were going to have our own thanksgiving here and create some holiday memories in our new home! First thing first – we had to track down a turkey. Garrett searched all the grocery stores and finally found one – it was tiny but who cares – we found turkey!  We had to buy three to even come close to equaling the size of a US turkey. He then searched the local butchers and made an even greater discovery – a brown sugar coated ham!!

So now we were set. On to covering the rest of the side dishes. I invited all our friends and made it a potluck dinner because lets be real – with our tiny electric oven – there’s no way we could make everything! I was elated at how excited everyone was about doing a real thanksgiving. Our friends here are a mixed bunch – some US expats who have been away so long they stopped celebrating, some short term expats who are really missing home, some non US expats that have never celebrated the holiday, and some locals who have no idea what thanksgiving is! I have never cooked a turkey on my own so it was daunting to try to cook 3! I talked to my mom, did some googling and decided on a game plan. We started cooking the night before. I stuffed one full of lemons, thyme, rosemary and parsley. The next was garlic and onions. img_6183-copyThe next was garlic, onions, lemons, rosemary and thyme. We cooked two in the oven and roasted one on our dinky weber grill (never done this before but we were assured by a local friend that this was going to turn out amazing). I moved on to making stuffing. How in the heck was I going to do this without the prepackaged stuffing mix?!? It never occurred to me that I could just make my own stuffing from old bread! And it was totally easy!

That is one amazing thing that has come from living here – we are now super resourceful at growing or making everything we can. With google and youtube – you really can make ANYTHING! Since I couldn’t find sweet potatoes, I made candied butternut squash. Since we don’t have a pie tin (and also because another friend was making pies) we made apple tarts out of phyllo dough.We made mashed potatoes and I made the gravy out of the turkey drippings (again my FIRST time ever doing this on my own but was also easy – just needed my mom’s advice!). Since its super hot here right now, I made the addition of a watermelon, mint, feta and balsamic salad because it is my favorite summer dish! Then we tackled the ham – they call it a bone in gammon here which was confusing because we couldn’t figure out what they were talking about when they kept referring to it as a “game-on.” This thing was huge!


man of the house carving the ham

Wheww we finished all our cooking duties and could sit back and wait for the party to arrive. We were expecting a lot of people but you just never know who will actually come….excitingly close to 40 people friends showed up with soooo much food and goodness. We covered 3 tables and a bar with all the goodies. Mac and cheese, cranberry sauce, green beans, brussel sprouts, scalloped potatoes, parsnips, fruit salad, homemade sourdough bread, cornbread, chicken and rice, curried chicken…. and then there were the desserts! Pecan pie, pumpkin pie, chocolate tarts, homemade whipped cream, apple crumbles with ice cream. Someone even brought there own portable fridge to keep the ice cream cold! It was incredible! All the meat turned out great – some people said the turkey was the best they’ve ever had!

We had such a blast celebrating with everyone and it made us so happy to get to share this holiday with people who have never celebrated it before. We also survived having 10 kids running around our house – something we have never faced before! Thank goodness for skippy and our pool 🙂


our backyard friendsgiving

Thanksgiving is such a great holiday. No matter where you are from – at least one day a year should be spent coming together with family and friends to share good food and give thanks! Garrett and I are big into making lists – we both made a list of 25 things we are grateful for this year. Then we compared to see what overlapped.

Here are some highlights of our gratitude list:

  • We are grateful to have each other and to get to experience everyday together.
  • We are grateful to feel safe in our home and community.
  • We are grateful for the health of ourselves and our family.
  • We are grateful to have the freedom to live the life we choose, to explore and learn about the world together.
  • We are grateful for the new perspective on life that living in Botswana has given us.
  • We are grateful to have made new friends in Botswana.
  • We are grateful to still have friends who care about us and haven’t forgotten about us in the US.
  • We are grateful that Tori’s parents were able to visit Africa safely and enjoy some of the best parts of our new life.
  • We are grateful that Garrett’s parents will be visiting soon and we will be able to explore some new parts of Africa together.
  • We are grateful that Tori is living her dream of practicing dermatology in a developing country.
  • We are grateful to have the opportunity to spend so much time with beautiful animals in the wild in Africa.
  • We are grateful for our garden which is growing fresh fruits/veggies and giving Garrett a new hobby.
  • We are grateful that Skippy made it to Africa and can brighten our days here.
  • We are grateful to still have be able to live comfortably even while on a budget due to the huge pay cut taken by moving to Botswana.
  • We are grateful for finding a home we can afford that has everything we need – big yard, a pool, a great location and plenty of space for entertaining.
  • We are grateful for Pula (rain) and that it appears the 5 year drought in Botswana is ending.
  • We are grateful that Netflix expanded to include Africa (we love our tv shows)!

Happy thanksgiving everyone! Be thankful everyday because I promise you – life is great!

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