Perhaps the title would suggest that this post will be a bit melancholic. Don’t worry; it’s not (too much so)!
This year was the first time that I’d been away from home for Thanksgiving. Even every year of college I went home for the Thanksgiving holidays, complete with tons of family and food. Therefore, today was a bit of a first.
So, how did I spend my Thanksgiving away from home...
Because I judged a debate contest a few Saturdays ago, I had the opportunity to take a day off work. The fourth Thursday of November is an ordinary working holiday in Japan, but November 23rd is a day off. The schedule worked out so that Thanksgiving was a good chance to use my day off, giving myself a luxurious four day weekend. I decided to make it a nice stay-cation in order to save up for some upcoming adventures.
So as I did on any day off during the school year…I slept in. Woke up nearly around the time I would have normally been eating lunch. I seldom remember waking up in time for the Macey’s Day Parade anyway. I chatted with my dad over Facetime before he went to bed. Let it be known how thankful I am for video calling technology.
When we signed off, I reviewed my to-do list for the day. Get a flu shot, attempt Christmas shopping, get groceries, and prep stuffing.
Noooooo, not a shot!
Anyone who knows me well knows I hate needles. Vaccines, TB tests, splinters, any of it. Hate them a lot. Probably more the anticipation of the pain than the actual pain, but none of it's fun. I had never voluntarily gotten a flu shot before. But this year was different for some reason. I work at a school. Facemasks can only do so much. Time to grow up and get one. Today was as good as any day to do it.
Little did I realize that I drive by a clinic everyday on my way to and from work. After finding it effortlessly, I walked in, asked about influenza vaccines, and was waited on by three different people. One receptionist helped me with initial paperwork, and two nurses interviewed me about my health. I only had to consult the dictionary twice about the words “illness” and “convulsions.” The rest of the I managed to understand or could ask for clarification. So, I’m thankful for their patience, and my dictionary app. Shortly after, I managed not to whimper during the vaccine, paid, and was on my way. I’m thankful for the access to healthcare. Of course, I’m thankful that I was able to answer the questions about illness by affirming that I’m healthy.
After the vaccine I headed to the mall for the Christmas shopping and groceries. The Christmas shopping was mostly just browsing and getting ideas, but I do need to finish it soon if I’m gonna send gifts to my family in time for Christmas. I also thankfully remembered to pay some bills that are due soon before the bank closed at 3:00pm (normal closing time for the bank).
Grocery shopping in Japan is still difficult, even after nearly four months, but today’s trip went well enough. There weren’t hordes of people looking for cranberry sauce and pumpkin. The only truly difficult thing to find was vegetable stock for vegetarian stuffing. Trying to find a turkey would have been impossible; turkey isn’t really eaten in Japan. Getting one would have been costly and would have required being preordered awhile ago. On top of that, I don’t have an oven to cook one in!
Tomorrow night I’m attending a “Friendsgiving” with other ALTs in Miyazaki and decided to bring vegetarian stuffing. If that fails without an oven or adequate stock, I’m also making guacamole and bringing wine. Regardless, I’m thankful for the ALTs here who have also made a home away from home in Miyazaki.
After grocery shopping, I went home and started ripping up the pieces of bread so that they could sit overnight. I relaxed a little, too, before heading out to English Conversation Club at church. On Thursday nights I go to church and help with either English conversation group with adults or, more lately, help with an English club for elementary school-aged kids. Every week with the kids is different, but this week we talked about Thanksgiving traditions in America and drew turkeys by tracing hands. Nobody had eaten turkey before!
I am very thankful for the community at the church. That will have to be a longer post another week.
Now I’m back in my comfortable apartment, typing away, thinking about how peaceful and productive the day was. I miss seeing my family (as I often do). I miss gravy and turkey. But it was not a bad day. After all, it was another day living the dream of teaching English in Japan. For that, I’m thankful every day.