Our Thanksgiving didn’t go so well, and it was my fault. On Thanksgiving morning, we drove out to Goyang (a one to 1-1/2 hour trip) to take our car for a full checkup before shipping it to Paraguay. My plan was to drop off the car in the morning, go with my family to our community Thanksgiving dinner, and then go alone by mass transit to pick it up in the late afternoon. My wife tailed me in our other car so I didn’t have to wait in Goyang while the car was being repair. Why did we do it on Thanksgiving? Well, Thanksgiving’s not a holiday in Korea, so for me, it was the ideal day to get something done. I needed to take the car to Goyang because the dealership is the only one that does alignments. The car pulls sharply to the right, and I was certain that it needed an alignment because it has 40,000 miles and has never had one. I wanted the dealer to do everything that needed to be done to ready the car for five months in transit and for the cobblestone and potholed streets of Asuncion Paraguay. I estimated that it would take five hours for the dealer to finish our vehicle. During that time, we would go home and enjoy Thanksgiving, and at the end of the day, I would go alone and pick it up. That was the plan, anyway.
It didn’t turn out that way. Turns out that the tires are worn, and the spare tire I was using on the rear of the car likely caused the car to pull to the right. If an alignment wasn’t necessary, then I could have saved a lot of time by having the car fixed much closer to home. The dealer ended up doing little more than looking over the car and making a small list of future repairs contingent on buying new tires (I bought new tires yesterday). They said that they can determine whether an alignment is necessary after getting new tires. 30 minutes later, we were finished and late for the Thanksgiving dinner. I suggested going late, but my wife decided that it was too late and suggested eating near the dealer. I found a really nice, trendy district in Goyang with a variety of restaurants. My wife picked a "guksu," or noodle restaurant. I thought the soup was fine, but it was far from what we expected on Thanksgiving. I apologized for dragging my family all the way out to Goyang and missing the community Thanksgiving dinner. We had also planned to put up the Christmas tree, our annual ritual, but I fell asleep. We put the tree up this weekend. It looks great, but it reminds me that Thanksgiving wasn’t what we expected. That’s my fault.
Because my wife thinks I will only blog my point of view, I thought I would share how she feels in her own words. Stay tuned to find out whether I get in trouble and have to remove this because I shared something too private on a blog.
Our Thanksgiving… hum… was a near disaster or at the best a non-event. I have to take comfort in the fact that I did get today off after begging to my boss. It also could have been worse had I not resolved myself to be more flexible (as we are living overseas) just a few days ago… But it was memorable…Maybe Mike will blog about it in the next few days, but then that will just represent his feelings. My Turkey dinner? It was a spicy Korean soup with a hodge-podge mix of a few pieces of beef, overcooked cabbage and bean spouts with a side of white rice.
Well written and true. Thanksgiving wasn’t going to be normal, no matter what we did here. The truth is that we live overseas, and it’s difficult duplicating the holiday experience away from home. Your family is far, far away, the weather and surroundings are never what you remembered when you were younger,, and you’re likely to be in a locale that either doesn’t celebrate the holiday or celebrates it differently than you like. Holidays, among other facts of life, are truly a test in patience when you live overseas (automobile maintenance is another). We had dinner last night with a family who lived in Paraguay for two years. We talked to them about what to expect when we arrive there next year. They emphasized that as long as you are flexible and keep an open mind, you can have a great time in Paraguay. If you enjoy the outdoors and can get to know people who can show it to you, you can have a great time. If not, or if you expect it to be America, you’ll probably be miserable. That is definitely true. If you impose your expectations and preferences on another culture, you’re bound to be disappointed.
I thought it ironic that my wife would be unhappy about Thanksgiving this year, because Thanksgiving is a holiday she adopted when she immigrated to America. Like Koreans, Chinese do not celebrate Thanksiving. She built up expectations of what Thanksgiving should be from her past two decades of enjoying American culture, and Thanksgiving this year did not meet her expectations. She remembers Thanksgivings in the states when we invited friends over for turkey and fellowship, or when we went over to friends’ houses. She doesn’t remember the Thanksgiving celebrations I knew when I was young, when I was home with my parents, brother, and sister, sharing a traditional, family Thanksgiving get together with turkey and western-style trimmings after Thanksgiving church services. To me, those are my fondest Thanksgiving memories, not the Thanksgiving gatherings in Seattle when we shared western- and Asian-style potlucks with Asian American friends. When we lived in Seattle, we usually saved our trip to my parents’ house for Christmas-time. The more time passes, the more memories of an ideal Thanksgiving recede. I doubt they can ever be duplicated again. My family has scattered to the winds, and we are lucky to be together once every couple of years. We now have famiies, and our children have no memories of those Thanksgivings. Why try to bring back the past? Why not accept that time changes, and it’s important to make the current reality the best it can be?
This year, Thanksgiving was less about giving thanks and appreciating our blessings and more about testing our patience and flexibility. That is why Thanksgiving Day this year was Testinpatience Day. (Many days are Testinpatience Day–like yesterday, when the power went out for four hours and we had to eat a restaurant). My wife has had nary a normal Chinese New Year or Mid-Autumn Festival since she left China, but she has adapted admirably over the years, celebrating them any way she can. I am very proud of her for her resolve to be patient and flexible overseas. I have a feeling that Paraguay will test our patience more than Korea has.