When I lived in America, I lived just west of Denver, Colorado, about 1,000 miles, or 1,615 km, away from my home city of Chicago. Despite the distance, each November I made an annual pilgrimage home to The Windy City for Thanksgiving weekend. It has always been my favorite holiday. I loved the idea of spending time reflecting on the year and all of the many things that I and my family had to be grateful for. I described Thanksgiving to my Thai students as a food fest; a day where no one went to work or school and instead stayed home and ate all day. Otherwise known in Thailand as Saturday.

This year, the 8,553 mile, or 13,764 km, voyage from Nang Rong to Chicago was just a bit too far to consider my annual pilgrimage. Plus, I had to work. In all of my classes, I taught my students about the American Thanksgiving tradition- leaving out the questionable folklore regarding the Pilgrims and the Native Americans. Instead, I focused on the positive aspects of the holiday; being thankful for all that we have and eating copious amounts of traditional high-caloric American food. We watched a clip of Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving Special. We made traced-hand-turkeys. I even had my extra class make special turkey headbands detailing all of the things they were thankful for! Highlights included “K-pop,” “my mother,” “ROV,” and “french fries.”

After class on Friday, I hightailed it to Bangkok to meet up with some of my fellow American expats to celebrate the holiday. We stayed at an awesome hostel in Thonglor in Sukhamvit and sat on the rooftop one night reveling in each other’s company. As is tradition at most American Thanksgiving dinners, we even went around the circle and described all that we had to be thankful for.

Most of us were grateful for the opportunity to live in Thailand and immerse ourselves in this beautiful and rich culture. My friend Isabel was thankful she grew up with the English Language, something most people completely take for granted. This simple privilege allowed us to travel the world. It was a talent we were lucky enough to be born into, and we have the incredible opportunity to share this talent with people who will greatly benefit from it. What an astounding thing!

Living in Thailand has also helped us see more clearly all of the invisible advantages we are surrounded by at home. Fresh water from the taps, bug-free dining, extensive trail systems for walking or biking, unobstructed sidewalks, cultural diversity! On the flipside, I was thankful for the rich, tropical environment in Thailand, access to exotic, cheap, fresh fruit, for the way Thai people accept alternative lifestyle choices without judgement and for the opportunity to see all things in a new light.  I was grateful to have such insightful friends who helped me to recognize and feel the weight of gratitude for these things.

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