Thursday, November 24, 2011

An Expat Mom Thanksgiving

**Note: Yes, I know this post is over a month late, but it's been sitting half-written in my Posts page and I just had to finally get it together and finish it!

I'm not big on Thanksgiving. Don't get me wrong- I am happy to celebrate it with other people if someone is organizing it. It's just that if I am left to it by myself, I'll usually skip it. After all, I'M not going to organize it, since we are vegetarian and therefore our meal would be woefully bereft of turkey and gravy.

Now, I may not have the best social skills in the world, but even I know that calling someone and saying, "Would you like to come  over for Thanksgiving? Oh, and could you bring the turkey?" is pretty bad form. I also don't have the nerve to call people and say, "Please come over for Thanksgiving and enjoy our lovely vegetarian lasagna!"

And while I know that it's POSSIBLE to create a turkey-like....THING out of tofu, Seriously. No.

So, if we are invited somewhere else, I will happily bring the pie and mashed potatoes, but otherwise....nah.

The past few schools in which we've worked have had a pretty large population of American teachers, so we've been in the habit of going to someone's house to celebrate. However, in our current school, we Americans are in the minority, so American Thanksgiving is not really on anyone's social calendar.

That's OK, because I know that I have plenty to be thankful for, and I am thankful for it everyday. So, on Thanksgiving, we worked, then went home and ate some pasta for dinner. It wasn't fancy, and it wasn't special, but I know enough from my 37 years alive to be thankful for it.

Life went on.

Then, the weekend after Thanksgiving, some friends invited us to brunch at a restaurant downtown. Now,  normally we don't go downtown very often, because in Jakarta, a simple jaunt downtown can result in being stuck in traffic for two to three hours. BUT, on the weekends, traffic usually isn't too bad, so once in a while, we'll venture on down.

Keep in mind that I said USUALLY. It USUALLY isn't too bad.

Obviously, on THIS particular Sunday, the word "usually" decided to pack up and take a holiday, because they'd closed some streets for some bike race and blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda...and there we found ourselves, sitting in traffic for 30 minutes....60 minutes...90 minutes....120 minutes...yep, I'm going to keep on going here...140 MINUTES!

Jabiz, in his obsession with documenting every second of our daily lives, was Tweeting the entire thing:

Here is the family BEFORE we started out on our adventure:

....AND here we all are about 90 minutes in:

Anyway, no only did we get stuck in what can only be described as the vehicular equivalent of hell, but we were also stuck on what is apparently The Road of Beggars. That is most likely not it's official name, but that is what it is known as to me, because there were nonstop, moving rows of people begging at the stopped cars.

This isn't unusual for Jakarta. At most stoplights, you will encounter a few people asking for money at cars- they'll play guitar, clap and sing, or just put their hands out. There are mothers with babies, little kids, old people, blind people, people with a physical disabilities, etc. Some are less aggressive and move on when you wag your finger at them, while others get right up, cup their hands around their eyes and stare into the car until you either give them something, or uncomfortably ignore them until the light turns green.

However, on this road, there was no stop to the begging. It was like a speed dating line- people would ask at a car, receive either money or the finger wave and the line would shift to the side and the next person would take their turn at the car.

So, for over an hour, we had people begging at our car windows nonstop. NONSTOP.

I will tell you, if you ever want to feel grateful about your life and everything that you have in it, you don't need to get together and have a big meal to do it (though, admittedly, that is the more enjoyable way to go about it), you just need to sit for an hour in traffic with a broad variety of people begging nonstop at your car window.

Because I? Don't think I will ever complain about not having something ever again. And I am sure as hell more thankful than ever for every single little thing that I am privileged to have.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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