Late last night I wrote a message on someone’s Facebook wall: “It’s almost Thanksgiving! I think that means it’s the beginning of the festive season (at least for us Americans). Compliments!” If you are unaware of the meaning of “Compliments!” read this blog post.
That’s right, tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the U.S. The Canadians began their festive season REALLY early, because they celebrated Thanksgiving almost six weeks ago. Good for them- they beat us at something. Oh yeah, of course, there is hockey too.
Today I was speaking with one of my Motswana friends in Setswana about Thanksgiving. Here’s the English translation of what I said, “One day, a long time ago some Englishmen wanted to be free from the church. They got into a boat, and were at sea for many months. One day they saw shore. They got out of the boat and there were Americans looking at them. The Englishmen were very hungry. Then the Americans gave them a cow. Thanksgiving!” The funny thing is… I know those of you who know me can imagine me telling this story.... That face you are making right now, and that laugh… apparently that part translates REALLY well! My friend Topo thought this story was hysterical.
I’m not sure we have turkeys in Botswana and I couldn’t remember the word for large chicken. And in Botswana a cow is the best present you could possibly give someone. That’s why when you get married the bride price is paid in cattle. And if you give the new couple a cow as a wedding present you will likely get one of their offspring named after you. Hence, the Americans giving the hungry Englishmen a cow was quite generous.
Last year I remember using Thanksgiving to get out of a faculty meeting at UB. In all reality, I really did have plans. (Side note- If you ever become an expat become really good friends with someone who works at the U.S. embassy in your country because they throw the best parties.) I apologized to my dean and asked to be excused from the faculty meeting because it was Thanksgiving and I had plans. Also, the faculty meeting was scheduled at 5pm, so it’s not like I was really skipping work. Not to mention it probably started late, and then they paused for tea, etc, etc. I probably got back from my party before the faculty meeting ended anyway. After I mentioned Thanksgiving my dean turned to two or three other faculty members with a confused look, then back to me and said, “What church is that?” I couldn’t help myself, “The Church of AMERICA!”
Sadly, not all Thanksgiving traditions translate as well as my narrative above. I have tried countless times to show pictures and explain the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to my Batswana students. They like the pictures, but they don’t get it. One thing I have learned is that there is no such thing as a parade in Africa. There are processions, such as when Nelson Mandela died. They understand that. But the victory parade or holiday parade doesn’t exist in Botswana. Of course, this is a first world problem. Perhaps once the electricity and water become more consistent we can consider marching around with 40 foot Snoopy balloons.
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!