Friday, November 23, 2012

A Hong Kong Thanksgiving

When you celebrate Thanksgiving in a foreign country (and yes I've lived in Asia for all of 3 weeks now so I'm going to speak in generalities), it sneaks up on you pretty quickly.  There's no day, or even half day, off work.  No cornucopias in the grocery stores.  No food drives for the less fortunate.  No Pachelbel's canon. No parades. Nobody even notices or brings it up.  I guess who can blame them, it's not even Thanksgiving in the U.S. for most of the day here due to the 13-16 hour time difference.  Most locals don't understand what it is and I found it embarrassingly difficult to explain.
Yes, we all binge eat meat and carbs to celebrate that a long time ago when we were starving and the Indians saved us by sharing their crops with us.  No, not from India. I meant to say American Indians... er... um, Native Americans -- well yes, I am originally from America but this is different.  Anyway this was a long time ago before the U.S. existed.  Right, it's a national holiday, not a religious one.  But in order to establish our nation, we ended up displacing and murdering most of the people we shared this meal with.  But we do stuff a turkey and then ourselves every single year as a way of saying thank you so... we just call it even.
As a quick side note -- Hong Kong does understand Christmas quite well.  Given 75% of the city is shopping malls, this should be an obvious statement.   Every single one of those malls is teeming with all of the holiday's decorational glory, my favorite of which was 2 giant white sparkly reindeers with abnormally large interlocking antlers that rose toward the sky like a skeleton Christmas tree.  These super-sized and slightly frightening displays plus the fact that the weather still 80 degrees and humid are going to make for a very interesting holiday season.

Okay back to what's relevant.  The American community, or really the entire expat community, in Hong Kong does manage to celebrate in style.   Since turkeys aren't as plentiful in Asia as they are in the U.S. this means it ends up being quite an expensive holiday, with a decent sized bird costing upwards of $100 USD.  All of this money apparently flows directly into the pockets of the Mandarin Oriental hotel which, for a low cost of approx. $300 USD a pop, supplies all of Hong Kong with a diligently prepared turkey and all the corresponding fixings.  Admittedly, this is the best turkey I have ever tasted in my entire life (sorry, Mom and Dad).  Moist, thick, flavorful, deliciously briny... you won't even need that seventy-five-dollar cranberry sauce.

So yes, this year's celebration had a completely different flavor (pun intended) than any other year, but amidst all this change I wouldn't expect anything but an unusual start to the holiday season.  Most importantly, it did make me stop and think about what I'm grateful for --

Here are the top ten, in no particular order:

  1. The fact that it took me several minutes to figure out what an MD from Goldman was talking about last night when he was telling a story about the "orange Lambo he bought after bonus season in 2006.  And omigod guys, it was, like, sooooo orange."  
  2. All of my friends in NYC who took the time to make me feel loved and appreciated before I left.  It was a tough time and it helped to feel like there were people that noticed I'd be gone.
  3. My blockmates from college who are all amazing and inspiring women who just get it.  I'm also grateful that they have put up with years of my incessant whining about what I should be doing with my life.  (Sorry guys, but it's not stopping anytime soon).
  4. The doorman with white gloves at the China Resources Building who walked me 2 blocks to the MTR when I couldn't figure out the directions he was giving me.
  5. The privilege of traveling to all these different parts of the world and getting a chance to see what life is like outside of my bubble.
  6. Everyone I work with at General Assembly who helped me realize that this is a world of infinite opportunity and possibility.  But especially those that got me chocolate soymilk and that amazing vegan cake on my last day in NY.
  7. Ellie Goulding's cover of Your Song which I am listening to right now.
  8. My family, who truly have an infinite amount of love for each other, even though they might not always know it.
  9. My newfound appreciation for social media, which really does make you feel less alone when you share a random silly thought and you know someone, anyone, is reading it. 
  10. The opportunity to bring General Assembly to Hong Kong.  And everyone that is even half as excited about it as I am (follow GA_HongKong on Twitter and sign up for our newsletter if you haven't already!)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.  If you're not from America, congratulations for being able to enjoy your dinner without the blood of millions of Native Americans on your hands.