Celebrating Thanksgiving in Korea

by Christopher Kwarciany, Greenheart Travel Teach Abroad Participant in South Korea

On the actual day of Thanksgiving, I went to school as if it were any other day in Korea.  It didn’t even register that it was Thanksgiving until someone brought it up.  Then I felt homesick.  Thanks a lot.  But even that quickly faded away to the normalcy of school.

When I got home, my fellow foreign teacher friend and I celebrated Thanksgiving in the most American way we could in Andong, South Korea.  We went bowling.  The first bowling alley we went to was full because it was league night.  Also like America.  We then went to a different one that was rather dirty.   I had to wear a size 9 bowling shoes because that’s the biggest they had.  My friend and I are fairly evenly matched when it comes to bowling, which is to say we are both bad.  For two games, my scores were 89 and 79.

Some American teachers organized a pot-luck Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday night in a borrowed church hall.  I wanted to bring mashed sweet potatoes with brown sugar and cinnamon.  So I bought sweet potatoes.  When I peeled them, I discovered they were not in fact not sweet potatoes.  They were just some type of white potato.  So I changed my recipe to garlic mashed potatoes, sauteing some garlic and onion bits in the pot I made the potatoes in, then added salt and pepper like I normally would.  Then I tasted the mashed potatoes, only to discover they were in fact sweet potatoes that just didn’t look like the sweet potatoes that I’m used to at home.  I was flustered.  If I would have know this, I would have stuck with my original plan.

I also made a vegetable medley of steamed cauliflower, broccoli (both of which are very expensive in Korea) and carrots, with butter and salt.  I over steamed the vegetables.  But it was otherwise acceptable.

About thirty people showed up to the dinner.  We all had a good time.  Yet, at least among the American teachers, there seemed to be an unexpressed feeling of homesickness, or maybe that was just me projecting.  The non-American teachers seemed to have the best time because this was just a big fun dinner to them and not a substitute for a family holiday.  A Canadian teacher made a comment I liked.  He said he’s used to Canadian Thanksgiving, where they all come out of their igloos and bow to their moose-god.  Then there was some South African teachers who had pumpkin pie for the first time.  All good fun. Read more of Christopher’s Thanksgiving feast in Korea…

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