Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving in Rangpur

Thanksgiving morning. I called my mom and sister in Key West to wish them a happy Thanksgiving. I was on the iphone on video phone and said hi to all of my relatives.

“We miss you Chelsea! We love you Chelsea! Come here and taste the turkey.” The phone was dipped down and a piece of turkey brought to the video camera. “Can you smell it?” Fiona, my 13 year old sister, kept showing me our dog. “Fiona, I really don’t care about the dog! Keep showing me the people!!” Ladles were brought up to the camera and the camera was put in all sorts of plates. I had to fight back tears and sound all cheery-like. Nothing worse than someone crying before the cocktails.

A trillion miles away, I started my thanksgiving bright and early. I would make: 3 roast chickens dressed with rosemary, lime juice, and sautéed garlic and onions, Garlic mashed potatoes, stuffing made with bread and lime juice and garlic and onions, Green beans and chinese mushrooms sautéed in soy sauce and lime juice, Roasted pumpkin with nutmeg and cinnamon. I would cook all of this with two gas burners, a microwave and a toaster oven.

You know what’s not so hard? Cooking a Thanksgiving meal with staff. I had two other cooks working with me to prepare the meal. Jahangir cooked other dishes, dhal and rice, goat curry, coconut egg curry. Lovely helped me cut garlic and mash potatoes with the bottom of a cup.

The kitchen smelt amazing. I set up my music, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, to create the perfect air of a casual 50’s thanksgiving. I lit candles on the table and the balcony, and people started to arrive.

Around 25 people showed. Drivers, cooks, children, cleaners, students and senior management staff set down at the long table and ate together.
Everyone brought flowers and mishti (sweets) and we got tipsy off of coca-cola.

I went into the kitchen and Lovely and Rani attacked me with a bag of glitter. Rubbing it into my neck and face they said “Happy Birthday” over and over. Then they took me out to a hallway where they had candles lit all over the floor.

Rani crouched down to me, picked up a candle, and held it under me circling her arm. “Ooooo.” Her voice was deep and scary. She was scaring the evil spirits away from me so I would have a positive year. It was more comforting than eerie. The Muslim prayers rose up from the night and I, for the millionth time this year wondered,

“Where am I?”

I received a lot of presents from everyone. Lovely gave me a clock shaped like a couple dancing, the drivers gave me a copper bowl engraved with “Happy Birthday Chelsea,” Jahangir gave me henna and a baby Barbie doll on a horse that wound up and moved (!!! BEST 23rd BIRTHDAY PRESENT EVER), and my roommates bought me a mug and a shirt.

At the end of the night, we gave everyone food to take home, made the guards delicious plates, and cleaned up the kitchen. Shefa and I settled down into cups of tea in the conference room and worked on our important presentation for USAID the following week. It was fun. Work is always more fun than school. We quibbled over bullets and margins. Made proclamations about fonts. And at 2am called it a night.

I am thankful.

Asalam Walaikum,

No comments:

Post a Comment