Thanksgiving in Albania was really quite fun. Peace Corps contacted American Embassy families to see if they would host Peace Corps Volunteers for the best holiday of the year. Luckily, some American Families volunteered to host PCV's. Those of us who decided to participate in this Thanksgiving celebration traveled to the capital, Tirana. It was great to see so many Peace Corps Volunteers on Thanksgiving. The atmosphere was quite jovial and everyone seemed to be in holiday spirits.
At 11 am on Thursday morning, PCVs and US Marines, stationed in Albania, trekked across town to the US Embassy Residential Compound for a friendly game of football, PC vs. USMC. Talk about eerie! As you walk through the gates of the residential compound it is as though you are leaving Albania and entering a suburb in the United States. When I say a U.S. suburb, I mean a Stepford Wives-like community. All of the houses look exactly the same, same layout and color and the lawns are green and perfectly groomed. It was a bit weird to walk into what seemed like an alternate universe filled with "flowers and butterflies" while just outside the gates was a country littered with trash, a web of poorly paved streets, and a culture that has absolutely no idea what a pilgrim from the Mayflower is.
The annual touch-football game was played at one of the parks within the compound. It was Peace Corps vs. the U.S. Marine Corps. One may look at this match up and think, “Wow, what an unfair competition. The Peace Corps team will get absolutely demolished!” but that person would, surprisingly, be wrong! Peace Corps was able to pull out a win. Although the football win excited and motivated the male PCVs, I couldn't stop thinking that the members of the losing team are the ones who are supposed to be protecting our country... Not going to lie, it made me a little nervous, but at the same time the whole situation was pretty comical.
My Thanksgiving dinner, or late afternoon lunch, was absolutely amazing! I was lucky enough to be placed with PC Albania's financial officer, Paul. He was a great host, had a great shower, and had a heater, which kept his place unbelievably warm. It felt really nice to have some of these amenities, especially during the holiday. The only thing missing on my Thanksgiving was the Cowboys.
Growing up, the Dallas Cowboys were the center of many family gatherings. Frequently, the time of our Thanksgiving dinner was set based on the time of the Cowboys Thanksgiving Day game. I'm sure you could imagine the empty feeling inside when we tried to stream the game over the internet and we did not have any luck. In the end, I guess it was good that I did not see the game because, according to news reports, at the last minute the Cowboys, once again, butchered their lead and lost the game.
Although I did get the chance to celebrate Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving Day, I had also been included in a Thanksgiving that was to take place the following Saturday in the mountain town of Burrel. This was where events began to get a little fresh...
Albania has loads of turkeys. They are bred and raised to be eaten on New Years, on of the biggest holidays here in Albania. Due to the large population of turkey farmers, we were able to find two nice sized birds for the occasion. We cooked 2 birds because of the large number of guests that would be attending this delayed Thanksgiving Celebration.
The turkeys were super fresh and tender. The night before our celebration, 2 fellow PCVs took on the task of slaughtering the 2 turkeys that had been purchased from a nearby village. What was so ironic about this particular Thanksgiving was the fact that the 2 turkeys were purchased, tied up, housed, basted, and cooked by 2 vegetarians. They both did not have any experience with cooking turkeys, nor did they eat them. Despite the fact that these two women did not know exactly what they were doing the turkeys turned out great! The rest of the food was pretty good as well. I volunteered to make my mom's corn casserole. I had to improvise with the recipe a little because Albania did not have all of the ingredients that I needed, but it turned out just as good as I had remembered. I think a few people were skeptical about the idea of my corn casserole, but I believe they were pleasantly surprised. Or that's what I concluded because there was absolutely none leftover.
Not only did this Thanksgiving dinner include great food, but it also included a few games. We all played Thanksgiving Twister and a trivia game about Thanksgiving and turkeys. Did you know that Minnesota is the state that produces the most turkeys in the U.S.? I also made it to the finals of Thanksgiving Twister; I believe I came in 3rd. Not trying to brag or anything, but I am pretty good at Twister, always have been. These games definitely added to the fun and merriment of our Thanksgiving celebration.
I was a little nervous about what a Thanksgiving in Albania was going to be like, but it turned out to be tons of fun and I am already looking forward to next year!