I decided to host(做东) my first Thanksgiving ever in Beijing this year. My hutong house in Beijing has a fairly big kitchen with three ovens(炉子) and a big dining room table Beijing apartments are rarely spacious and equipped with nice kitchens so I decided my place was the most appropriate to hold Thanksgiving 2014. Most foreigners eat out because restaurants are cheap and most Chinese people do not bake so finding a good oven is tricky. Before I lived there, it was a failed bakery start-up with industrial sized ovens. We had everything we needed to make it work.
The Beijing Technicalities of Turkey Day
The two biggest obstacles that we faced in planning our Chinese Thanksgiving were finding ingredients(配料) and transporting them. Now in America, these problems would not exist because everyone drives and grocery stores are stocked with all the ingredients you need. If only it was that simple. There are foreign grocery stores (Jenny Lou’s, April Gourmet, Chez Gerald) all around Beijing where you can buy the turkey(火鸡), ham, cranberry sauce, cream of mushroom, and other foreign ingredients. These places are about the size of a pharmacy store. They have a lot of familiar products but not a huge selection. Imported products(进口的东西) are also comparatively really expensive in China. Vegetables(蔬菜), on the other hand, are extremely cheap. We only spent about 60 dollars on all of the vegetables for more than forty servings.
After getting the ingredients, the hardest part was getting everything to my house. A foreigner who has both a car and a driver’s license(驾照) is a rarity. Beijing’s public transportation is really convenient and most people take subways, buses, taxis, or ride their bikes. There are also a lot of narrow alleys called hutongs that cars can not go through. I happen to live in one of these places where cars cannot easily drive through. It is about a 4-5 minute walk to the main roads. You cannot easily transport(运输) ingredients for a 30-person Thanksgiving dinner with any of those things cheaply or efficiently which is where the “Ghetto Blaster” comes in.
Enter my friend John King and Elmer Chen. In the spring of 2014, two of my very good friends purchased a (三轮车) for about 1000 RMB (160 dollars)。The Chinese word 三轮车 does not translate well into English but it is a three wheeled electric machine of some sort. You see them all over the city doing various things from one person taxis to delivering goods. This particular sanlunche can hold about 6-7 people and transport all sorts of things. After a colorful and interesting summer riding around the city, the Ghetto Blaster has sustained some damages(损害). It was an absolute necessity in getting all the food, chairs, and tables to my house through several trips.
Thanksgiving Day 2014
My friends John, Bruce, and Sam started at 11:00 am after a lot of vegetables had been prepared the day before. We worked really well as a team and finished everything at around 5:00pm. We all listened to music and chatted(聊天) while doing specific tasks assigned to us by the Chefmaster himself John King. The food turned out amazing and we will all really satisfied(满意) with ourselves. If I learned anything from this experience, it is that preparing Thanksgiving takes a lot of work, maintenance, and preparation(准备).
Everyone showed up at our house around 7:30 and we started eating around 8:00pm. The beauty of a Beijing thanksgiving is that we get to the celebrate Thanksgiving with people who have never celebrated Thanksgiving before or people who had never celebrated it abroad. Our Thanksgiving dinner had people from all over the world from Europe, China, Australia, and New Zealand. Many of our friends were surprised by how big a deal Thanksgiving was for Americans and they were excited to celebrate our “foreign festival.”
About an hour into the dinner, we raised our glasses to give thanks. In the Thanksgiving tradition, we went around the room and made everyone say what they were thankful(感恩) for.
What was Everyone Thankful for?
The common thread in our Thanksgiving toasts was friendship(友谊). We were all grateful for the friendships that we had made abroad. We were grateful that even though we were thousands of miles of way from home, we could spend time with our Beijing family. Holidays abroad without your family can be tough. Luckily, expat communities tend to be close because we all share the same experience of living abroad. We were grateful to spend this holiday with the people who make our lives in Beijing exciting(兴奋), fulfilling(过瘾), interesting, and worthwhile. There will come a day where we will all be in different places across the globe but I know that we will look back on the times that we have spent together fondly. We are grateful for this period in our lives with these people.
Happy Thanksgiving 2014！