Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Since my preschool-age debut as mother pilgrim in a Thanksgiving play, ("Comb your hair Hattie, and wash, and don't forget to peel the squash." Or something like that...) I've loved every part of this all-inclusive American holiday. Every family has their own traditions and special dishes that the day isn't complete without (my favorites include my dad's pineapple muffins and my mom's mushroom-spinach bake mmm...) and who doesn't like a holiday centered around food? Thanksgiving also ushers in the craziness of Christmas season, so once you collapse into turkey coma, you have a whole other month of festivities to look forward to.

Oddly enough, some of my most memorable Thanksgivings have come with a break in the usual traditions. Three in particular come to mind:

The year we celebrated my paternal grandfather's 80th birthday and Thanksgiving back to back. TWO incredibly delicious meals, two days in a row, a plus next to getting to spend the holiday with my dad's side of the family.

2. Thanksgiving in New York City The year my maternal grandfather passed away, we changed things up and saw the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in person, had our meal à la Christmas Story in Chinatown, and swapped pumpkin pie for canolis in Little Italy.

3. Thanksgiving in the south of France Away from my immediate family for the first time for the holiday, my grandmother came to join me for our own special celebration à la française. We took a day trip from Montpellier to Sète, a seaport town, and had a delicious meal in a quiet traditional restaurant.

This year is sure to be another break from tradition. Some of the volunteers from the Fouta region have gathered together in Labé for Thanksgiving. One of the volunteers has gone off with our regional coordinator, Dieng, in search of a turkey, or as Dieng put it, "a large bird." We'll see what they come back with!

I'll be doing what I can to help prep for our big meal, though I have never been known for my cooking expertise. A good friend of mine often likes to point out how i can't take an egg from the refrigerator to the table without making a mess. As it is thanksgiving, however, I figure it's appropriate to blog about my food situation as a volunteer here in Guinea.

In Dubreka with our host families, we were fed traditional Guinean meals, none of which really sat well with my stomach for the first few months. I was fed lots of rice and spicy sauces of different varieties. (Peanut sauce, fish sauce, fish ball sauce, manioc leaf sauce.) When on my own for lunch, I would often go to the market in Dubreka with other volunteers for fresh salad materials (cucumbers, tomatoes, avocados.) At site, things got a little trickier. Fresh produce can only be found at the market on Thursday, and I was on my own cooking with my gas stove. I made a variety of soups and pastas, but wasn't very ambitious with my cooking the first month. After my foot adventures in Conakry, I took a Peace Corps cookbook from the library and tried to get a little more variety in my meals. Some of my successes were delicious, "mexican rice," mocha peanut butter pudding, tuna spaghetti, spicy bananas, oatmeal cookies. Other experiments were not so good, but I had to eat them anyway: lentil patties that turned into lentil mush, rice pudding, egg bake mush, eggplant spicy mush.. Notice the frequency of the 'mush' factor.

I'm still too scared to buy meat at the market. No matter how well I cook it, I'll never be able to cook out the image of the bloody dead cows and cow parts on display that I see at the market each week.

One of my reads this month was "Fast Food Nation," which I hoped would cure me of my American food nostalgia and cravings. But until I got to the chapter on the slaughterhouses and meatpackers, the book had the opposite desired effect. I'm not a big fast food eater, but suddenly I was literally dreaming about hamburgers and chicken nuggets. The book did it's job eventually, and I'm proud to say I'm not a current consumer of anything in the American fast food industry. But for those of you back in the United States, go ahead, eat a hamburger for me. Please.

Things at site are going more and more smoothly, however the changes to my teaching schedule and the constant daily challenges. I've agreed to start up English language classes in the evening for adults in the village, and almost every person I speak to in town tells me they're going to sign up for my classes, including the sous-prefet and my fellow teachers!

My chemistry classes are continuing well; I've been setting lots of things on fire for the class that's studying combustion reactions. My English classes in the middle school are going well too, and I end each class by teaching the students parts of American songs. We've covered Gaga, Shakira, and Rebecca Black so far. It's entertaining to say the least.

Have a wonderful holiday, wherever you may be... Eat lots and be thankful!!!