One of my biggest concerns being away from the US for ten months has been the impending and inevitable homesickness that I would face. Sometimes, the need for American food can be easily cured by a midnight McDonald's run. But certain layers of homesickness can’t be cured with fast food. Feeling nostalgia for American holidays that aren’t celebrated in Korea makes this list.
Yet, this past Thursday, I celebrated one of my favorite Thanksgivings to date. Three Seoulmates proposed that twelve of us spend it together by renting a party room through Airbnb (which is common here) and buying a turkey dinner from a nearby hotel. Unlike in the US, turkey is more of a delicacy and therefore more expensive.
For this reason, none of the Seoulmates had ever had turkey before. Despite having eaten turkey before, none of the American students knew how to carve one, so it was quite amusing when we were all confronted with the challenge of finding a way to cut it open. Admittedly, we were ill-prepared in the utensil and plate department, using paper cups to hold our food and chopsticks to eat with. It goes without saying that my chopstick game was upped at least fifty points that night.
Before we ate, we all went around the table and said what we were thankful for. Even though one of the Seoulmates was mine, I had never met two of them before. We had all invited different people to celebrate together in a seemingly spontaneous act, and I was simply grateful that the Seoulmates had put in that much effort for a holiday they don’t even regularly celebrate.
I was also reminded by how much of a liberal environment the study abroad community is, wherein we can celebrate Thanksgiving nostalgically, since this is a holiday we’ve spent with our families every year until now, whilst acknowledging its tragic foundation as one routing from genocide.
That night, we played Jenga, talked about the future, and reflected on our lives in Korea.
While I likely won’t eat much turkey again until I return home, it was a great experience to celebrate being American. Ironically, it takes leaving the US to reconcile with one’s Americanness. While my sense of American identity isn’t full of nationalism and patriotism, it is also an Americanness of privilege given my varying other identities. The US is also where my family and friends are, which plays a larger role in my idea of home than physical borders do.