November 24, 2004
We knew that Thanksgiving in Malawi would be different, but we didn’t know just how different. For everyone else here in Malawi, Thursday is just another work day. We are going to be celebrating Thanksgiving with the only other Americans on the Mission, Gordon and Catherine Neilsen from Oklahoma. They are here in Malawi with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. We have also invited my Malawian friend, Grace, who has never tasted turkey.
Now about the turkey…When the Canadian missionaries celebrated their Thanksgiving earlier this month, they had to eat guinea fowl because they couldn’t find turkey, so last week I was thrilled to see about a dozen frozen turkeys in one of the smaller grocery stores here in Blantyre. Then I got “sticker shock.”The birds were imported from Brazil, and cost between $50 and $70 each, depending on their size! We decided that was much too much. Dan said that chicken was fine.
But I had seen some live turkeys roaming about the countryside with chickens, and I even saw one being sold in downtown Blantyre, so I decided to investigate. It took a while for me to communicate what kind of a bird I was looking for (the Chichewa dictionary does not have the word “turkey”in it –we found out later that the Chichewa word for turkey is translated, “big chicken”), but finally Alfred figured out what I was looking for and went out to see if he could find out if there was one available and how much it cost. His report: $40 –still too much for a small turkey. He told me about a market out on the Mulanje road that he thought would have cheaper turkeys, so he and I and Catherine went to investigate.
We had a wonderful time at the colorful market, picking up fruits and vegetables for our Thanksgiving dinner –sweet potatoes (they are white inside here, not the golden orange we are used to, but the taste is similar), Irish potatoes (regular potatoes for mashing), tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, onions, and even a special treat, freshly picked mushrooms. (We will feast on fresh green beans from our garden!) I also bought two small pineapples for $.75. One thing we couldn’t find was squash or pumpkin for pie. The other thing that was unavailable was, you guessed it, a turkey. They only had live chickens.
On the way home Alfred said that he thought he could get us one in a nearby village, so we gave him money for the turkey and for transport (a ride back to Blantyre on a minibus), He told us with great confidence that he would be back by noon. It wasn’t as easy as he thought, but Alfred is a determined young man, and went all the way to Chiridzulu and came back with a large turkey by 2 p.m. Of course it was alive! (cost: $22) That was on Tuesday. So since then, it has been roaming around our yard pecking on the ground and eating corn that Margaret has been giving it.
Brooke and Heather are none too happy that this “poor”animal is going to be killed for our Thanksgiving dinner. In just this short time, they have become attached to it and want to keep it as a pet!
We have decided to “get it ready for roasting”on Thursday morning when they are at school. Alfred will do the honors. He and his family are thrilled that they will be getting the innards and feet! Just say a small prayer that the electricity stays on long enough for me to cook the stuffed bird! With rainy season upon us we have been experiencing fierce storms and long power outages –up to 20 hours.
Some of you may be having “fresh”turkey for Thanksgiving, but yours might not be quite as fresh as ours. This is certainly another new experience for us!
However, living in Malawi this year has made us aware of much more than the fact that turkey is a delicacy in some parts of the world. Thanksgiving in Malawi makes us realize just how incredibly blessed we are. I don’t have to carry water to my home in a bucket.
We have abundant clothes, and a wonderful, dry, warm, home. Our table overflows with food. Things that we take for granted, people here do not. Sometimes we have a tendency to give God “lip service thanks”for all God has given us. This year will be different.
We wish all of you a Blessed and meaningful Thanksgiving!