12.09.2013

A Very Cameroonian Thanksgiving with a $90 Turkey

The Easties with our Turkey!
I survived my first big holiday of this holiday season. I was forewarned by others that the holidays can be a bit rough to get through when living in another country. I’ve already spent one Thanksgiving abroad in Sierra Leone and it passed unnoticed. This year there was more hype around Thanksgiving, so I was a bit more aware of its arrival since I was surrounded by other Americans. Thankfully, the great thing about being surrounded by other Americans means that the holiday didn't passed unnoticed!

I spent Thanksgiving in Bertoua, still trapped in limbo before heading to post. All the East volunteers, except one, came to Bertoua before Thanksgiving to celebrate ensemble. Thanksgiving morning came and a significant group of us went to our favorite spaghetti omelet shack to get our usual avocado salads with omelets on top with a side (or two, in the case of Danny) of the world’s best chai tea. We parted ways, some of group went to go looking for a turkey, others to the bank, and me to continue shopping for necessities for my house and for ingredients for the night's dinner.

The afternoon was spent lazily lounging around the case until Patrick and Danny showed up with a turkey – yes, indeed they somehow found a turkey! What we didn’t know at the time was that they paid $90 for the turkey – to which we would later find out would greatly disappoint us when we took our first bites of the meatless bird. For the next hour we took pictures with Mr. Turkey, chased him around the case, and gave him his final meal. After a good amount of time for the turkey to enjoy his final moments, we began the slaughter. Patrick came out of the case with a large knife. The turkey was caught, hung on the compound walls, and a final photo was taken. With a quick slash of the knife over the throat, blood began pouring out of Mr. Turkey as he flapped his wings and struggled to cling on to life.


What we had thought might be a quick death ended up being quite a long death, indeed. The turkey struggled in its noose as its neck continued to bleed. Minutes later, with a vigorous flap of the wings, Mr. Turkey broke loose of his bonds and attempted to make a break for it. Unfortunately for him, he was far outnumbered. Once recaught, the group realized he needed to be killed once and for all. Danny suggested hitting him with a large rock nearby. Most of us agreed that might be a bit too brutal for us to carry out. Aaron then wielded a machete, and once again, we agreed that might be taking measures a bit too drastically. We decided in the end to recut the turkey’s neck – but this time, we hacked it all the way off.

As the turkey’s head flew to the ground, it continued to blink for the next few minutes – perhaps it was taking mental photos of its murderers (don’t blame me, I was merely the photographer!). The body continued to flap for a minute (which greatly freaked me out), but soon enough, the bird fell silent – succumbing to death at last. Patrick began in earnest to de-feather the bird, chop it up, and deep fry each piece of meat in his kitchen for hours to come.

Meanwhile in the case kitchen, cooking began with ferocity. The small kitchen in the case was packed with bodies preparing their dishes. Matt and Greg, the two Jews of the group, prepared traditional Jewish latkes since it was Hanukkah…or Thanksgivingkkah – a phenomenon which will apparently not occur for another 70,000 years. I prepared a roasted beet salad with a Dijon vinaigrette in my first ever Dutch oven! Jon prepared mac-and-cheese, Danny prepared mashed potatoes, Kalene prepared stuffing, and Beth and Sarah prepared key lime pie, pumpkin pie, and apple crisp (which were honestly the stars of the show!).

Dinner
Dinner rolled around and we gathered outside around candlelight and under the stars. We gave thanks for having the opportunity to celebrate this holiday together and then we dug in. We enjoyed wine (the 2011 far outshined the 2012) and stuffed our mouths with food we hadn’t tasted in months. The only disappointment was the turkey – not only was there hardly any meat, it was just bad. So much for a $90 turkey! But we all agreed it was the tradition which mattered. Before desert we made a mock menorah with wine bottles and candles. Matt and Greg sang in Hebrew as they lit the faux-norah. Hanukkah was something I have never celebrated before, so it was a great cultural experience – that is what the Peace Corps is all about, no? There is still so much about American culture that I have yet to learn! After the lighting of the faux-norah, we commenced desert.

After a few hours of food comas, the real fun began. Bertoua has the best night club – sans argument! At 11pm our groups gathered and headed to Grand Palace for a night of fete-ing. We ordered three large bottles of whiskey and coke and began drinking as the music commenced. After having a significant amount of drinks as 1am rolled around, I was finally ready to dance. And dance I did! Aaron, Matt, Danny, Lauren, Kim and I danced all night until 5:00am when we closed the club – to the song ‘We are the World’ nonetheless. We got back to the case, not yet ready to go to bed, and ate leftover desert as the sun rose in the distant horizon. Needless to say it was a fantastic, dare I say perfect, Thanksgiving surrounded by new friends, or should I say surrounded by my new (East) family.

Matt - My Closest Stage-mate, Who Happens to be a 6 Hour drive from Me. 
Around 4am My Frantic Dancing Won Me the Infamous White Hat

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