It was a notable day last Tuesday. It was the first day that the weather was cold enough to start freezing my nose hairs. Winter’s really here! Just in time for Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday for a while I think. It’s about food and family, and it marks the beginning of the Christmas season, which I prefer to the actual day of Christmas in many ways. Out of my last six Thanksgivings, five have been spent not at home, but they always had that sense of community. While I did get the chance to go back home last year (thanks mom), I kind of like the impromtu Friendsgivings that I’ve been taking part in since high school. First of all I get to cook, secondly there’s that sense rugged pride to it.
The CET program was looking out for us though, and on Thanksgiving day they took us out to the dinner buffet at the Shangri La Hotel (Five Stars!) My last time on the program we went to another buffet restaurant that, while diverse in its choices, was not the best, and had no western food. The Shangri La actually had turkey (dry and not so great) along with some other selections. Honestly, nothing was particularly amazing except for the salad (with real dressing!), the salmon sashimi, and the various assortment of tortes and cakes. Nevertheless we stuffed our faces as good Americans do on a day commemorating the slaughter of Native Americans.
I also had an espresso due to some odd craving, which resulted in my staying up to watch Train to Busan that night. For those of you that don’t know is a Korean zombie movie set on a bullet train (to Busan). It’s actually pretty well done, worth the time if you like zombie movies. Some cool sub-themes and well done foreshadowing to boot.
As far as I’m concerned, real Thanksgiving was Saturday with friends. Mostly because it’s not Thanksgiving if there’s not a turkey somewhere a turkey has no business being. First place being China, second place being a bathtub, and third being the toaster oven we eventually cooked it in.
Some of the friends in question were Lydia and Pabs who you might remember from my October break. They came up from Beijing and we all cooked dinner at Hannah’s house, joined by her roommate Laurel, Laurel’s cousin, one of Hannah’s coworkers, another friend, and a couch surfer.
It was a glorious meal, seven bottles of wine between the eight people, with consumption heavily skewed towards a few of us that included me. The bird came out really tasty actually thanks to the turkey bag and the toaster oven of which I am now the proud owner. Besides that we had a lot of traditionals: mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts, green beans, rolls, gravy (first one I’ve made, it was super bomb), and apple and pumpkin pies. Ate and drank to the point of pain as any good American must do on that day (Pabs experienced his first real Thanksgiving). One of the highlights was getting to carve the turkey with a veggie knife and chopsticks which worked out fairly well. As seen below, Laurel obviously doesn’t know turkey etiquette, in America she’d have lost that finger. (Joking, mostly).
On Sunday I took Pabs, who studies architecture, around the city to experience all the unique offerings Harbin has in the architecural and culinary fields. We started by going to the 江北 (jiangbei, lit. north of the river) area of the city, which is for the most part a big flat expanse of nothing. It’s got housing, the local government, and some universities. Not much else. Doesn’t take long out of Harbin center to remind yourself that you’re in flat, desolate Siberia. What brought us there you might ask? This magnificent thing, the Harbin Opera House.
It’s one of the few other things up in Jiangbei at the moment, and Pabs wanted to see it in person. They’ve currently got riverdance, Carmina Burana and some other shows qued up, so I might go see a performance there depending on the prices (probably not, I hear they’re outrageous). We were told online you could go inside, but unfortunately we had to satisfy ourselves with the outside view and a lovely walk over a frozen marsh boardwalk.
Moving on, I took him to Daowai which you’ll recall from an earlier post in September, we got some big bao and a very European baguette and sausage lunch (that’s Spaniards for you), before making our way to Central Street. Pabs very much enjoyed the time, and we made time for the OG sweet and sour pork and some local beer. Which means I ate nothing but carbs and meat that day. Ah well, Thanksgiving III we’ll call it. It did lead to a busy week following as I had no real time to do homework, but was it ever worth it. I’m so grateful for this amazing opportunity and the amazing people back home (read: all of you lovely people) who keep be going. Also grateful to have a community up here, and will hopefully be able to build a bigger one in the coming months. Been busy (hence the delay on this post) and I’ve got some thoughts I’ll want to share eventually, but for now we’ll call it a day.
Lastly, I would be remiss not to post this link to the Standing Rock protest camp’s Amazon wishlist. I’m incredibly grateful to them for standing up for such a just cause and sent them a tent. If you’ve considered showing support, please send something. Be well