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Monday, November 27, 2006

Zhanjiang Turkey

Thanksgiving found the American foreign teachers – Steve (the Brit) and Liam (the Irish Canadian) were of course both welcome but felt under the weather and decided to stay at home – making a more or less last minute decision to celebrate Turkey Day at the Crown Plaza, Zhanjiang’s only five-star hotel.

It’s a great place, very Western (and, yeah, on Thanksgiving, it’s nice to revel in Western stuff), with probably the best variety of food in town: five or six Western dishes, in addition to five or six Chinese dishes, and always a great assortment of breads (with ample butter), soups, sushi, appetizers, and desserts. Ah yes, the desserts: very good cakes (chocolate!), bread and butter puddings, crème brulée, and ice cream. It’s all buffet, and the meal comes with a (we can’t be sure, but it seems like bottomless) glass of beer, as well as tea (Lipton … of course they serve the expensive crappy Western tea at this high-class Chinese restaurant; never mind that the best tea in the world can be found a block away) and real, fresh-brewed coffee. It’s as fine a dining experience as you’d want in China, and while it’s by no means expensive by Western standards, dropping one hundred yuan (per person!) on a single meal seams absolutely ridiculous considering I can go to a great local Sichuan restaurant and have an embarrassingly good five-course meal (complete with beer), a meal that easily feeds four or five people, and then split the fifty yuan bill.

Whew. That paragraph reads like a mouthful. Anyway, we knew the Crown Plaza would be a good fit for a proper Thanksgiving feast. What we didn’t know was that they must’ve known we were coming.

They had turkey. A big, juicy, delicious turkey, complete with stuffing, gravy, and cranberry sauce. It was an unexpected and totally delicious surprise. Beer, turkey, desserts and real coffee: now that’s Thanksgiving.

I explained to some of my students what Thanksgiving is like in the states. I told them that hokum "Pilgrims and Indians" crap - if it's a good enough lie to teach in American schools, it's good enough to teach in China - and I also explained the preparation for the meal, the special dishes we cook only during Thanksgiving. And I found myself also telling them about football games, Black Friday, the Macy's parade, and all the other nonsense we do to "celebrate." But ultimately I just told them that Thanksgiving was like any other holiday, Chinese or American: it's a time to be with your friends and family, and be thankful that you are able to be with them.

And to top it all off, I had the next day off (School Sports Meeting ... ah, but that's a blog of a different color!), Nicki made some pumpkin pie, I enjoyed a delicious Punkin' Ale (from Dogfish Head, of course), and I was able to Skype home and talk to the whole family (well, immediate and dad's extended) just as they finished their meal.

That's about as good a Thanksgiving as you can hope to have when you're on the other side of the planet.

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