December 9, 2011

The Countdown…

Tree w/ cathedral in the background
 Every year ABC Family does a ‘25 days of Christmas’ event. As you all know, I’m not home and I don’t get ABC Family in France, so I am not watching their 25 days of Christmas specials. Even so, I am doing Christmas-y things. I know some people hate how quickly Christmas songs pop up on the radio post-Thanksgiving feast, but this year I was really looking forward to hearing those classic Christmas carols (I might have even had my ‘A Christmas Carol’ cd playing while I was preparing my French Thanksgiving). Hearing those Christmas songs, starting my Advent calendar, and buying Christmas presents makes me feel like I am reeling Christmas in, pulling it closer to me, and therefore getting one step closer to seeing the people I love and getting to do some of the things I really miss back home.

Santa! I know him!
Although I haven’t been watching ABC Family’s ’25 days of Christmas,’ I have been watching a lot of my favorite Christmas movies. I started off with my favorite Christmas movie of all time, Elf, which surprisingly made me tear up a little at the end. The next night I watched Love Actually, which brought on a full-blown sobbing (particularly the scene where Mark held up the sign to Keira Knightley that says, “To me, you are perfect”). Although the bursts of tears were a little unusual, I figured I was just excited about getting in the holiday spirit (and honestly, who doesn’t cry at that part in Love Actually?). So I wasn’t too concerned that I was openly weeping at my Christmas movies, that is, until I continued to cry at A Charlie Brown Christmas, this week’s How I Met Your Mother, and Modern Family’s ‘Express Christmas’ episode. All the crying really made me stop and think about what is going on with me that would cause me to get so emotional over some of these not so incredibly emotional movies and television shows. Then it hit me.

Since I’m not living at home, or close to home, or in the same continent as home, Christmas means something different to me now than perhaps it used to. It’s no secret that living alone in a foreign country is difficult, and I’ve had some trying moments this year, so I’m really looking forward to spending Christmas at home. Therefore, this year, Christmas means the following for me:

Me w/ some Christmas lights
Getting some really long hugs from my mom.
Hearing my dad sing his unique versions of songs.
Finding not funny things funny with my sister and actually being able to laugh together (as opposed to the usual LOLs sent through bbm).
Playing a board game and talking with my bro.
Having Christmas dinner with my regular (and honorary) family members.
Seeing all the cats, but especially my Little (now big) Monster.
Walking my sister’s Evil Assistant (aka, Muppet, our dog).
Catching up with old friends and seeing how they’re doing over dinner, coffee, hot cocoa, or wine.
Seeing the TCNJ Lions play some basketball.
Watching an old teammate coach.
-and finally-
Being able to speak, and more importantly, listen to English.

In the past, Christmas’ arrival meant finishing up finals, scrambling to find people presents, and sitting in traffic. Since I have no finals, have bought almost all of my presents, and can take my time getting places over here, Christmas' arrival is a pretty enjoyable time. So, will I continue to torture myself with sappy Christmas movies until my flight leaves on the 19th? Most likely, even if it’s for no reason other than to remind me that Christmas is just around the corner.

December 1, 2011

A French Thanksgiving

Joyce, Me, & the Turkey

I think any of my fellow American overseas basketball players would tell you that one of the hardest parts about playing basketball overseas is being away from family and friends during the holidays.  The holidays that aren't celebrated over here tend to be especially difficult. Now, contrary to what some of my friends back home believe, Thanksgiving is an American holiday, and therefore not celebrated in France. Regardless, my teammates were pretty adamant about having some turkey and seeing what their American teammate could cook up, so on Monday, I hosted a French Thanksgiving in my apartment.

Although I have been a master green bean casserole maker for my family's Thanksgivings and Christmases for the past few years, this was the first Thanksgiving I had to cook the turkey and stuffing. I have to admit I was really nervous about taking on this task. Images of teammates throwing up undercooked turkey all over the court haunted me during my preparation weeks. Even after reading about 1,000 different ways to cook a turkey and things to be careful of, my friends’ stories of their first times cooking turkeys seemed to have a lot of obstacles. Hearing about how they cooked their first turkey upside down, forgot to take out the innards, or over-buttering the turkey and desperately trying to hold on as it slipped through hands and hands making its way down to the floor, I was certain I would mess it up somehow. I googled a turkey’s anatomy, how to clean a turkey, the best ways to use all parts of a turkey, and how to keep a turkey from drying out in the oven. Not to mention that a metric converter website was favorited, bookmarked, and just about always open on my computer throughout this process.

The night before the big day I was preparing the turkey and realized two things: number one, the innards were not bagged up for me, I would have to go fishing, and number two, the neck was still attached. As I felt my stomach rise up into my throat and debated back and forth about becoming a vegetarian, I succeeded in getting the liver, heart, and gizzards out as well as removing the neck from the body of the turkey. I also vowed to never buy a fresh turkey again.  

The feast!
The day of our French Thanksgiving, one of my teammates, Joyce, came over to help me out with the cooking. We put on some Adele (internationally loved) and got to peeling potatoes, cutting up veggies, and teamed up to keep the turkey moist throughout the day. Thank God for Joyce, because she really helped make everything go smoothly and made the preparation part of the day enjoyable. As the rest of my team started arriving, we youtubed how to carve the delicious smelling turkey, again teaming up as I held the slippery sucker and she carved the meat off like a pro.

My teammates brought foods to complete the meal including corn bread, sweet potatoes, salad, and what I found was the funniest dish of the night, a green bean casserole (which my teammate interpreted literally as green beans laid out in a casserole dish). As if that wasn’t enough food to fill us, we had a cheesecake, hot fudge cupcakes, and a chocolate cake for dessert. Keeping with my family tradition, we went around the table and I made all my teammates say what they were thankful for – some even said it in English for me!

All in all, my French Thanksgiving was awesome. I can honestly say it was the first time since coming here that I felt a bit at home, and for that, I am thankful.