Thanksgiving in Arizona, USA, 2016.

The phrase ‘make the most of it’ is thrown around a lot on your year abroad. Your Granddad tells you before you leave, your uni mate reminds you on Skype when you’re missing home, and you tell it to yourself when justifying another plane ticket purchase that takes you that much further into your overdraft. It’s a great phrase for excusing a ‘yolo’ moment. Well, this thanksgiving, that slogan was the motivation for enjoying three, yes three, thanksgiving meals.

The first, with my group of girlfriends who I meet weekly. We traded our usual set up for a thanksgiving feast. My first ever, and it did not disappoint! Juicy green beans fried with bacon, creamy potato mash (my own contribution had to be the most easy to make side on the table) and succulent pre-cooked chicken (because we’re students on a budget) were gobbled down. We even had delicious savoury scones, except over here they’re called biscuits, which is very confusing for a Brit to come to terms with. What lacked in pie, was made up for in impressive effort.

 The second, was a large gathering of internationals – each one with as little idea as the next about this holiday’s normal arrangements – squished around a long table in the home of a very American, very generous couple. They prepared all the traditional dishes: turkey, cranberry sauce (hot or cold to please all palates), homemade stuffing, sweet potato and various roasted vegetables. Before pie was served, of which, there were four varieties (the pecan was my personal favourite) they announced 3rd, 2nd, and 1st place in their best looking pie contest. The 1st place cherry pie was so pretty, no one wanted to cut into it. Oh the irony.

 A week later, on actual thanksgiving, we packed the car with bags and bodies and headed to the capital city of Arizona, Phoenix. The journey was only two hours, but the elevation of my college’s mountain town, Flagstaff, gives this place a much cooler climate, in which the hundreds of pine trees grow. Flagstaff paints a starkly different picture of Arizona than any other city here. Half way to Phoenix and our ears began to pop as if on a plane. We dropped 4,000 feet. The temperature rose so suddenly, and out of nowhere there was cacti everywhere. Some of them were as big as your 6 year old nephew, like statues invading the flat, golden landscape. Like the English woman I am, I was glad to be away from the frost.

The next morning was Thanksgiving. Rather like Christmas day after 4pm, no one really knew what to do, apart from wait for dinner of course. The thanksgiving parade was on telly, live from New York City. Having visited the big apple for the first time on my way over here, I was watching the random assortment of floats with great fondness, smiling that I could recognise the buildings from first-hand experience, not just from the movies. Still, there is only so much American TV a girl raised on Doctor Who and Planet Earth can stand, so we quickly vacated to the pool. It was an odd phenomenon, to be able to sunbathe on the 24th November, still, you won’t catch me complaining. In fact, the glorious scent of Gaby’s mom’s (mum’s) cooking that morning, that was fresh in my memory was all that could drag me away from the pool and back to the house. At 4pm, dinner was ready. It was time.

A huge turkey that lasted for days was carved once every side dish was on the table. They consisted of stuffing, of which there were two varieties, heaps of mashed potatoes, vegetables in creamy white sauce, a non-traditional polish style chicken in breadcrumbs, Brussel sprouts (yikes) and of course, the famous cranberry sauce. Pudding was pumpkin pie, no pecan flavour for me sadly, but a slice or two of cheesecake washed down with tea, (with milk, because we’ve taught them how to do it properly) was just as heavenly. The home cooked food, the hospitality, the laughter… I felt like I was on an episode of friends. And the best part, I didn’t have to wash up.

Written by Rosie Lenton – Northern Arizona University, USA

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