Thanksgiving in China! The most interesting Thanksgiving of my 24 years… | My Family Travels
Our Thanksgiving sweet potato casserole

I have lived in Wuhan, China for three years now, teaching English at Wenhua College, while returning home to America each Christmas and Summer break. This leaves a few holidays in which I cannot return home; thus the reason for this most interesting journal entry:

I started Thanksgiving Day with my normal bowl of oatmeal (the one western-type breakfast food that is readily available in China; mainly they eat noodles or dumplings, and have never heard of cereal or pancakes. This is very sad to me, because breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. All of my favorite breakfast foods are nonexistent here– French toast, waffles, most cereals, etc. must all be made or brought from America).

Anyway, that’s where the normal routine ends. Next, my brother and I walked and took the bus to one of our favorite vegetarian restaurants (located at our local Buddhist temple next to Yao Mao). We were then joined by my fiance Johnny (an avid meat eater), a Russian friend, and another friend from Tennessee. We ordered fake duck (made of tofu) in honor of our past Tofurkey tradition (typical Californians, I know). It was shaped just like a duck, and tasted amazing.

The funny part about this is that the Chinese people love duck. In fact, the Wuhan specialty is duck neck. They chew the meat right off of each vertebrae, one by one. Yum! It is also incredibly difficult to get turkey, especially in Wuhan. All of the Americans buy out the turkeys each year at Thanksgiving from our foreign imports store (Metro, incredibly far away, so sad).

So we had a Chinese version of our Tofurkey tradition in getting Toduck. With a Russian, two Southerners, and my vegetarian brother. Go figure. We also ordered loads of other interesting and yummy veggie foods, filled up, and then all set out to get our food ready for Thanksgiving dinner.

This is when it got even more interesting… Johnny and I took the “6 Bus,” which is the only bus that stops at my school. When we got to the main shopping center (Grand Ocean), a man just barely missed the stop and didn’t get off in time. The driver closed the door and refused to open it. Instead of sitting down to get off at the next stop, the man snapped. He started yelling, pulling at the door, and hitting it. Then his wife started making a scene as well; they started yelling at each other and shoving each other.

Next, he started attacking the money collector and yelling at the driver as well. The driver got out her cell phone and started calling the bus company, and the wife of the angry man started calling someone as well. The driver started to open the door and he tried to get through it; she slammed the door and then there was more yelling and shoving. Finally, after about 20 minutes of waiting, Johnny and I decided to climb out the back window of the bus.

At first, Johnny got through with no problem, but then a man yelled that I couldn’t go out (must not be safe!), so Johnny shoved him away.  Thus, I went ahead and climbed out anyway. As we got into the next 6 Bus, we watched from the window as the man was finally let off with his wife. What followed was more shoving and pushing (no outright punches surprisingly), and yelling. As we were pulling away we could see the woman lying on the ground, shaking and convulsing. Then she pulled out her cell phone again and called someone else. Quite interesting.

When we finally got back, we were so tired that we went ahead up to the apartment to rest a bit. Then we had to go back out to get sweet potatoes to make our casserole. In China, men sit on most street corners cooking sweet potatoes in a coal-fired 30-gallon drum. So we found the closest elderly sweet potato man, and bought 6 sweet potatoes. He overcharged us but I’m pretty sure we made his day, proven by his wide toothless grin as he ambled away, pushing his now empty oven cart.

We brought the potatoes up to the apartment, added some brown sugar and spices from America, as well as marshmallows purchased from Hong Kong. After finishing the casserole, we went upstairs to our potluck-style thanksgiving where there was already fanqie jidan (scrambled egg and tomatoes, a common Chinese home-style dish), kung pow chicken, other traditional Chinese foods, and rolls made by my brother. There was also cranberry sauce from America, pumpkin pie (my American friend Megan made it from scratch! No canned pumpkin here), apple pie, and other cookies.

In addition, we had the very necessary turkey, bought from Metro a month earlier by my amazingly kind brother. Megan had to sit half the day cooking it at a restaurant (they charge 60 RMB, about ten dollars, for a few hours’ use of their oven). The students loved it, especially the skin and dark meat. So very interesting.

We then sang some songs and talked about what we were thankful for. Many of the students were thankful for their parents, food, and for us. It was very fun, although we did have some panicked moments when we weren’t sure if there would be enough food. Fortunately, there was more than enough in the end and they were all full and happy when we all went our separate ways.

This travel blog was first published in 2010 and the editors felt it was worth sharing at every Thanksgiving. That’s why we advocate for family travel.

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