Saturday, December 04, 2004

A Special Time for Renewal

No better place to find blog inspiration than on the island of Bali

Hiatus, sabbatical, vacation, holiday are all words that describe the simple act of taking a little down time to invest in one’s self and the things that you most appreciate. For me, I am in the midst of this state of mind.

I am lucky enough to have my parents visiting from the States. It is their first ever journey to Asia and I have assembled some trips and activities that will hopefully ensure that their first trip to Asia will be a most memorable one. By the end of their 3 ½ week stay they will have seen Singapore, the Island of Bali, and Bangkok, Thailand.

The best part so far of my renewal was having my family here in Singapore with me on Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving in most American families generally means getting together and celebrating our blessings through good food and each other. Getting together takes on a whole new meaning however when you are separated geographically by a few oceans and several thousand miles and time zones like our family.

Now my parents may disagree after an 18 ½ hour journey from Portland to Singapore (not including transfers and layovers), but I think getting everyone together was the easiest part. Getting the Thanksgiving dinner prepared this year was more of a challenge, and you will soon read why…

Singapore is admittedly a very western city by Asian standards. Completing the Thanksgiving shopping list can still present challenges. My Mom was pretty industrious and was successful in sneaking several containers of her favorite herbs and spices within her luggage in order to try and re-create the flavors of the holidays. We still had to find the main ingredients however, and I was worried with the recent outbreaks of Bird Flu that we may have difficulties finding a Turkey.

My local co-workers turned me onto a grocery store here in town that specialized in Western/Ex-Pat food and said I would easily be able to fulfill all my holiday needs. Jason’s, the name of the store, did not disappoint. It was like walking into a boutique grocery store back home. I was ecstatic when I walked over to the poultry section and saw frozen turkeys with the ButterBall brand stamped on the packaging. For those of you reading this blog from outside the States, Butterball is an American company that processes turkeys, so seeing this name was like a seal of approval from a trusted and recognized name. We then found corn, potatoes, string beans, and bread crumbs to be used in Mom’s famous turkey stuffing. But when it was time to find the perfect dessert for our festive holiday meal, there was a small challenge.

Typically, pumpkin pie is the traditional Thanksgiving dessert, but I almost laughed out load when I overheard my Mom ask a clerk at Jason’s for where they kept the frozen pies. The helpful clerk escorted my Mom over to the frozen food section where she stood in front of an array of… English Meat Pies! Not quite what my Mom had in mind, so we were temporarily foiled in completing our Turkey Day list. There would be other challenges in completing this special meal.

After work on Thanksgiving Day, I headed to the grocery store that is near my office in one last attempt to find a nice dessert for our family meal. I was so excited when I was able to find a frozen pumpkin pie. And to make it doubly nice, I also found a can of whipped cream to put the perfect topping on our pie. I piled into the cab with my bounty and headed home fully expecting to be proclaimed the Holiday Hero for completing our list. However when I burst through the door to my apartment I knew something had gone wrong.

My Mom was sitting in my chair with a look of despair on her face. There was also a noticeable lack of holiday aroma coming from the kitchen. Mom looked up and said that the oven in my apartment was broken and even after having several people from my unit inspect the situation, there was no way to get it to work, and hence no way to cook the turkey and all the trimmings. Thanksgiving dinner was off, after all the work, excitement, and expectation. I opened up my cell phone directory and punched up Pizza Hut, who I happened to have on speed-dial. We dined on pizza instead that night, disappointed but thankful that at least we were all together.

I didn’t give up on my Thanksgiving vision and was able to get the phone numbers of some oven repairmen from my local Singaporean friends. By the end of the evening I had secured a repairman to come out the next morning. I told him that his job was to help save Thanksgiving. Nothing like a little motivation to hopefully bring out someone’s best efforts.

The friendly repairman showed up, early no less, to help save our holiday. He was able to re-wire the circuitry that was blowing out the fuse each time we turned on the oven. I paid his modest service fee and invited him back for some turkey later on. Mom then swung into full gear and began to turn my kitchen into a Turkey Command Terminal. Dad and I knew best to stay out of her way when she got “in the zone”.

In the meantime, I phoned Tracie, my co-worker’s wife. Tracie’s husband, James, and I were one of the few Americans in the Singapore office. I knew that James was away in India on a week-long business trip and that Tracie would be in Singapore alone on Thanksgiving. I called her up and told her that my parents and I would love to have her join us. Tracie arrived with two bottles of wine and a set of four new wine glasses for me as a gift. She must have known that my normal dinner settings usually came from the House of Plastic.

My apartment never smelled so good, as turkey and all the other holiday ingredients filtered out of the kitchen. My humble dinning table was set with some of the finest food I had witnessed in my short six months in Singapore. I was surrounded by family and friends enjoying a meal that recaptured the flavors and feelings of the holidays. Although Thanksgiving had come one day late, we still came together as a family. We realized it was not so much about the physical date but rather the generous act of bringing together family and friends to share and celebrate. We all truly have so much for which to be thankful.


At 9:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yankee... glad to see you are back on form, we missed your installments. So happy knowing that you had your dream for Thanksgiving- It admittedly doesn't mean much to me being a Brit but I was so happy to know you had your friends and family all around you at this time. I hope that Christmas and New Year bring as much enjoyment and I look forward to hearing all about it.
In return for your plugging, I will shamelessly plug my own blog on your site!:

At 11:35 PM, Blogger David Fosberg said...

Matt, thanks for the season's greetings. Leave it to you however to rub in your recent wins in our fantasy basketball league. After dominating league action the first two weeks, I've hit some rough spots in the road. I feel that this week will be mine however, so watch out on the hardwood!


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