Thanksgiving is a Hit with International Residents at I-House
For Thanksgiving 2016, Residents of International House without relatives in the U.S. might have missed all the warmth of the typical American holiday if it wasn’t for an annual I-House version of this American tradition.
At 2:30 pm on Thursday, the Dining Room is all set with festive decorations of orange tablecloths and matching pumpkins. Even when working on a holiday, the staff jokes and takes pictures while the cakes remain untouched. The first Residents make their entrance at 3:00, greeted by a welcoming “Happy Thanksgiving” shouted by the staff. All are amazed to see their Dining Room transformed.
Buffet style, the holiday food begins with stuffing and sweet potatoes with marshmallows. Hungry Residents cannot seem to get enough of the sweet and savory dishes. They run around and carefully observe the staff while they finely cut the turkey — three turkeys actually: one roasted in the traditional style, one prepared with spices, and the last, a vegetarian option, baked in an original teriyaki sauce. As with every I-House meal, there was food for every taste!
“It is nice that I-House considered vegetarians like me as well and provided different kinds of food,” says Rand Jarallah, a Palestinian Resident while munching on her vegetable turkey look-alike.
Because of the special occasion, Residents break their habits and sit at long tables, often among people they don’t know well. Thanksgiving breaks the routine and everyone gets out of his or her comfort zone.
At the back of the room, a jolly company of twenty Residents decided to make a round of speeches. They stand up one after another and pick one thing to be thankful for in the past year. Faisal, an Indian-American and a medical student, begins in the pure tradition of Thanksgiving. “I am thankful for security, food and for being awake and aware of those gifts,” he says.
Most are grateful for having found a group of good friends at I-House. Holidays can be hard when far away from family. The Residents even adopt the trend of “Friendsgiving,” which they prefer to the family controversy often associated with Thanksgiving. Especially in troubled times, the value of friendship is fundamental to them. “I’m thankful for the art events and salon nights of I-House that bring us together despite the difficult political situation,” says Rocio Calzado an architecture student from Spain.
For international Residents, Thanksgiving is mainly an occasion for experiment. Although each country has its own way of celebrating the end of the harvest, like in India in the spring or in Spain in the summer, none does it like the U.S. For Aditya, a data science student from India, living in I-House is all about opening up to novelty.
“This year I carved my first pumpkin and now I’m having my first Thanksgiving dinner!” he says while standing for his speech.
Some Residents in their second year at I-House took on the habit of the celebration and came back again this year for I-House’s Thanksgiving dinner. They all agreed that the food tasted even better this year.
For others, the Thanksgiving dinner should only be the appetizer. “I wish there was some traditional music to go along with the festivities,” said Marino. At I-House, any celebration is a good excuse to have a party.