Venezuela, Costa Rica, Australia, Finland, United States—these are just a few of the nationalities represented at our Idioma Friendsgiving celebration this year. Needless to say, it was an international and very Tico-style Friendsgiving this year. There was not even a turkey in sight!
One of our teachers graciously invited the entire team to his home to celebrate with food, friends and to take an evening out of our busy lives to give thanks for all the blessings we enjoy living and working in beautiful Costa Rica.
We celebrated potluck style: a southern-inspired chicken and rice dish, green beans and bacon, goat cheese and almond dressed salad with a homemade balsamic, homemade cheese and fruit dip, mashed potatoes, a vegan curry, bread and dips, and brownies and a cranberry apple cinnamon cake to top it all off. And we had wine and sangria to drink, and of course a Costa Rican specialty: a homemade chiliguaro shot brought by a coworker to share.
We scrounged up benches, a couch, some beach chairs and anything we could find so that we all had a seat at the table to eat, chat, celebrate and be thankful together. While the food and drink were plentiful and flowed throughout the evening, it was spending time with both co-workers and friends that truly made this a Friendsgiving to remember.
In the US and Canada, Thanksgiving is a widely celebrated holiday. Most everyone knows that families gather to share lots of food and drinks, debate politics, watch football, and fall asleep on as many pieces of furniture as are available. In Costa Rica, the tradition is not celebrated at all, or at least not widely. There are no stores filled with frozen turkeys, no aisles crammed with pumpkin pie filling, no gravy boats, and no fall colored decorations. This day is not a formal holiday like it is in North America. Therefore, it is no surprise that many people that come from North America generally miss out on this regular holiday from their former lives.
All of the teachers at Idioma Internacional have made sacrifices to gain this amazing experience teaching in another country. We have left family, friends, routine, and the comfort of our former homes to be part of something that is bigger than we are. Sometimes, it can be a little disconnecting from our friends and family in our respective motherlands, especially when these family-oriented holidays are upon us with no family to celebrate.
However, the staff decided to do something that could supplement this holiday away from our original homes. Many of us have celebrated what has been widely dubbed “Friendsgiving.” This is where a group of friends get together and have the same style feast and celebration as the family-focused holiday. So, we here at Idioma Internacional did just that. We had our own Friendsgiving.
About 2 weeks prior to the holiday, one of our friendliest and most dedicated staff members made a social media group where we could share our thoughts and plans for this otherwise normal workday. We planned to get the crew together after we had all finished teaching for the day. Everyone was encouraged to bring a dish of some sort, but it was not required. As the day grew closer, it seemed like we had the entire staff wanting to participate. It was very exciting. A final surprise or Friendsgiving “miracle” was revealed the Monday before: we would all be allowed to cancel our afternoon classes in order to have more time to prepare and bond! (Dear Brendan, THANK YOU!!! -From the entire staff!)
At last, Friendsgiving was upon us. As everyone gathered and began to socialize, the kitchen was just as packed and confusing as it always is in North America. We were all laughing, and enjoying the company of each other. It was actually one of the best turn-outs for any event outside of the office. We had almost all of the teachers, many of the friends we have made that don’t work at Idioma Internacional, and several significant others in attendance. So many people, from so many backgrounds in the same room created a very lively and exhilarating experience.
At around 8 pm, the food was fully prepared. I had made a beer-and-supply-run shortly before, so we had all of the essentials ready to be devoured. There were more dishes than I could count: chicken (turkeys are rare here), green beans, salads of every variety, chili, vegan stuffed peppers, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, salmon carpaccio, tres leches, pumpkin pie, cranberries, brownie-like amazing new dessert, and more things that I can’t remember. It was possibly the largest feast that I have ever attended. Once everyone had a plate in hand, and a seat in the room, we began to go around and tell each other what we were grateful for. This is a tradition that not even my family does anymore. It was emotional, heartfelt, controversial, tear-jerking, and inspiring. Everyone was allowed to say whatever they liked. It was a magical experience to say the least.
Once the food was consumed, the thanks given, the memories created, we all enjoyed a few more hours celebrating these rare and often underappreciated friendships that we have built in our varied times here in Costa Rica. Many of the people in attendance will not be present next year, but that didn’t stop us from having an amazing experience together. We have built a tradition of love, peace, friendship, and shared experiences. We may not always realize how important these moments are in our lives, but we will be able to take these memories with us forever. This was a time where it was clearly evident how much we need each other as humans. It was magical, spectacular, beautiful, incredible, and will be remembered forever. I will be thankful for this for the rest of my life.