Thanksgiving in Africa

Writing from 3.387° S, 36.683° E

I’m pretty sure it’s universal knowledge that Thanksgiving is only a thing in the US, but just in case you didn’t know, no one else cares. Not that they don’t care about being thankful — quite the contrary, actually — but the holiday itself is reserved only for us lucky, turkey-loving Americans. This is the first holiday I’ve ever spent away from family, so being in a place where the significance of the day really doesn’t even exist is quite strange. Homesickness sets in, but with the time I would usually spend gorging myself on pumpkin pie or watching Thanksgiving football, I’ve had a lot of time to think. This year has been full of monumental change for me, so the list of what I’m thankful for is long. Here’s part of it:




I’m thankful to have grown up with a wonderful family and parents who were always able and more than willing to provide for me. I’m thankful that we had a roof over our heads, electricity, clean water, and the right to go to school. I’m thankful that I always felt safe in my own home and that simple freedoms, like being able to believe whatever I wanted and speak out about it, were assumed rights and not wishful thinking. I’m also thankful that I had easy access to ice cream whenever I wanted it (I’m sorry I took you for granted).




I’m thankful for the life-changing perspective I’ve gained from coming to Tanzania. I’m thankful for the people I’ve met who have reminded me that the way I’m used to is not necessarily the right way. I’m thankful for great friends, a bed to sleep in, enough food to eat, and 40% deet mosquito repellent.




I’m thankful to have the ability to travel and a passport that grants me easy access to most countries. I’m thankful for family and friends who continue to support my life choices and book flights to come visit me. I’m thankful to have a lifetime ahead of me to explore and figure out what my impact can be. I’m very, very thankful that my brother is delivering chocolate when he visits me in December.


After two months of living in Tanzania without many of the comforts I would have considered “necessities” in the past, I’ve discovered that those things are all just a bonus. Different parts of the world live differently. At least 1.3 billion people still live on less than a dollar a day. In the US, many of us spend today talking about what we’re thankful for, then trample each other trying to get a good deal on a television.

Does that mean we cannot or should not go shopping for Black Friday tomorrow? No, not at all. There’s no denying the thrill of being the first person to reach that special edition 1,800 thread count sheet set. What I think is most important is a switch in perspective. Remember how lucky we are to have what we do, whatever that may be.

Being thankful for the things we do have is all the more meaningful when we recognize that we probably don’t truly need any of it.

One thought on “Thanksgiving in Africa

  1. Carol Swartzendruber says:

    You have such a wonderful way of looking at life in general . Now that my taste buds have been altered due to a recent illness, the pumpkin or apple or pecan pies don’t mean so much to me anymore. In reality, isn’t it more about tradition & being surrounded by the people we love? You were missed immensely here in Colorado .along with your cousin, Amanda, in Azerbaijan & others who had plans . We love you!


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