Friday, November 24, 2006

Thanksgiving redux

I've been told that Thanksgivings overseas are better than those at home because you are away from the major source of holiday stress -- your loved ones.

Last year was not a great Thanksgiving so I didn't have big expectations for this year. What a treat. In a country without an official national holiday, "dan zahvalnosti" or day of giving thanks turned into a three-day fest.

First night was the already-blogged upon holiday book club meeting. The second night an American judge in the state court here in Sarajevo invited five other women all in different professions who mostly didn't know each other to a dinner party in her house. We were to come at 7 and Syrian food was promised. I expected to be at home -- baking my contribution for the official ex-pat strays Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday. Instead we stayed for nearly 5 hours and only sheer exhaustive broke up the gathering at that time. I staggered home at nearly 1 a.m.

I thought maybe it was the champagne, wine and amazing conversation gone to my head when I opened the door to the house and found myself in a half-inch thick carpet of feathers. But this was no hallucination. Feathers and gore were streaked on the hall mirror and a trail of feathers and blood led up the stairs and into the bedroom.

This was a murder scene.

I found the body -- a plucked and bloodied dove -- and the culprits -- Henry and Oscar the cats, their faces smeared with feathery waste in the bedroom.

The perfect end to a party evening -- cleaning up a slaughter and baking banana bread.

The ex-pat dinner brought together the most eclectic group of 15 people -- plus a puppy and three cats -- into one apartment that I may have ever been part of. The group included an ex JAG officer, five children, including a math whiz who played chess with his brothers while the adults ate, a housewife getting a PhD from Berkeley in childhood development (a study of math expertise among bilingual children, two journalists and a Serbian coach, several diplomats who have served in Afghanistan and Bolivia At times the conversation got a little sparse and awkward; at other times I wished I had a tape recorder to catch the depth and variety of the talk.

What are you thankful for? --that traditional question dinner guests must answer yielded answers I've never heard given before.

One guest was thankful for being alive and for the Marines who risked their own death who pulled me from my downed plane in Korea in the face of a Chinese onslaught; another who'd been in three wars was thankful the American public finally were demanding a change in Iraq and strangest of all, the Serbian man said: "I am thankful for my wife." Ha ha

We ate all the usual stuff, except there was no stuffing for some reason and, of course, no real pumpkin pie. But we had a cranberry relish with walnuts to die for and the repast was topped up with a 40-year-old port. From Portugal. The real thing.

I mean the liquor. And the holiday.

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