My totally surreal Thanksgiving Eve

Posted on November 26, 2010

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I need to get this down while it’s still fresh in my head. And I didn’t take any photos, so I apologize, you get a photo of my niece and nephew watching TV on Thanksgiving at my parents’ house instead. But this is what happened to me on the day before Thanksgiving in Kathmandu:

Taylor and I wake up to the sound of two Rhodesian Ridgebacks snuffling and pattering about the room. I realize I’m at the house of an embassy worker in Kathmandu. Our friend is house- and dog-sitting for the embassy family and invited us over the night before to hang. We head downstairs, eat waffles, and take a taxi home.

That afternoon, we get ready to go to the American Ambassador’s house for a Thanksgiving reception. All American citizens are invited. As citizens, we feel it is our duty to show up and eat hors d’oeuvres and pie. One hour before it’s time to go, I realize I have no shoes to wear with my dress. I can’t wear flip flops, nor can I wear Chuck Taylors or hiking boots. I run down to the stupa where there is a dark alley with a shoe store in it. I purchase the only pair of plain black heels they have. It is *literally* the only pair—it’s the display pair and they don’t have any other sizes. Thankfully they fit perfectly (flashes of Cinderella), and I run home with 20 minutes left to get ready.

The next thing I know, we’re at the ambassador’s house/compound. It’s completely walled in and guarded by the military. We show our passports and are shown into a wide lawn area where chairs are set up like an amphitheater. I eye the refreshments table.

After a short presentation of Thanksgiving songs, readings, and speeches, the American citizens are free to mingle and eat. Out of 400+ attendees, Taylor is *literally* the first one at the refreshments table. I am literally the second.

We eat tiny turkey sandwiches and mini pumpkin pies. We meet the American ambassador. He gives us a wink, points at the sandwiches, and says, “There’s real turkey in there. It’s the real deal.”

We wander around the ambassador’s impeccable house (in which there is a baby grand piano) and start daydreaming about a life in the foreign service. After much mingling, Taylor and I head to a fancy restaurant at the Yak and Yeti Hotel (sound familiar?) where we have a dinner date. In a round, turret-like room, we sit side-by-side in a window alcove, facing an open brick fireplace in the middle of the room. I feel like Alice who has just fallen down the rabbit hole.

We dine on chateaubriand and roast duck. My lemongrass risotto is to die for. We walk out of the restaurant like two bodhisattvas who reached enlightenment through food.

We try to find a taxi home, but nobody will give us a reasonable price. Finally, we find two monks who are heading the same way as us. We split a taxi with them, and Taylor is careful to sit in the middle instead of me, since monks are not allowed physical contact with women.

Then we get stopped by about half a dozen police in military fatigues and huuuge guns. They search the car. They search me. They search the monks. They pat us down. Meanwhile, Taylor just stands to the side with his hands in his pockets, watching. Why don’t they search him? Nobody knows. They finally let us go and we drive back, dazed.

When I lay down in bed that night, I wonder if any other Thanksgiving Eve will ever include Rhodesian Ridgebacks, monks, the American ambassador, a magical pair of black heels, and roast duck. You just never know.