Would you like some more gravy on your couscous?
Why, yes, thank you.
While my heart may have been home in Michigan with my family, my stomach this past week was at the Peace Corps headquarters in Rabat (a palace of amazing things like grassy lawns and supplied toilet paper) along with over 200 other volunteers for a round of flu shots and Thanksgiving lunch/dinner.
Our country director and staff have once again proved their awesomeness in arranging a feast for us, both to make us feel a bit less homesick and to celebrate an American holiday in the company of other Americans. Complete with imported Butterball turkeys cooked in a neighborhood bread baking oven because no one on staff has ovens big enough to cook a whole turkey in. Heaven.
Our journey started Wednesday, with Liz, Leah, Dani and myself taking a combination of bus/train up to Marrakech and then on to Rabat where we crashed at a hotel after a 12-hour journey north. We certainly don’t have to travel the farthest to reach Rabat, but it’s a long day just the same.
Thanksgiving morning, there was no access to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is my morning-celebration method of choice, so we settled into a pastry shop and enjoyed strong coffee and croissants before taking the tram over to HQ.
Each volunteer was asked to contribute a dish, whether desserts, sides or beverages. I tried making biscuits (from scratch not from a can) which turned out relatively well, although would have been better minus the extra day of travel. Liz provided her signature lemon bars and it was a special challenge to not forget our various plastic Tupperware on any of the vehicles we found ourselves in.
Getting 200 people through a buffet line is no joke, but the logistical geniuses responsible for setting everything up made it work like a charm. After picking up plates and utensils, we got couscous and gravy (as a substitute for mashed potatoes), turkey, green beans, and a delicious concoction of caramelized onions and raisins. Then on to the second table, containing the various salad/savory foods brought by volunteers. Finally, outside under the giant Moroccan wedding tent were no less than three tables of desserts, each becoming more and more ladened as more volunteers arrived with their contributions.
Two solid hours of eating and chatting later, the food was pretty much gone (all 10+ turkeys!) and we were all ready for naps.
My table did a round of “what are you thankful for” while we ate. My thankful thing was for my Peace Corps service and the support of my family to do so, but could have been expanded to everything from “this food” to work finally picking up at my Dar Chabab.
This was our only chance during our service to see almost everyone serving in country in one place, and there were many people I didn’t recognize from the stage that arrived in country before us. It was also a chance to see friends I hadn’t seen since our In Service Training in June, and good times were had by all.
The next day we were all up at 7 a.m. for flu shots. I also had to get the final round of Hepatitis A, which hurt way more than the flu shot in my other arm. Ouch. After that, it was back on the train south, with an overnight stop in Marrakech, where, in honor of Black Friday, I did a bit of shopping and bought myself a new scarf and a beautiful woven blanket that is now adorning my bed.
We’re finally back home and I have spent the day lesson planning to make up for not having class all last week due to travel.
Perhaps the most significant event of the week was Liz organizing a “sauce off” competition between myself and our friend Ted, who also claims a certain culinary prowess. The gauntlet of a three-round sauce making competition has been thrown and while I feel fairly confident in two of the categories, I need to find a winning curry sauce recipe to perfect before January when everything will go down. The search begins…