Living and working as an English Teacher in Colombia often means observing the holidays of your current country. Teachers from the United States may miss celebrating American holidays as a way to represent and remember their home country. From getting together with friends to write a lesson about being thankful, here are five ways to celebrate this traditional holiday abroad.
GET TOGETHER WITH FRIENDS AND OTHER TEACHERS
If you’re an English teacher in Colombia, chances are you have friends and co-workers from around the globe, including the United States, where Thanksgiving has been an official holiday since it was first celebrated as a harvest festival in 1798. Many teachers living abroad see this as a wonderful time to plan and cook their own Thanksgiving dinner with others who also celebrate this holiday. It can be a fun and interesting project to plan the meal, decide on a location – such as a friend’s home– and delegate the tasks of cooking, cleaning and organizing dinner among your friends. Similarly, you could ask a local restaurant if they are interested in offering a Thanksgiving menu and having your friends and co-workers meet there to dine and support their efforts. While it may not be easy to find a Butterball turkey or the ingredients for popular side dishes like stuffing and candied yams, Colombia has a variety of delicious options to make your meal as close to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner as possible.
PRACTICE GIVING THANKS AND ACTS OF KINDNESS
For many people, Thanksgiving is more than just a huge dinner with afternoon naps and American football on the TV. For an English teacher in Colombia, it may be a day to not only eat well with friends and co-workers but to also practice kindness to others and share gratitude: what many people credit as being the basis of the first Thanksgiving celebration. Maybe you know a teacher who is inundated with papers to grade, or a student who could use some extra help with their English homework. Take the time this week to give something more – from your energy and expertise to your time and focus – and enjoy the rewards of helping someone or providing a service outside of your normal daily routine.
VOLUNTEER TO SERVE FOOD OR HELP THE HOMELESS
In bigger cities like Bogotá, Calí, and Barranquilla, there are several opportunities during the year to volunteer and help the homeless by working with local foundations, as well as U.S.-based organizations. A quick Internet search shows several organizations throughout Colombia searching for volunteers to help. Although some websites discourage feeding the hungry on Thanksgiving day, recommending instead to help on U.S. holidays like Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day, these days are also not observed in Colombia, meaning an English teacher in Colombia is in the clear to volunteer as they wish during the week of Thanksgiving.
GIVE A PRESENTATION TO OTHERS ABOUT THANKSGIVING
Perhaps your neighbors and friends are curious about this traditional holiday and have asked you if you plan to celebrate or what you will do. Maybe you have so many questions that you can give an informal presentation to them explaining the history of Thanksgiving or the modern ways of celebrating. Try making it a social event, with dishes and drinks to sample, and a table decorated with fall foliage to emulate the cooler seasons of your home country. There may even be a community center or university within your city that is searching for similar presentations as part of a culture or language exchange program.
CREATE A LESSON ABOUT TRADITIONS
As an English teacher in Colombia, you may have students and co-workers who are curious about celebrating this traditional holiday, including the type of food they serve for dinner, what they do to celebrate, and why this holiday is now associated with shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. For many, this is an excellent opportunity to share information about your country as part of an English class. The lesson plan may include playing trivia games, reading articles about the history of Thanksgiving, writing out things for which to be thankful, and listening to videos or audio recordings about food, recipes, table settings and annual events, like the famous Macy’s Day Parade in New York.
Kate Dana is an independent writer and international educator currently located, and teaching English, in Barranquilla, Colombia. An avid fan of travel and snorkeling in blue waters, she has lived on the Caribbean coast of South America since 2014. Find her online at www.katedana.com