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I am thankful for dear, dear Maria, who ALWAYS smiles, reaches out, takes my hand, strokes my arm and showers her childlike love whenever I stop by her stand. I always visit her, even if fresh produce is not on my list!

Pilgrim:  A wanderer, a traveler, a stranger.   Someone who travels a great distance in strange lands to a holy shrine or site. A  person traveling to a place of particular personal interest...

My neighbor

Ecuador captured my heart years ago, and there is an emotional comfort here that is a balm to my soul.  Like the pilgrims that arrived on the Mayflower, I have experienced times of great joy and also faced personal challenges.   Through the good and the bad, I have learned to respect the unselfish displays of love that I receive from the locals.   There have been times when someone stops me, “Gringa! Gringa!” and then hands me a plantain or a piece of peanut candy.   Other times I hear, “Gringita!” and they might share a handful of mandarin oranges or a stick of frozen yogurt!   They all enjoy practicing their English.. “One, two, three, six, eight, seven.”

What’s cooking at the street cafe?!  (Photo by Marie Groff) 

They were all concerned when their normally-healthy gringita suffered from a month-long illness, and I received suggestions of medicinal cures that ranged from honey mixed with rum to a recommendation of ‘manteca de pescado.’   The latter did not sound like a soothing cure – I was sick, but not sick enough to go in search of fish fat from the fishing village!

About five kilometers from town, I live a stone’s throw from the ocean!

Having lived in several Latin American countries, where locals embraced me into their lives,  I often approach Thanksgiving with a different attitude than most of my loved ones.   I feel as if one should always reflect back on the true history of all holidays, and we have veered far away from most of those origins.  I try to hold my tongue on the materialism of Christmas, though I wanted to double check on the true history of Thanksgiving.

This man still runs a sidewalk ‘meat’ shop on weekends. Disciplined, he does a chin-up routine from his wheelchair! He is strong as an ox!  He often receives banana bread as a token of my friendship!

Didn’t our ancestors hold this feast in honor of a long journey through difficult perils, of hunger and illness while struggling to adapt to foreign soil?  Weren’t the Indians – the true locals – included as a way to say, “Thank you for helping us,” and to share the bounty in a feast of thanksgiving?  I agree that Thanksgiving should be about spending time with loved ones with a focus on love and not materialism, yet what about the outsiders?   I hope that the Americans living abroad remembered to reach out and thank those who welcomed them into their communities and helped them acclimate to the new culture.

Living in another culture, I acknowledge those who have embraced me into their community.  I might not be equipped to prepare a feast of thanksgiving, but I can give them a smile and thank them for accepting me into their lives.   This afternoon I will go to town and do that!

Today I will buy a bagful of banana bread ‘cubes’ to share with my friends I meet along the way! (Photo by Marie Groff – Thanks, Marie!)

As I spread the tokens of Thanksgiving through town, most will not be aware that it’s a holiday in the USA.     It’s not the actual date that is important, but for me, it’s remembering to say, “Thanks,” for their unselfish ways of showing their support and their love.

How I love to hear the children shout, “Leeee-SAH!”

Even strangers wave and smile!

There are some that are extra special, like dear Dady, whose family has embraced me as one of their own!

Although he had just closed his stand last week when I presented two eggs to be boiled, he politely unpacked his wares, set the table and cooked the eggs while I bought banana bread and fresh coconut water from nearby vendors. He charged me nothing!

For a great summary about the history of Thanksgiving, see this article: http://www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving

Meeting this Indian family was an experience I will always treasure!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

(Shall I take photos this afternoon?!!)