Last year we celebrated Thanksgiving in a combination Italian/Indian restaurant in a tiny Tanzanian town in the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro. We had summitted on Thanksgiving morning and this unorthodox restaurant was the best alternative we could find to turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. This year, we headed to Watamu, to celebrate with our friends on the Kenyan coast. Because of the vagaries of the State Department bureaucracy we had Thursday off, but not Friday. Given how many of our colleagues we saw in the airport en route to the coast, the Embassy might as well have stayed closed Friday as well.
As with our last stay in Watamu, we spent a good deal of our time lounging around, reading, and playing frisbee on the beach. The main difference this time around was that in addition to dining on fresh seafood, we brought all the ingredients to make a real Thanksgiving feast.
Our group of friends, who’ve made an annual tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving on the coast, rented four beach houses. The hosts brought frozen turkeys from Nairobi; the other houses made enough sides – stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, brussel sprouts, green beans, cornbread, gravy, potatoes au gratin, and more – for twenty-five people. S also contributed pecan squares and a pear cranberry gingersnap crumble to an impressive collection of desserts. Our house staff, who helped with the cooking, seemed a bit perplexed when we loaded up all this food into rickety tuk-tuks, but their concern might have been more for the house utensils we took than for our discomfort in transporting a giant bowl of cranberry sauce and several serving platters full of food over bumpy roads in motorized three-wheeled carts.
The last time we spent a long weekend on the coast with this group of friends, it was for the beach ultimate tournament, which ended with a racous party that went almost until sunrise. This time, the festivities were much more subdued and we were in bed well before midnight. The following night, our house hosted a get-together, but two days of Thanksgiving food made our company extremely lethargic. After dinner, we all stretched out on the daybeds that lined our rooftop and barely managed to get a card game going.
Although nothing compares to spending Thanksgiving with family, this year was a vast improvement on last year’s solitary meal and we’ll be sad not to be able to partake in this annual tradition next year.