Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Turkey Travels Roll On

I have been to Antique for my Thanksgiving-on-a-tropical-beach, and it was good. Better than I had even dared to hope.

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays of the year. The idea is so simple: Let us be thankful for all we have; for each other most of all. As simply as it seems, it manages to transcend religion and philosophy to give a sense of unity that we somehow seem unable to achieve so fully on any other day of the year.

I'm afraid of this time of year. From late November to New Years we have the 3 largest celebrations of the year. We have entered a time to be with your family and closest of friends. It hasn't been easy being away from them in these last 8 months, but surely this is the worst of it. This is the time of year suicides skyrocket in America by people who realize in misery how terribly destroyed their family situations have become, and cannot bear to be alone. Here across the world I must stand in interesting contrast to those people. I have more beautiful, loving people in my life than any person could deserve or hope for, and I left you all behind for 2 years.

However, if there was one thing that might have made me feel good at this time, it was the thanksgiving we had. If one cannot spend time with the closest to us, the people who have served as our best friends in the past 8 months are an excellent substitute. It doesn't hurt that we held it on the shoreline of a tropical beach on a beautiful day.

Things started friday night. I traveled most of the way to our thanksgiving destination, but stopped about 2 hours away to spend the night with Eli and Ryanne, a married couple in my batch. They have a truly beautiful site, and a friendly neighborhood. We went swimming as the sun set in the distant waters, lighting them with oranges and reds as far as we could see. When you watch the sun set on a completely flat horizon, it's funny the way it happens. When the sun gets half way down, in a matter of a second or two the remaining half of the lazily paced sun is sucked down, as if someone had grabbed it and began to run with it.

That very day we had received a call from Kevin, the host of the event. One of the 4 turkeys needed for the celebration had fallen through, and he needed us to find one. So it was that at 5am I found myself walking along a road with Eli to find the house that would sell us this turkey.

The deal had been pre-arranged the afternoon before, and we had arranged a cage for us to transport the turkey in. However, once we got there, we encountered a priceless cultural misunderstanding. Wandering off the road and into a private yard, surrounded by collapsing bamboo cottages on one side and a field of sugar cane on the other, we had a young Filipina with us to broker the deal. I could not tell you her age, but she looked 15 or so, and was the servant to Eli and Ryanne's property (they live with a host family who keeps her on). She also had a memorable experience I imagine.

The man who owned the turkey in question had somehow not been informed (or maybe forgotten or misunderstood) the part about needing a cage. When we arrived to pick up the turkey, the first thing he did was tie its legs together and teach me the proper way to carry it under my are. If you are reading this and thinking "Doesn't seem like a big deal" you might also be fool enough to say something like "Doesn't seem like a big poultry". You would be very wrong. This was a heavy bird and improperly held it was not easily restrained either. My first attempt to carry it was met with utter failure. The man also showed us, through the sort of calm tone and hand gesturing you'd expect from someone showing you how to use a stereo, how one removes a tail feather and uses it to puncture a vulnerable spot in the animals skull in order to scramble its brains. This wasn't something, at 6am, that either of us were particularly amenable to learning.

After we spent 45 minutes waiting on a carton, only to realize that essentially the man had not been looking for a carrier at all. Really he was just trying desperately to avoid having to tell us that there would be no carrier. This is how Eli and I walked the mile back with a live turkey tucked under one arm (we switched it back and forth).

Once we got back to the house, tired and fouled by turkey smell, we asked the maid (whose name I would use if I could recall it) to find a box for this turkey. We did not plan to travel an hour and a half holding the turkey under one of our arms. At first, she returned and said there was no box, to which she was immediately assured that there was such a box because there HAD to be, and it would be terribly nice if she could find it. That may sound harsh, but it really wasn't and in our defense we did need a box, and she did find one. It was a nice cardboard thing that their host father was nice enough to close, tie, and poke air holes in for us.

We waited over an hour for the bus to come our way. As we waited, ignoring the occasional ruffle from Turk (that was the undeniably witty name given to our bird) Eli and I watched as small chickens walked back and forth through sewage trenches close by. It was not an appetizing site, especially as they pecked at the muck beneath them, but it did inspire art. Eli, as he watched, casually narrated "Walk in that sludge bird, Someday you will be eaten. Probably by me." To which I responded "That was a haiku! Did you mean to do that?"

He hadn't, and it was the first accidental haiku I have encountered and recognized in my 24 years of life. I was quite proud.

Things got more complicated when our bus rolled in. It was a greyhound-style luxurious bus. It had comfortable seats, air conditioning, a movie playing, and for some reason they were not amenable to letting someone bring a turkey on board.

You must understand the dilemma this put us in. We had waited over an hour for this bus, and we were already running hours late. The turkey needed to be killed, de-feathered, and cooked today, and for this it needed to arrive as quickly as possible to begin. In the end, we we forced to stow our live dinner under the bus, in the luggage compartment. I still feel slightly guilty about that. Sure we were going to kill it either way, but it did seem unnecessarily cruel to store it in such a hot place. We didn't really expect Turk to survive, but he arrived alive with a slightly discontented disposition at our destination.

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