Ringraziemento: Giving Thanks in Italy

Thanksgiving, November 27th, 2014. It’s one for the books. Why? Well it’s the most unique Thanksgiving I’ve ever had, considering the fact that it was the first time I’ve celebrated without my family, and in a country that doesn’t even recognize it’s existence. Turkey day is an American holiday — obviously — but I was quite surprised to learn that nearly everyone in the city of Siena had no idea what Thanksgiving even was. Call me ignorant, but I was a bit shocked! However, I have to say that I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way — but yes mom and dad, and Taryn, I missed you all, I’m sure you’ll be reading this — but it was a way to really count my blessings from afar.

The day unfortunately was full of classes, from 9:00 to 5:00, needless to say my class schedule didn’t recognize Thanksgiving either. It’s odd being in a city during this time with not a single turkey on display, no pumpkin pies in the bakery sections of the grocery stores, no pilgrims in the shopping windows, there are only Christmas displays — which are also enjoyable. But the day felt different, new place, new community, and new friends to spend the holiday with, I was curious to see how the dinner would stack up to the American one.

Thankfully, the AHA program set up a Thanksgiving feast at a local restaurant where we enjoyed a full course meal with the Italian spin on our beloved American tradition. There was of course the bruschetta antipasto, and our chef created a nice Autumn spin on the classic cheesy risotto by adding  chunks of pumpkin to the mix, next came our main course — in my opinion a fantastic rendition of the classic turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce we have in the states — it was a delicious sliced turkey, baked to perfection with a mixture of sweet dried fruits, nuts and veggies in a gravy like stew that covered the meat, and we finished off with a yellow pear and pumpkin vin santo dolce vino cream cake, it was delicious. Touché Italy.

Family, friends and food are an essential part of Thanksgiving, don’t get me wrong, but in my mind with all of those aspects being thrown for a loop this year, the one thing that I couldn’t help but keep to American tradition is taking time to reflect on my life and what I’m thankful for. The question this year should have been what am I not thankful for? I feel absolutely blessed. Traveling to Italy has been a dream of mine since I can remember, and not only did I make it here to study for a few months, but by the grace of God and the support of my family, I was able to come with the money I needed to take full advantage of the trip without a second thought. Prior to the Summer, I signed up for the program without any idea how I was going to pay for it, but I just knew I’d find a way. Luckily I was presented with an opportunity to do door-to-door sales in Missouri for the Summer where I made a killing and was able to fund my way to Italy with much more money than I ever anticipated. Plus, with my parents and my extended family and friends, I received donations to get me here and help pay for any extra fees that would make their way into my bank account while I was away. I made it.

I also am thankful for the new friends I’ve made here who I know will always hold a special place in my heart simply for the times we’ve shared together and the life long memories we’ve formed. We all come from different social groups, different walks of life and yet we blended so well. I wouldn’t ever ask for any other group to partake in this amazing adventure with me. I also am thankful for the AHA and especially our program director Silvia Minucci who has been like a second mother to us all on this adventure — and set up our Italian Thanksgiving meal for the evening. She has been here for us for anything we’ve needed and always goes the extra mile to make sure we are happy. I’m thankful for my health — I’ve become a bit more “healthy” over here from all of the delicious Tuscan food but all is good. And I’m thankful for my education. It’s a privilege to go to the University of Oregon, a fantastic school that has given me many opportunities, including this travel experience. I know that there are lots of young people my age that aren’t able to go to a school like the one I’m in, and don’t have the means to travel abroad and see the world, so I need to say that I’m tremendously thankful for the opportunity.

Unfortunately everything comes to an end — even more unfortunate is that my dream adventure is ending in 6 days. But I’ve lived it up here in Italy, I’ve even got to see some other countries in Europe. I know that this won’t be the last time, and maybe someday I’ll be able to bring my family over here to experience the Italian Thanksgiving: ringraziemento.

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