Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Admittedly, at least half our group forgot that today was a holiday back in the states at all. In Utah all the leaves have changed and fallen and the snow is coming down. Mom is making cranberry jell-o, the thankful turkeys hang in the window, and in the department stores “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.” Here, though, things look pretty much the same. The sun shines, the weather (though growing cooler and rainier as we go) is still fair and balmy. The sun shines, the sea rolls gently within its borders, the wind breathes, the grass is green… although it doesn't look like Thanksgiving at all, it is absolutely beautiful.
I started the day on a happy note with an email from my Grandma Pullan, wishing me a happy Thanksgiving and assuring me that I would be missed at the turkey dinner. It made me smile especially to hear that she had just finished making her orange “never fail” (except for that one time with a certain granddaughter) rolls and that she was now getting “the Big Bird all cozy in the oven.” I also heard from Grandma Molen that day, as it happens. I can’t wait to be able to talk to her in person about all the adventures I’ve had here. She responded to my earlier email to her, then added a note at the bottom: “When we sang ‘Master the Tempest is Raging’ on the Sea of Galilee, it was.’” I think I need to hear more about her adventures. I love my Grandmas so much. I also got emails from my mother and Aunt Melody. I was feeling very blessed and very loved indeed.
That day was a class day, so we spent several hours in the classroom before lunch. During the two hour break the weather was pleasant, so I sat outside with some others and we all reminisced about our favorite Thanksgiving traditions, most of which seemed to center around pie of many varieties (we actually started up a small debate—berry pies vs. pumpkin. I was stalwartly in favor of pumpkin.) We all said something we were grateful for while Alyssa filmed us, also pausing to snag interviews with innocent passersby (“Hannah! Quick! What are you grateful for?”)
The other class had our half-day Golan field trip that day, so we actually got to see them at lunch (YAY! We love you Judd class!). We were supposed to have a swimming day with them that afternoon. I played down at the beach with the little kids—fun activities like digging canals and burying little Emily Judd in the sand. I tried my hand at slack lining for the first time, with severely limited success (Jed and Jordan brought their slack line to Galilee, and we have been grateful indeed). I sat with Katie and Annie and some others on the grass as we made our thankful lists. President Schafer encouraged everyone to make a list of one hundred things they are grateful for in order to cultivate (as President Monson says) and “attitude of Gratitude.” I have been working on my list all month, as it happens. My personal tradition since the beginning of my college years has been to list four things I was grateful for every day starting on November 1st. Ideally, this adds up to 100 by Thanksgiving. This year, however, when Thanksgiving fell on the 22nd, I had some catching up to do (being only to #88 by that time). I actually ended up liking it better that way—it meant that in the end the last ten items constituted my testimony.
That evening it was the Schade class’s turn to go to dinner at the local fish restaurant. We all piled into the bus at 5:45 and motored off to the restaurant on a nearby part of the kibbutz. There I sat at the end of the table with Paul and Bradley and Jordan and Sophie and Lizzie (I know you don’t know any of these people, but I want to remember their names), and once again we went around saying things we were grateful for. I also had a stimulating discussion with Paul and Bradley about good movies and listened to Paul tell the story about why he decided study social work (which was really neat. Paul is just amazing). I enjoyed a highly unusual Thanksgiving dinner of pitas with hummus, various Eastern salads, St. Peter Fish (which I took a picture of with a one-shekel piece in its mouth just to be corny), French fries, and a few samplings from the people who decided to get pizza instead of fish. Desert was little sherbet cups that we also get every day at lunch in the cafeteria here in Galilee (same kibbutz, same sherbet I suppose). It was no turkey and stuffing, and there certainly was a part of me missing that dinner a bit, but it was still a fantastic meal.
After that we drove a few miles to Tiberias, where we were given free reign for about an hour to walk along the boardwalk and do what we would. Most people bought ice cream, but in the end I just wasn’t all that hungry. I did, however, buy a new skirt. It’s a layered, wrap-around style that I’ve seen all over the place here in Israel and that a lot of girls at the center have picked up on. I hadn’t got one yet because I couldn’t find one I like—most of the skirts I’ve seen in the old city have top and bottom layers that just plain don’t match in color or pattern. The ones on the boardwalk or a dollar or so more, but they did match and were very cute, so I got one I really liked and was thrilled with my purchase. I wore it to church yesterday, actually—but there will be more on that later. My roommate Cassie helped me pick it out because I was being indecisive (I tagged along with her and Dallin as we meandered back along the boardwalk towards the bus). I was quite proud of myself—the guy at the stand said it was seven dollars, then when I asked for the price in shekels he said thirty. I argued back that it absolutely was not thirty and made him check, and I was right—it was twenty-five. That only takes about a dollar off the total, but I was happy. No taking in this tourist—that’s right, buddy, I live here.
When we got home, we raced down to the beach to watch a splendid lightening storm flashing and crackling over the lake. Walking down the way some I came upon a group sitting behind the apartments to watch, singing “Master the Tempest is Raging.” I stopped and sang with them, finding the group to consist of Katie, Stephen, McKay, Kate, Mary, and a couple others. When we had finished the song, we stayed there another half hour at least, talking and singing songs and giving each other back massages and gasping with awe every time another lightening bolt crackled across the night sky. Eventually, though Mother Nature decided to rain on our parade—literally. The storm reached us and the sky began to pour torrents on our little set up. Katie and Stephen and I ran to the nearest porch for shelter. A few people came around the corner and started dancing on the lawn, so I took off my jacket and kicked off my shoes and joined them for a little while. By the time I got back to my apartment I was nearly soaked through—including my shoes and jacket, despite my valiant efforts to keep them dry. A hot shower and dry pajamas were a welcome comfort, and thereafter I got to enjoy the coziness of being warm and comfortable while hearing the rain pound on the window and the wind howling its way thought the palm trees outside.
It was surely the most unique Thanksgiving I have ever experienced. One thing is very much the same between here at Utah, however. I still have more blessings to be grateful for than I could possibly count, and
I still thanked my Heavenly Father for all of them. I missed my family very much, but I know I will see them again soon. For now I get to enjoy living for a while in what I truly believe to be one of the most beautiful places on earth and to learn about my Savior Jesus Christ, who loves me more than anyone and who has brought all mankind the greatest blessings they will ever know. I truly am blessed beyond measure.
I want you to know that I am grateful for each and every one of you. One of my greatest blessings is the tremendous amount of love I feel in my life—both in the sense of the love my family and friends give to me, and in the love I feel for them and so many others, including my friends here in Galilee. I don’t think there is any greater blessing than that.
Shalom, my friends! Happy Thanksgiving!