For the third year in a row, I will not be going home for the four-day weekend. Thanksgiving was never a major occasion in my family, airfare is costly and in any case, I will be flying home for the winter holidays in just a few short weeks. My roommate, fortunately for me, is in the same situation. Although I’m kitchen-illiterate and don’t have a car, I like to ensure that Thanksgiving away from home does not consist of pitifully downing instant noodles by the box.
During the first Thanksgiving I spent away from home, my roommate and I made the precarious decision to accept two strangers’ solicitations to join them for dinner. They looked harmless enough — they met the minimum requirement of not being unshaven, rag-wearing vagrants — so we shrugged and readily agreed. After all, spontaneity had hardly ever disappointed us in the past and we were happy to add more people to our lonely pairing. These strangers decided to follow us in going out for hot pot, an East Asian type of meal in which thinly sliced meat and vegetables are simmered in a communal pot of broth. It had been initially disheartening that we had planned on going out for a family-style dinner on a cold autumn’s night with just the two of us, but we had been adamant that we not resort to purchasing frozen bastardizations of mashed potatoes and turkey stuffing.
Luckily enough, these strangers did not fulfill the criteria for the population that usually lingers around bus stops — people you take extra pains to avoid eye contact with. My conversations with them primarily consisted of nodding and making hand gestures, but I was able to comprehend that they were international students attending SDSU, and that they were both much older than I was. One was in her early thirties and already had a family back in Beijing. Our dinner together consisted of awkward “family” photos and comically uncomfortable miscommunications, but I had a far more interesting experience than I would have had if I had gone home. I left the dinner not knowing their names and with the memory of their faces already fading away — but that’s the best part of it. I still have a sticky note with their email addresses tucked away somewhere.
While I disappointingly did not violate the rules of avoiding “stranger danger” again last year, I wouldn’t hesitate to do a repeat experience. The moral of the story: If you can’t spend time with your family over the holidays, don’t settle for sad, make a couple friends and just create your own fun.