Friday, November 30, 2007

"Exchange students thank hosts with a taste of home"

(Published November 30, 2007 in the Guadalajara Reporter)

Photograph by : Meredith Veto

    Laura Lomeli and Saron Hardin-Smith enjoy what’s left of two Thanksgiving turkeys.


It was a sight for sore eyes: a dazzling spread of mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, cranberry sauce, cabbage and holishkes, pumpkin pie… and turkey. Two, in fact—razed to the bone in the delicious tradition that brings U.S. families together every year to celebrate gratitude for the harvest and one another.

The chefs in question were 14 students from Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina who study at the Universidad de Guadalajara’s Centro de Estudios Para Extranjeros. The students spend a semester living in Mexican homes, sharing the table each day with their surrogate families. And as their time draws to a close, what better way to express gratitude for their love and support than to offer a traditional U.S. feast.

The meal was hosted in the home of Roberto Gomez, director of the Intercolonias program in Lomas de Oblatos. More than 20 years ago, Guilford College established a relationship with the Mexican social justice organization, which is based on the teachings of Paulo Freire.

Approximately 30 colonias in Guadalajara are involved in the effort to improve infrastructure, build credit unions, and manage a youth sports league, among other community ties. Guilford College students maintain an ongoing dialogue with members, discussing current issues and cultural challenges.

But conversation at the Thanksgiving dinner strayed far from political discourse.

The house was so packed that people poured out the open front door, plates of food in hand; kids darted between legs and chucked tazos (Pogs) on the floor. Friends laughed and joked, lamented their imminent departures, moaned and patted their full bellies with satisfied smiles.

As the night wore on and the tequila ran out, folks drifted outside into the comfortable chill, and departed with extended hugs and good wishes. It felt like home and richly so, in the way that good food and company usually does. No tradition was lacking; in fact, a new one was added:

A dancing chicken. The holiday coincided with the birthday of a partygoer, whose friends hired a man in a chicken suit with a boombox to join the fun.

We’ll call it Mexico’s version of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.