Ever since I can remember Thanksgiving has been spent with my cousin’s family. It’s usual get together, eat until we can barely move, play games, watch football, and just have a great time. This year I was expecting the same thing; I assumed I’d be going home to Sammamish, Washington (woot woot the 425 is lit) to spend turkey day and the rest of the long weekend with my friends and family. However, when my good friends Tyler and Gary offered me the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving break with their families in New Jersey, I opted for a somewhat less traditional “Friendsgiving” as opposed to the usual processions. Not spending Thanksgiving with my family was going to be weird, but at the same time I was extremely excited to try something new, and spend some more time with my friends away from the stresses of school that came with being on campus.
The first part of my New Jersey experience was spent in the cozy little city of Metuchen, where I spent Friday night through Tuesday with Tyler and his family. I got to meet all of his friends, I ate all the delicious baked goods his mom made, and he took me around the city he’d called home for all his life. Seeing Metuchen and understanding Tyler’s background and his upbringing was an amazing experience, and it made me really appreciate the fact that everyone has vastly different stories, and we’re all unique and different. Sammamish, the city I’d grown up in was a cookie cutter, rich residential city with little personality and lots of snobby, suburban families. It was upscale but outside of that it offered little in the way of uniqueness of character building. Metuchen, on the other hand, was a small commuting town which was also a huge transportation hub and had major freeways running through it. Every building in the town had a deep background, each shop with a rich history and an amazing story, and the town was so small all the people seemed connected; Metuchen was a family more than a city. Everyone knew each other and everyone was looking out for one another; I’d never seen anything like it.
After spending a few days in Metuchen I went over to the neighboring city of Perth Amboy to spend Wednesday through Friday with Gary. My few days with Gary were completely different than the few I spent in Metuchen. Metuchen was a family, and everything was about the city and the community within said city; Perth Amboy was the complete opposite. It was a much larger city where people kept to themselves and mostly every point of interest was related to housing and industry. In Perth Amboy your family was the people you lived with, and your relationship with them meant everything. Living with Gary opened my eyes up to a whole new side of things, and I got to see how life can be so drastically different in two places just 15 minutes away from each other. It was at Gary’s house that I truly realized what having a family means, and it was through all the hard work that Gary and his family did together that I saw what a true bond looked like. Every member of the family worked to support each other, and there was no concept of payment or favors. People just did what had to get done and they helped each other out in order to make that possible. Once the work had been done everyone celebrated by coming together and sharing food, drink, and games. I was fortunate enough to get to participate in this ritual when on thanksgiving we all went over to Gary’s aunt’s house. We arrived at around 1:30 PM, and from then up till 4:30 in the afternoon, Gary, a few of his Aunt’s friends and family, and I all raked and bagged leaves around his Aunt’s house. It was hard work but man was it rewarding. Finishing up that last bag of leaves was an amazing feeling, and hearing the words “Okay dinner’s ready!” made it all worth it.
Thanksgiving dinner itself was a fusion between Chinese and American cuisine, since part of Gary’s family was from the states, while the rest was of Chinese descent.
For dinner we had turkey, cranberry sauce, and stuffing just like a traditional meal,but additionally we all feasted on traditional Chinese hot pot. The food was absolutely fantastic, and even though I couldn’t use chopsticks and had to be taught how and when to “retrieve” food from the hot pot, I still loved it. From the same vein it was really cool to meet all of Gary’s friends and family and immerse myself in their culture for one night.
Going to New Jersey for Thanksgiving was an experience that I couldn’t prepare myself for. I can definitely say I had some culture shock and was truly surprised at how life was so much different place to place, but I think that’s the reason why this trip was so memorable, and the reason why I’m glad I decided not to go home for break.