As I prepare for Thanksgiving in my nice American kitchen I cannot help thinking of other Thanksgivings, most notably two that were celebrated in Beijing where we lived in the Friendship Hotel. The first was in 1989, and the second in 1995. While many things had changed in those five years, much much more car traffic, much much less bicycle riding (because of the vehicular traffic), the arrival of big department stores and McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken, our apartment at the Friendship Hotel was just the same. Our tiny kitchen came equipped with a two burner gas stove, a tiny fridge and a sink. No oven. Drinking water was delivered by the fu yuans (service people) at the door every morning in the excellent thermos bottles that you can see on the window sill. I had to visit our new friend Bettina who lived across town and had an oven in her tiny kitchen. Together we made this pie with delicious Chinese apples.
Li Sha was our wonderful language partner that year. I have to say that her excellent English may have improved somewhat, but I certainly made very little progress in my Chinese. I went around quoting a cartoon that one of our friends tacked up on his front door. The prisoner is being walked to the scaffold when he is told he will be granted a final request. His request? To learn Chinese. Oh, for a long lifetime of studying Chinese. I am happy say that our friendship with Li Sha has endured. She was even able to make her first trip to the US last year. She is used to big city living so Heath was a big change. The thing that most amazed her was our clear winter sky, thickly sprinkled with brilliant stars. No smog. No light pollution.
The Friendship Hotel took orders for Thanksgiving turkeys which we picked up at the Foreign Experts Dining Hall at the appointed hour. The Chinese don’t know much about turkeys, but they did a great job.
Our dinner guests included other Foreign Experts like Bettina, and in 1995 we had several Chinese friends as well. All of us had something we could be thankful for. In addition to making new good friends, one of the blessings I counted that year was being able to attend the UN Women’s Conference. I had learned a lot about the life of Chinese women while working for Women of China Magazine, but I gained a much greater understanding of the problems women faced around the globe, as well as their achievements.
Bettina shared bows with me for the apple pie. Our friendship is one of our unexpected Beijing blessings.
This year I will again be celebrating Thanksgiving with my daughters and sons, granddaughters and grandsons, grateful that we are all well and happy. I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving with your family and friends.