A Jordanian Thanksgiving

This past Thursday was my first Thanksgiving away from family in my whole 21 years of life. It didn’t feel like the beginning of the holiday season for a few reasons:

  1. I wasn’t home with my family
  2. It’s been almost 70 degrees this past week
  3. I’m still in school while all my friends back home are done until January

Despite being in a country that doesn’t celebrate the holiday, as well as being surrounded by friends who don’t celebrate it, it didn’t stop me from prancing around my institute saying “Happy Thanksgiving!” to everyone I knew. Jack being British said, “This is the first time in my life I’ve ever said this but, ‘Happy Thanksgiving!'”

I even said it to my instructors who were quite enthusiastic with their responses. “Oh yeah! Happy Thanksgiving! الله يعطيك العافية” (Allah yatik el afyeh which means ‘May Allah give you wellness.’

Later in the day my cake intuition kicked in and I had this feeling that my second instructor would be bringing in a special treat for us as she sometimes does. Turns out I was right and my face when she walked in was priceless.

She said in Arabic, “You only like me for my cake, don’t you?”


In English: “Hayley I will kill you. You know what I said, right? I said you only like me for my cake.”

“Yes I know…”

“Wallahi!” (I swear to God)

I’m obviously her favorite.

Anyway, here’s the cake after I ate two gigantic slices:


I can’t remember what she called it but it’s similar to banana bread with a cinnamon taste but baked with raisins. She taught me proper cake etiquette  as well and told me that they never give the end piece to guests, only the middle parts. They still eat the end pieces but think they aren’t good pieces for guests. She was surprised when Jack requested an end bit and seemed a little reluctant to give it to him as it goes against cultural etiquette. She gave it to him, regardless.

After class, I headed to the store to pick up ingredients for the American Thanksgiving I would be making for absolutely no Americans that night. I decided on making chicken wings, green bean casserole, rolls and mashed potatoes and gravy even though I had yet another intuition that the gas in my apartment would run out. I was right about that, too.

I finished half of the dishes before it ran out but luckily I live 30 seconds away from Jack, so I was kindly allowed to finish dinner in his apartment.

Alhamdulillah it all worked out well and I was able to bring all the food back to my apartment where Anfas, Luyi and Jack joined me for their first Thanksgiving, with a surprise guest:


This guy! Shirzad came by after I hadn’t seen him almost two months!


I asked him if he’d ever had mashed potatoes before, as it’s a strange concept to those who aren’t familiar with Thanksgiving. He said mashed potatoes are a common food in Kurdistan and continued to mow down.

I was glad everyone seemed to like what I made, unless they’re really good at pretending they liked it and really just shoved food into the couch cushions when I wasn’t looking.

After dinner I got to FaceTime with my family for a bit until my phone died. I went on a walk with the gang afterwards around the neighborhood to walk off all the carbs and came back around 11:30 ready for bed.

Yesterday I helped Anfas make a Sri Lankan dinner for the Norwegians he was having over later that night. We made a kilo of milk rice (rice with turmeric cooked and then coconut milk and salt is added), daal (curried lentils), four huge potatoes Sri Lankan style (I left before he finished that part) and about 20 pieces of chicken curry. He popped by later in the night to tell me all his food was eaten which I think made him happy, as he was worried he wouldn’t have enough and was a bit hypercritical of his chicken marinade earlier in the day. After going to bed at 3am, he came by this morning to tell me about his night, though I could hear the laughter all the way from his room a floor above me the night before.

In all, things worked out food-wise for both of us and this weekend was great in all respects. Here’s to another week of Arabic and my last full week of classes in Jordan.


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