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Celebrating an American Holiday Abroad

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Celebrating an American Holiday Abroad

Celebrating an American Holiday Abroad

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NEAL CONAN, host:

One of the things that we all need to be thankful for this Thanksgiving is for all those Americans working for us overseas. Many of them, of course, are celebrating a version of Thanksgiving. It's a reminder of home, and many people go to great lengths to reproduce that Thanksgiving dinner that they remember so well. Well, we're going to go to El Salvador now where we're joined by David Krzywda. He's an officer with the foreign service based in the US Embassy in El Salvador. He joins us by phone from his home in San Salvador.

Happy Thanksgiving, David, and thanks for taking the time to be with us today.

Mr. DAVID KRZYWDA (US Foreign Service): Thank you. Good afternoon.

CONAN: I know you're no stranger to spending American holidays overseas. You've lived in Nigeria, Vietnam, the Philippines. How are you celebrating this Thanksgiving?

Mr. KRZYWDA: This year the table when we're done almost always looks the same. We have our turkey and our stuffing and our cranberry sauce. It's just--everyplace we go who we're able to invite is a bit different and the effort we have to go to get those ingredients is often a bit of a challenge.

CONAN: Like?

Mr. KRZYWDA: I'd say the toughest one we've had so far was turkey in Nigeria. We were actually invited to a friend's house and he was certain he was going to get a turkey in time for Thanksgiving and it was delivered live to his house that morning. But his wife was originally from Korea and wasn't fazed at all and managed to have it all plucked and cleaned and cooked by about 5:00 that night.

CONAN: And have you managed to find a turkey in El Salvador?

Mr. KRZYWDA: Yeah, actually they eat turkey here locally, so it's really easy to come by. This year's challenge was the pumpkin for pumpkin pie, though.

CONAN: Huh.

LIANE HANSEN, host:

No kid...

Mr. KRZYWDA: And I knew some people and through some connections--the American communities overseas are often very tight--you can find someone who has an extra can of pumpkins, and that's what ended up happening this year.

CONAN: We're talking about Thanksgiving overseas at this point, and you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

HANSEN: David, this is Liane. So who's coming to dinner?

Mr. KRZYWDA: With us today we're going to have three Peace Corps volunteers; they've been in country for almost two years now: Jessica, Elizabeth and Maria. And we're also going to have--one of the nice things about living overseas is we often have some help around the house. We have triplets, so the nannies are going to be having Thanksgiving dinner with us as well.

HANSEN: Ah. Is this common, you know, to kind of gather up the stray expatriate Americans and have them over for Thanksgiving?

Mr. KRZYWDA: Oh, absolutely. There's sort of an unwritten rule that if you're an American overseas you end up at someone's house for Thanksgiving. The worst thing you'd want to see is have someone on their own on Thanksgiving Day, so a lot of the families create new extended families by inviting other people over to celebrate with them.

HANSEN: What do you miss most about Thanksgiving at home in the United States?

Mr. KRZYWDA: It's 85 degrees and I'd like to be a little colder for one, but I'd say more than anything else we miss family. That's one thing--it's nice to have lots of friends over and it definitely makes it warm, but it's not the same as having your parents and your brothers and sisters around and Aunt Edna and so on and so forth.

CONAN: Have you started any traditions overseas?

Mr. KRZYWDA: I'd say no. You can't really get wed to any particular traditions or you'll just end up disappointed the next year. So we try to keep turkey on the table, but other than that, everything is fair game.

CONAN: Would you do us the favor and thank--we're going to thank you, but ask everybody else there--extend our thanks to them for what they do overseas, for their service.

Mr. KRZYWDA: I sure will.

CONAN: Thanks very much for being with us. Happy Thanksgiving.

Mr. KRZYWDA: Thank you. You, too. Bye-bye.

CONAN: David Krzywda is a foreign service officer and he joined us on the phone from his home in San Salvador, where they're celebrating Thanksgiving Day. And they've celebrated it in different ways in many places along the years.

Before we leave, Liane and I wanted to share a Thanksgiving story. NPR sends its reporters, as you know, to various places. There was a trip that I was sent on in November of 1987--this was during the Iran-Iraq War and I was working on some of the US Navy vessels that were escorting reflagged tankers up and down through the Straits of Hormuz and up to Kuwait. Well, I was due back on Thanksgiving Day and, well, Liane was--there was a little party there.

HANSEN: Well, our apartment in New York was filled with friends and quite a few strangers and our children at the time were six and four years old and we took them out to see the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and came back and made the turkey and made the stuffing and everybody was getting so very excited because Dad was going to be coming home and we had the whole meal already to go and the phone rang. And I picked up the phone and Neal was on the phone. And I said, `Oh, great, Neal. Where are you? JFK?' And he answered...

CONAN: `No. We're in Manama and I'm fine no matter what you hear on the radio.'

HANSEN: And I asked--he's done that to me before. `Oh, yes, I was at the Orangemen's march and, yes, that cameraman who had the bullet, it was fine. I was only standing right next to him.' `But what do you mean, pay no attention to the bad news?'

CONAN: `Pay no attention to that story about the ship that I was on almost getting fired on by an Iraqi jet.'

HANSEN: But he managed to make it home a couple of days later and we managed to have a couple of leftovers for him.

CONAN: Liane, it's been great having you co-host on TALK OF THE NATION with us this week. You'll be back, of course, on "Weekend Edition Sunday." We were going to give you something but I notice you already stole a TALK OF THE NATION pen.

HANSEN: I do. And I'm going to keep it.

CONAN: In Washington, happy Thanksgiving, everybody. I'm Neal Conan.

HANSEN: And I'm Liane Hansen. This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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