Thanksgiving is the holiday that is always the saddest for me when I am not in America (as I usually am not). Christmas is easy to celebrate in other countries, because this is a fairly universal holiday (if not for religious reasons, at least for capitalistic ones!) But Thanksgiving is only celebrated in the US, so when I’m not there, I miss it.
Last year, I was in Hanoi on Thanksgiving, and of course the day passed just like any other. I don’t remember any details, but I probably had noodle soup as my Thanksgiving meal and felt sad about it.
The next day, I had a hair appointment scheduled. I was taking advantage of the low prices Asia offers in terms of beauty services and using the opportunity to lighten my hair; I had aptly chosen a place called “Salon Blonde” that I had found on Facebook after searching for stylists with “foreign hair experience”.
I arrived at the salon for my appointment and was surprised to be greeted by a man with an American accent. As I settled in for my three hour treatment, Mitch and I swapped stories and he explained how he was originally from Texas, but had visited Hanoi years before on vacation and loved it so much that he never left. His partner ended up joining him and they now owned this successful salon and an apartment on the top floor of the building.
While I was there, another American expat woman arrived to have her hair done. We all chatted away as women often do in hair salons (at least in the movies); happy to be in the company of our fellow countrymen after being abroad for so long. The topic of yesterday’s missed Thanksgiving eventually came up, and Mitch exclaimed: “Would you guys like a turkey sandwich?? We have leftovers upstairs! Wait just a moment!” With that he left us in our chairs and ran upstairs to his partner, who returned about 10 minutes later with turkey sandwiches for everyone (including my poor boyfriend who had been sitting outside waiting for hours).
It sounds silly but as I ate the sandwich, I couldn’t help but feel so overwhelmed with joy; for the luck of making a hair appointment at this salon on this exact day; for my American holiday finding me on the other side of the world; and more than anything, I felt a sense of gratitude for the kindness of strangers. It was easily the best Thanksgiving I’ve had in years, and one that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.