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Tour de Life: My first expatriate Thanksgiving
Section One
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Tour de Life: My first expatriate Thanksgiving

by Beau Burriola - SGN Foreign Correspondent

DAD
'You know, son,' my dad told me on the phone in one of our usual, six-thousand-mile phone calls, 'it's the pebbles in the bottom that make the river sing.'

It had been a deep conversation, mostly with my dad telling me that the big fight Julien and I had that day was the very thing that defines and tunes a relationship to its best state. It's the hard times that define who we are and how we develop our relationships.

After talking to dad for another hour and a half, I went for a walk and simmered down. I'm thankful to have a wise father who helps me see in my own life what he sees in the world. It wasn't easy; it took six years of not talking, him coming to terms with the 'Gay thing' in my life and me coming to terms with the whole 'religious thing' in his life. It's been a journey, but now I'm thankful for all of it.

JULIEN
"My chef," Julien cooed and nuzzled me for the third time after dinner. It wasn't that great a dinner. It was stuffed bell peppers that were too rich and a bit on the salty side, but being who he is, Julien is just happy to have someone make him a meal. It never gets old, it never becomes expected, and it makes me feel genuinely appreciated.

"Wait to call me a chef until after you taste your dessert," I joked, "supposing you live through it."

And so we ate on in silence, gumming my barely sufficient and undercooked zucchini bread, just happy to have one another's company. I am thankful to have a partner in my life who appreciates me and sees me as an equal, who loves me in spite of my flaws, and who I can love in spite of his. We are a pair very much of the same cloth, different enough to work. I'm thankful to have someone I love who loves me.

MIMI
"I really wish I could see that big statue in Brazil," MiMi told me on the phone, in the wistful way grandmothers do that makes you think of a whole long lifetime of wishes. I couldn't bring her to Brazil, she isn't well enough to get on a plane for a long time, but I could try to bring the statue to her.

For the next week, I sent her little YouTube clips of the trips people make to the statue, showing her how to use the new computer and internet connection I got her to see the world a little bigger than Luling, Texas ever could allow.

Her reaction made me thankful to have a grandmother who I can both learn from and teach, who gives me the benefit of her wide experience and a tsunami of love to go with it.

JAMIE
"Your being over there has really made me want to see other parts of the world," Jamie said to me, explaining how she expected to take a little trip around Ireland and over here to Brussels to see me. For a girl who has never left the States and has spent the better part of her life in Texas, this isn't a small step. It's huge.

After a bit of planning, I'll break her free of the Burriola Family habit of staying in the same country (or, for that matter, state and city) non-stop. With a whole world out there to explore, it seems only natural to have my best friend there ready to see it with me.

I'm thankful to have a sister who is also a best friend, and who inspires me and is inspired by me.

THANKSGIVING 2009: A NEW ADVENTURE
Although I am further than I have ever been from my family, and although I am now an expat living in Brussels, Belgium, I am putting a little more effort into celebrating Thanksgiving this year. I have so much more to be thankful for than a year when I could easily find a turkey and folks around me were celebrating, so I've decided to be the little beacon of American thankfulness that I can be here in the heart of Europe.

For me, Thanksgiving is no longer an American holiday. It's just the time of year that reminds me as an American to say thank-you to all the folks I don't really thank for their contribution to my life.

It's the time I look over all the mistakes in my life - the HIV, the idiot choices of my youth, the holes in my own character and life plan - and just be grateful for the bits I do have. With people like I've got in my life, the world is as small as I need it to be and as big as I want it to be. It's an adventure full of love, support, adventure, wisdom, and a never-ending appreciation for every moment I have on this planet to give back even just the tiniest bit of what I've received.

This year, even without a turkey or a chance to find one (I have called everywhere in this town searching), it looks like my first expat Thanksgiving will be the best one I've ever had.

"Silent gratitude isn't very much to anyone."
-Gertrude B. Stein

Beau Burriola is a writer and amateur cook in Brussels, Belgium. www.beaubrent.com.

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