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Expat Thanksgiving can be rough

GlobalPost correspondents and staff recall the trials and tribulations of Turkey Day abroad.

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Pie. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A Thanksgiving meal that begins with a mayonnaise-based shrimp dish is not bound to end well.

It should have been a self-evident truth — nothing on such a turkey-centric holiday menu should involve shrimp, let alone shrimp AND mayonnaise.

Yet, it was a lesson I learned the hard way while celebrating the all-American holiday, Cambodia-style.

Indeed, as I pondered the strange orange hue of the gelatinous blob before me, it was hard to remember just what I was thankful for.

As GlobalPost correspondents know all too well, the holidays can be a tender time when far from home. In 2009, we started the tradition of sharing stories from Thanksgivings spent abroad.

Here are a few more helpings:

Jean MacKenzie, former Afghanistan correspondent, writes from Cape Cod, Mass.

I have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. For one thing, I am not in Afghanistan.

Over the past two decades, I have celebrated Turkey Day in many unusual ways in many even more unusual countries. I have smuggled a gigantic frozen bird from Vilnius to Minsk, combed Moscow markets (unsuccessfully) looking for cranberries, battled French resistance to anything American by preparing my very own dinde farci in Paris, and fought the national salmon fetish in Norway by inviting assorted Scandinavian and Slavic friends for a traditional Thanksgiving feast.

I will pass over Thanksgiving in Kazakhstan, with gruesome descriptions of the national dish, beshbarmak, accompanied by fermented camel’s milk. Some things are better forgotten.

But one of my most memorable of Thanksgivings was just a few years ago, in Kabul.

I was hosting half the press corps and quite a few Afghan friends, and was in a panic. This was before the larger supermarkets began to stock imported turkeys at exorbitant prices. I would have been happy to lay out $125 for a small Butterball, but there were none to be had. Then a friend called to say that an Afghan admirer had given her a turkey. Since she was coming to my house for dinner, she was willing to contribute the bird.

I was thrilled. But, as with most things in Afghanistan, there was a catch: the turkey was alive. Not only alive, it had a name — Wasifi — and was remarkably photogenic. For days it roamed and clucked around my yard, gobbling up enormous quantities of grain, while some of Kabul’s best photojournalists took a break from war to snap his every move.

More from GlobalPost: Photos of the Thanksgiving guest of honor

The inevitable happened, of course. Come Thanksgiving, no one wanted to kill poor Wasifi. It is never a good idea to get up close and personal with a prospective meal.

Luckily my guard, Nasir, had no such scruples. On Thanksgiving morning he went out to the yard, chased down Wasifi, stroked him tenderly under the chin, then chopped off his head. He also plucked and eviscerated him, so I had a more or less normal-looking bird to stuff.

I am happy to report that Wasifi was delicious, if a bit on the stringy side. We supplemented him with traditional Afghan delicacies, like ashak (dumplings stuffed with vegetables) and a huge mound of pilau (rice and lamb). There was even a pumpkin pie for desert — from a pumpkin out of my very own garden.

A good time was had by all, and we regaled our Afghan friends with rather jumbled tales of the Mayflower, Plymouth rock, helpful Indians and grateful Pilgrims.

I must confess, though, as I ushered the last guests out of the gate, that I was listening a bit sadly for Wasifi’s exuberant clucking in the background.

HDS Greenway, columnist, reflects on Thanksgiving 1967

Forty-four Thanksgivings ago, in the mist-ridden highlands of Vietnam, American soldiers sat on a shattered hilltop, surrounded by the hurt, the dead and the dying.

The battle had begun a few days before. North Vietnamese troops had dug themselves into a hill with no name, only a number signifying its height in meters on the old French maps that we had. It was less than 3,000 feet high, not a mountain, but it could have been Mt. Everest for the toll it took in tears and blood to climb.

The North Vietnamese Army had fortified their positions well with deep bunkers with logs on top, and