Happy thanksgiving, all! I am feeling sad about not being able to celebrate in the US today with my family, though incidentally there was a bathem (baby naming ceremony) hosted at my house yesterday, so that was a sufficient substitute for me- lots of food, many speeches, and tons of family around.

Today, while I was running around a dusty field in this truly unreasonable heat for gym class, I was thinking of all the things I’m thankful for. I had more time to think on the subject later, while driving home from class, when our car broke down and I had to take the city bus home (which is in actuality a cart hitched onto a motor-scooter). But that’s another story.

What came to mind first and foremost is my host family. After a little over two months now, I feel that they are exactly that to me- a family. I remember before leaving for Mali I felt anxiety about how I would be able to fit into a place so different from where I came from. My host family, and in particular my host mom, a woman who has taught me strength, resilience, and humor, have all welcomed me with incredible generosity. I feel thankful that they have yet to grow weary of my never-ending questions, or if they have, that they hide it well.

Of course, I cannot forget how thankful I am for my family in the US. They have given me so much encouragement throughout my journey here, and whenever I’m crying and thinking about how I’d like to go home, I remember them telling me how proud they are, and I wipe my nose and go do some cleaning.

Another big thing that’s come to my attention is how thankful I am to be an American. I know that sounds corny, and I’ve never thought of myself as much of a patriot, but I’ve realized after living in Mali what tremendous privileges one immediately has just by being born in the US. It makes me feel, along with a sense of gratitude for my nationality, a sense of responsibility. So many of my friends and classmates here absolutely worship the US, and harbor dreams of going there someday. I never thought before leaving how lucky I am just to be American, and I think it’s something that we as citizens of the United States need to reflect on, and need to appreciate more.

Finally, I am thankful for you, my readers of this blog. I’ve learned after a little of two months now, that just trying- trying to speak Bambara, trying to dance the togo wele, trying to cook facoy for my family- it’s all that I can really do here, and it goes a long way. So maybe if you are reading this, trying to understand Mali vicariously through me, then I am thankful for that. Mali, after all, is not quite so different as one would think.