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Most countries in which the Peace Corps operates are small compared the United States, save China and at one time Russia.

The relatively short distance that allows us to keep in touch and visit comes in handy when it’s time to celebrate American holidays. Many volunteers will choose to host parties at their homes or groups will organize to meet in a specific city for the festivities.

This year for Thanksgiving, many volunteers chose to meet up in Tamatave, a regional capital on the east coast. Tamatave is a beautiful city on the beach with several modern accommodations. For this celebration, about 10 of us rented a lovely beach house with a full kitchen through Airbnb. Everyone chose a dish they would prepare for the group and after a quick trip into town, the cooking began.

Tamatave has several supermarkets which makes shopping much easier than the typical act of searching and bargaining we're used to at open-air markets.

After a day of preparation with music, drinks, and conversation, the meal was ready. I’m not particularly skilled at cooking but some of the other volunteers are immensely talented. We had a delicious array of foods including meatloaf, pumpkin pie, mac and cheese, green bean casserole, and sweet potato pie. The only thing I suppose “missing” was turkey, which can be hard to find and expensive here. After we had properly feasted, we all took turns to share what we were thankful for.

It’s easy to feel homesick when you’re on the other side of the world and where life on the countryside frequently keeps you incommunicado with your loved ones. It’s especially easy to feel this way around the holidays. Celebrating in Madagascar, however, reminded me of the things I’m thankful for. Family, a nice house, and a good meal are all things that I had previously taken for granted before coming here.

The simpler life has reminded me of how precious all these things are. I’m glad some of us were able to come together and make home feel just a little less far away.

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Stephan Laboy is an agricultural extension volunteer serving with the Peace Corps in Madagascar. His story can be followed at stephanlaboy.wordpress.com.

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