The fourth Thursday of November isn’t a holiday on the island of Grenada. It’s just Thursday. It’s not even a day off for us. The day of American Thanksgiving would go largely unnoticed and wholly uncelebrated if not for the students, faculty and staff of St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine.
But tradition, student organizations and corporate donations come together to ensure that we don’t lose out on Thanksgiving, even a couple thousand miles from home. It is a Thanksgiving dinner that approximates the traditional and is held to rival any you’ve had back home.
The key to this is the Student Chapter of the American Medical Veterinary Association (SCAVMA), with some corporate generosity, which orders 30 or so turkeys from the States. These turkeys, along with disposable pans (pans of any kind are hard to come by in GND), get distributed to students and staff and faculty for preparation, any way you can like. Deep-fried or oven-baked, we get these birds ready for dinner. A cooked turkey will get you two admission tickets to dinner and the privilege of being at the front of the line.
If you didn’t do a turkey, then you’ll have to come up with an appetizer, side dish, or dessert. One of these will get you one ticket and while you might not be at the front of the line, there’s plenty of food to go around. We run out of table space for the food long before we run out of food. Nobody’s going home hungry that night.
The food is terrific. I recall few occasions when I’ve been prouder of my classmates and colleagues than those Thanksgiving dinners in Grenada. There is so much food and it’s all amazing. Though some recipes are limited by what ingredients are available on the island, we manage to come up with a remarkable variety of mashed potatoes and casseroles, biscuits and cranberry sauces, cookies and pumpkin pies. Nothing can compare to it.
In the building known as the Caribbean House, we pile the food onto the tables and then onto our plates. But there’s not enough room inside for everyone. And so, under tents in the courtyard of the Caribbean House and Founder’s Library, not 50 yards from the ocean, on a peninsula on the southern tip of the island, you sit with two or three hundred of your friends and give thanks over dinner.
This is the first time in four years that I will spend Thanksgiving at home with my family in the United States. And while I am grateful for that, I will miss Grenada that night. I will miss spending Thanksgiving with the students, faculty and staff of SGU. Because that night, more than any other, did we give thanks for those who made it possible. And it felt like home.