Thanksgiving in Costa Rica

It was always a foregone conclusion that we’d end up spending various holidays and celebrations doing things differently here. The ubiquitous summer long weekends (every month except June) are one thing, but when it comes down to the core family staples such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, we had no idea what would ultimately happen.

Thanksgiving — for Canadians, anyway — comes on the second Monday of October. Officially, that’s today, but many Canadians tend to have the feast on the Sunday owing to a need to travel. And since Thanksgiving isn’t observed in Costa Rica (in fact, it’s barely known outside the expat community), it’s not even a blip on the radar.

Which begs, of course, the question: How does one get their turkey fix?

Well, luckily for us, there’s a whack of people who have that exact same problem, and are significantly better organised than we are at this point. They’re the Canadian Club of Costa Rica, a collection of former Canucks who want to preserve some of the feelings of home down here in the tropics. We’d first heard about them not long after first arriving, but hadn’t moved on anything due to the other aspects of trying to live here … like getting internet and a phone.

I digress…

Alex, though one of the other mothers in her playgroup, found out that the Canadian Club (why does this always make me think of whisky?) was holding a Thanksgiving “dinner” (more like a lunch) at — of all places — Rock ‘n’ Roll Pollo, our (well, my) favourite bar in Santa Ana.

The opportunity to sit down with other expats, chat, and have some turkey was rather appealing. So we signed up for a pair of seats. On Sunday, just after Mi Pequeña Niña woke up from her morning nap, we headed out to quell our turkey fix.

A large Canadian flag was draped over one of the bushes out in front of the restaurant. Many of the people attending had to drive from much further distances, so it was helpful as a landmark. The restaurant was chosen (I think) mostly because the owner (I believe his name is “Paul”) is an expat from Vancouver.

Upon entry, I quickly realised that the Canadian Club’s primary membership seems to be retirees. I hadn’t even considered that fact (rather stupidly!). Alex and I were among the youngest there — our daughter, included. Only two other children (no older than 10), and one couple that I could see that could have been in their late 20s.

Thanksgiving at Rock ’n Roll Pollo, Santa Ana, San José, Costa Rica, 12 October 2008

We were at Table 13. Not the last table in the arrangement, but apparently the unluckiest — we were served last. We were seated with a man who’s been in Costa Rica about as long as I have (Steve) and his American friend, Jo. Jo has been here 17 years so seems more Costa Rican than she is American.

It took a while for the MC to get everyone’s attention as the conversation just kept going. Ten minutes later, they were going over the details of the afternoon’s events (a funny hat contest, a raffle for a round-trip ticket on Continental, our meals, etc.), and that the Ambassador would be dropping by. It hadn’t even occurred to me that Canada’s ambassador to Costa Rica (whose name I’ve forgotten, and even Google can’t easily find it — bad architecture, Canada!) would come to such an affair. Nice guy, though. Flatlander from Saskatchewan.

While we were waiting for things to get moving, we ordered up some beverages. I went with my usual Imperial (kind of hard to pass up on), Alex went with a white wine, Jo went with a Bavaria, and I think Steve only had club soda (Canada Dry Club Soda, to be precise). But we had to get ice — Alex’s wine came unchilled, and Jo seemed to like ice in her beer (a common practice here for some). The ice came in a large, red bucket with a pair of toothed metal tongs.

MPN had fun for a while, laughing and giggling, but she didn’t take too well to being stuck in one place and not being able to walk around on her own. This happens frequently (usually after she’s finished eating, and especially on airplanes), and can sometimes lead to … incidents. Such as the one we had yesterday.

Remember the ice bucket? What happens if you leave an uninsulated plastic bucket of ice out in a tropical climate? Right — you get water. Cold water.

Ice cold water.

Mi Pequeña Niña decided that the bucket would be fun to play with. (She does this with most things put in front of her, including (but not limited to) cutlery, glass bottles, plates, sunglasses, keys, paper, books, tablecloths, flowers … basically anything she can reach.) Sometimes she plays with those objects with other things in her hand, such as her small plastic feeding spoon. And sometimes, she gets just the right grip…

Suddenly, I felt a wash of extreme cold in my lap. I thought she’d spilled her juice. Then I saw the bucket, heard MPN starting to scream (the shock got to her, too), and noticed that my lap was very wet. Ice cold, as it were.

Lunch/dinner was actually pretty good, considering Rock ‘n’ Roll Pollo isn’t exactly known for its Canuck cuisine. (It’s not known at all, to be frank.) But it was real turkey, with potatoes, stuffing (decent stuffing, at that), creamed beans, and cranberry jelly (which I fed to MPN). Dessert? Alex’s favourite — pumpkin pie.

We didn’t stick around long after the meal was over. MPN was rapidly heading towards naptime, and the wetness of my shorts was finally getting to me.

Sadly, not enough to induce turkey coma, but certainly better than if we’d gone with no turkey at all. I think we’re going to have to figure out how to get a turkey for Christmas, though — I’m not going to go another holiday without turkey. I honestly miss it too much, and there’s just such potential down here. With luck, we’ll be able to invite a few people over to make it worthwhile.