Ditching the Turkey: Thanksgiving Memories (and Misadventures) of Reporters Abroad

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“Think quantity,” I pleaded to guests. Alex and Rami brought two turkeys, Helen and Felix cheese from Paris, Carly and Claire all their forks and knives. Chinese sticky-rice stuffing — my aunt’s recipe — thunked onto the table alongside Hwaida’s Lebanese meghli pudding, Signe’s Danish rye and Colin’s Irish whiskey, plus versions of all the classics. Eleven nationalities squeezed around four tables. Some of us danced.

Soon after that, I found out I was being transferred to Cairo, where I arrived, two weeks ago, with five suitcases and no turkey plans.

Make it up.

Jeffrey Gettleman, South Asia bureau chief

On Thanksgiving Day, 2002, I got a call from my boss, The Times’s national editor.

“Hey, Jeff, how are ya?”

“Um, fine, I guess …” (I suspected he wasn’t calling on one of the biggest holidays of the year just to say hi.)

“How would you like to go on a cruise?”

“You serious?” I asked, knowing there had to be a catch.

“Yes, I am. We need you to take a cruise to write about the Norwalk virus.”

The Norwalk virus! At the time, this stomach virus, like a faint prequel to Covid-19, was waylaying the cruise ship industry, sickening thousands of people and spreading a sense of paranoia across the Western world. The top symptom was diarrhea. And now my boss was asking me to intimately cover it!

But I’d just been hired by the paper and was game to do anything. So I started packing and soon left my family for a 10-day Caribbean cruise. I was one of the youngest people onboard, and I was instructed not to shake hands and to use lots of hand sanitizer.

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