Ditching the Turkey: Thanksgiving Recollections (and Misadventures) of Reporters Overseas

“Think of quantity,” I implored the guests. Alex and Rami brought two turkeys, Helen and Felix Cheese from Paris, Carly and Claire all of their forks and knives. Chinese sticky rice filling – my aunt’s recipe – fell on the table alongside Hwaida’s Lebanese Meghli pudding, Signe’s Danish rye, and Colin’s Irish whiskey, as well as versions of all the classics. Eleven nationalities crowded around four tables. Some of us danced.

Shortly afterwards, I learned that I had been transferred to Cairo, where I arrived two weeks ago with five suitcases and no turkey plans.

Do it.

Jeffrey Gettleman, head of the South Asian office

On Thanksgiving 2002, I got a call from my boss, the Times national editor.

“Hey Jeff, how are you?”

“Um, well, I guess …” (I suspected he didn’t call on one of the biggest holidays of the year just to say hello.)

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

“Do you mean that seriously?” I asked, knowing there had to be a catch.

“Yes I am. You have to take a cruise to write about the Norwalk virus.”

The Norwalk Virus! At the time, this stomach virus, like a weak sequel to Covid-19, hit the cruise industry, sickening thousands of people and spreading a sense of paranoia in the western world. The main symptom was diarrhea. And now my boss asked me to handle it carefully!

But I had just been hired by the paper and I wanted 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 on board and was instructed not to shake hands and use a lot of hand sanitizer.

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