Holidays abroad can be challenging, especially when you are away from friends and family. Although when you have a host family like the Manacles, you feel right at home and a part of the family. Joseph Kaphesi from Malawi shares his incredible cultural exchange experience and how he celebrated his first Thanksgiving with us below.
“I am training at Intergrow Greenhouses in Albion, New York. My host is Mark Manacle. His family has been very welcoming, and it’s through him that I have had a chance to experience my first Thanksgiving holiday, a great opportunity to learn more about the history behind this custom. He (Mark) explained the history behind it and why it is a special day to be with family and show kindness on this day. I am happy I am in New York, especially because I learned it was the first state to officially adopt the annual Thanksgiving holiday in 1871!
I spent my Thanksgiving with Mark’s Family together with other trainees. Mark’s wife prepared a special meal for this day. We had a delicious turkey, cranberries, pasta, mushrooms, and mashed potatoes, it was my first time eating a turkey and it was delicious.
The thing that I loved the most on Thanksgiving was seeing how Mark’s family came together and welcomed us all. They took almost the whole day preparing food for us. The thing that I have really enjoyed the most during my exchange program is the interactions I have had with people from all walks of life, sharing our experiences and also different skills that are necessary to improve one’s life. I have learned a lot from the communities I have been living in, and I have been able to pick up some characteristics which make America great; from the work ethic to always being on time, and also exploring things, and thinking outside of the box whenever a challenge presents itself. I have also learned a lot from my fellow trainees; for example, I have a friend from Columbia who has been teaching me some Spanish, and on the other hand, I have been helping him improve his English.
As someone who comes from a small African country with unique traditions around harvest time, I am super excited to be part of this American tradition for the first time ever! It is a great opportunity for me to learn more about American culture while I share mine, which I see as a great opportunity for cultural exchange. I am positive this experience will cement the relationship between my country and America because this holiday definitely inspires new forms of artistic expression and values in me that I will be sure to take home!
Before coming to America, my thoughts were different from what I have seen and observed. I have come to realize that Americans are actually very nice people, are very welcoming, and are willing to share any kind of information and help you to improve yourself. I have been able to attend a number of festivals while on this program. All these have been experiences that I will cherish for the rest of my life—beautiful people with beautiful hearts.
Before I came to the USA, I had a small garden where I grew vegetables on a very small scale. With my experience under CAEP, I am planning to expand my farming ventures and be able to employ my fellow youth. This program has opened a lot of opportunities for me, especially in the agriculture sector. Now I have various sources of information and guidance, especially from my host companies, where I have learned a lot both on the farming side and the business side of agriculture. I am confident that the knowledge that I have acquired here in the USA will be the turning point for a lot of people in my community.”
If you are interested in participating in a CAEP program, please visit our website www.caep.org to apply.