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Thanksgiving abroad gives perspective on what's really important

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Thanksgiving abroad gives perspective on what's really important
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Thanksgiving was a bit different for me this year. (I didn't even get my mashed potatoes! If you've read my previous Thanksgiving columns, you know how persnickety I am about my mashed potatoes.)

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Instead of the usual Thanksgiving feast, I "feasted" on spaghetti, lettuce and cold noodles.

Being 6,000 miles from my family on this special day made me think of all the little things that I am thankful for. Things that I hadn't thought of in years came to my mind -- minor things, silly things, things that I thought I would never remember, even things that at the time I was actually experiencing them, I didn't enjoy.

I realized that I was thankful for the band Hoobastank and their shrieking that awful whiney song, "The Reason" that my mother and I always dramatically sing to. I am thankful for the band Pink Floyd for creating the wonderful song, "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving With a Pict" that my good friend Scott always plays at deer camp to wake us all up at 4 in the morning.

(If you haven't heard that song, I highly suggest listening to it.)

I had that creepy empty feeling when I realized that I wouldn't be shouting up my grandparents' staircase to my mother that Kermit the Frog was about to be "on" in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

When I thought of all of you sitting down together to eat all that delicious pie as I ate cold noodles, I realized that I was extremely thankful for pumpkin pie. (I am very serious about you sending me canned pumpkin mush, Mom and Dad!)

Along with pumpkin pie, who doesn't love whipped cream? Shooting that whipped goodness into my mouth straight from the can, eating it on cereal and, more importantly, eating it on pumpkin pie is one of my favorite things about Thanksgiving. I am very thankful for whoever the genius is that invented whipped cream.

(I will always be thankful for anyone who wants to send me pumpkin pie. Hint, hint...)

Of course there are more important things in life than pie, whipped cream, parades and bands to be thankful for. It isn't really the things that are important at all. Being away from you all makes it obvious to me that what we really have to be thankful for is each other.

I am extremely grateful for my family and friends, at home and now in Chile and all over the world.

I could not be more thankful for Rotary International and what Rotary has done for me and for others like me. Without Rotary, I wouldn't be where I am and I wouldn't be who I am becoming. Rotary has given me this opportunity of a lifetime to go out and explore the world.

Without the volunteer efforts of all those Rotarians, Chile would have never been in the cards for me. Through Rotary, I have made friends all over the world. I have friends in Chile (obviously), Japan, South Africa, Indonesia, Germany, Denmark, Brazil, Mexico, Peru -- the list just goes on and on.

Because of Rotary, I now have three families. My real family, my host family and the family of other exchange students.

My host family is the best host family I could have asked for. I am so thankful for everything they have done for me. Most importantly, they took a complete stranger into their home and welcomed me with open arms. I really can never repay them.

I could not have asked for better friends and family in Chile. They are all so willing to help me out the best they can when I am being the foreigner who doesn't understand what is going on. They all welcomed me like I had been their best friend since forever. Words do not describe how thankful I am for all of them.

I love my real family more than anything. (Even more than pumpkin pie.) I am extremely thankful that they had enough faith in me to let me go off on my own for an entire year. It means the world to me that they would trust me enough to let me do this. I cannot thank them enough.

Even though they annoy me a large majority of the time, I still love them to death.

I am thankful for my mother for making me (and my friends) clothes, enabling my obsession with gum, for being tolerant when I lick her face and shout, "HI MOM!!!" over and over again when she comes home, for coaching my baseball teams when I was young, and for treating me like one of the boys.

I am thankful for my father for getting me hooked on cross country skiing, for taking me deer hunting, for listening to me play the same songs on my piano over and over again, for treating me like a boy, for taking me on all the wonderful hiking trips we've been on and maybe most of all for encouraging me like no other to embark on my journey to Chile.

Last, but not least, I am thankful to my brother Dylan for being my best friend. There is no person on this Earth that I am closer with. When we were little we fought like crazy. He made me cry more times than I can remember, but those times have only brought us closer. He never admits that he loves me, but I know it's there. There is just so much about him that I am thankful for, so much that I love.

Be thankful for the little things because the little things remind you about what is really important. Even though this was the most low-key Thanksgiving I've ever had, it might just be the one that really taught me what it means to be thankful.

Berit Ramstad Skoyles is a junior at Detroit Lakes High School but is studying abroad this year in Chile.

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