Olympics of Gobble Proportions: Fiesta Forever

(As published on Women Who Live on Rocks.) 

As do other rock expat dwellers we have to pick and choose the holidays we go home for; we can’t have ’em all. Christmas is mine. I won’t miss being home for it; maybe someday when we live further away I might have to but not while we’re on a rock where a 4-hour flight is the only thing standing between me and my chilly home for the holidays. Unfortunately, this means that many other holidays are off the proverbial table, like Thanksgiving for example. 

We knew our first year, Thanksgiving away from home would be hard. We had just had our first baby and up until that year we had never missed a Thanksgiving with my family or Husband’s family. I vividly remembering stifling a cry in the bathroom when I got off the phone with my mom that morning. “We all miss you here,” she said, “This is the first Thanksgiving in 30 years I’ll spend without you.” Knife. Turn. Ouch. I knew she didn’t mean it to upset me; my mom would never try to deliberately make me feel bad but she was missing me and I was certainly missing her. And in the core of it, I knew that this was part of our life abroad equation that I wasn’t sure I could handle yet.
In reality (knife in heart excluded), it wasn’t too hard in the end to enjoy Thanksgiving abroad, thanks to some strategic planning.
See, most of our island friends also choose to stay on the rock for Turkey Day; so we throw a big family dinner together. We make Turkey. Everyone brings a side dish or dessert. We feast. Our kids play together. We’ve organized flag football games and volleyball games. We drink wine.
Oh, and did I mention we all take our long weekend break at this place: 

So there’s that. And while Husband and I certainly still miss home, we are thankful for our beachier version of the Norman Rockwell painting and for this tradition that had been created long before our family ever arrived. So thankful, in fact, that Husband and I wanted to inject our own tradition that would help other rock expats not miss home so much for the Gobble Day.

So last year, on Black Friday when everyone in the states was mid-line at Kohl’s with two full shopping carts, looking for the greatest deals in the Universe, our group of 40+ friends began uniting on the beach, wearing team colors in our adult version of school spirit. The Green Team. The Blue Team. The Red Team. The White Team (that decided they wanted to be Fuchsia but that’s a whole different story).

Our scoreboard was ready. Our supplies were gathered. Our spirits were high. It was time to start Thanksgiving Olympics.
And because it was EPIC, I thought I’d share some ideas with you, in case you’d like to throw your own Thanksgiving Beach Olympics on your little piece of rock:

Game 1: Bucket Brigade.
Objective: Put a ping pong ball in an empty tub. Fill a small tub with water using one red solo cup until the ball flows out. No splashing the ball out.
How to Play: Your team stands in a line. The first person runs the solo cup from the front of the line to the ocean and fills up the cup. The cup gets passed up the line to the last person who dumps the water into the tub, runs the empty cup back to the ocean and fills it with water. Then, they pass the cup up the line again to the next person who will dump it, run it, fill it, and pass it. This is continued until the bucket fills up so high with water that the ping pong ball flows out. Once the ball flows out, the team runs to their hula hoop boundary area and digs in the sand until they find their team flag.
Warnings: This game is waaaaay more exhausting than I thought it was going to be but was a great opener to the Olympic Games!

Game 2: Water Balloon Toss. 
Objective: Don’t drop the balloon.
How to Play: Your team separates into partners. Form two lines: one partner on each side. Everyone starts close together and tosses the balloon. For every successful catch, the players move one step further from each other. The last couple standing with balloons in tact wins points for their team.
Warnings: You might get wet.


Game 3: Team Relay Race
Objective: Win.
How to Play: Since this was a team relay we needed enough relays within the race for most people to participate. The relay started with a person crab-walking who then switched off to someone waiting in a potato sack who then tagged the two people participating in the wheelbarrow. When the wheelbarrowers got to the other end, the partners tied up for the 3-legged race sprinted their fastest to the person ready with their dizzy bat who then ran to the last person responsible for army crawling across the finish line.
Warnings: cheer a lot! so fun.

Game 4: Tug O’ War
Objective: Tie a flag onto the center of a rope. Your team pulls their side of the rope until the flag crosses the line.
How to Play: Tug. Hard.
Warnings: Holy God. You will hurt after this. Bad. For days. Maybe months.


Game 5: Name that Tune
Objective: Guess the name (and artist) of song.
How to Play: We have an in-house musical genius so he prepared 10 songs for us… on his trumpet. He played the song and teams worked together to name the song and composer.
Warnings: Sounds easy but can be made harder when you add composer/artist. Great game to play when everyone needs a break after a brute game event like Tug O’ War.
Game 6: Human Horse Shoes
Objective: Ring the person with a hula hoop.
How to Play: Each team picked a ringer. This person stood about 10-20 feet from their team. Each player on the team had two shots to ring the ringer with a hula hoop. For every hoop touching the ringer, the team earned a point. For every hula hoop to ring the ringer, the team earned two points. The ringer was allowed to move their body but not their feet to help ring the hula hoop.
Warnings: The smallest people on each team were picked as ringers. Watch your faces, littl’ens.

Game 7: Pie Eating
Objective: Find two peanuts in a tray of whip cream.
How to Play: Another team hides two peanuts in a tray and then covers it with whip cream. One player from each team must face dive into whip cream and scoop out two peanuts, spitting them into their cup.
Warnings: This gets super gross. Like, really, super gross.

The feedback we got from all of our friends was amazing but even better was hearing the different stories from everyone after the games ended. Stories we still talk about. The daughter of a friend who was our pie eating gladiator. The stepson of a friend who paired up with a pro at water balloon tossing and pulled off an amazing win! Our incredible victory at Tug O’ War against a team we thought we had no business defeating. Best. Win. of. My. Life. See…
 I hope you decide to throw your own Thanksgiving Olympics because it really was a ton of fun. And if you do, I’d love to know about any games you played, see your pictures, or hear your best memories! Gobble, gobble y’all. Gobble, gobble.

Picture Credits:

Cabarete at Night – Chris Breikss

Cabarete Beach – Swell Surf Camp 

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