I returned from two weeks in Turkey with my head spinning from an abundance of experience and lack of time for reflection. The sights and sounds, smells and tastes of this amazing country, were too much to digest while the trip was unfolding, leaving me sort of overwhelmed on the plane. My first–and hopefully not my only–travels in this place that so in/famously bridges/separates the East and the West, it was an overwhelmingly positive experience (although not without its challenges), and seemed especially poignant as my return to the States happened during the slice of time between the start of Ramadan and Independence Day, which only added an extra layer of cultural heft to the transition.
Turkey was great, and I’m glad I engaged as much as I did: I tried speaking a few words of their tricky language, ate everything that was put in front of me, worked out the public transportation, wrapped my western hair up at more than a dozen times in accordance with Islamic custom, negotiated my way through crushingly crowded market streets, drank tea more than coffee, acclimated myself to a new rhythm of sleep punctuated by the call to prayer. By embracing these happy-traveler truths: (1) what feels like inconvenience is cultural education in disguise, and (2) it’s only weather if you notice it, I absorbed a fortnight’s worth of wonderful Turkish experiences without being hung up by missing the little conveniences of my regular routine. It was only after leaving Turkish air space that I finally gave in to dreaming of the comforts of home: in particular my thirst, my literal thirst, for bone-chillingly cold soda, that I anticipated being quenched at a stop at one of the many large retail establishments that line the highways on my way home from the airport in Chicago. Although ayran was an interesting experiment, and the streams of lukewarm Fanta were more than adequate to wash down lentil soup, lahmacun and manti, man oh man, once in a while a girl needs a ginormous Coke Zero with all the ice.
*apologies to William Wordsworth