Arriving in Antibes for orientation on January 3rd I am ready for vacation to be over. There is this itch to start the next project, there is just so much out there to learn, and I’m beginning to feel like time is ticking away too fast. So when they tell us that classes don’t actually start until January the 14th, a whole week later than I was expecting, I feel like stomping my foot and putting up a fuss. However that would be as ineffective as it was when I was six and demanding that my sister turn her music off.
So instead Sarah and I fly to Istanbul.
It is cold. Snowing in fact. We spend a lot of time eating, drinking Turkish chai, and playing games. There are the famous Turkish baths to try; we go twice. There is the Grand Bazaar, a market so big you feel like you could be lost for days; I buy a beautiful turquoise ring. There is the Blue Mosque and Haga Sophia to see; I stand in awe at the centuries of history these building represent.
Our friend Nadia meets us when we arrive at Taksim Square. She has been going to school in Istanbul since September, but since her campus isn’t in the main city we stay together at the same hostel for the week.
I learn how to say “thank you” in Turkish (don’t ask me to spell that please), the rules for backgammon, and how to juice a pomegranate. We eat flatbreads, dips, sea food, street food, baklava, turkish delight, honey, olives, and tomatoes. My favourite is Turkish coffee, served strong in small portions. I love that it is thick and heavy with an aroma that reminds me of the earth. This is a tradition I could get behind.
I find wooden spoons carved into the same shape as the ones my mother brought home from Turkey almost forty years ago. Six of them find their way into my luggage, you always needs more wooden spoons right?
Meals are defined by laughter and endless rounds of guessing games. We stay for hours anywhere that is well heated and simply drink more chai to pass the time. It gets beyond silly and into the realm of ridiculous more than once.
Traditional Turkish breakfast is a mix of sweet and savoury, all of it good. The eggs are served as piping hot as the chai, and the clotted cream with honey is the perfect way to finish the meal. There is something so reassuring about knowing that no matter what country or culture you are in when breakfast is served, you know it’s going to be a good day. Reassuring too, to know that there is always something to learn even if it means changing your plans and spending another week on vacation.