|Thanksgiving at the Hagia Sophia seven years ago and Thanksgiving in my apartment elevator today.|
This was the second Thanksgiving I have spent in Turkey, with all the delightful pun opportunities that provides (plus the sad irony that Turkey the fowl is difficult to come across in Turkey the country). The first was Thanksgiving 2009, when I was studying abroad in Egypt and a few of us took advantage of the long weekend to get out of dodge. Turkey felt like a breath of fresh air after the chaos and challenges of Egypt and I completely imprinted on it. I don't remember exactly what we did on Thanksgiving day, but we were probably seeing the sights around Istanbul. When we were back in Alexandria, our cohort simulated a Thanksgiving dinner as best we could. I missed my boyfriend, whose studies abroad had been curtailed early.
I came back to Turkey for the second time in spring 2012, fresh off three months working in the West Bank and less than a year after graduating from college. Turkey again felt orderly and easy to navigate after the complications of life in Palestine. I stayed for six weeks, volunteering on organic farms near Yalova and Fethiye. I missed my boyfriend, who was on a fellowship having his own adventures around the world. I didn't know it then, but a few months later I would start working at NDI and begin the defining chapter of my twenties.
This year, I'm relearning Turkish phrases and paying careful attention to the security situation and focusing most of my attention southward. I'm remembering that travel, at best, lets us scratch the surface of a place. I celebrated Thanksgiving 2016 with friends from DC, roasted chicken and two kinds of stuffing, and a signature cocktail with pomegranate and rosemary. And I miss my boyfriend, who's embarking on his first year of law school.
Much has changed, much has stayed the same -- not least the regional environment and Turkish politics and foreign policy -- and I won't bore you with too much navel-gazing. Basically I have experienced the amount of growth and change that's only natural over the course of seven years in your twenties. But it strikes me that whenever I'm in Turkey, it's during a time of transition, of processing and figuring out next steps. For that reason and many others, it will always have a special place in my heart.
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