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Pre and Post Turkey, in Turkey, on Turkey Day

by Carmen McClelland

This will be the first time that I am away from home for Thanksgiving. Even though I go to school around 1,000 miles away from home, I still make it back in time. This will be a new experience that I am honestly worried about. I won’t be home for Christmas either. I am worried that these holidays will be easier to miss in the future.

My sister is already home with her boyfriend and the constant pictures of my dog, parents, and grandparents are making me homesick. There has been really only one uplifting event that has made this time easer: Karl. This is a dear friend of mine who decided that he was going to come and visit me. He decided on a Tuesday and was here Saturday night. Him being here reminded me enough of home and why I miss it, but also why I am here in Turkey. He left yesterday, but he was here for 10 days and boy, were they fun. I have never travelled for extended amounts of time with a friend, let alone in a different country, but I had the time of my life. I am now a pro at playing tour guide, and I was happy to test out my skills one more time.

He had heard all about the people, places, and food that I had been talking about for the past two months and now he was able to see it for himself. When he left, he told me that he had a wonderful time and doesn’t regret spontaneously taking a trip to Istanbul. It opened my eyes that I need to be more like that. I need to say yes to going places, trying new activities, and honestly just stepping out of my comfort zone. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be called a comfort zone, but this is what I am here for: to try new things and learn more about myself. I have a month left and I am going to make the absolute most of it.

Post Thanksgiving

I wrote the first part of the blog and ended up leaving it up on my screen for a few days, trying to figure out how I could also talk about what happened after Thanksgiving, and I decided that this is a two-part post. Half is about what I was feeling before Thanksgiving and the other half is what I am feeling after I have officially celebrated Thanksgiving without being with my family

I woke up on Thanksgiving, and I knew that I should be feeling different because of it being a holiday, but I honestly didn’t. If no one else around you knows about this holiday, then it seems like a regular day. I was determined for it not to be a regular day for me. I decided to be productive and go to a church that had beautiful Byzantine mosaics and get some paperwork done for a resident permit that I have to get next week. I started early and hopped on the bus, metro, and then walked to a tax office hidden away in a part of Istanbul that I had never been. I ended up asking a man for directions and he was going there himself. Not only did he take me with him, but he knew someone there and they got me my tax number in no time. It was really lucky and honestly put me in the best mood because I had expected to be there for an hour.

St. Savior in Chora Mosaics

St. Savior in Chora Mosaics

With this new found pep in my step, I walked towards the bus station, trying to figure out how to get to St. Savior Church, also known as Kariye Cami and also a museum. I saw a bus ahead that said it’s destination was in the neighborhood of the church. I hopped on and pulled out my map to try and follow where we were going. At one point we started to cross a bridge, and I started to get a gut feeling that this wasn’t correct. I realized then, as I saw the Hagia Sophia in the opposite direction from where it should have been, that I was entering in to Asia. How many people can say that they accidentally went to Asia? I am now one of those people. When the bus ride ended, it actually put me in a place from where I knew how to get to the area of where the church was. I hopped on, had a cup of çay, and enjoyed the boat ride back over to Europe.

It took a little more time and taxi drivers to get me to the museum but it happened. It was worth every hassle that had happened that day. It was stunning. I don’t know why it had taken me so long to get to it, but it did not let me down. It was incredible and honestly took my breath away when I walked in. I stayed there for a little bit, but I knew I had to get back for my Turkish class. I made it to class just in time, and then right after class, it was time for some turkey.

Thanksgiving Dinner with AIFS Group

Thanksgiving Dinner with AIFS Group

The majority of the AIFS group all met for dinner at Roberts College and it was beautiful. I will admit that I missed the stuffing and gravy that my mom makes, but this was a beautiful substitute. I was surrounded by people that I liked and that liked me. We actually all went around the table and said what we were thankful for, and it was touching. It really made me realize that this is an experience that I will never forget. It is life altering. While I hated being away from my family, and it will probably get worse around Christmas, I have a new appreciation for it. They say that you don’t miss something until you don’t have it, and now I know that I want to do my very best to make it to all future Thanksgivings. I am so thrilled to be in Istanbul, and honestly I wouldn’t have wanted to celebrate the holiday in any other way, but I am sure glad that I get to see my family in about a month. I love this city, but I also miss my family.

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