15 November 2010

The way Istanbul says hello: merhaba

Merbaha, from Istanbul! Written 11 Novemeber 2010:

I exited the plane this morning at 10 AM after a long and sleepless flight to Istanbul from New York. I was driven straight to Kemerburgaz, Istanbul along the coast line and through the city. I had no idea I would be going straight to my host family's house, I thought there might be a few days of rest and orientation awaiting me. Not so. Luckily, I ended up with a welcoming host family, a sure sign of luck since I'd never even spoken with them, only about them with my program coordinator. I fell asleep at 6 pm sans dinner and slept like one only can after traveling for 2 days. I have exhausted my cash resources for now due to the fact that I had to haul all of my luggage into New York for the night via taxicab and back again the next afternoon...I've taken the subway from the airport without four bags, and even then it was a hassle. There was no way I could've executed it cheaply. The ride was very pleasant, getting to see the night skyline of the city appearing from under the bridge as we drove to 86th and Lexington where my oldest and closest friend from my days in the city was letting me crash for the night. We had a rowdy good time chatting and catching up for the next few hours. The ride back to the airport the next day, (after I had spent a leisurely morning eating organic cheerios and drinking tea with Autumn, visiting my favorite painting, Springtime, by Pierre Auguste Cot at the Met, having lunch at my favorite soup hangout Hale and Hearty, lattes at Dean and Deluca, and generally enjoying strolling about my old stomping grounds on the Upper East Side of Manhattan on the most gorgeous fall day I'd ever seen the city offer) was equally the easiest and most pleasant trip to the airport I have probably ever taken. Must always budget for taxi rides whenever I am traveling with excessive baggage.

The flight from New York was incredibly comfortable and luxurious. It must have been good karma finally coming my way after the torment I had endured from the SLC parking enforcement crew throughout the entire summer. Somehow, with the Universe's blessing, I had my ticket upgraded to first class. Upon entering the plane and taking my seat, I was immediately offered juice or champagne. Before take-off, we were all handed the night's menu--and we sat back contemplating our first course options (a pepper-crusted tuna steak and feta cheese sampler with a soybean and seaweed salad, or a cream of lettuce soup with a spiced-lentil asparaguas and squash salad) as the crew readied the plane for our departure. Disclaimer: I will always choose the soup option, even if it is cream of lettuce. 

The first course was served and I sampled my first taste of cream of lettuce soup. Very...lettuce-y. I cant' say I would recommend it to anyone who wouldn't be craving soup in 100 degree desert heat the way I would. We soup lovers have to go through a lot to sustain our vice. The lentil-asparagus-squash salad was tasty and well-seasoned, but something about it was giving me a major headache. I forwent the rest of the veggie-bean salad in favor of a crisp green one made with baby spinach, dried cranberries, and pine nuts that was now being served with seeded rolls and butter. Much better. For the main course I went with a simple cheese ravioli and artichoke hearts. The artichoke hearts were the same ones from Costco that had been my job to separate anytime Aaron and I made pizza or spaghetti sauce. The artichoke hearts made me sad--the food started to lump in my throat and the immensity of what I was doing, where I was going, away from everything and everyone I knew began to really weigh heavily on me in a "no turning back now" kind of way.

I estimate that our meal was served over the course of three or four hours, as I dropped off to sleep with five hours remaining on our nine hour flight, somewhere over Nova Scotia.

I woke to light from the Turkish sky seeping through the cracks on the blinds that had been pulled shut throughout the night. I enjoyed a fruit and yogurt breakfast and tea while flying in low over hundreds of minirets as we began our landing in Istanbul. Collecting my visa that will sustain me legally in Turkey for the next 90 days before I have to get it renewed, and the line to have my passport stamped, was also some of the simplist "line-waiting" I've ever done. Things almost went too well for me traveling here. I have now been here one week, and haven't had a moment to collect my thoughts in a coherent, readable way until now. The adventure has just begun, more on Kemerburgaz, Turkish breakfast, and the local Starbucks to come!

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