Tag Archives: study abroad

What Turkey taught me, a year later

What Turkey taught me, a year laterA cup of black tea sits at my side, its circular shape tossing a fuzzy shadow on my childhood dresser, a physical space that houses my past and present selves in unnerving harmony. Each item on my dresser represents one self or another, and the tea cup is no different.

I never write without it, for it reminds me of many things: my relatively newfound need for caffeine, Turkey (the country that drinks more tea than any other) and, most of all, the importance of an expanded definition of love.

A year ago today, I began packing for my Jan. 9-24 trip to Turkey (a major feat for me, given I’m typically pack in a fury the night before). While I gained new experiences and learned new things on the trip — including a taste for tea and an interest in Arabic — above all, I learned it’s possible to fall in love with a place.

Too often, the definition love is limited to familial or romantic relationships.

And when you go abroad, no one informs you that you might fall in love with a country. That it will be intoxicating, thrilling, nerve-wracking and sometimes, painful, all at once.

I think of Turkey every day, remembering the time I sipped sketchy pomegranate juice from an Istanbul street vendor’s limping cart. The time I admired the Arabic writing in the Hagia Sophia — and realized a nagging desire to read the swirly script.

Every time I find myself flipping through my Turkey photos, I remind myself that love manifests in myriad ways, and I’d be silly to trivialize or ignore them.

I love writing and its role as my go-to source of healing.

I love the Arabic language because it’s beautiful, and it reminds me not to take myself too seriously.

I love life-writing. Even as it invites me to explore others’ worlds, it subtly forces me to examine my own.

As I sip my obligatory writing-time tea, two things happen: I time-travel back to a country I love. I remember to actively expand my definition of love.

I’m grateful to Turkey for tea, baklava, Arabic and questionable fruit juice. But more than anything, I’m grateful for Turkey for reminding me every day that it’s possible to fall in love wherever I am.

Trip to Turkey promises a lesson in the power of uncertainty

I thrive on the thrill of certainty.

Though I’ve memorized the difference between “everyday” and “every day,” I check my beloved AP Stylebook each time I write it. I admit I relish the brief thrill in that moment of confirmation. And though I’ve memorized the family formula for caramel cake, I rifle through the recipe box each time I bake it in hunt of the now-tattered card.

Next week, however, I’ll embark on a big journey defined by uncertainty.

I’m traveling to Turkey Jan. 9-24 to learn about an unfamiliar culture on a new continent, and I’m uncertain what to expect. And weirdly enough, I’m fine with that (All right, I will be fine with it after I devour another piece of caramel cake).

When I wander the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, tour the Virgin Mary House in Izmir and try new food, I vow to let the uncertainty linger. While I get a thrill from confirming the amount of water in a top-notch cake recipe, I’m determined to realize the value in uncertainty.

I’m uncertain what that value will be for me, but I think I’ll begin the journey today, from my kitchen in Iowa: I’ll bake my beloved caramel cake recipe from memory.