Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas & New Haircut

Christmas Eve
My roommate Alex loves Christmas, and we have been playing Christmas carols in our house for the past two weeks. I was equally looking forward to a church service on Christmas Eve at the St. Paul’s Cultural Center in Kaleiçi. The service included singing, storytelling of the Three Kings, candle lighting for hope and peace, and a sermon about the miracles of letting stars guide you. I was touched to learn about the church’s efforts in assisting Syrian refugees in Antalya. Alex and I both signed up to get involved with this initiative. After the service, we enjoyed hot cider and Christmas cookies, and mingled with English-speaking expats from around the world. During this time, I made a unique connection. Pastor Dennis apparently worked at Wheaten College when Dr. Luke Cutherell studied there. Dr. Luke is my family doctor and close friend from Pakistan; I was born in his Bach Christian Hospital. What a small world! Who would have thought my two worlds, Pakistan and America, would come together in Antalya, Turkey? It’s as if my personal statement goals are becoming a reality…

Christmas Day
I’m sure Christmas was not the same for Alex, but we had a pleasant day nonetheless. She got to talk to her family a lot via technology, so that helped bridge the distance of being away on this holiday. We spent December 25th at the hairdresser and Kaleiçi…
From raven black to ombré caramel hair. Time for change!
This year has been filled with adventures, and in this adventurous spirit, on Christmas Day, I decided to dye my raven black hair to ombré caramel. For those unfamiliar with hair styles, "ombré" means going from darker to lighter as the hair grows out. I first dyed my hair one tone lighter than black, so a super dark brown color. Now, my rich, dark brown hair flow down into a warm caramel brown/yellow. Change can sometimes be a tough transition, but I welcome this change with open arms, especially with 2016 around the corner. Cheers for new beginnings!

Christmas dinner with expat in Antalya.
Later that evening, Alex and I met up some friends for a nice dinner by the harbor in Kaleiçi. I had a çipura (bream) fish for dinner and Alex had curried shrimp, both of which were very fresh and delicious. We met these friends on a Facebook “Expats in Antalya” group. These ladies were from Ireland, Canada, USA, and Tunisia. The girl from Ireland, Grace, is interested in becoming our third roommate, so we will see what happens with that. When we got home that evening, Alex surprised me with a Christmas present. I was totally not expecting this! She gifted me pastel paints, paint brushes, and drawing paper and said to me: “Remember that day you stared at the sky and said ‘I know exactly how I would paint these clouds?’ Well, now you can.” How thoughtful! She knows painting is my childhood hobby and I don’t give it much time or attention; but now that I have supplies, maybe I’ll give the paintbrush a few strokes. Maybe I’ll paint a few landscapes from Turkey and bring them back to the USA with me. Overall, it was a lovely Christmas Day.

Weekend After Christmas
With some of our newly-made friends from the St. Paul Cultural Center, Liz, Alex and I attended the “Nutcracker” ballet on Saturday, a day after Christmas. Our friends kindly picked us up, and we drove to the theater, about a 15-minute drive. The new friends friends include an American girl, Nicole from Oregon, married to a Turkish man who spent 8 years in the USA, and their Turkish friend who could not speak English. It’s a nice group. The ballet was beautiful—there was more dancing than the story plot, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. I really loved the props on the stage and the orchestra playing in the pit. It was a perfect activity for Christmas spirit. For those unfamiliar with the Nutcracker, here’s a short synopsis stolen from Wikipedia:

Watched the "The Nutcracker" ballet after Christmas.
The Nutcracker and the Mouse King is a story written in 1816, by E. T. A. Hoffmann in which young Clara Stahlbaum's favorite Christmas toy, the Nutcracker, comes alive and, after defeating the evil Mouse King in battle, whisks her away to a magical kingdom populated by dolls.”

On Sunday, we invited our Pakistani family to our house for a dinner meal. I am so blessed that these people are in my life; they are such a lovable, enjoyable, and caring group of people. I met this group through Suhaib Bhai, whom I met at Akdeniz University one day. The group includes: married couple Adnan Bhai and Madiha Bhabi—they usually host dinner at their house—and their one-month old daughter, Auj; Qasid Bhai from Swabi doing a Master's in Turkey; Saba from Rawalpindi, a recent high school graduate studying for her bachelors at Akdeniz; four artists Khadija, Nasneen, Usman, and Zainab who are doing a semester abraod from their master's program in Pakistan and specializing in various art forms such as carpet making, painting, and pottery. Typically once a week, we gather at Adnan Bhai’s house to enjoy a home-cooked Pakistani meal and play Ludo, which can become aggressive at times because we have many competitive players, myself included. We split the costs of groceries at the end, so that they do not have to foot the bill every time. I love spending time with such warm company. Alex and I are also learning to make delicious Pakistani dishes from the ladies in the group, which I’m sure my mom is happy about. Alex is even picking up Urdu phrases such as "aja aja" which means "come come" and can count up to 6 (because the Ludo dice have 6 sides). We've also learned to make sweets, such as Gulab Jamun, whose recipe will be posted on the next blog post...stay tuned!
With our Pakistani family at Adnan Bhai's house.
Merry Christmas to friends and family back home! And Happy New Year to friends and family around the world!

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