Wednesday, December 9, 2015

"Trabsgiving" at Trabzon

This year I spent another Thanksgiving away from my family. Thanksgiving is a special holiday in American culture; it’s not just about eating turkey and stuffing our bellies with lots of food, it’s about spending time with loved ones and creating memories. I have been fortunate to spend Thanksgiving multiple times with my host family from Bowdoin, and this year, I missed both Brunswick and Alexandria, places I call home.

Nick, Samer, and Christian.
Two groups of Fulbright students hosted Thanksgiving dinner this year: Lily and Casey hosted a “Konyacopia” and the three boys in Trabzon hosted a “Trabzgiving”. Since we had already visited Konya, Alex and I decided to travel to Trabzon this time. We caught a 6:30pm flight from Antalya airport and arrived to Trabzon at 8:10pm. This was our first trip to another city by plane. I guess the week must have been very busy for us, because we forgot to jot down important information such as our Trabzon hosts’ address and phone number. This, as you can imagine, posed some challenges after we landed. After drinking some elma soda (carbonated apple juice), we began ask strangers if we could use their phones to log onto Facebook so that we could contact our friends. After a few rejections, one nice young man let us borrow his phone and we were able to contact our hosts, get an address, and taxi to Arzum, a market near their house. Alas, we were saved!

There were about 20 Fulbrighters who traveled to Trabzon this weekend. It was a full house! It was nice to be around native English speakers again, it gave a sense of home and belonging, which is what Thanksgiving is about. Some Fulbrighters got an Airbnb apartment nearby to sleep comfortably in a bed, while majority of us found spots on couches or the floor to spend the nights. Samer, Christian, and Nick—the three boys stationed in Trabzon and hosting “Trabzgiving”—were very kind and generous to allow so many people in their house. They provided snacks and took on the burden for majority of the food and accommodations. They even gave up their beds to their guests and didn’t mind sleeping wherever they could find a place.

On Friday and Saturday mornings, everyone roamed and explored different parts of Trabzon. Alex, George, Caileen, her boyfriend Gordon, and myself formed one group. We ate a late lunch, drank Caribou coffee (what an American delight!), and visited the main meydan (square). We also visited a little ‘Ayasofya’, a mosque that was once a church. The cami (pronounced “jami”), Turkish word for mosque, had two back doors: one for devout Muslims to enter and pray, and the other for curious visitors to enter and observe. Since I did not have vudu (proper cleansing before praying), I did not pray and instead entered through the foreigner door. I observed Jesus paintings scratched out in the stone domes and walls, and instead adorned with large frames with Allah and Muhammad’s names in Arabic. When we returned home after dinner, we learned some folks went to Riza, the famous Turkish tea fields.

Even though Thanksgiving was officially on Thursday, we had our big Thanksgiving meal on Saturday evening. Everyone cooked something or contributed in one way or another. In the end, we had lots of food! There were deviled eggs, Turkish rice, fried chicken, sarmi (rice wrapped in grape leaves, a Turkish appetizer), mashed potatoes, chicken gumbo, salad with pomegranate seeds, spinach dip, hummus, and of course, lots and lots of etmek (bread). We even had apple and pumpkin pies for dessert! Talk about feeling at home. Everything was so delicious and it was so filling. Samer, Nick, and Christian had also invited some of their Turkish friends to this Thanksgiving meal, so the house was unusually full, with well over 30 people. Our Turkish guests served first, so we could show them American hospitality for once and share with them a piece of our culture. After all, food brings everyone to the table.

More than 30 people were at Thanksgiving in Trabzon.

At Boztepe with Caileen and Gordon.
The next day, people left at various times to catch their buses or planes back to their home cities. Some Fulbrighters ventured out to Boztepe, a hill with a gorgeous city view of Trabzon. Since our flight was at 4pm, Alex and I decided to have warm çay with Caileen and Gordon before taxiing to the airport. When we got there, we ran into other housemates who had arrived to Boztepe before us. It was a chilly morning, so a big bubbling teapot was perfect. Boztepe had a colorful view of Trabzon, a city known for its natural beauty. It is typically cloudy and gloomy in Trabzon, and this weekend was no exception. Every time I see a breathtaking view of cities, something overcomes me. I find myself holding my breath and staring out in the distance, amazed by the both humankind creations (houses, roads, towers) and God’s creations (mountains, trees, seas, the sky). Both creations blend into one another, like paint colors on a canvass. Maybe the feeling I get when I experience these heights is a longing to return my childhood hobby of painting. Some of the photos I have captured with my phone, I hope to turn into paintings when I return to the USA. 

That’s all for now, thanks for reading. Next stop: Istanbul!

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