Tesekkürler, Turkey!

I, hereby, quote Alanis Morissette (with a minor geographical reallocation) to describe my current state of mind: thank you, Turkey. Besides these simple two words, how else can I describe this foreign country that once seemed so distant and exotic? Or rather, how can I simply describe the past two weeks? If I had to choose five words, it would certainly be along these lines: inspirational, colorful, dynamic, singular and spiritual.

My recent visit to Ankara was filled mostly with work. As soon as I arrived, I headed to the Association’s office to start the entire filming process. That alone, took the entire morning and a good amount of the afternoon. I still had time to visit one local touristic destination (Ataturk’s Mausoleum), but my lack of knowledge of the Turkish language certainly made my transportation around the city very difficult.

Nonetheless, Turkey as a whole has a lot to offer; and even though, I spent most of the days in front of a computer or behind a camera, I still had time to enjoy Istanbul and Ankara (although briefly) from a pure vacation perspective. Luckily, I already knew two locals: Andre and Elif. Indeed, already knowing a resident definitely alters one’s perspective; you experience the city as a local, rather than a tourist.

I had not seen my cousin for almost two years, and he welcomed me for a two-week stay at his apartment. Despite our conflicting schedules, ultimately it was great to recognize that the friendship still remains strong. And we even managed to add a few extra hilarious stories to our long curriculum. Though I cannot spare the entire gossip, being attack by a model wannabe with extra long nails can certainly be entertaining.

Afternoons sitting at cafes, a couple nights at local clubs, incredible meals at trendy restaurants, and most importantly, good conversations, were all possible due to the help of these two human beings. Plus, work has also put me in contact with a great institution, which has already built a great legacy of assistance.

Even though I barely saw the sunlight in these two weeks, the beauty of the city certainly brightened the afternoons. Istanbul is an inspirational place, and for a good glimpse of the city, start with a history lesson at Topkapi Palace, followed by a spiritual connection at the Blue Mosque and a pleasant walk through the café/bar filled streets of Taksim. End the day watching the sunset over the skyline from Galata Tower.

Another item that deserves full contemplation is the food. Köfte, bread, döner, olives, meze, you name it; everything tastes better in Turkey. And no matter how much you can eat, always reserve some space for the dessert. I definitely have a sweet tooth and as a result, I would often find myself inside a pastry shop trying anything that looked appetizing (and trust me, everything looks delicious).

Avoid traffic at any cost. After 4:00PM, most highways and streets get car filled. And don’t travel to Turkey without a spare space in your luggage. After visiting Grand Bazaar, or any other shop that sells local products, you will most certainly want to purchase several items.

Physically, I leave Turkey with a fuller beard, a bit thinner (call it an inconsequential diet) and apparent signs of tiredness. Psychologically, I arrive in Jordan feeling thankful. Thankful for the opportunity to evidence amazing non-profit work, thankful for the people I (re)encountered along the way and most importantly, thankful for being alive. Thank you, God; and thank you for following my steps.