Yesterday morning, I went out for breakfast (the food-related theme has already begun!) with my dil arkadaş (a CLS language partner/friend). We left Bursa for Tirilye, a small coastal town or köy, to visit one of my dil arkadaş‘s favorite kahvaltı spots. As we ate, she asked me a surprisingly hard question:
“What is your favorite memory of Bursa?”
After seven weeks of the program, maybe memories should have immediately come flooding back to me. Maybe I should have recalled so many wonderful moments that I had a hard time choosing.
But that’s not what happened. Instead, I sat blankly for a few seconds. Part of my hesitation stemmed from the fact that I am reliably unsuccessful at choosing favorites and generally refuse to do so. Honestly, though, it took a few minutes for ideas to come.
That’s not to say that I haven’t had a fantastic time in Turkey. I have. And eventually, I realized the reason for my hesitation: my favorite moments, days, and memories have been the relatively “normal” ones. And, in typical “me” fashion, center around memorable meals.
Like the time Merve (Mare-vay), my dil arkadaş, and her family invited me over for dinner during Ramazan. It was only my second week in Turkey and I essentially knew zero Turkish, but we still had a lovely night. Wonderful people, a serin balcony, warm food, and a great view. It was perfect.
Another time, a different host family heard that I hadn’t had a traditional family-filled İftar at my own house and immediately invited me for dinner. The meal that evening was a four-hour affair, with plates, cousins, and conversations galore. And even though I–for all intents and purposes–still spoke no functional Turkish, it was an incredibly happy night.
And so, I finally realized this afternoon, that food and family have defined some of the best moments of my time here. Yes, it’s simple. But–coming from a girl who hates choosing favorites–the two meals above definitely were two of my favorite nights in Bursa. And I have so much appreciation for the families who shared them with me.
Now we only have 1.5 weeks left in Bursa. For many, the countdown has already begun. But for the 10 days I have left in Bursa, I have a new goal. Each time I drink Turk kahvesi with my language partner, have cay and baklava with other American students, or prepare food with my new host family, I want to make it a similarly enjoyable experience.Yes, I have tried to be vegan in Turkey and no, it hasn’t always been successful. But the positive food memories I’m taking away are, as always and quite unsurprisingly (especially if you know either me or my mother :)) among the highlights of this experience.