A Turk(ey) in Turkey for Turkey(sgiving).

I sincerely apologize for the title of this post. 

I’ve finished up my papers. I’ve done my last load of laundry in Denmark. I’m wrapping up the final steps of studying abroad. So, here I am, reflecting on my past travels home to Turkey.

I haven’t been able to travel back home over the past five years for a myriad of reasons: family visiting the US, starting college, the political climate, and the fact that I’ve grown quite a bit since I was last home as a fifteen-year-old who was worried about outlining her AP Euro chapters from her aunt’s balcony. After being in Copenhagen for around a week in August, I decided to book a flight to Ordu for Thanksgiving break. I didn’t think the three months in between would pass so quickly.

I was completely incapable of sleeping the night before and therefore ended up passing out on the flight to Istanbul. (Side note: the great thing about study abroad is that I’ve taken more flights within the last four months than I have my entire life. So, I’ve become decently capable at falling asleep on planes.) After an unpleasant layover, I landed in Ordu…more than twelve hours of travel later.

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The week that proceeded is a huge blur filled with family, çay (chai, tea, chai tea), and lots of food. Essentially, I complained about the lack of spice in Danish cuisine (sorry, Denmark, but y’all got to take it a few steps up) and my aunts decided to rectify the situation by making every traditional dish my heart could ever desire. During our many cooking-conversations, I was asked what traditional Danish food was like. After some thought, I told them that I can’t accurately answer their questions because I haven’t tried most traditional Danish meals; since Danish cuisine is built upon pork, my options have been quite limited. On the other hand, I hadn’t really given this much thought. Being both in the US and in Denmark (and now having traveled to many countries in Europe), I have gotten used to finding dietary accommodations. But back home, never did I have to worry about the meat I was eating, nor did I have to go out of my way to find accommodations when I ate out.

 

It was a strange feeling finally being in a place where the cultural “things” I do are completely normal. The difference between being in the US and Denmark is that my parents and I have been able to establish our own cultural context while still being in the US. We make our çay, keep pork out of the house, and make life feel like home. This made me think about kids like me in Denmark, growing up in this juxtaposed space where, outside your doorstep, the culture around you doesn’t want to accommodate your needs, so you have to make that space for yourself. It oftentimes doesn’t start or end with simply skin color, but instead is an amalgamation of cultural and religious identities that amplifies this feeling of “otherness.”

While home, I quickly got used to a life where my family members are next-door neighbors. To hearing the ezan, the call to prayer, marking the time of day. To seeing the Black Sea from the balcony. To greeting others with assalamualaikum. Within a few days, I had gotten so accustomed to life at home that I didn’t feel like leaving. My aunt picked up on my nostalgia, and found it interesting how even though my mom raised me in the States, I had managed to hold on to Turkish culture—arguably more than my mom—whether it be tying a çember around my head into a bow, following the newest weird wedding trends, or being invested in my religious identity.

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Yes, I live in the US, but my identity will never be fully American; I will always live within the liminal space of the hyphenated: Turkish-American. After being in Denmark for a semester, I’ve realized the privilege (although I could go into discussion on the problematic nature of assimilation and integration of American culture, but alas) of having this dual identity. I’m not sure if the same is true in Denmark, where “Danishness” seems to be contingent upon (white) Danish ancestry, and not necessarily an adoption of Danish cultural norms. This question of identity is difficult, as facets of my identity are constantly in dynamic flux while other facets stay consistent and define who I am. The former is difficult to manage, as it’s oftentimes scary to reconcile these changes, no matter how insignificant they may be.

And perhaps that’s why I talk about my Turkish identity: it’s something that grounds me and contextualizes my existence; it is embedded in a deep history that constantly needs deconstructing; it is a part of me—my DNA, my name, my upbringing, and all of the things that follow—that I’m grateful for.

Especially within a Danish context, it is something I will yell from the rooftops. My existence here has transformed into an act of protest, as the social rhetoric is often against people like me being here in the first place. Within the broader immigrant context, it’s been interesting to chart the history of this discourse in Denmark for my Danish final, and it is a constant reminder that ethnic identity serves as much as a tool for building bridges as a tool to burning them apart.

Trying to find words that describe what it was like leaving my family is difficult; I’m used to staying there for summers at a time, where after two and a half months, I feel ready to return to the US. The week felt far too short, and I wished that I had more time to joke around with my aunts, hop from family member’s living room to another family member’s living room for night-time çay, and eat unlimited fluffy white bread. As I’m nearing my last days in Denmark, I am faced with a bittersweet reality: I have grown in unimaginable ways, have bonded with people who will now be far from me, have found spaces of comfort, have lost those spaces only to find new ones, and will leave a part of myself here within the mess of it all.

Until next time.

PS: I, unfortunately, did not eat any Turkey in Turkey this Thanksgiving. My family is still a bit confused about the premise of the holiday, and turkey is really expensive nowadays.

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*radio static*

hello, dear reader,

I am currently preparing (albeit unsuccessfully) for finals, but I will return soon with some reflections from going home to Turkey (!!) for thanksgiving break. I have a few papers to outline and prepare during my last two weeks, and I want to ensure I leave this semester on a good note. With that being said, here is a haiku:

christmas has arrived

why is it so cold outside

leggings under jeans

 

talk soon.

#How to Heck: Living in a Homestay

This post is dedicated to yogurt med müseli

As if choosing housing in college wasn’t already difficult enough, dear reader, now you have to choose between an array of housing options for your semester abroad. If you’re lucky, perhaps your school has already made the choice for you. In my case, Wesleyan let me choose between a homestay, a kollegium, and a folk high school.

And today, friends, is when I convince you that a homestay is the best DIS housing option. (Kind of.)

Continue reading “#How to Heck: Living in a Homestay”

Abroad and the “Talk”

this post is dedicated to my mom. 

i miss you, and i’m also going to be writing about the stuff I did behind your back.

sorry. 

I’ve done a lot of writing, talking, and discourse-ing about growing up in a Turkish-slash-Middle Eastern-slash-non-white home. There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to the intersection between immigrant parents and parenting, and the intersection between daughter being raised in the US and growing up in a Turkish house, but that is a long-winded conversation for another time. Except, not quite.

Today, we discuss “the talk”.

No, not that talk. Continue reading “Abroad and the “Talk””

Adventures and Frolicking: Oh, Brussels

this post is not dedicated to belgium

It physically pains me to write about this experience. My day in Brussels felt like it was fifteen years. And so the cynicism begins. 

So, let’s start with Amsterdam. My last Adventures and Frolicking post ended with returning back to my hostel. A few hours later, we woke up to make the train to Brussels, leading up to weird concept number one: if I take a train in New York for three hours, I’ll probably still be in New York. If I take a three-hour train in Europe, I’ll end up in another country. This was the case for Brussels: RyanAir was offering a deal from Brussels to Madrid for $25, and you know we were going to take advantage of it. The detour to Brussels seemed reasonable, because hey, Belgian waffles and fries.

Continue reading “Adventures and Frolicking: Oh, Brussels”

Traveling and Frolicking: Amsterdam

rest in peace, wallet

After months of planning and stressing and god-knows-what, I embarked on my week-long journey through Europe for Travel Week II. With my friends from DIS, I charted the cheapest way around Europe. Our first stop was Amsterdam, and after losing a few friends at the airport, we began our journey around the world, kind of. Continue reading “Traveling and Frolicking: Amsterdam”

#How to Heck: Budgeting in Copenhagen

this post is dedicated to all the shawarma I have eaten

It’s been over two months since I’ve been in Copenhagen—and it’s been a long, wonderful, and exhausting two months. I’ve finally been able to get my bearings straight with budgeting, and so, we shall channel the inner Wise Melisa™, who will reflect on her spending habits for the past two months.

I mentioned this in an earlier post about affording Copenhagen: I am operating on a $1,600 budget, with a bit of wiggle room “just in case.” I worked two jobs over the summer, a research fellowship and weekend shifts at a local children’s museum, spending very little money with study abroad in mind. I still have loans to pay off (lol) so I’m spending less than what I earned to eventually pay those off (yay! I love having debt! #studentlyfe #ramenlyfe!)

Continue reading “#How to Heck: Budgeting in Copenhagen”