There is a great scene in the director’s cut of Pulp Fiction that did not make it to the big screen when the film premiered in the United States. At her apartment, Uma Thurman greets John Travolta with a small hand-held camera and proceeds to interview him before they go out to dinner and dance that memorable twist routine. In an interview, Quentin Tarantino said that he omitted the scene not because he didn’t like it — on the contrary, it sheds light on some subsequent dialogue that otherwise has no context — but rather because there were too many other movies in the early 90’s that featured similar on-camera, confession-style interviews. He did not want to be part of a fad, even if he had thought up the idea first, so he axed the scene.
Last year Hanukkah coincided with Thanksgiving. This year, it practically ran into Christmas. We lit candles, gave Munchkin his presents, watched him ignore the gifts and chew on the wrapping paper instead. Judaism has quite a number of somber observances; along with Purim, Hanukkah is the best-known holiday that makes this religion fun. It is better to celebrate with children, and as Munchkin is still too young to fully grasp the significance of the festivities, we threw a kid-centric party to mark the occasion.
Sprawled across both banks of the Bosphorus, with one foot in Europe and the other in Asia, Istanbul can be overwhelming. On our first visit, we took in most of the must-see sights. We visited the Blue Mosque, Aya Sofia and both the Topkapi and Dolmabahce palaces. We strolled around the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market, visited the underground Basilica Cisterns, and took a trip up the Bosphorus to the Princes Islands. With all that, we barely scratched the surface of all that Istanbul has to offer.
In Nairobi, almost all of our friends either had young kids or were actively trending in that direction. Though at times we felt a bit left out, we were not ready for children. We had gotten married two weeks before arriving in Kenya — our first posting with the State Department — and we did not want to jump into parenthood right away. So, we got a puppy instead. Some friends joked that Emmie was our proto-baby. Watching her interact with Munchkin now, it seems there was quite a bit of truth to that jokey statement.
Walking by the Blue Mosque, a couple crossed our path. The man turned to us and asked where we were from and whether we spoke English. This kind of interaction happens a dozen times every day on the streets of Istanbul, the inquirer almost always being a seemingly well-meaning local intent on selling something. It would have been an unremarkable moment if both of us had not instantly recognized the man and his female companion.
Given the central role food plays in Thanksgiving celebrations, Istanbul seemed like an appropriate place to spend the holiday. As we had already visited most of the must-see sights on our previous trip, it was the city’s many culinary treats that made us look forward to this trip the most. A dizzying assortment of delicious meze, mounds of baklava, fresh pomegranates even in the dead of winter — a trip to Turkey is sure to delight all of the senses, and one especially.
Though they are not that far behind us, we already miss Munchkin’s infant days, and it’s not just because he was so small, cute, snuggly, and easy to hold. Despite the seemingly continuous feedings and constant diaper changes, life was much simpler. If he cried, we tried to figure out what was wrong and fix it; once calm was restored, we knew we could relax until his next tiny crisis knowing that we had done our parenting duty. One can’t spoil an infant, but now that he’s mobile, parenting has become a lot more hectic and challenging.
After the tournament in Kigali, we stayed an extra day in Rwanda to go gorilla trekking. In Uganda, we combined Ultimate frisbee with a visit to a chimpanzee sanctuary and a rafting trip down the Nile River. Though Sofia did not hold out the promise of similar adventures, we made sure to schedule enough time before the tournament started to see the city.