Turkey for Thanksgiving
Even late in November and cloaked in cold, dreary rain, Istanbul remains one of our favorite cities in the world.
The first time we visited was three and a half years ago — our last trip before the Foreign Service. In fact, it fell quite literally right before D joined America’s diplomatic corps. That trip had been in the works for at least half a year. D had passed the orals — the last stage in the Foreign Service testing process, but his security clearance took such a long time — well over a year — that we had long before given up on factoring the Foreign Service into our short-term plans.
S was still in grad school, and we intended to spend our spring break in Turkey with her family, splitting ten days between Istanbul and Cappadochia, the spectacularly scenic plateau in central Turkey whose fairy chimneys and ancient rock churches are one of the true wonders of the world. S’s mom had booked our hotels and internal flights months in advance, and we were already dreaming of the mounds of baklava we would consume when D’s security clearance arrived unexpectedly.
On its heels came an invitation to join the March 2011 cohort, whose training was set to begin the very next day after we were to return from Turkey. We looked into changing our flights, and even briefly thought about scrapping the trip altogether. In the end, D wound up packing two sets of suitcases. After ten amazing days, we flew back from Istanbul to Chicago, took a cab home and had just enough time for a rushed goodbye before D picked up his pre-packed bags and returned to the airport. He arrived in DC around midnight, and was in training early the next morning, jet-lagged, bleary-eyed, and his mind still half a world away.
Istanbul is just a short one-hour flight away from Chisinau. In fact, it’s one of just a handful of places that are easy and relatively inexpensive to reach from Moldova. As soon as we arrived here we put Istanbul on our must-visit list, but it took us almost a year and a half to make the trip a reality, and it almost didn’t happen at all. We had planned to spend Thanksgiving in Chisinau because D’s supervisor was supposed to be out of the country, but when her travel plans fell through, it enabled us to go for an extended weekend instead.
Our visit to Istanbul marks the fourth straight year that we have spent Thanksgiving on the road. We celebrated our first Thanksgiving in the Foreign Service at a combination Indian/Italian restaurant in Tanzania — a feast that marked our successful ascent of Mt. Kilimanjaro. The next year we at least had a proper Thanksgiving meal, but it was again away from home — we spent the holiday with a large group of our Ultimate frisbee friends in Watamu, on the Kenyan coast. Last year, we travelled to Vienna for Thanksgiving. This year, though we again missed out on the mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce, our travels were at least thematically appropriate. We did not eat turkey; instead, we went to Turkey for Thanksgiving.