August 14, 2015

Notes from the US

Yummy picnic with my in-laws in Flagstaff

Alan and Walter Dog
Bridesmaids in Phoenix

Turkish Breakfast with the family

Eleven days in America: four in Flagstaff, three in Phoenix, and four in Lincoln. A lot of it was eating, but most of it was reconnecting with friends and family in my various home bases in the US.

I enjoyed eggs, bacon, and a lot of coffee for breakfast. Shredded Mini-Wheats with almond milk, an espresso set from a Flagstaff coffee boutique, a sushi night with my parents, an Arby’s meal with my in-laws, In-N-Out burger with an old friend. Alan and I made beyti kebab (spiced meat inside a crispy lavash wrap) for his parents, and I served up a grand Turkish breakfast for my parents and grandparents.

I ate as much Dairy Queen ice cream cake as I could in 48 hours, and I had Mexican food as often as my body would allow.

I got to live out my fantasy shopping spree at Target. In preparation for the heat and humidity I’ll be encountering for the next year, I loaded my cart with sunscreen, cornstarch powder, and an additional indestructible water bottle.

Alan and I bought rain jackets and new backpacks at REI.

Did I mention that I acquired a much-needed new shoe wardrobe? Thank you Zappos. Ah consumerism—I love you. I wish I got paid to name drop these companies.

So, superficial eating and shopping out of the way, let’s recap the real highlights of my visit.

Critters: I got to spend time with Alan’s dog, Walter. He’s an old yellow lab who is still sweet as ever with his long jowls drawing his face downward. He appears to be playing a banjo with his back leg when you scratch the spot just above his hip. In Phoenix, I stayed with a friend’s parents. They’ve got two friendly cats who provided my kitty-therapy. Finally, back in Lincoln, I got to take the big blacklab/shepard to the bark park for a swim. I also spent quality time with my cats. Twilight, the 20-year-old cat who has been a best friend since I was 8, is still sweet and cuddly, though her age has taken a toll on her eyesight and agility. Berlin, the tuxedo-colored kitten I adopted without much forethought (college will do that to you), has grown into a sleek and petite cat who likes to burrow under the covers on my parents bed. It’s darn cute. She’s not a people-cat like Twilight, but she has her moments of affection.

Friends: Although most of my friends have dispersed from my homebases to locales around the country and around the world, I was able to meet up for a pedicure and dinner with a friend from volleyball in Flagstaff and another friend for that tasty In-N-Out burger in Phoenix just before my flight to Nebraska.

One of the most important reasons that I came home between Turkey and Thailand was to be a part of one of my best friend’s weddings. She got married in Phoenix during the only weekend I was in the US this year. By the way, being so jet-set has my ego a little inflated! It was so much fun spending time with the bride and getting to know the other maids better. For the bachelorette party, we went to a drink-wine-and-paint bar where we made our best attempts at recreating an ambitious scene. Between the wine and the cute painter assistants, we had a great night! The rehearsal dinner was held in a trendy wine bar in downtown Tempe (I think). It was such a treat to order alcohol with my dinner, as that was a near impossibility in Kayseri. I enjoyed the downtown vibe a lot. The next day, the maids got ready together in a cloud of hairspray and shimmer lotion. I loved it. It’s so fun to be girly every now and then. It occurs to me that I often document the details of life abroad, but that the details of American life are pretty cool too. The ceremony itself was short and sweet. The groom’s father officiated, and he got a little choked up, which sent the room into collective tears. Very sweet. During the reception, my friend’s unique interest in Samba and Brazilian music made an appearance in the form of a Brazillian drum line. The exotic rhythm had us all dancing and following them out of the building into the heat of an August night in Phoenix. The night didn’t stop there, though! We followed up the reception with a pub crawl on Mill Avenue, a hip area of Tempe. I can’t say it was much of a crawl, as Alan and I spent the night catching up with old friends from Flagstaff in the same pub. A wonderful night.

By the time I made it to my own family in Nebraska, I was really ready to see them. After a year, 15-year-old brothers look VERY different. My brother was suddenly the same height as me, with a voice a couple octaves lower. We reverted to our usual ways immediately, conning our parents into a late-night ice cream run on the way back from the airport. Home sweet home.

My priorities for the Nebraska visit were to maximize time with family (grandparents in particular) and pets. I saw my grandparents every day that I was in Nebraska—something I’m very proud of. I’m very close to them, and I had a lot of fun telling them everything about Turkey. They humored me for a Turkish breakfast, which turned out pretty good considering that I had to make do with American ingredients. Amish beef sausage plus some red pepper and garlic is actually pretty close to sucuk (Turkish sausage). I served the whole nine yards: tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese, bread, olives, Nutella, sausage with eggs, Turkish omelette, and of course Turkish tea. I even cooked Turkish coffee after the meal with a cezve I brought from Kayseri. Yum. It was an impressive spread, and I loved sharing details of the meal with my family. One of my brother’s friends had stayed the night, so he probably got a little more than he bargained for when we invited him to the table.

Although it was a short trip, I feel like I squeezed out a lot of goodness. My bags are repacked, and probably sitting on one of those little airport trolleys at the moment. I’m ready to get back to my work as a teacher. I don’t really know what to expect from Chiang Rai, but I’m sure it has a lot of surprises in store for us. I hope we will find a peaceful place to live for a few years and experience a new culture.

Wish us luck and smooth flight connections. I’m already looking at an hour delay out of Omaha as I fly to Chicago to meet up with Alan.