Giving Thanks

Snow covered branches

Snow covered branches

Thanksgiving is one of my all-time favorite holidays, primarily because it involves some of my favorite things in life: cooking, dining, being thankful, and spending time with friends and family. Living abroad, thousands of miles from my family, can be difficult at times, especially around the holidays. Thank goodness for Skype, email, facebook and messaging apps, but it’s still not the same as spending time together. Of course I had pangs of jealousy that my entire immediate family was spending thee week together at my brother’s home in North Carolina. Thankfully, I have friends in the same situation throughout Turkey, so Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to get together and celebrate.

My family's holiday table in North Carolina, USA

My family’s holiday table in North Carolina, USA

The holiday table in Adana

The holiday table in Adana

After joining a jovial Thanksgiving feast with new friends in Adana Thursday evening, I decided to make my way to a feast up north in Erzurum. Being a rather out-of-the way location, I firstly had to fly through Istanbul. I departed Adana early Friday morning, where temperatures were cool in the sixties (Fahrenheit). Upon landing in Istanbul I added another layer, as temperatures there were in the high forties and drizzly. When my airplane finally emerged from the clouds just over Erzurum, I was in a completely different place. The ground was white, already covered from that morning’s snowfall (and only the second one this year… I was in luck!). By night time, temperatures had dropped to -22 Celsius (-8 Fahrenheit). It was COLD. But the snowfall was delightful. There were snowball fights all around and snowmen and women (and teyzes) came out. I was here to meet with good friends, enjoy a bit of winter, and prepare a feast, and that we did.

Flying over snow capped mountains somewhere in Central Turkey, with clear blue skies

Flying over snow capped mountains somewhere in Central Turkey, with clear blue skies

Leaving Istanbul with mild but cool temperatures

Leaving Istanbul with mild but cool temperatures

Our plane finally flies low enough to see something through the thick fog ... and this is what I see!

Our plane finally flies low enough to see something through the thick fog … and this is what I see!

Welcome to Erzurum!

Welcome to Erzurum!

This girl was waiting for me

This girl was waiting for me

a snowy cig kofte lunch

a snowy cig kofte lunch

snowmen abound

snowmen abound

The first evening, we partook in the mandatory dinner of cag kebap, the local specialty. I must admit, I have come to appreciate it more, especially with the new knowledge that one is allowed to order skewers without the additional clumps of tail fat. My dear friend Emily prepared some stellar apple and pumpkin pies, and we spent significant time indoors. Thankfully, Emily and Elizabeth’s apartment is on campus and their heating expense is subsidized by the government. Believe me, their home is always toasty.

Friends walking to dinner

Friends walking to dinner

Taking tea Erzurum style, with a lemon

Taking tea Erzurum style, with a lemon

Part of my cag kebap skewer

Part of my cag kebap skewer

Ataturk University

Ataturk University

Apple pies in the making

Apple pies in the making

Apples getting even more delicious

Apples getting even more delicious

snow snow snow

snow snow snow

Saturday was spent preparing various dishes for that evening’s meal and also catching up with friends. Elizabeth spent the day running back and forth to a local restaurant who had so graciously offered to let us prepare and cook the two turkeys we had come by in their kitchen. I accompanied her on the last run, and this was quite the oven our little (or not-so-little…) birds were roasting in! It’s not a far stretch to say the oven was about the size of Emily and Elizabeth’s entire kitchen.

Stove top space at the apartment

Stove top space at the apartment

Mashing up some potatoes

Mashing up some potatoes

Butter and garlic

Butter and garlic

Still mashing

Still mashing

Deviled (or angeled, as my mother says) eggs

Deviled (or angeled, as my mother says) eggs

Dish duty

Dish duty

Checking on the turkey

Checking on the turkey

Waiting on the turkey

Waiting on the turkey

Almost, almost...

Almost, almost…

Yes!

Yes!

That's right-- turkey in Turkey. Ha!

That’s right– turkey in Turkey. Ha!

Mixing flour and water for gravy

Mixing flour and water for gravy

Getting some help with hot liquids

Getting some help with hot liquids

Working on the gravy

Working on the gravy

This stove is serious

This stove is serious

That entire center piece is the stove, full of fresh wood and hot fire

That entire center piece is the stove, full of fresh wood and hot fire

Wrapping the birds

Wrapping the birds

After a stream of adventures at the restaurant, our birds were eventually wrapped up like Christmas presents and ready for us to transport back to the apartment in a taxi. We were greeted by scents of fresh baked delights and a home full of guests, about half Turkish and half American. Soon, the feasting began. We were honored to be joined not only by friends and colleagues of the Erzurum crew, but also by our wonderful Fulbright coordinator, Mevlude, who had flown out from Ankara for the occasion, with sweet potatoes from the big city in tow. That evening I also somehow managed to end up with a çay demlik (a Turkish-style tea pot) and it’s steaming hot contents (tea leaves and boiling water) on top of my sock-clad foot… but thanks to the local burn expert (having endured his own much more severe burns while we were all in Ankara months before) my foot was treated appropriately and long-term damage should be mild. If anything, the burn will provide lasting memories of our enjoyable time together.

A small portion of the shoes inside the doorway

A small portion of the shoes inside the doorway

Elizabeth giving a Thanksgiving speech. welcoming everyone...

Elizabeth giving a Thanksgiving speech. welcoming everyone…

And explaining the food items...

And explaining the food items…

Finally it's time to eat!

Finally it’s time to eat!

Dessert!

Dessert!

Post feast

Post feast

Quite a crew!

Quite a crew!

(And this was not everybody!)

(And this was not everybody!)

The festivities carried on, and we ended the evening in a ski lodge at the base of Palandöken, the domineering mountain that makes Erzurum a hot spot for skiing. Our group joined some birthday revelers dancing to live music in the small bar Rosebud (Citizen Kane?) and managed to not freeze between Point A and Point B. Overall, a success!

Dancing to a live band at the base of the mountain

Dancing to a live band at the base of the mountain

Said mountain

Said mountain

Party hats for all!

Party hats for all!

* For more on skiing Palandoken, see this previous post.

Sunday we gathered at a local restaurant for a Turkish breakfast, and then trekked around town in the snow, making stops at Taşhan and Erzurum Evleri, an old series of houses converted to a tea house/restaurant and filled with antiques from the area.

Quite the post-Thanksgiving breakfast selection...

Quite the post-Thanksgiving breakfast selection…

A balmy 0 degrees Celsius (32F) on this lovely afternoon

A balmy 0 degrees Celsius (32F) on this lovely afternoon

Downtown Erzurum

Downtown Erzurum

Exploring downtown

Exploring downtown

A local mosque

A local mosque

Erzurum!

Erzurum!

The Tashan specializes in Oltutas, a special stone mined from nearby mountains

The Tashan specializes in Oltutas, a special stone mined from nearby mountains

This is Oltutas

This is Oltutas

There is all kinds of jewelry available for purchase

There is all kinds of jewelry available for purchase

So much Oltutas

So much Oltutas

Significant sized prayer beads

Significant sized prayer beads

Leaving Tashan

Leaving Tashan

Nene Hatun!

Nene Hatun!

Snowman

Snowman

Erzurum Evleri

Erzurum Evleri

antique cookware

antique cookware

hot sahlep topped with cinnamon

hot sahlep topped with cinnamon

lovely antiques

lovely antiques

antiques

antiques

Before heading out, we dined on hamsi brought in from the Black Sea, a delightful delicacy of the season and the region. Travel—on an airplane, in a bus, train or car—always gives me time to think. There is so much to be thankful for, including the unceasing coincidences that creep into my life on a regular basis in Turkey—and this weekend allowed for plenty of opportunities to ponder all my blessings. Thank you to the entire Northeastern Region conglomerate of Fulbrighters who hosted and made this weekend memorable!

You don't see these in stores around Adana...

You don’t see these in stores around Adana…

Scrumptios hamsi

Scrumptios hamsi

One gal's new charm purchase

One gal’s new charm purchase

Görüşürüz kanka!

Görüşürüz kanka!

Festive Erzurum

Festive Erzurum

Goodbye snow!

Goodbye snow!

* For further reading about Erzurum, see this previous post.

* For more about this particular Thanksgiving, read Elizabeth’s post on the occasion.

 

 

 

 

 

One thought on “Giving Thanks

  1. So love reading your blogs Latasha! thinking of you and am whishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2014! Love you much! Marie

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