Everyday Abroad: Turkey

“Istanbul was Constantinople, now it’s Istanbul not Constantinople”

That’s right, we’re talking about Turkey, a land where east truly does meet west. To be walking among a city that once served as the capital of the Roman Empire, a city that was the largest and wealthiest of it’s time, is truly remarkable. Out of all the countries and cities I have been to, Istanbul still remains the most beautiful place I can think of. It could be in part due to the overwhelming hospitality of the Turkish people, their mouthwatering food, or just being in one of the most modern Islam nations in the world (there we go, east meeting west again). Turkey is quite mysterious, I must say. One of the more mysterious parts of it’s famed city, Istanbul, is the Roman era Basilica Cistern. Check this out…Medusa lives down there!

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A cistern, for those of you who may not know, is an underground water chamber. This one used to provide water to the city during the Roman Empire. Now, back to the mystery. No one actually knows the origin of the two Medusa heads that act as column pedestals. There are a few theories, however. Which do you think is true? That they were brought over after the destruction of an ancient Roman building for decorative purposes, that they were set down there as a way to protect the important waterway from bad omens, or that the two heads were placed and positioned (upside down and sideways) in order to nullify the gaze of the powerful Gorgon?

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Istanbul and Turkey are full of ancient secrets that are perfect for the more adventurous traveler. What will you discover when you visit this one of a kind country?

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From Our House to Yours

Happy Thanksgiving!

Our coordinator, Kelly, shares a memory of a particularly festive Thanksgiving celebrated abroad in Seville, Spain.

This time two years ago, I had a naked turkey between my feet on the ride home from school. It was in a plastic bag, but that was all that was shielding Turkey Tom from the elements and my sneakers.

It was so heavy. I had wheeled and dealed with the secretary at our school in Bollullos, who promised he could secure a turkey for me in time for our Thanksgiving feast (difficult to do in Spain). Our conversation was like something from Abbott & Costello.
– You want it cleaned?
– Yes, please clean it.
– Everything out?
– Yes, yes .. everything out.
– But you want the whole bird?
– Yes, the whole thing … empty.
– You want to kill it yourself?
– … WHAT?

I didn’t take him up on the offer, but surely did deliver a turkey to my apartment just a few days before Thanksgiving. Plucked? Yes.. except for those horrible little downy feathers that stuck to our fingers. Cleaned out? Yes.. except for the lungs that I discovered while skyping with my mom. My roommate Alex towering over my shoulder, angling my laptop just so. “Mom, there’s squishy stuff near the ribs.” “Take everything out.” “What the hell is it?” “I don’t know, but you have to take it out.”

There was a package from home, bearing the perfect late November gifts my roommates & I had been craving: McCormick gravy mix, cranberry sauce, Stove Top stuffing. We struck a deal with our group of teachers, and agreed to potluck the side dishes that make the meal. Some comedy ensued when we found ourselves without specific ingredients. Namely, pastel-colored marshmallows instead of basic white, on top of the sweet potatoes.

In the end our table seats fifteen, mostly Americans, with a Spanish couple in the mix. The end result was beautiful. A heavily laden table, a room full of happy, hungry friends and Spanish wine from our guests. We said our own form of grace, introducing our Spanish friends to the simple tradition of saying what you’re thankful for. Me? I was just glad I didn’t have to kill that turkey myself!

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