A Pauper in Queens

Pack. Drive. Starbucks. Drive. Reststop. Drive. Arrive. Park. Unpack. Assemble. Arrange. Rearrange. Hug. Kiss. Goodbye. IMG_2156

My parents (bless their maternal/parental hearts) woke up early this morning and loaded up a borrowed truck with all of my belongings despite the upstate New York cold. My stuff, hidden away in storage for months, was dusted off and organized into crates, bags, larger bags and boxes. I pictured our boot tracks, imprinted in snow on the living room carpet and kitchen floor, melting into clear puddles as we drove away. Destination: Queens. 

IMG_2159I always forget the “first night in a new apartment” feeling until after the sun has set and dinner is nothing but empty plates and an unopened bottle of wine. Directly after opening the front door, I have a preprogrammed need to unpack quickly, to move my belongings from their cramped, dusty boxes and into my new nest. Kitchen supplies find new cabinets. Clothes find their rightful drawers. The bed is arranged and rearranged to find the “best” feng shui position. Move the bed away from the wall to encourage love. Never sleep facing the door. Avoid mirrors and electronics. Eventually, the packing slows and I inevitably find myself standing in a strange apartment with the pieces of my life scattered across the new hardwood floors. IMG_2160

This night, I did what any self-respecting individual would do. I opened a bottle of Champagne, cut a slice of pumpkin pie and watched Sleepless in Seattle. From my position on the couch, I could see into my bedroom but wasn’t ready to tackle the remaining bit of organizing that needed to be accomplished.  After the hotel/hostel lifestyle, the idea of sleeping in the same room for longer than five days feels confusing and excessive. Then again, the idea of having a job also seemed like a long forgotten concept and in just four days I will be rolling up to my new office in downtown Manhattan. Life changes pretty quickly. Oh look, my glass is empty… IMG_2157

Do you remember the end of Sleepless in Seattle? Sam Baldwin (Tom Hanks) meets Annie (Meg Ryan) at the top of the Empire State Building in a parallel of the 1957’s movie An Affair to Remember starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. It’s evening in New York City and foreshadowing You’ve Got Mail, Tom and Meg look at one another and fall in love. It’s magical.

I have a romantic vision of myself as a well-spoken, weller-dressed New York wonder woman. This fantasy individual has a packed social calendar but still has time to reverse climate change and get eight hours of sleep. She has an excellent shoe collection and remembers to dust under her bed more than once a year. Maybe one day, I will take the elevator to the observation deck of the Empire State building and like Tom Hanks, find my crazy New York adventure was exactly what I needed it to be. In the meantime, I’m just an uprooted sapling hoping there is enough soil in Queens to find nutrients and put down new roots. 

New keys. New door. Same me. 

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[Like the pictures? Thanks new iPhone 6. I have rejoined the current generation.]

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Home (Sweet) Home

On Monday night, Emirates Flight 250 from Milan Malpensa Airport landed safely in New York City at JFK. The city glittered in the crisp November evening and passengers unbuckled their seat belts in a chorus of clicks and clacks. Bags were removed from overhead bins and children, woken from their airborne sleep, cried and whimpered in their parents’ arms. I leaned my face against the glass of the airplane window and watched my reflection faint against the black tarmac. The eyes in the window formed tears which spilled into the orange traffic cones and blinking safety lights far beyond the well-lit cabin. I willed the plane back into the sky, wished a reversed path east over the Atlantic and a safe return back to Italy where the journey had begun three and a half months ago. My desperate pleas were in vain. I bundled up my belongings, powered on my phone, and joined the line of weary passengers as they exited the plane.

Ciao Milano

Three days have passed since then. The subtle awareness of returning to the United States happens unexpectedly in the most mundane ways. The waiters at the restaurant speak English. My computer and phone charger no longer require thick boxy adapters. My mornings are spent deciding what outfit I will wear, overwhelmed by the sheer number of clothes and shoes, before returning to my pjs and slippers. Most things–my parents’ house, my friends’ lives, the life I left– seem relatively unchanged and I catch myself wondering if this adventure was all just a dream. All that remains from my European excursion is an opened box of Turkish Delight and the small collection of dirty clothes still stuffed into dusty backpack in the living room.

P1060391But this life, the life back home, is filled with new and colorful sweets as well. This weekend I’m spending time exploring the new apartment in Queens and preparing for a job interview with a sustainability company in Manhattan. I missed my friends and still relish the luxury of texting them from the same time zone, catching up on promotions, new adventures and graduate school applications. They have welcomed me back with open arms as if no time as passed at all and it is these people I’ve returned to that make the loss of others somewhat easier to bear. P1060389

I’m baking again with a full kitchen at my disposal and countless pumpkin muffin recipes to try. I have a plethora of blog posts to write and newfound time to write them (thanks unemployment). And I have yet another city just waiting to be explored with a new wide-eyed, friendly, curious traveler self to take into this new chapter of my life. Maybe I’m not traveling across country lines at the moment but I’m still exploring every day.

Thank you, dear readers and dearer friends, for welcoming me home. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say that in some ways…

it is good to be back. 

Goodbye Turkey

Dear Turkey,

I’m flying out of Istanbul tomorrow morning. I feel as if we’ve just met and it’s already time to say goodbye. I loved your ocean views in Bodrum and the orange trees in Turgutreis. I walked through your ancient ruins of Ephesus, Aphrodisia, Hierapolis, and Olympus. In your night, I hiked in the darkness to the eternal flame and in your morning, I rose above the earth in a hot air balloon. In your buses, I lost many hours of sleep. I hiked the trails of Cappadocia, learned new games and drank tea. Lots and lots of tea. You gave me the kindest strangers, the warmest homes, and the best breakfasts.

And now with a bulging backpack and a heavy heart, I will take an assortment of candies, spices, medallions and gifts back to my friends and family so they may experience part of your culture, history and love. Thank you.

Until we meet again,

K

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10 Steps: Turkish Breakfast

I have enjoyed Turkish breakfast in a variety of settings. My first taste of this delicious daily tradition was in a pension in Bodrum. From there, I traveled 20km to Turgutreis to stay on an ecofarm where I tasted the most delicious homemade orange jam from the trees in the backyard. My next memorable breakfast was in the apartment of two college student who prepared the usual edibles including sides of “bitter honey” and freshly prepared stove top tomato and pepper chutney. Moving from Denizli to Olympus via Antayla, I once again tasted fresh oranges from trees on the property, this time simply cut into quarters and served. I’m in breakfast heaven.

10 Steps to Preparing a Turkish Breakfast

Every Turkish breakfast included at least one Turkish person who is warm and welcoming, ready to instruct you as to the proper way to begin one’s day. Do not overlook this essential ingredient. However, since not all of us are friends with Turkish people nor have the ability to fly at a moment’s notice to Istanbul, made do with the friends and family that you have readily available. 

Ingredients: orange trees, chickens, cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, honey (local), bread/simit, jam (cherry preferably), salt and pepper (for the table), Turkish teapot, small bowls, Turkish teacups, plates etc.

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  1. Prepare the tea*. A day does not begin nor end without this steaming hot beverage. Drink at will. P1050559
  2. Go outside to your orange trees and pick some oranges. Cut oranges in slices for easy consumption or boil with sugar and cloves for a sweet, sticky jam.
  3. Collect the daily eggs from your chickens or sneak across the street to the friendly farmer for some of his/her eggs. Boil water for the hardboiled variety or fry in olive oil and sprinkle with cumin and paprika. IMG_1639
  4. Take an inventory of the cheese recently purchased from the market. Slice fresh feta into squares or triangles depending on your geometric preference.
  5. Wash fresh tomatoes and cucumbers and slice accordingly. 
  6. Slice fresh bread purchased earlier that morning from the bakery. Rip simit** into pieces or leave whole.
  7. Put various condiments into adorable little bowls for easy access.P1050564
  8. Place sliced bread and simit in a basket and set the table.
  9. Fill tea glasses for guests with sugar cubes on hand.
  10. Serve. Enjoy. Repeat daily for maximum smiles. 

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Notes:

*Tea is an essential part of Turkish culture. The most common teapots look like two metal containers stacked together. The bottom pot is filled with water and placed on the stove to boil. The second stacked pot is filled with tea leaves. As the water boils, the top pot steams the concentrated tea. To serve the tea, make a ratio (3:1) of boiling water and concentrated liquid in individual glasses. 

**Simit is a soft breadstick looped into a ring shape and covered with sesame seeds. Found at all cafes and bakeries.