An ode to apple tea.

When we were in Istanbul I cradled a glass of hot apple tea in my hands wherever we went.  We were given tea in the markets while bargaining over the price of decorative plates.  We drank tea at the Grand Bazaar at a cafe that was recommended and took us over an hour to find.  We drank apple tea in the mornings and at night after dinner.  Sometimes I drank apple tea after lunch.  Occasionally I would forget to specify apple tea and they would give me Turkish tea and that was (almost) as good, but not quite.   I would break my own rules and have caffeine at any hour I chose, because it was apple tea and I was in Istanbul and it was delicious and I loved holding the glass in my hands and breathing in the apple scent and drinking the tea slowly, because I always drink slowly.

apple tea and turkish coffee

We also drank sahlep.  Vendors sold this delicious milk drink on the corners and we drank at least one cup of it a day.  Of course, the cups were very small, but it was a treat.  It tasted of milk and honey and floral and cinnamon and we would pay a few TL and savor the drink as we walked around the older parts of the city.

These days I’m missing these drinks.  In Chicago I have to stand in a line at Starbucks (or better yet, a local coffee shop) to order a fancy drink (that takes too long to make) in a to-go cup that is too big and too expensive for a simple treat. It’s as if the city wants me to freeze.  Istanbul was much better at keeping the bellies of its visitors and residents warm and full

Istanbul, I miss you and your delicious treats and your friendly shop vendors and your large mosques and the singing that calls worshipers to prayer.  I also miss the desserts we ate for breakfast and the time we went to Asia for lunch and got on the wrong ferry and ended up on the opposite side of the bay.  I wish we could be back in Turkey bargaining with shop owners and reading our guide-book and walking around holding hands and eating our baked goods that we bought from other street vendors.  I miss the roasted chestnuts that were everywhere and for all different prices.   I miss the friendly people and the expensive seafood and the small-sized drinks.  But most of all, I miss the apple tea!

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Volunteering turned out to be the very best way we could have started our marriage.

As I’m sure you’ve figured out, the Husband and I returned from Tanzania/Istanbul safe and sound and are now in the process of adjusting to ‘normal’ life.  It’s awful (the adjustment, that is).  The trip was absolutely perfect.  Well, except for the flight home from Paris… Delta received a scathing email from me today.  But moving on to the more positive things, it was most-definitely the second best vacation of my life (after my wedding week) – and for once I’m not exaggerating or being overly dramatic!

Our first week of the trip we spent volunteering in a town near Arusha, Tanzania.  It’s hard to tell people about the experience because it really is one of those things that a person has to experience to understand.

I’ll leave you with a not-so-brief summary of our time volunteering:

We stayed in a volunteer house with 15 or so other volunteers.  The volunteers were young and liberal and free-spirited and lovely and we had a good time getting to know them.  I even went boxing with a few of them at a local gym that was probably 30 ft by 15 ft.  We ate ciapatta and chai every day. We snacked on pineapple 3 meals a day.  The pineapple was the sweetest and juiciest fruit I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating.  We commuted to the orphanage an hour each way on a crowded van.  The rides cost 300 tsh each and we paid the conductor with coins.  The vans (dala dala) were packed with people and the smell of sweat and bodies was super overpowering.  More people fit in those vans than I would have thought possible.  The back seats were the best because if you sat near a door more people would crowd in and stand in front of where you were sitting or squeeze on your bench.  The language was Swahili and we loved learning it.  We arrived at the orphanage around 9am and we taught classes in English.  The students were mainly 6-10 years old, but there were some older and some younger.

Joy,

Joy.

There were openings and bars instead of glass in the windows.  There wasn’t enough chalk and no one had pencils or notebooks.  We taught simple words and grammar and a lot of math.  We taught English words for the parts of the body and learned that corn cobs are used for hygiene in Tanzania.  Recess sometimes lasted 1 hour and sometimes lasted 3 hours, depending on if the teachers wanted to teach that day.  It was so hot in the sun, but the students wore sweaters anyway.  Every day the children wore the same outfits, no matter what the temperature or weather.  The Husband taught them ‘Rock Paper Scissors’ and they loved the song (but didn’t understand the game).  The students loved our skin and fingernails and quickly found that they could see our veins through our whiteness.  White people (or really foreigners in general) are referred to as ‘mzungu’ but the students usually called us ‘teacher’.  Goats and cows came to graze in the school yard in the afternoon.  The boy who was in charge of grazing the animals was around 6 years old.  The students brought water bottles to class, but sometimes they didn’t have water from home.  The poverty was incredible, but seemed almost normal in our surroundings.

Break time was not such a break for volunteers!

Break time was not such a break for volunteers!

I firmly believe that every person should spend time volunteering internationally.  In my opinion, it’s the only way to truly learn about another culture, as well as our own.  The perspective I’ve gained about my own life through volunteering in Central America/Africa is priceless – and I was only able to do it in short stints.

Plus, (and trust me on this) if I can manage to survive without cheese and hot showers and western toilets and air conditioning and all other things we take for granted in the USA but are not common in other countries, you can too!

I take typhoid super seriously, I promise.

On Black Friday, while everyone else was spending obscene amounts of money on ‘presents’ (we all know that people actually go out and buy themselves a shit ton of things but they disguise their true intentions by buying 2 or 3 presents and calling it a holiday shopping success) I was at an immediate care center getting shots for my honeymoon.

Oh, you didn’t need 18 different vaccines to go on your honeymoon?  Weird.

I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking Husband has many STDs and I’m doing the responsible thing by protecting myself ahead of time before sleeping with him for the first time on our honeymoon.  However, we’ve been living in sin for years so that ship has sailed.  Plus, we’ve been married for almost 2 weeks now, success!  Also, I don’t think Husband has any STDs, but if this turns out not to be the case this blog will be the first to know!

Down the aisle we go! Next stop = Tanzania!

Anyway, we’re going to Tanzania for our honeymoon because Husband likes nothing more than torturing me every chance he gets.  I can’t imagine they’re going to have cheese on a safari, so I’m not sure what I’ll eat.  Maybe this whole experience will be different than I’m imagining and the cook will whip out some brie or sharp cheddar for a wine time snack, but I’ll assume this will not be happening and I will spend my honeymoon starving and watching lions eat wildebeest while I consistently wonder why I became a vegetarian in the first place.

The point of this ramble is that we needed immunizations to be allowed into Tanzania, which we got on Black Friday (on which day I bought nothing for anyone, including myself – so I win and the stores lose – yay anti-consumerism!) and now I don’t have to worry about getting the flu, Hepatitis A, or  Yellow Fever.  They also sent me home with prescriptions for Malaria and all sorts of stomach ailments and medicine for Typhoid.

The conversation at the doctor’s office went something like this:

Doctor: You can get the shot or the pill for Typhoid…(blah blah blah blah blah pros and cons)

Me: So I’ll just take the pill because I don’t really want another shot in my arm.

Doctor: OK, the only thing you need to remember is to refrigerate the pills.  You can’t travel with them, you can’t bring them to work, you can’t take them anywhere, they have to stay refrigerated 100% of the time.  This is the only negative aspect of going with the pills instead of the shot.

Me: Sure, sure. I can handle this.  I’ll take the pills.

… 5 hours later we’re sitting at home and Husband reaches for something in my purse and pulls out the Typhoid pills that were supposed to be 100% refrigerated for 100% of the time.

Responsible adult fail.

Upon a quick Google search, it appears that the pills should be good after the few hours they were exposed to normal temperatures in my purse.  But, if Google is wrong I’ll probably get Typhoid in about a month.