By Sierra Firley
On December 16, 2018, I embarked on a one-month trip to Istanbul, Turkey. This journey started in a math class last semester. I sat across from a girl named Amwaj, and became friendly with her in group discussions. She told me that her and her family had come to America from Iraq seven years ago. One day in class we were talking about the places we have wanted to visit, and she told me that she wanted to go to Turkey. “Let’s do it.” I said, jokingly. A week later, we bought plane tickets. It didn’t feel real, until spending about 10 hours on a plane. Her, her two brothers and I suddenly found ourselves in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
There were so many experiences during this trip that changed my life. Through Amwaj and her brothers, I found a love for tea, visited mosques that are older than any historical building I had ever seen in America. Luckily for me, most people I encountered in Turkey speak Arabic. This made taking the metro, ordering food, and even finding a bathroom much easier. There were wonderful moments, such as being lost for over three hours trying to find our way home in the pouring rain, only to stumble across an overlook of the city. Cats and dogs seemed to have claimed the streets as their own, and fresh squeezed pomegranate juice was found on every corner. For the first time ever, I was able to fully embrace a new culture, at the hand of people who already understood it.
Even with all of these wonderful moments of realization and wonder, I was there long enough to let the “honeymoon” period of the tourist attractions like the Grand Bazaar and endless supplies of baklava to wear off. Just like anything in life, my trip was not all Turkish delights. I did my best at first to blend in, not only for Turkey but for Amwaj and her family. I noticed quite quickly that it was seemingly hard to do so with a shaved head, piercings on my face and a full sleeve of tattoos. I will do my best over the next few issues to capture in words what I experienced on this journey. My sense of identity, womanhood, language, and all other barriers I had the privilege of expressing in America were pushed. Stay tuned!