I don’t always follow the Coptic Lenten fast, but when I do…

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What?

The Egyptian Lenten fast is 55 days long (out of about 210 days in the year… The Copts take their religious dietary restrictions seriously, it seems). The fast calls for an entirely vegan diet over those 55 days, excluding all dairy, meat and fish products.

I’m not a regular practitioner of Coptic dietary restrictions, but I had recently pre-boiled and frozen a massive amount of chickpeas and I found fresh-frozen okra at the MigrosJet near campus today, so I decided to give it a whirl, at least for my dinner tonight.

A quick Google search confirmed my guesstimation of how to combine these two gems, the okra and the chickpeas:

Sauté some garlic and onion in olive oil, add tomatoes and okra, some cumin and lemon juice (also parsley for garnish but i didn’t have any) and voila- serve with rice.

Of course, while the rice was simmering and I was doing some kitchen clean-up I grabbed the now empty bag of frozen okra, and lo and behold: an identical recipe to my “authentic Egyptian” spelled out in detail in Turkish and English on the back of the bag.20150323-192506.jpg

Nothing surprises me anymore.

Who needs Google, anyway?

I added some tomato juice for extra flavor, and if you aren’t the fasting or otherwise vegan type, my recommendation of a spoonful of plain yogurt on everything applies to this meal as well, of course. Additional spices could include mint or crushed red pepper.

A blessed Lent to my Coptic family, and alf sa7a (a thousand times to your health, y3ni ‘bon appetit’) to any who want to give this recipe a whirl.

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Istanbul Marathon 2014

A cohort of Fulbright ETAs, myself included, descended on Istanbul once again this fall to participate in the Istanbul Marathon. It was a great weekend of re-connection with Fulbrighters at the two-ish month mark (and a homegirl from last year flew in for it, lucky me!) as well as a time of reflection.

Last year’s marathon was my first ever trip to Istanbul, and it was a little mind-blowing to think back on all that has changed in this past year- my familiarity with and reservoir of life-long memories of Istanbul, the trips I’ve been on and the places and people they’ve led me to, the hours and occasional breakthroughs with students in class, increasing ease in speaking and understanding Turkish…

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My life and world(view) has changed for sure, but my love for this city and this event haven’t.

I was so disappointed last year to not have any of my own pictures to share of the event that I made a point of getting back to my airbnb early Saturday night to make sure my phone was fully charged up for the mornings festivities.

So obviously after about 15 minutes after we started walking, I totally forgot to take pictures.

Here are some of my shots from the start line:

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Heck, I ended up even running the last 3k or so. Not pictured (deliberately) are the Viber 5Finger shoes I donned to feign seriousness about the athletic nature of the event.

Was super proud, though, to congratulate two of my fellow ETAs on completing the full marathon… Some people got it all, ya know?

HallowIzmir and a Day-trip to Çeşme

Over Halloween 2014 weekend I traveled to the Aegean coast to celebrate the holiday and do some sightseeing.

I stayed with a friend in a unique area of Izmir called Bornova, which I had yet to visit. I had a great time spending a day wandering and site-seeking Bornova’s famous Levantine architecture. I’m always intrigued by that, but the Bornova one-two punch is that many of these structures are religious (churches, to be precise). Well riddle me nerdy.

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The focal point of the city square in Bornova is the still-active Catholic Church. Ironically, we couldn’t find the entrance, not sure if we could’ve gotten in.

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The side streets are full of hidden gems.

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We were happy to come across the haunting St. Mary’s Magdalene Anglican Church and accompanying cemetery. Some sources online say that this church is still active, but there’s no way… I believe their services are held across town in Alsancak, but this building, based on the state of disrepair we witnessed, isn’t being used.

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Some of the historic structures have been renovated into hotels or civic buildings, while others sit awaiting restoration.

My wanderings also led me to Çeşme, a tourist hub about an hour south of Izmir, along the Aegean coast. I had previously only been to the bus terminal /international port, for my trip to Chios, the Greek island, a few weeks prior. We rode the Izmir metro system to its last stop, and then boarded a bus bound for Çeşme.

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Late October is admittedly not the best time to visit the city, which is known for its beaches. Nonetheless, we wandered the boardwalk/port area, sat in a handful of cafes, ate kumru, a sandwich famous from the area which is mostly comprised of highly processed bright pink “sosis” (sausage).

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I was thrilled to stumble across the Orthodox Church of Ayios Haralambos, a 19th century church that Lonenly Planet calls “imposing but redundant.” I’m not sure what that means, but it certainly no longer operates as a church. The entire space was blanketed in the flags of the Kemalist CHP party, and there was a craft bazaar being held in the center of the space. Note the specific damage done to the iconography of the church… I still have a lot of lingering questions about this space.

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We then visited the city’s castle and accompanying museum, the major tourist attraction of the city.

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The museum had both battle and historical artifacts and displays as well as archaeological and ethnographic (coins, pottery, glass, etc). A security guard even specifically led us to a room full of antique glass to make sure we didn’t skip it. Our day finished at a famous ice cream place called Rumeli Pastanesi, where I dove into a coffee and chocolate cone. In addition to its ice cream (dondurma) this place also sells famed jams and preserves, both if which often contain mastic, the famous sticky stuff in these parts.

In all, Çeşme made for a good day trip with a bit of history sprinkled alongside relaxing with friends.

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For curious minds regarding the Halloween festivities, I was a blank attendance sheet one night, a poor attempt at Fulbright Turkey ETA humor, and Frida Kahlo the next, an easy costume for someone with a wardrobe and eyebrows like mine.