My Trip to Turkey

This year, for the first three weeks of winter break, I went to Turkey with my mom in order to spend the holidays with our family there. I had never been to Turkey in the winter time and was excited to not be melting with the heat and humidity that I usually face whenever I go during the summer. My mom also hadn’t celebrated Christmas and New Years with her parents and sisters ever since she came to America with my dad 18 years ago. I knew that going there for only three weeks when we usually stay for a about a month or so, meant that our time was limited and we would have to spend each day wisely, never taking a single second for granted.

Thanks to this mentality, I never forgot to express my gratitude for being able to spend such precious moments with my family. Ever since the sixth grade, we had made a conscious effort to go to Turkey every other summer, but this past summer, we couldn’t. I had gotten a job working at a summer camp and I was about to move into college, so unfortunately, our biannual trip had to take the backseat. At some point a few months ago, my mom was suddenly determined to go be with her family and spend the holidays, so one way or another, we made it happen.

                                                                 Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Originally, we had been a bit hesitant to go back because last time we went, there had been a military coup a few days before our return home and it prevented us from taking a direct flight to America. All throughout that night, there were people yelling in the streets and military jets zooming overhead and honestly, I don’t remember the last time I had ever been so scared, but we eventually made it back a few days later. When it came down to making the decision of whether or not we should go given that political turmoil could ensue again at any point, I remembered the semester’s theme that I would be reminded of every week at university chapel: “Be not afraid.” I knew that I would just have to trust God and take a chance for the sake of family.

                                                                 Photo overlooking the city of Samatya

Up until this trip, I had only been to Turkey four times, but for some reason, this time around, Istanbul had never felt more familiar. I also became convinced that at some point, I could live here without a problem. It also helps that I speak the language but I don’t know, maybe it’s just me. This trip, unlike most of our others, was not about sight-seeing. The most I got to see was the Galata Tower from a distance and was also able to go to the Grand Bazaar as we usually do. What our trip consisted of was seeing friends and family and maybe just a little bit of shopping, but what I hadn’t expected was this stronger connection with my faith and family that I hadn’t felt before.

                                                                 Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Now, if you know anything about Turkey, you might be aware that it is a Muslim country, but my family and I, being Armenian, are not. Luckily, there is a good amount of Armenian churches in Turkey, so it’s not that hard to find one. My first week there, my great aunt had found a Lutheran gathering inside of an Armenian church that had long been empty in a city called Karakӧy. So, we went together with my mom and grandma as well. This church felt like it was hidden within this city, making it difficult to find, but once we did, we saw a close collective of Christians who have found a safe space to practice as they please. The group and sermon were led by a Finnish family and priest who surprisingly spoke perfect Turkish. And though the children served as a sort of distraction during the service, it was easy to see the small community that they had formed from people of all sorts of backgrounds and I genuinely found it inspiring. We would all go to church every Sunday and one week, we even went to my grandma’s bible study group. Going to these places gave me a lot of time to reflect on my own relationship with God and the role He plays in my life.

                                                                 Photo of the courtyard of the Armenian church

This whole trip put a lot of things into perspective for me, especially as I spent time with my loved ones. We used every possible moment to spend time with each other and cherish this time in our lives. I was constantly reminded that time is fleeting and if I blink, I might miss everything happening in front of me, so I chose to remain as present as possible. It pains me that I can’t help my grandparents as they get older and that I can’t watch my five year old cousin grow up and become a lovely young woman. All I get is snippets of their lives and that’s all that they get from mine, but at least we can talk regularly even though were thousands of miles apart.

                                                                 Photo of my family on New Years Eve

In the end, I came away from this trip reaffirming the knowledge that my family is one of the most important parts of my life. But, I also came away from it having a better idea of how I wish to form a stronger relationship with God as I have already been trying to do this past semester. I don’t think I’ve ever been on a trip where I’ve learned so much about myself. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to go experience so much in such a short time.