We are here! My site-mates and I arrived at the Erzurum airport last night and our University Representative sent a truck to pick us up. The hills rose up around the airport, we could see so many stars, and the city is full of trees. Honestly, it felt a lot like Arkansas, like home. Hurrah!

Since arriving, we’ve had many, many cups of çay. On the plane to Erzurum, I had two cups of çay while the guy next to me tried to tell me–in about as much English as I have Turkish–about his recent trip to New Orleans. We had çay at breakfast with our simit in a superb cafe on campus. We had çay when we met a colleague in the Department of Foreign Languages. We had two glasses at our lunch of Cağ kebap, a local version of kebap with rare lamb, yogurt, spicy onions, and a salsa-like slaw (the most delicious thing I’ve eaten yet, by far). We had two more glasses of çay at the cell-phone store we visited. When I was in Ankara, they brought us çay at two different stores where my friend was trying on running shoes. Its ubiquitous!

How about these gems from wikipedia:
“Despite its popularity, tea became the widely consumed beverage of choice in Turkey only in the 20th century. It was initially encouraged as an alternative to coffee, which had become expensive and at times unavailable in the aftermath of World War I. Upon the loss of southeastern territories after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, coffee became an expensive import. At the urging of the founder of the republic, Atatürk, Turkish people turned more to tea as it was easily sustainable by domestic sources. Turkish tea is traditionally offered in small tulip-shaped glasses which are usually held by the rim, in order to save the drinker’s fingertips from being burned, as the tea is served boiling hot.”

Yep. Turkey and Tea. I’m surprised and very happy about this aspect of Turkish culture. It slows everything down. It invites conversation (in whatever limited Turkish I can offer). It brings camaraderie to every situation, even buying shoes and switching SIM cards.

While In Erzurum, I plan to drink all the çay. And brush my teeth a lot more. Goals.