It seemed like she would never get off that plane.
Our daughter, Natalie, had been in Turkey for the last 11 months and, as we waited at the airport a couple weeks ago, it seemed like she was one of the last people to get off the plane and walk up the long hallway at Epley Airport.
We tried to not overwhelm her, but with two sisters and her parents wanting to hug her and make sure she was intact after the long trip abroad, I think it was a bit much for her. She was in for a bit of a culture adjustment.
Where she lived and worked for nearly a year, only about two people spoke English, so if they weren’t around, she couldn’t communicate very easily with anyone.
She had the job of teaching English to kindergarteners, first graders, fourth graders and seventh and eighth graders. The older kids caught on quickly. but it’s hard to teach English to a bunch of rambunctious kindergartners who only know Turkish and don’t really want to learn to say “hello” and “goodbye” in any other language.
Natalie found that stickers are good motivators. She got through the school year, loving her little students, but also getting worn out from six-days-a-week teaching.
Weekends were long and if she did travel to Istanbul it was by taxi, and Turkish taxi drivers are notorious for driving in circles so they can charge as much as they can for the ride.
Just being able to ask someone for directions was a treat when she finally was in an English-speaking airport.
Her first food back on American soil was a Chick-Fil-A chicken and fries meal with a Dr. Pepper — items she’d been craving for months.
She said she actually got used to the eggplant, yogurt and tomatoes she ate nearly every day in Turkey. She has since loved every cut of Nebraska beef she’s eaten as she wasn’t too thrilled with the Turkish meat she ate regularly.
When everyone around you is speaking in a language that you don’t understand, you learn to be a bit of a solitary person. Natalie is more of a social person but still said one of the strangest things about being back in the U.S. is all the talking going on.
Waitresses and clerks are so talkative. Have they always been that way?
Driving again took a bit of getting used to as she hadn’t been behind the wheel since she left.
With no air conditioning in Turkey, Natalie was a bit cold in our air-conditioned house. She forgot how far you can see in the country and how green the landscape is. She also admitted it’s been an adjustment being around people constantly. I told her to tell us to leave her alone when we overwhelm her, and she said she might do that.
It was a great for Natalie to experience culture where there were mosques every other block and no one had ever seen an American before. But we couldn’t be happier that our Turkish traveler is safely home.