Ghent: Day to Night

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After leaving Bruges, I wasn’t sure if any other destination in Belgium could compare, but I was totally wrong.  Ghent turned out to be just as charming, if not more so in the sense that it was not nearly as touristy as Bruges.

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Ghent is a seriously overlooked city, full of life and personality.  Our adventure begin when we checked in to a cool little Airbnb in the red light district (yes, the red light district), smack dab in the middle of all the action.

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Ghent is by no means a bustling metropolis, but it had an energy to it that Bruges did not.  In fact, Ghent reminded me a lot of Moda, one of my favorite neighborhoods in Istanbul.  Every twist down an alley revealed a slew of delightfully hipster shops, quirky cafes, and plenty of pubs.

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My Thanksgiving dinner

IMG_1863.JPGGhent is also the self-proclaimed vegetarian capital of the world (again…self-proclaimed), so it was nice to have some tasty and healthy options around.  One cafe in particular – BARISTA- has forever captured my heart with it’s unbelievable homemade soups and awesome orange chai lattes.  It also didn’t hurt that they offered me a free sandwich one evening right before closing that turned out to be one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten.

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We decided to focus on city walks during our time there since I was too sick and exhausted to manage much of anything else.  The coolest walk by far was the Illuminated Walk, suggested by the Ghent tourism board.  This walk is meant to be done at night and to showcase Ghent’s unique cityscape all lit up.

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Ghent was such a stunning place, both by day and night.  If you find yourself passing through Belgium, don’t miss out!

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Happy (belated) Thanksgiving!

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Horrible phone picture of a delicious meal

I have a complicated relationship with Thanksgiving.

When I was a toddler, I loudly proclaimed that I wanted to cancel Thanksgiving because I was a VERY picky eater and did not like the smell of everything that was cooking.

By the age of 10, my parents were divorced, and Thanksgiving became less of a tradition and more of a mystery…we never knew how many Thanksgivings we would have, where we would go, or who we would spend it with.

At the impressionable age of 16, I got my first job as a nurse’s assistant in a nursing home, where I had the privilege to work with an incredibly talented and compassionate nurse who was half Cherokee Indian.  As the holiday was approaching, she explained that she always volunteered to work on that holiday in protest of the grave inequalities that existed (and still exist) between Native Americans and their white counterparts.  She felt it was not time to celebrate just yet.  Her story woke me up to this reality, and in solidarity, I signed up to work on Thanksgiving as well and continued to do so for the remainder of my high school years, much to my family’s dismay.

Once I moved away and went to college, I worked for the university, so I always  had Thanksgiving off.  This meant I resumed the tradition of visiting family, but since my husband and I were a part of each other’s families by that time, it also meant we had more people to visit.  Needless to say, it was a bit stressful to try to visit three to four families within a five day window, not to mention the six hour round-trip drive.

While I am still unhappy with the way we (Americans) tend gloss over the fact that Native Americans are still highly marginalized in our society and like to act like the original Thanksgiving meal was some kind of happy resolution to all of the colonialism and racism that still very much exists, I realize how much I didn’t appreciate the lighter parts of the holiday until it was out of my reach.  I find myself feeling unexpectedly homesick every time it rolls around.  I miss catching up with my family, cooking, eating, and driving back home vowing not to eat turkey again for at least a year.

This year, Thanksgiving happened to fall on the same day as a Turkish holiday – Teacher’s Day.  You would think that two holidays would be better than one, but it ultimately just made me feel sad.  I couldn’t get in the spirit of Teacher’s Day because my mind was on what I was missing.  We came very close to just cancelling any plans for Thanksgiving, but luckily, one of our fellow yabancis rallied us together and invited us over for a late Thanksgiving.

She’s been in Turkey for six years now and her kids are Turkish-American, so she’s determined to keep the tradition going and she’s learned all the tricks of the trade.  There was turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, a smorgasbord of amazing appetizers, and (my favorite!) pumpkin pie.  Everything was incredible – especially considering I had gone two whole years without a traditional Thanksgiving meal!  Best of all, we were surrounded by good company, which is what Thanksgiving has come to be about.