To celebrate Thanksgiving – and to soothe our mounting pumpkin pie cravings after having taught about Thanksgiving for an entire week – Danielle and I headed down to Gaziantep. There are six other Fulbrighters posted down in Antep, and another 5 assorted American and Turkish friends also converged on the city for us all to celebrate our collective first expat Thanksgiving. Danielle and I were also pleasantly surprised by how close the city was – only three and a half hours by bus from Malatya – which is wonderful considering the amount of sights within the ancient city center that we missed out on.
This time around in Antep, we saw nothing of the city itself as we immediately headed down to our friends’ apartments on the outskirts of the city by Gaziantep University. Once we had all assembled, with friends coming in from Osmaniye, Sivas, Malatya and Gaziantep, we made an executive decision to skip Antep cuisine (a horrible crime, I’ve been assured) and instead eat at a local Syrian restaurant opened up by some wealthy refugees. I assure you, I love Middle Eastern food in America; however, this restaurant was truly the first time I have ever been floored by the cuisine. The combination of having it cooked authentically with the intended regional fresh produce made it outstanding. I just wish I remembered what the name of what I ate was… Or what it was, besides chickpeas.
As rough a day as I had on Friday – my Turkish completely failed me, my bank account got closed out, and my internet ceased to function (compounding the other two problems) – Saturday was the exact opposite.
There is a type of a mini-bus/taxi hybrid, that functions like a subway, in Turkey called a dolmuş. These buses always look extremely sketchy – small white vans, sliding side doors, tinted windows and clusters of people huddled in the back – and stop when someone waves them down on their route. As Danielle, Fabio and myself were on the way to the univerity’s main gate to ask whether any buses were going into the city center on Saturday’s, we saw a dolmuş and hailed it.
There is something about dive bars that just seems so friendly and inviting and warm – a sense of camaraderie, almost. As opposed to clubs or more swanky drinking establishments, dive bars – and the people inside them – seem especially honest about their intentions. Most often the people frequenting a dive bar are just looking to relax with friends or forget, however briefly, about whatever weight they have hanging around their shoulders. In short, I love dive bars and I am always on the lookout for a new favorite. This was how, by complete chance, I found the best dive bar in the world with Jen last weekend in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.