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Handan landed in America just a few days before our wedding on July 10, 2010. She flew into JFK, and I was there at the customs egress to meet her. I arrived early that day and paced, slouched and read through the interminable 90 minutes that separated me from my bride-to-be. When the hanging monitor at last flashed Handan’s arrival, I stepped up to the barricade and waited for her to walk out of customs and into my arms (unlike Sharia Doha, I’d be able to hug and kiss my fiancée without fear of arrest and deportation). The minutes ticked by, but I didn’t expect to see her right away – debarkation and customs can take quite a while. Soon enough, I started hearing bits of Turkish from the passengers walking out of customs, so I knew it wouldn’t be long. With a smile on my lips and a song in my heart, I waited. And then I waited some more. And then some more waiting. The Turks tapered to a trickle and new languages filled my ears, as passengers from Singapore and Stuttgart left the airport. This was Doha déjà vu all over again!
And just like in Doha, Handan had been detained by Johnny Law, only this time it was Johnny Scowlyjowls and his side-kick, Sally Searchyfingers. Yep, Handan was the lucky winner of a fabulous extended stay at the Customs Metal Slab Table. Her bags were emptied and their contents
rifled carefully inspected by indifferent government thugs courteous and attentive agents who then thoughtfully left all of her possessions strewn about the table. So what, you ask? What’s the big deal? All she had to do was re-pack her bags and be on her way! Well, here’s the thing: Handan packs a bag like no other. A typical suitcase may take anywhere from 1-4 hours for her to pack, depending on how many times she starts over. When she is finished packing a suitcase, it is scientifically impossible for a single additional atom of matter to be placed into that bag. Were you to try, the bag would very likely implode and would quite possibly form a black hole. Then you’d be screwed. Nobody needs a black hole sucking up family members when everyone is gearing up for vacation.
Anyway, there was poor Handan, standing over her 50 lbs of stuff that needed to be re-packed in her 40 lb bag. With a muttered curse, she got to work. The minutes drained from the day as panic filled my soul out in the waiting area. Just like in Doha, all the bad thoughts ran through my head. She didn’t get on the flight. She got on the wrong flight. She’s been kidnapped. She’s been killed. She arrived but turned right around and flew back to Turkey. And so on.
To my great relief and happiness, she did finally pass through those customs doors, tired and travel-worn, but safe and sound.
The next few days passed in a blur as we readied for our wedding at my parents’ house in Connecticut. Saturday arrived, we said our vows and had a barbecue. There was a small group of friends and family on hand to celebrate with us. It was a perfect day. Now, out of respect for any men reading this, I will say no more about the wedding. Who wants to read about that, amiright? Here’s one picture from that day, then we’ll move on to the honeymoon.
We drove to Cape Cod for our honeymoon. I thought Handan would enjoy the ocean and the seafood. That trip was notable for a few “firsts” for Handan: first fried clam at the world famous Clam Box in Ipswich, Massachusetts.
First lobster, in Provincetown.
And my all-time favorite, first raw oyster.
What is so special about the oyster? Handan loves fish more than anything on Earth, but she is repulsed by the idea of raw fish. She has never had sushi, and until our honeymoon, she had never had raw oysters. During that trip, it was my subtle plan to try to talk her into trying a raw oyster. I figured it would be futile, but I was willing to give it a go. I ordered a dozen oysters while we were having cocktails one afternoon. The moment the bartender placed the platter in front of us, Handan reached over, grabbed a shell and started slurping away! I couldn’t’ believe it. I stared as she bolted down half of the slimy little bastards before I even had my first. Finally I asked, “Do you like them?”
“I love them.” She said.
“You know they are raw, right?” I asked.
“What?! Why didn’t you tell me?!” She asked.
“I didn’t get the chance! Besides, I figured you knew! But…you like them..?”
Handan was angry for a while, thinking that I had tricked her. But more galling had to be the fact that she actually enjoyed the very thing she had disparaged for decades.
And so I achieved the impossible: Handan not only ate raw fish…but she loved it.
My mission accomplished, we headed back to Connecticut to prepare for our trip to Handan’s hometown: Izmir, Turkey. But first, I had to show Handan the majestic birthplace of America: the eighth wonder of the world…Plymouth Rock! Behold the glory!
Yeah, okay, so maybe it looks more like an over-sized pet rock in a cage.
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