Travel Plans

Way back in October 2013, we bought tickets for a 2-week trip to Israel.  We decided to fly in May 2014, quite frankly to avoid the worst of bug season in Maine, also knowing that we’d miss the hottest part of summer in Israel at that time.  After comparing prices, we found the cheapest tickets – – $800 r/t – – were on Turkish Air.  To be honest, I had serious doubts about whether we should fly on this airline, especially since diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey were faltering (and the week before we were set to fly, the Israeli government issued a travel warning for Israelis flying to Egypt and Turkey).  I was also concerned that since our mode of dress identifies us as Orthodox Jews, we would feel somewhat vulnerable in a Muslim-majority country.  Fortunately our fears were unfounded.  Turkish Air turned out to be a very nice airline not only because of their more reasonable price, but also in terms of service and comfort.  The kosher airline food had been made by a kosher caterer in Istanbul, La Casa de Barinyurt, which was under a Turkish hechsher as well as O-K Laboratories.  All meals were fresh, not frozen; they were dairy and were chalav yisrael/bishul yisrael/yoshon (prepared according to the highest standards of kashrut) .  Besides some interesting Turkish salads, I especially enjoyed the light and flavorful orange-farina pudding for dessert.  I later found this recipe online at epicurious.com.  I would add some orange zest or replace 1/4 c. of the milk with orange juice to best replicate the airplane dessert:

yield
Serves 2

ingredients
For pudding

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons uncooked farina
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

For fruit

  • 1 kiwi
  • 1/2 mango
  • 6 large strawberries
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

preparation

Make pudding:
In a small saucepan over moderate heat simmer milk, farina, honey,and a pinch salt, stirring constantly, 3 minutes. In a bowl beat egg lightly and stir in about one fourth farina mixture. Stir egg mixture into farina mixture and cook, stirring, until pudding just begins to boil.

Put pan in a bowl of ice and water and stir pudding until cool, about 5 minutes. Stir in vanilla and divide between 2 small dessert bowls. Cover surface of pudding with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming and chill 20 minutes, or until ready to serve.

Prepare fruit while pudding is chilling:
Peel and dice kiwi and mango. Hull and dice strawberries. In a small bowl stir together fruit, lime juice, and sugar and chill until ready to serve. Spoon fruit over pudding.

That is not to say that we didn’t have some interesting cultural experiences, however.  At the Istanbul airport, next to the gate that was boarding the flight to Israel, there was a gate with a plane going to Saudi Arabia.  It was possible to see polygamous families dressed head to toe in white.  Next to them was another gate, with people boarding a plane to Iraq; in this line the Muslims wore all black.  One gate further along were many Muslims boarding a plane to Turkmenistan.   The women were dressed in beautiful, loose-fitting embroidered dresses, a brooch pulling the v-neck opening closed; their heads were covered with extremely colorful, pointed headscarves that were worn in a style that was very different from the veils and scarves worn by the travelers to Saudi Arabia and Iraq.  It was then that we noticed a strange phenomenon:  every Turkmeni man and woman in the line carried a roll of packing tape.

Apparently, Turkmenis often shop abroad for items that are either overpriced or unattainable in Turkmenistan.  They then re-sell the items at a huge profit on the black market in Turkmenistan.  The problem is that the number of packages they acquire far exceeds the number of bags they can check in and carry on the plane.  The men were busy using the packing tape to tape 3, 4 and even 5 packages together so they could be counted as one carry-on.  An even more amazing scene awaited an American tourist who happened to wander into the ladies’ bathroom near the departure gate.  There, Turkmeni women lifted their loose dresses, and were frantically duct-taping all sorts of packages to their inner thighs and bellies, bodily attaching the result of their shopping sprees so they would not exceed the weight or item limits, then smoothing out their robe-like caftans over their hidden treasures.   There was an entire contingent of Turkmeni women boarding the plane who looked obese and 9 months pregnant, when in reality their bulging abdomens and zaftig figures were the fruits of their smuggling  goods into Turkmenistan via Turkish Air!

I found an image of Turkmeni women on the Internet.  These women are dressed similarly to the women I saw at the airport (minus the packing tape!)

 

On the way home from Israel we had another unusual experience in Istanbul.  As we boarded our plane to Boston, I looked out the window and noticed the plane was surrounded by Turk police cars with flashing blue lights, along with some journalists with extremely long telephoto lenses who were taking pictures of the plane from the tarmac.  Shortly thereafter, about 10 “Men in Black” – sinister-looking security personnel and bodyguards wearing earphones, padded vests, and crew-cuts – –  boarded the plane and sat down in our section of the plane, along with a couple of photojournalists.  I found out when the flight arrived uneventfully in Boston that our celebrity traveler was the President of Turkey, Abdullah Gul, who was flying to Boston to attend his son’s Harvard graduation.  (And according to a Harvard Turkish Student Union’s Facebook page, Abdullah Gul would be met on Graduation Day by protesters objecting to human rights violations in Turkey.)

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