Friday, December 20, 2013

Olive Salad

Me, along with a couple of other young officers,
enjoying a fantastic Turkish lunch.
Nine years ago this month, I deployed with my squadron to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey.  After a very long, cold flight across both the Pond and the Med (the KC-135 is a notoriously uncomfortable ride), we arrived at the Turkish (though very American) Air Base near Adana, which itself is very near Tarsus. (I'd say ancient Tarsus, but all the cities in Turkey are ancient, so it's kind of a useless adjective here.)

My first night there, my team, along with our out-going counterparts, went into the village for dinner.  I was excited to try some new foods and experience new tastes, but It never crossed my mind that I'd have to let go of some of my Western ways.  I looked over the menu, which was in English, and read over the offerings. Lamb kebabs, couscous, cheesey bread, baklava and more. Oh, goody!  I decided to start off with something light, so I ordered the olive salad, because I like salad, and I like olives.

This was no Olive Garden-variety salad.

I was very surprised when the waiter brought me EXACTLY what I'd ordered.  It was a plate heaped with sliced green olives, drenched in olive oil - an olive salad. Definitely not what I'd expected.

It was delicious.

And it taught me a few things.

First, our assumptions are often so very wrong. When in a new situation, we may find we have to toss our assumptions and "understanding" out the window.  I'd ordered a salad, and everyone knows what a salad looks like, right?  A bed of greens, some fixins, and dressing. And olives are black, right? Well, this salad was green, and there was dressing. There the similarities ended. After my initial confusion, I resigned myself that "this is what 'olive salad' is, and they gave me exactly what I'd asked for. Better give it a try."  So I did.

It's often said that you never get a second chance to make a good first impression.  My first impression on seeing this new dish was mixed, to say the least.  I didn't know what to make of it, and at first I was reluctant to try it. Only when I put aside my preconceived ideas, my own traditions and "right' thinking, and gave it a chance to prove itself, was I able to really enjoy this unique taste. It's probably the case that the first impression is as wrong as the assumptions that led to it.  First impressions can be important, but it's more important to move beyond them.

Which brings me to: So it's not what you expected? Get over it! Give it and yourself a chance, and you may find it's something you enjoy. I find that's the case more often than not, whether in food, play, a calling, a job, an assignment, or whathaveyou. You may have to stretch your understanding a little bit to appreciate something, or make it work, but you can do it, if you persevere.

Even if you don't enjoy it, you'll probably be ok, and better for having tried at all.

Try it, you might like it.

"I do so like green eggs and ham.
Thank you.
Thank you, Sam-I-Am."

(And if anyone knows of a good Turkish restaurant, anywhere, please let me know)

Prepared. | For Life.™

1 comment:

Evenspor said...

You know, if you were in my district, I would be recruiting you right now to be a unit commissioner. That's something new you might want to think about trying. :)

(Actually, this is funny, because it took me more than a first or even second impression to decide I like Scouting. I guess sometimes more than one try isn't a bad idea.)