Dalia Mortada is a freelance reporter, producer, traveler and eater. A Syrian-American who spent her childhood and summers in Spain, she’s used to not quite fitting in, so she lives in Istanbul, where she definitely doesn’t belong.
In November 2011, I bid tearful farewells to my loved ones in Virginia and hopped on a one-way flight to Istanbul. Not once did it cross my mind that the job I left my life for could be a dud.
After just six weeks, I left my gig at a local English-language newspaper. I edited and wrote for local magazines before I jumped into radio in late 2012, when a wonderful friend and colleague told me, “Just do it.” My love affair with audio went from a dream to a reality.
About six months after I filed my first radio story, Turkey erupted into protests, and I was in the right place at the right time. Ever since, I’ve reported feature stories on social issues for PRI’s The World, the CBC, Deutsche Welle and others.
My choice to go abroad came from a nagging case of wanderlust as I wrapped up a six-month stint at the PBS NewsHour in their desk assistant program. Armed with the skills I learned there and my mentors’ support, I made it to Turkey on two weeks’ notice.
I chose Istanbul partly because it was the first place I got a job. But mostly, I did it to be close to aging relatives in Syria, Turkey’s neighbor to the south. Sadly, the continuing violence has made it too dangerous to visit them.
When I’m not working, I’m feeding unsuspecting loved ones and street animals my culinary experiments, improving my Turkish by watching dating TV shows, playing fetch with my cats or professing my love for all creatures awkwardly long-necked: llamas, camels, giraffes…