A Winter in Review (2015)

As those of you who’ve been with me for a while already know, these last few months have constituted my first winter in Turkey!  I was very excited to see what the cold months were like (since my previous Turkey experience had been a summer trip in 2011).  Now that the temperatures are suitably warm (mid 70s/low 80s) I feel that it is an appropriate time to summarize my thoughts on winters in Turkey.

Let me start by saying… Winter isn’t very Turkish in my opinion.

Uh, how can a country be anything other than what it is?

Well,  like I said before… My first (and at the time, only) experience in Turkey before had been during the summer.  For that reason,  Turkey translated to:
The smell of the ocean
Watermelon and white cheese
Late nights spent with family/friends
Picnics and day trips
Midye and mangal
Windows and balcony doors open wide
Snatching figs off trees when no one is looking

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And of course, none of these things happen during the winter.  It’s simply too cold.  I couldn’t even pick up the ocean smell from the window until the weather warmed up recently.  However, there are other winter things that are unique to Turkey. Honestly, it’s kind of a mixed bag.

First off, here in Izmir, we only saw a flurry of snow twice.  Nothing that lasted longer than five minutes though.  Sure,  it snowed in the mountains and stuff, but nothing I was able to enjoy.  It’s kind of ironic, actually.  The thing I love most about Turkish summers (a lack of rain), translates to a lack of something I would have liked to see (snow).

But even without the snow,  it got pretty chilly!  With a lack of central heating,  we were limited to the soba (coal furnace).  I’m pretty sure I shared that with you guys earlier.  While the toasty warm room was a delight, the freeze-your-buns-off temperature in the rest of the house (including our bedroom and the bathroom) made daily life a bit uncomfortable. Hello two layers of long-johns under sweatpants.  We didn’t go anywhere or do much of anything because it was so cold (and my in laws kept getting sick). It’s just not the season for activity.

Eating new things was fun! I enjoyed roasting chestnuts on the top of the soba.  Greens like spinach and roots like celeriac were plentiful and I enjoy them immensely.  But there’s nothing that compares to summer foods like roasted eggplant and fresh green beans…

So… I think it’s fair to say that winter is not my favorite season (but it never was, anyway).  It’s nice to not sweat your brains out, but you miss out on so many fun things when the weather is too cold!

Helloooo spring/summer!! I’m ready for you!

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Wedding or Not…Here We Come.

One of the things I had been looking forward to when moving to Turkey was our big, fat, Turkish wedding.

You know, the one that didn’t happen because our lives were turned upside down.

Well, after I had finely started coming to terms with the idea that our wedding bonanza wasn’t going to happen, my mother in law was suddenly injected with the wedding bug.

Probably because there are two weddings in the family this summer,  one of which is this weekend.

So out of the clear blue,  Anne is insisting we get married this summer.  Like, in a few months.

Uh… What?

 

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Let me make it clear that at this point in our lives, neither of us (hubby nor myself) want to deal with planning/paying for a wedding.  Neither of us have a job,  we are living with my in laws, we clearly have other priorities. Are we saying no wedding EVER? No… We are even open to discussing early next year (I wanted it to be on our wedding anniversary, like a vow renewal).

But noooo… It HAS to be NOW.  And with literally no warning. I’m sorry if I can’t get behind that.

Naturally, this leads to plenty of fighting in the house.  Anne will kick and cry because she wants what she wants, and hubby will shout and stomp because he wants what he wants.  Me? I want everyone to be quiet.  When I told Anne that this much notice is not enough for my friends and family to make plans,  she wasn’t swayed.  When I said we didn’t want to pay for something so expensive in our financial situation (hell,  we can’t even move out and pay RENT), she said that she’d pay for it.

Funny that,  when they just asked us for money towards a car and an awning at the beach house.  With what imaginary money were you planning on paying for our (expensive) wedding acaba?

What I don’t understand is why it can’t wait another year, once things settle and İnşallah we will both have jobs.  She keeps saying that “oh we were planning to do it when you came back,  next year is too long to wait.”

I have news for you.  We had a lot of plans for when we came back. I assure you,  our current situation was not in them.  We were supposed to have jobs,  a home, maybe even a kid on the way.  But none of those things happened.  And all of them are much more important than a wedding. And oh yeah,  we’ve been married 3 years already,  one more isn’t that much.

At some point OUR (potential) wedding stopped being about us and started being about her.  And it’s making me very frustrated.  Very. Very.  Frustrated. As if we didn’t have enough to stress us out already.

Hijabi problem #99: I am oppressed

I am a hijabi (wearer of the hijab)

And I am oppressed.

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For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term hijab, let me clarify (but most of the world probably is by now). The term hijab technically refers to a scarf, but the way it is understood by Muslimahs (female practitioners of Islam) is a little more inclusive.  When we (muslimahs) refer to hijab, or call ourselves hijabis, we are referring to a style of dress which includes a scarf on the head in some fashion, and a certain etiquette by which we live our lives.  Different cultures will define proper hijab in different ways…some more “conservative “, some more “liberal”.  While I feel comfortable in the way I physically wear my hijab and socially practice it, I don’t feel the need to judge others on theirs. Is mine perfect? Hardly. But I consider myself a hijabi none the less.

And like the media loves to trumpet, I certainly am oppressed.

My attire doesnt stop me from physical activity (hiking, swimming, riding bikes, etc).  My dress doesn’t keep me from being fashionable/feeling beautiful (quite the contrary, I’ve never felt so good looking in my life!).  My social etiquette doesn’t keep me out of the work place or secluded at home (I’ve worked with both men and women with no awkwardness, and I’ve gone on outings on my own).  I’m not oppressed by my hijab.  But as a hijabi,  I am oppressed.

I’m oppressed by you.

Not you, specifically, dear friends.  You support me and my right to practice my faith, my way.  I love you all! By “you”, I mean the traditionally “western” concept of hijabi oppression.

Being glared at on the street and whispered about; constantly fearing a violent outburst from a stranger keeps me at home.  The current fashion of see-through blouses and crop tops makes it hard to dress myself.  Requiring I remove my hijab before I can work keeps me out of the workforce and dependent on a man to care for me.  You consistently, relentlessly telling me I am not a strong woman because of the choices I made for myself makes me feel secluded and weak.

I did not oppress myself.  I would not choose a way of life that makes me feel poorly about myself.  The only thing about being a hijabi Muslimah that is oppressive is other people’s attitude towards me and the difficulty of living in a society that doesn’t want me in it.

So when you see us on the street, don’t cluck your tongue and shake your head.  Smile.  Nod.  Maybe a little wave of “hello”.  Make us feel included.  Makes us feel welcome.  If you are so concerned about the oppression of hijabis, maybe you should stop doing it.

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I got 99 problems but my scarf ain’t one.

#hijabiproblems

*light-hearted notes below
1. Like I said before, not everyone does this. If you are reading this and are a hijabi supporter,  hey girl/dude! You’re the best!
2. The new style of “shirt dresses” is great for hijabis and am all about that fashion trend right now! Yes!
3. No, I don’t expect everyone to bow down to hijabi style and not wear sheer shirts and crop tops.  You do you, boo. We just want some fashion options that aren’t boring black Abayas*.
4.*if you like boring black Abayas that’s OK too.:)

When The System Doesn’t Work

  Well, I hadn’t announced it on here, but I applied for that job (permit) I had told yall about a month ago.

Come to find out,  I can’t take it.

Why?

Because of Turkey’s back assward system.

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Apparently, if you apply for a work permit while living under a separate residency permit (short term,  family, etc), your new work permit voids your old residency permit.  Regardless of how much time you have left.

Regardless of the giant fee you just paid a few months ago.

Regardless that it’s a shorter residency permit than the one you have.

Nevermind the huge amount of money you had to come up with to get the permit to begin with.

You’d think someone on a family residency permit would, you know, have a family and want to work.

So, when I came to find this out… I had to say no to the job.  I feel like a jerk because they had put in so much effort to get the work permit for me, but I didn’t sign up for voiding my previous permit that I just paid a hefty sum for. No. No good. 

Plus when you take a work based residency, your residency permit is tied to the job.  If you leave the job, you lose your residency permit. I had been so comfortable with knowing that my residency permit wasn’t tied to a working – that if I was wronged in the job I had the freedom to leave and be in the clear.

Well,  if I’m going to be in this kind of risky situation,  I sure as hell need to be paid a lot more.  Plus, if I’m throwing away my expensive family permit, I should be compensated for that.  Maybe I’m not being fair, because it isn’t the fault of the job that this happened.  It’s the fault of the system.

But I can’t put myself at risk because I feel bad for the company. I have to look out for me.

I hate this.

So it’s back to staring at white walls for me. One more step closer to insanity.

The Grass Is Always Greener (except for when it’s not*)

I’m sure most of us are familiar with the old adage “the grass is always greener on the other side”… Which means, everything else seems better than whatever your situation is (an issue of perspective).  While I try not to be that person and seek to embrace the here and now, I’m constantly finding myself looking over that fence and wishing for something different.

But then when I get it, I want something else (or even worse, what I had before).

It is never immediate, though.  It usually takes me at least 2 months (maximum 6) to get bored of my current situation.  This isn’t a new trend for me either, I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember.  Whether it is about work or school or how my room is arranged, I get BORED.

For example…

When pursuing my undergrad in Clemson, SC… I moved every year.  As soon as my lease was up,  I’d pick up everything and move to another apartment. To my defense, there was always something off about the apartment I was in (too small, bug problems, graduated and time to go, etc) but it doesn’t change the fact that it was a trend.  In Florida we only moved once (from a small apartment to a bigger one when I joined my hubby at UF),  but after a year we moved everything in the house because we were BORED OF IT.  We always need a change.

When I first moved to Florida I had a whole summer with no job, and no class.  No real point in taking a job when I would be working for the University in a few months,  you know? Don’t want to deal with another W2… But anyway,  I had been looking forward to a whole summer of nothing but beach trips and laying around.  In case you forgot,  I pulled double duty in Clemson (school full time plus a part time job after classes and on weekends).  I had been dieing for a little personal time.  I’m sure you can guess what happened… I was climbing the walls in 2 months. 

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When I started my graduate program, I was thrilled!  I would find any excuse to be hard at work in the lab, assisting in everyone else’s projects.  Even when mine started,  I planned everything to a T,  enjoying the details and relishing the time spent working hard.  But it only took a week of driving 3 hours every day, digging in the dirt for an hour plus, then busting my hump for hours in the lab for me to regret my decision (spoiler alert: it was all worth it in the end!).  That was about 6 months into my program.

While in Florida I developed an affinity for kitchen projects (homemade bread, yogurt, pasta, cheese, etc), and was always looking for extra time to start one.  As my graduation and our upcoming move to Turkey approached, I wistfully thought of all the time I could spend as a housewife on such projects- including sewing, working on my art, writing,  etc.  Plus the excitement of moving to a new country, learning a new language, and adjusting to a new way of life would surely keep me busy (and entertained!).

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Of course, for a while, it did.  It took about 4 months for me to learn how to do things on my own.  Towards the end of that learning period I was frustrated and sick to death of being monitored every minute.  I missed being able to do things on my own!  Grocery trips, laundry,  even cooking required the watchful eye of my mother in law… And some things still do.  How I craved my independence again (a side effect of moving to a country where you don’t speak the language well)!

But now that I can do things on my own for the most part,  people expect me to.  And now I’m annoyed about that too!  I don’t want to do five people’s laundry by myself.  I don’t want to cook everyone’s meal.  My arms are tired from kneading enough dough to feed a family with lavaş.  I’m biting my tongue and kicking myself for wanting my independence and looking back at when we first moved and nothing was expected of me. Why did I want more responsibility?

OH yeah, and art projects/ learning Turkish? Bored of that too.  As you can see by my lack of comics lately… I just don’t feel it right now. Or as they say in Turkey,

canım istemiyor

.

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And as of January I became bored with the housewife life and started looking for a job.  My dream of endless hours of projects and hobbies turned into a nightmare!  I crave the social aspects of a job, of having a reason to get up and get dressed in the morning, of having a goal every day that is assigned to me.  Sure, that goal could be to clean the house- but I’m bored of that.  I want something else!  Hell, I even miss UF and all the work I did there as a teaching and research assistant. I’m sure I’ll be happy with a job for a while… And as long as the job keeps giving me new things to do I will probably be entertained for a while.

But it is a certainty that I will again grow BORED of what I’m doing.  As soon as I make something a routine, I don’t like it anymore. What’s wrong with me?  This can’t be normal.  I always wonder how my husband can entertain himself for days on end by studying the same things, watching the same lectures, and writing the same notes.  I mean,  they are probably different but it’s the same to me!

My next goal is to be able to move out and get my independence back (İnşallah).  We had become so used to it being just us that it is a huge burden living with three other people (family or not!).  I’m sure I’ll miss the crowded house after we leave it.  Or maybe not? Maybe that’s one thing I won’t get bored of!

I think the key is balance…which I had at UF (some work, some school, some off time, some friends/social outings), but I was still bored. It could very well be that the life of a student (I. E. Being poor and pinching pennies) was what I was bored of. No TV, no dinner table, no nice vacations (well we did have a few we made out of a necessary trip)… But I don’t know. I have a curious spirit I guess. It’s always looking for something new.

Bathroom Monitor

So apparently there’s a new movement in the US about transgendered people using the bathroom?

I guess it creates jobs because we will be needing a ton of bathroom monitors?

I was discussing this with my friend(s) and I thought it would be an interesting blog post,  since I normally don’t post much on social commentary and Politics.

OH boy! An opinion piece!

So, my feelings on transgendered people using the bathroom of their choice… Who.  Flipping. Cares.

If you look like a chick, use the chick bathroom.  If you look like a dude, use the dude bathroom.  If you are a guy in a wig and heels living the feminine life and you want to use the ladies room because you identify as a woman, I honestly could not care less. There are stalls in there for a reason.

Maybe that makes me a bad Muslim, but I don’t expect other people to live their lives by my standards.

But what about safety?

Maybe I’m confused, but the last time I checked… Transgendered was not a synonym for pedophile, pervert, or deviant.  If someone identifies as or wants to be another gender doesn’t automatically mean they want to rape you or molest a child.  That’s a whole different thing.  Could there be overlap? Well,  sure… Just like any group of people can have some bad seeds.

For example, a friend of mine told me about a man who said they were transgendered (lied), went into the ladies room, and attacked a young girl.

Well, they weren’t transgendered then… Were they? Does that mean we need to police for LGBQ people too since they will be around the sex they are attracted to in the facilities? Do we need to ban all Muslims from the US because some are terrorists? Do we need to deport all Latin people because some are here illegally? I don’t think so…

But what about exposing their bits (transgendered females who have not changed their anatomy)?

First off, there are stalls in the ladies room.  There is no need to whip out your dingaling in a ladies room. If you are pretending to be trans so you can wave your pee pee at women, you will go to jail.  That’s called public indecency.  If you actually are transgendered and uncomfortable with your body,  I don’t think you’ll be whipping out the family jewels to share with everyone.

But what about hijab?

If you know about the rules of hijab (which I’m not here to argue about, these are the rules I know and apply to my life), Muslim women are advised to cover from head to toe with only their face, hands, and feet are shown.  So, if a transgendered person is using the bathroom or locker room with you,  what are you to do?

Well, if you honestly can’t tell if they are transgendered, then it isn’t your problem sister. You can’t be expected to do a cup check on every large female to make sure they aren’t a man.  Islam is about intention, and if you unintentionally take off your hijab infront of a man because you thought they were a woman, I honestly believe you are in the clear.

If you don’t feel comfortable, then you will have to make due with a plan B for your un-hijabed self.  Yes it sucks. Yes it’s not fun.  But it’s the world we live in. Our hijab is our responsibility and noone else’s.

But it’s all a lie!

Are you transgendered? If the answer is no, you can’t say if they are lying or not. You don’t know. You can’t know. You don’t have their experiences to base your opinions off of. There is a reason sympathy and empathy are two different words.

I mean, I’m honestly more frightened of people in an islamaphobic sociey carrying weapons all over the place than I am about a man dressed like a woman (or visa versa), but that’s another story for another time.

All About Dem Artichokes BABAY

The first time I ever had an artichoke (outside of the jarred artichoke hearts) was in Turkey 4 years ago. Before that I had no idea how to prepare an artichoke, how to cut it, clean it, or even pick it! I knew the taste… But didn’t know it’s versatility or health benefits. Man, was I missing out!

Did you know you can make an artichoke tea from the discarded outer leaves (after drying), and that it’s good for your liver? What a great way to reduce waste when making an artichoke dish (hint hint wink wink)!

When it comes to picking an artichoke I’m still a bit of a novice. However, there are a few things I know for sure!
1. A closed artichoke is a fresh artichoke– Much like a flower, a new bud is fresher than an open flower. Pick an artichoke thats leaves are tightly closed.
2. Spikey plants are old plants– You will notice on the tips of the artichoke leaves are tiny thorns. These get thicker and harder as the plant ages. Look for soft and flexible spikes, indicating a fresher plant.
3.Check the cut– No, I don’t mean a cut like meat… I mean where the artichoke was cut from the plant. If it is very brown it was cut a long time ago. If it is just starting to brown but mostly green, it’s fresh.

Although this sign of freshness is a little late for the consumer… The center fuzzies in the artichoke turn purple as it ages.

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Ingredients:
5 Artichokes, cut into 6ths and cleaned
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 small potatoes, diced
1.5 lemon’s juice
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
4 heaping tbsp flour
Salt and citric acid (for wash)
4 tbsp olive oil, approx.
2 tbsp fresh diced dill
1/2c fresh peas or bakla (optional)
1 ego’s yolk
Hot water

Preparation:
1. Prepare a salty/sour water bath for your artichokes.  Cut the ends (about 1 inch from the top), so that no tips remain and you can see inside the artichoke. Also cut off the stems (do not discard). Remove a few layers of outer leaves to neaten the appearance.  Cut the artichoke in half and dunk it in the wash. Scoop out the furry center until only the heard heart remains. Let sit in the wash until all are cleaned. Also, clean the outer portions of the stems until only the pale yellow center remains.  Cut into small pieces (about in inch)  and add to the wash.  Once they are all halved and clean,  add 3tbsp flour to the wash.  Mix well and let sit while you prepare the rest.
2. Cut the onions, carrots, and potatoes. Put the onions and potatoes in olive oil in a wide, short pot with a lid.  Begin to cook them until soft on medium high.
3. Cut the artichoke halves into thirds (making 1 artichoke head into 6 pieces).  Add to the pot along with the trimmed stems. Squeeze 1 lemon over the top of the artichoke, sprinkle the sugar and salt, then stir well.
4. Add the potato and (optional bakla or peas) stir again.  Let the veggies cook in their own juices, stirring occasionally.  Finally, pour hot water over the mixture until the tops are just sticking out, do not submerge! Cover and let cook on low (boiling)  for about an hour or until everything is soft.
5. Temper the remaining 1 tbsp flour with a little cool water and the water from the artichoke to make a slurry. Mix into the pot and allow to boil lightly until thickened.
6. Whip the juice of 1 lemon with the yolk of 1 egg. Mix in hot juice from the food until the egg begins to cook. Pour over the top of the artichoke mixture and gently press into the hot liquid with a spoon, but don’t mix!
7. Sprinkle dill over the mixture and cover. Turn off the stove (but do not remove from the heat!) and let sit for at least 15 minutes.

Afiyet olsun!

Spring Cleaning/What’s In My Bag

Spring has sprung and it’s time to air out all the winter funk!

I’ve been busy stripping all of the linens from EVERYWHERE (including curtains), restuffing pillows and brushing out the rugs! It never eeeends.

And now I need to start reorganizing my scarves, and going through my luggage full of summer clothes that had been put away for the winter.

But first…

I think I’ll start with my purse:)

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I love my bag!  When we first moved to Turkey I had to leave my small collection of purses behind because there simply wasn’t enough room for them in my suitcase.  Not having a bag for a month was just… Ugh.  It was awful.  But I love the one I have now! I bought it at the beach pazar for 25tl, and the leather (fake or not) is so soft and I imagine won’t tear any time soon…

Anyway,  let’s dig in there and see what we need to keep vs throw away!

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Can’t go anywhere without a little notepad and pens! I originally bought this for writing down new Turkish words, but somehow it has morphed into my “anything I need to jot down”  notepad…particularly because I don’t have a cellphone to keep track of things yet.  This stays.

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My sad old wallet I bought from Ross a hundred years ago… And my camera! Goes without saying,  both are necessary.

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I haven’t seen fairly priced chapstick (or the chapstick brand at all) in Turkey… So I’ve been guarding mine with my life! Also, a staple to any hijabis bag… A box of extra pins and bobbies

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You never know when someone is gonna need a teşbih… So I keep mine in my purse.  And candy is always good to have around… I’ll just leave that in there too.

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Yeah… I’m that person who keeps bags within their bags.  I mean,  it’s obviously a genius storage idea! I try to always be prepared by keeping things like toothpicks, a toothbrush, moist towelettes (unscented), measuring tape,  deodorant, and lots of lip products on me at all times.  This is city survival 101 people!

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Of course you need to have several hygiene items with you at all times! A bag of feminine hygiene products is a total given.  Maybe I’m showing my age by keeping small packages of tissues, but you know what? It’s spring.  Sneezing happens. Snot flying everywhere doesn’t have to be my fate.  Lastly,  and if you live in a hot country you will know, scented towelettes is a must.  I never carried them in the US but now I sure do- nobody has time for B.O., and your deodorant will certainly fail you at some point in the day.

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Last but not least… A compact mirror and a prayer.  Anne gave me both of these.  The compact is obvious,  but if you didn’t know, these charms hold prayers written inside that are supposed to protect you from bad spirits/nazar.  Whether or not you believe in that stuff… It doesn’t take up much space in my purse.

Wow,  that’s a lot of trash… How do I end up with this much paper in my bag?

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Well,  I feel ready for spring now! What are some necessities that you keep in your bag? Does it change with the season? Let me know in the comments below!

Spring is coming… And so is taze fasulye!

Springs is coming… Which means a lot of my favorite foods are coming back in season! Eggplant, strawberries, and tomatoes…

Oh my!

One of my favorites that I always struggled to make stateside was green beans/ pole beans… Commonly known as taze fasulye in Turkey. I could never make them as tasty and soft as what I had eaten years ago…

But now I have the recipe! I will never want for taze fasulye AGAIN! Buahaha!

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Ingredients:
1kg taze fasulye (either green beans or pole beans), julienned
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, julienned
1 Charleston pepper, chopped
2 tbsp salça (tomato or mixed)
10 tbsp tomato juice/konserve (or canned diced tomatoes with juice)
4 tsp sugar
4 tsp salt
Approx 1/4c olive oil
Hot water

Preparation:
1. Wash and julienne beans by slicing down their center and cutting across to form 1 inch length pieces.  If the beans husk is rubbery/hard to cut, remove the beans from inside and discard the husk. Let soak in room temp water while continuing prep.
2.  Prepare your peppers, onions, and carrots accordingly.  Add to a pot with olive oil and salça, mixing well. Add the sugar and turn on the heat to high.
3. Add the beans to the pot and DO NOT MIX! Spoon the tomato juice on top, lastly evenly distributing the salt on top.  Still do not mix!
4. Cover and cook on high until the beans turn light green (approximately 30mins). Pour hot water over the beans until half an inch of beans is exposed. Don’t mix it now either!
5. Cover and cook on low for about one hour or until beans are soft. The boiling will mix everything for you:)

Afiyet olsun!