From farm to fork

Standard

One thing I really love about Turkey, is that the process of obtaining food is rather direct compared to the US food system.  Farmers markets are gaining popularity in America, but they are still not considered the norm.  However, going to the pazar to purchase your veggies and fruits is quite common in Turkey.  For this reason you get fresher, more tasty produce, as I talked about before.  However, the issue of seasonality does come into play.  For that reason, my mother-in-law (whom I shall call anne, the turkish word for mom) has been teaching me methods and techniques in order to conserve the summer’s bounty for winter.

DSCN2788

For example,  I spent one entire afternoon stringing up peppers and eggplants to dry outside in the Mediterranean sun.  While I’m not sure what the peppers will be used for, I am familiar with the hollowed out eggplant shell, which will become dolma (spiced rice stuffed veggie) in the winter.  I also helped with making tomato sauce, and will soon learn the art of making tomato paste and tarhana (a specialty soup, made and dried for the winter).

I hope to have some recipes and instructions for you soon, inshallah!

Leave America at the airport

Standard

While rocking together on a porch swing in the cool Mediterranean night, my husband turned to me and asked

How are you feeling about Turkey?

DSCN2809

Naturally, my first instinct was to say “good!” but, I wanted to give a more detailed answer than that.  Between jet lag and all of the running around we had been doing, I had been very tired recently and he was worried about how quiet I had been for the week we had been there- and that I hadn’t been my normal, bubbly self.

  I assure you all, I am just exhausted.  

But anyway, I started to really think about how I felt about Turkey. Really. And the word that kept coming to my mind was

different

DSCN2813

But not different in a bad way, like how my mom uses it to describe food she doesn’t like…but different in a..different sort of way.  I know you shouldn’t use the same word to define or describe a word, but there it is.  Turkey is different than the US. It just is.  If you come here looking for a western experience, you are going to be very disappointed.  The traffic is different, the speaking is different, the way of showing affection is different, the buildings are different, the lifestyle is different… the only thing that isn’t different is that we all bleed the same blood.  It is so different.

I can understand how culture shock could flatten a lot of people who aren’t prepared for this huge change.  I suffered it myself the first time we came four years ago.  Fortunately I know what to expect this time around, and have been mentally preparing myself for this change for several years.  Also, I have the huge benefit of the love and support of family (in Turkey and back int he US) while I am here.  That definitely helps take the edge off.

A bit of advice to those struggling with a culture adjustment- jump in with both feet and leave America (or wherever you are from) at the airport.  Fighting against your new home will only make you miserable.  Embrace it, enjoy it, and find the parts that give you comfort.

I hope it keeps working for me too :).

Posts for days!

Status

Hey all, I just wanted to let you know I pre-wrote several posts.  They are on a schedule for release so they should carry you through the beginning of September.  I will likely be off the grid until October, so I hope they entertain you until I can write regularly with a more permanent internet connection!

Greetings from Izmir!

Standard

DSCN2758

Wow, it seems like forever since we landed in Izmir at 1am on Wednesday morning- but today is only Monday!  Upon landing we were greeted by my in-laws and some cousins and whisked away to the beach…where there is no internet.

But that’s ok! We have been so busy managing the garden, visiting the beach, and seeing family that we haven’t had time to miss it.  Here is a teaser of what we have been up to in the last five days…
DSCN2796dancinguse

DSCN2808
We will be staying at the internet-less beach house until October, so I can’t be sure about my posting schedule.  The posts will come eventually though! Especially now that we are trying to figure out my residency permit stuff and what not. Ah, to be an expat…

Update

Status

Sitting in the airport in Munich right now… Waiting on our new connecting flight that leaves in around… Ohhh… 8 hrs. There was a 2hr weather delay in Charlotte that made us miss our previous connection.  New ETA for Turkey is 1:15am

But at least the flight from Charlotte to Munich was otherwise uneventful.

T-minus 12 hours and 5.5k miles

Standard

The time that we have been waiting for over the last five years is finally here…we are about to board the plane to Turkey for more than just a vacation.  We are starting the next, exciting chapter in our lives!  I wanted to take a minute to answer some questions that everyone may have- particularly those who haven’t been part of our adventure until recently.

DSCN1089

  Why are you moving to Turkey?

Well, that isn’t a short story, but I will make it one.. my husband is a citizen of Turkey, and came to the US on a scholar visa (graduate education) in 2008.  Now that he is done with school, his visa is no longer valid- which means it is time to go back to Turkey!

  Can’t he get US citizenship?

Yes and no… because he is married to me he can apply for a green card.  But, because he was on a J-1 visa he is required to spend 2 years back in his home country (Turkey) before any changes can be made to his visa status (read: J-1 to green card).  So even if we wanted to live in the US permanently, two years would have to be spent in Turkey.  Yes, a waiver can be given by Turkey for this home-stay requirement… but his situation basically assures they would not grant this waiver.

  How long will you be there?

That’s a good question, and I don’t have the answer to that… but inshallah, forever!  There are a lot of complicated facets to different time periods that must be met (e.g. 2 years because of the visa, 15 years because of other things…).  Of course, if I am absolutely miserable in Turkey (inshallah not, and I believe that I won’t be) we will explore other options.

  Where will you be living?

I can’t really tell you that, because where we will end up will likely be our home long-term.  So, you know, for security… but I can tell you that we will likely spend a good bit of time in Izmir! We hope that hubby will be assigned to a western town, close-ish to Izmir :)

  What are you going to do there?

Another answer that I don’t have… I know for at least a year I will simply be trying to adjust to Turkish life…the language, the culture, etc.  After that year I should be eligible for Turkish citizenship due to the length of our marriage, and once I attain citizenship I will have many more options inshallah.  But who knows, maybe we will start our family shortly- and I would prefer to be a stay at home mom.

 Do you even want to live in Turkey?

Short answer: YES!
Long answer:  Anyone who knows me well knows that I don’t do things that I don’t want to do.  If I didn’t want to live in Turkey, I wouldn’t go.  There are many things that I love about Turkey, and as a Muslimah I feel like Turkey is a great country to raise a family (some religion, but not too much).  While going from an American life to a Turkish one will be quite the change, I see many benefits for me personally and for our future family that one can only find in Turkey.

  Will you ever come back to the US?

Of course!  It is my home, after all, and I do have family here.  However, I foresee my trips to the US to be more vacation-like rather than a permanent move in the future.  I don’t plan on relinquishing my US citizenship, so coming back for any length of time shouldn’t be a problem (besides the outlandish cost of a ticket >:(

Well, I think that pretty much sums up the majority of the questions I have been receiving…and now everyone is caught up!  Inshallah I will be able to reveal more about the drama we have been going through since March…but it all really depends on how things unfold.

Oh!  That’s the call for boarding!  I guess I will see you guys tomorrow afternoon, in Turkey :)

DSCN1295

Turkey 120: HOMEWORK

Standard

I was planning on making this post yesterday, but I got so busy I wasn’t able to…sorry I’m late!

In my last turkish lesson, I covered some suggestions and requirements for tourists visiting Turkey- based on my own experiences four years ago.  I included some homework at the end of the lesson, requesting questions about visiting Turkey from those who have not been there before.  I’m glad I did!  Here are a list of very interesting questions I have received, with answers.  I tried to divide them up into sensible categories…

Enjoy!

DSCN1431

Money

Q: Is it hard to convert? Is items that are popular (evil eye beads, etc.) super expensive? How much would you take for a day trip? Is there places to convert money? What about tipping?
A: There are lots of places to exchange money in big cities,  but you do pay a fee so it is better to do it as little as possible. Depending on what you are doing you could get by with as little as 100tl if you are buying souvenirs and eating from food carts,  or as much as 500tl if you are going to go to sites with fees, use taxis, and eat at nicer restaurants.  For tipping,  you are only required to at nice restaurants.  Whatever you do,  keep your currency in smaller bills

DSCN1267

Food and Drink

Q: Favorite food and must try foods?
A: Someone asked me this before and it is an impossible question!  I love Turkish food,  and limiting my list is so hard.  But if I had to,  I think I would say midye (mussels stuffed with spiced rice) is my favorite.  You should definitely find those.  Döner and ayran (shaved meat sandwich and a salty yogurt drink) is something you must try! Sarma (grape leaves and rice) and Turkish sweets are also important to try!

DSCN1203

Social and Cultural Interaction

Q: How do people greet one another?
A: you can either use “merhaba”  or “merhabalar” which is the Turkish translation of “hello”,  or “selam” which has a religious connotation

Q: How are gender roles perceived? How to not offend while a tourist?
A: Tourists get a lot of slack so you probably won’t offend anyone accidentally.  Gender roles aren’t that different than the US honestly. . If anything,  women deal more with the public than men do.

Q: How to be a tourist without looking like a tourist in Turkey?
A: What gives away tourists are the cameras,  hats,  etc.  But native turks can also be tourists in some cities.  Keeping your shoulders and knees covered can help you blend in- but of course there are turks who sport strappy tank tops and mini skirts as well.

Q: What personal activities is viewed as private and what is okay in public? Are there things considered super rude that we do constantly in America? (Like hugging in public?)
A: Turks are actually more affectionate to same sex friends than Americans.  Men and women will hug and kiss the cheeks of their same sex friends. Opposite sex interactions are more limited though, even for couples.  For example,  PDA is a big no no.  Lip kissing in public,  even between married people,  is frowned upon. Hugs and hand holding is OK though.

Q: What is personal space limits? Do you smile at people or is this a way to get unwanted attention?
A: smiling at opposite sex strangers is a big no no.  Giving any attention outside of the absolute necessary should be avoided.  It’s not like you can’t purchase anything from an opposite sex vendor,  but don’t go chatting up someone.  Personal space is similar.  Women to women have less personal space necessities than women to men.

Q: Are the stereotypes true? (I know rude kind of question?)
A: If by stereotypes you mean the meek women and demanding men Muslim stereotypes then no,  not at all.  What really shocked me was how Turkish women are usually the ones who interact with vendors and officials. In Turkey,  a woman is culturally allowed to rebuke and scold more so than men.  For example,  when the builders were dragging their feet when my in-laws were adding to their house,  my mom in-law was the one expected to fuss at them.

Q: When is it appropriated and mandated to wear head covering? Is it okay to loosely drape over hair?
A: The only time you need to wear a headscarf is in an active mosque,  like the blue mosque.  As long as your scarf covers your chest it can be loose for tourists… Naturally, actual religious requirements can be more strict.

Q: What are some basic Turkish phrases we must learn in order to be polite in turkey? What things to say in restaurants when ordering or ordering when buying gifts and responses when dealing with money?

A: no one demands much of an effort from tourists (unlike France).  But you can always go with hello, goodbye,  please and thank you… Which are merhaba, hoşçakal (hosh chahkal), lütfen (lootfen), and teşekkür ederim (teshehkoor ehdehrim).

DSCN1490

Things to See/Do*

*In Istanbul and Ephesus

Q: Why is Turkey a place you want to go?
A: Why ISN’T Turkey a place you’d want to go?  ;).  For me,  Turkey has so much significant history,  ancient and otherwise, there is so much to see. Also,  it is an a amazing bridge between eastern and western cultures.

Q: What are some must see sites in Istanbul? 
A: There is simply too much to see in Istanbul! I enjoyed the Topkapı palace,  hagia sofia,  and spice bazaar the most.  My hubby loves the Pierre loti cafe,  it has an amazing view of Istanbul.

Q: What to do in Ephesus?
A: the three major things to see are St Johns basilica,  the ruins of Efes,  and the home of Mary,  the mother of Jesus.  Be warned,  they aren’t all close together,  so plan ahead!

Q: What to do about taxi services? Is it safe to walk around?
A: Walking is the main form of transportation if you want to see a city.  Taxis are like NYC,  you flag them down and prepare yourself for being overcharged.


Q: Is there a place you consider the prettiest site in Turkey? Particularly Istanbul or Ephesus related*
A: Everywhere is amazing, but for Istanbul it would be the cafe I mentioned earlier.  For Ephesus, I was really blown away at the library ruins.

Q: I have heard of the famous bazaar there but is it a place to go? 
A: if you are talking about the spice bazaar,  then absolutely! If not for the sites, then for the goodies! Be sure to buy an assortment of Turkish sweets samples, and not just Turkish delight! I love candy sucuk (regular sucuk is sausage), which is a fruit gummy log with nuts inside… Mmmmmmmm !

DSCN1711

Other

Q: Hardest adjustment Americans will have to make?
A: Two words.  Turkish.  Toilets.  Carry toilet paper and 1tl coins… And go ahead and practice your squats.

Q: How late is too late to be out in Turkey? Is 6 o’clock reasonable time?
A: that depends on where you are… But city centers are bustling all night long! We were out in Istanbul at 10pm, drinking tea at the Pierre loti cafe! However I would advise exploring only during day light hours so you don’t get lost.

Q: What is the number one souvenir you think tourist would need to bring back when they go to Turkey?
A:
That depends on the person.  Consumable: Turkish delight.  Decor or jewelry: nazar charms.  Usable: tea cup or cezve (Turkish coffee pot)

Q: Are you allowed to take pics inside mosques or this considered offensive? 
A: It is OK unless there is a sign saying otherwise

  Thanks to those who sent in questions!  If you have any additional questions, please include them in the comments below and I will edit the list as long as I can.  For more tips and tricks to navigating Turkey and Turkish life, check out my turkish lessons series!  Undoubtedly the lessons will be getting more and more detailed as I too learn how to live a Turkish Life!

Down Memory Lane

Standard

  While in SC I am trying to reconnect/ visit with as many people as I can.  Saturday I went with my old roommate back to our stomping grounds- Clemson SC!  It was great seeing one of my closest work friends, who now has a baby!  Even though I hadn’t seen them for several months/years, we picked up right where we left off. It is amazing how some things never change.

I1