Turkey 105: kimsin (who are you?)


I’m taking a minute from packing (the never ending struggle that has been our lives for five years) to add a new course to my Turkish lessons series.  One of the most confusing aspects of Turkish culture for me (and even my husband!) are family titles.  Pretty soon (inşallah) I will be filling my blog posts with stories including members of my husband’s family… And I will likely refer to them by their family titles.  So first,  a few general notes:

Firstly,  I found it very interesting (and helpful) that turks consider which side of the family the member is on when assigning a title. None of that maternal and paternal nonsense.  In some cases there is no difference in the name regardless of side (i.e. Cousin, grandfather…) but the majority do.

Second,  these titles are not set in stone.  For example,  you may call your cousin uncle or aunt if they are much older than you,  much like America.


We were on our way to see some family!

So,  let’s get started!

Baba: father

Anne: mother

Ağabey or abi: elder brother (used as a sign of respect,  can also be used for male friends or extended family who you are close with)

Abla: elder sister (same rules as abi apply)

Babaanne: paternal grandmother

Anneanne: maternal grandmother

Dede: grandfather,  paternal or maternal

Dayı: maternal uncle (can also be used for older members of your extended family,  usually on the mother’s side)

Amca: paternal uncle (same rules as dayı apply)

Teyze: maternal aunt (same rules as the uncles)

Hala: paternal aunt (you guessed it,  same rules)

Yenge: a woman who has married into the family,  or a female member of a spouse’s family (a sign of respect, typically used for those who are older than the one who is speaking.  For example,  my husband calls his uncles wife yenge,  I am called yenge by his younger cousins,  etc.)

Inişte: a man who has married into the family,  or a male member of a spouse’s family (the male form of yenge)

Kız: a young girl (used as a term of affection)

Kuzen: cousin,  either maternal or paternal.  Usually you don’t add this title to the persons name,  though, or call them by this title.

Torun: grandchild.  Also not typically used as a title or with the persons name.

Here are some examples of how these titles may be used in conversation

Ayşe speaking to her older brother,  Mehmet:
A: Abi,  when are you coming back from school?
M: In about an hour.

Aylin speaking to her maternal uncle, Hussein:
A: Hussein Dayı,  how are you?
H: I’m great kızım (my girl),  how about you?

Sema speaking to her husband’s uncle, Can:
S: İnişte,  are you staying for dinner?
C: I intend to,  your chicken is the best!

Let me know if any of these titles seem wrong…  As I said before,  some of these titles can be used in various ways,  and even my husband gets confused. If you can think of any more,  comment below!

See you for the next installment,  İnşallah!

PSA: The truth about the food you eat


I was discussing a bit of food related news that a friend of mine was concerned about… and as far as I could tell, her worries were unfounded based on the information given.  This led to a bit of a rant about consumers and food information.  I think it is a good public service announcement, so I am posting it here:

Brought to you by your local(ish?) Master of Food Science ;) (with a minor in Soil and Water Science):

I think a huge issue with consumers’ knowledge about food is that different industries try to twist the story- making you go one way or the other. Non-scientific magazines publish stories that are being summarized by someone not in that field of study- so they are going to assume the conclusions given by the authors of the science journal are right. But you have to be able to look at the studies conducted critically-

How did they do this study?

What are the controls?

Did they consider all the variables?

Are they influencing results by the choice of material?

Are they reporting in a biased manner?

Do I agree with their conclusions?

Were these meat patties cooked appropriately, or am I gonna die? :/

Were these meat patties cooked appropriately, or am I gonna die? :/

You will often find that scientists want to inflate their research- “I found that ___ causes cancer!!” when that isn’t the case, they found something that maybe might encourage cancer a little bit when the moon is full and you just hiked a mile in the snow on a Tuesday… We need to spread knowledge, not fear, and the food industry and government regulators need to find a better way to disseminate the truth, not misinformation.

Furthermore, the average lay-person doesn’t know this.  They often can’t critique a study the way that scientists can.  Even then, different areas of research can look at the same results in a different way.  For example, if a pure microbiologist looks at my masters thesis work, their conclusions will be different from mine.

Lastly, you need to have a strong handle on the perspectives of public health scientists vs. industry scientists.  A PH specialist may tell you that a 0.001% of illness is too much of a risk- that can translate to…I’m making up a number here, 1,000 people in the US getting a mild illness, maybe.  The chance of those people getting dangerously ill is 10% if they have a liver disease, and the chance of death is 1% under the same conditions.  An industry professional may say that this risk is ok, because you can’t completely annihilate risk, but a public health professional may say NO! Too much risk!

But will the people with liver disease even eat your product, when it is told that they should be mindful?  Who knows! WHO KNOWS! That’s why it is so complicated, and some articles may scream from the rooftops that something is dangerous/ bad for you… but they may not include all of the parameters.

So, in the end…

knowledge over fear.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Half n’ Half


 This week’s photo challenge is called half and half, and it couldn’t come at a better time.


When your heart is in two places, you are never completely happy.  I’m half in the US, and half in Turkey.  No matter where I am- that’s the case!  While it is so cool and exciting to have a “double life”, two different lives in two totally different places… it also takes its toll.  Eventually this half and half situation will slide…more towards one side than the other.  Having been mentally preparing myself for years, I haven’t allowed myself to slide more to the American side…because it would only make moving to Turkey harder.  Living that half n’ half life…


Now for a simply appealing half and half picture for the poor readers who wandered here on accident, and didn’t want to hear me waxing existential:

Half sky, half earth…a pic from my time in Austria

Turkey 102: How to Stay Well in Turkey


Welcome back to my “Turkey lessons”, and I hope they are helping you!  I may even make them a series ;).  Today’s lesson is how to stay well in Turkey.  Traveling always comes with some health risks, and it is important to keep yourself well when traveling abroad.  Here are a few tips for keeping yourself healthy.


This painting is two years old, ok? No judgement!

1. Keep your immune system up: This one is obvious and applies to any travel you do.  When going abroad, you will be exposed to microbes such as viruses that you have not been exposed to before.  It is important to keep your immune system up the best you can with proper hydration, healthy eating, and adequate sleep.  Personal hygiene should also be kept well, such as washing your hands frequently, but in Turkey people do tend to be very clean ;).

2.  Watch what you eat:  Some delicacies in Turkey are more…delicate…than others.  For example, çiğ köfte and kokoreç.  The prior is a raw ground beef patty, and the latter is roasted intestine.  Both are likely breeding grounds for food-borne pathogens such as E. coli.  Don’t get me wrong- I eat them both and LOVE them both!  The Turks have a long history of brilliant food culture, and they know how to prepare these foods right- but sometimes our american guts can’t handle it.  So, I would advise starting our these harrowing food adventures in small bites- testing the waters before jumping in.

3. Don’t drink tap water:  While Turkey has a water system that is drinkable, such as in the US, some areas may be…questionable.  Within my husband’s life, he can recall a time when the water in Izmir, one of the most developed cities in Turkey, had water sanitation issues.  My in-laws still drink from a water cooler in the kitchen…and I think I will follow their suit.  But don’t be afraid to try the spring water, when it is available!

4. Embrace natural remedies:  Homeopathy is fairly common in Turkey, and its popularity is growing in the US.  When I had a stomach ache my mother in law gave me fennel tea- and that helped a lot.  Much like the food culture, the Turks have a long history of homeopathy and they have honed their skills.  While there is a place for homeopathy, it is still important to know when enough is enough- and to consult a physician if your ailments become too serious.

I hope these tips help you when spending time in Turkey, and if you have any other advice, please drop a comment below!

Throw Back Thursday: The End of an Era


 Yesterday I received an email telling me that my thesis has been accepted by the graduate school.

 My status has been changed to final clearance.

 What does that mean?

 It’s over!

The era of higher education, for me anyway, is done.  Complete.  Finished.  Beginning around six years ago, this month, my technical graduation will be August, but for all practical purposes, I’ve completed my schooling.

 It’s been a long journey.  Starting in upstate South Carolina and eventually finding my way to Florida, I’ve had many experiences as a student.  Realizing that my studies have completed, I became a little nostalgic.  There is so much I miss about my undergraduate experience… the city of Clemson, the friends that I had there, meeting the love of my life (and marrying him), summer Sundays at Lake Hartwell, and fresh fall Saturdays spent on the hill with 80,000 of my closest friends (only fellow Tigers know what I’m talking about).

DSCN2004 DSCN2018 DSCN2080 DSCN0975

  Those are days I will never forget.  Let alone the less pleasant memories…my first failing grade, thinking my love was going to have to stay in Turkey right after meeting him, professors who couldn’t teach their way out of a paper bag…

But the good memories are so much more than the bad ones.

And then I came here.


  Most of the memories I’ve made since moving to Florida revolve around married life.  Like I had said before, Hubby and I married a week before moving further south…so I wasn’t surrounded with the friends one can only make during their undergrad, but I did experience so many other things that only graduate school can provide.  That incomparable rush when you make an A in the hardest class in the department, spending every waking moment working on your research, forgetting what the outside of the lab looks like, and second guessing why in the world you are here.

 But I came.

And now it’s done.

  Of course there were lots of vacation/ beach trip memories to be made too, but those aren’t over.  There are plenty of beaches to enjoy in Turkey (can’t beat the Mediterranean, am I right?)…but school, formally, is done.  I can’t even wrap my head around it!  What will I do with my time?


You never stop learning, really.  For instance,  I will be learning Turkish, sewing, cooking methods, etc (inshallah)…but there is something so heavy about finishing something you have been working on for years.  Six years, to be precise.  I wonder if I will look back on Florida the way I look back at Clemson…with fondness, and a pang of longing. Time will only tell, I guess…

 It’s the end of an era.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Symbol


nazar boncuk

One of my favorite symbols in Turkey is the nazar boncuğu.  This talisman is also known as the Evil Eye- in that it supposedly protects you from it.  The Evil Eye is a concept that “evil” or jealous eyes can bring bad juju on you.  Even Islamically speaking this can be true, that people that are jealous of you can wish you harm.  According to the lore, even someone with “bright eyes” (basically any color but brown) can cause nazar by simply admiring a thing, even with pure intentions.  Wearing this charm or hanging it around your house can prevent the juju from getting you.

This talisman is also common in Greece and other Mediterranean areas.

  While in real life we know that nazar cannot be prevented by using a shiny piece of painted glass, I love it.  For me it will always be a symbol of Turkey and Turkish culture.

The Horrible, Wonderful, Scary, Exciting Truths About Moving Abroad


Let me stop you right there-  we aren’t certain about our moving just yet…but it has been a topic floating around the office as August approaches.

As we careen into July, the possibility of our moving to Turkey has been looming more and more daunting on the horizon.  While discussing the many things I need to do- such as purchase my visa, pack my suitcases, buy more luggage…one of the technicians in the laboratory asked me

Aren’t you scared?

And honestly? I don’t really know.

You see, I’ve known for years that Turkey was a likely destination for us in the future.  You can see from my earliest blog posts that I wasn’t that excited about moving there.  However, as time progressed and the idea marinated in my brain, I became more and more comfortable with the idea. Of course, spending a summer in Turkey four years ago did help soften my heart to the eclectic country where east meets west in a dazzling display of cultural curiosities.  At this point in my life, mere weeks away from holding my Master’s diploma inshallah… this seems like the perfect time to start a new chapter in my life.  Like I have said before, it is more like a new BOOK!

But that question really struck me.  No one had asked before if I was scared.  Nervous?  Excited?  Won’t you miss ____?  Those questions I’ve had, but scared…? Hmm…the more I think about it….

Not particularly.

  Naturally there are some aspects of moving that are always nerve wracking.  Packing, planes, leaving your loved ones behind…and due to the latter I have been living at arms length from most people since moving to Florida.  Why get close when you are only going to cry when it is time to leave?  Maybe that is a little depressing, but hey-  whatever gets me through this upheaval right?


So I thought I would make a list of my three biggest fears and my three biggest excitements regarding my move to Turkey inshallah… maybe it will help those of you who are also moving, to see it from another perspective.  Let’s start with the scary…


  1. Home sickness:  Yes, being home sick is a fear.  I have heard my husband describe his home sickness when he initially moved to the US- how it would come in debilitating waves.  Home sickness can act as a catalyst when already weighed down by other stressors.  It is an unfortunate eventuality, but I hope that I can keep it under control until I have adjusted to Turkish life.
  2. Not being a citizen:  There are so many hang ups that come with not being a citizen.  Paperwork, mostly, and the idea that if you get in trouble you don’t have the same assurances as a citizen does.  This is another aspect of international life that my husband brought to my attention.  I am holding my breath the first year of my move, until I can apply for citizenship.
  3. Miscommunication: There are many verbal and non verbal ways of communicating- and I dread the idea that I may give the wrong idea to strangers, particularly, due to my way of speaking (even in Turkish), or my body language.  The last thing I need is to offend someone, or have someone think I am coming on to them.  In Turkey…that could end pretty badly.  While adjusting to the general culture of Turkey doesn’t worry me so much- these little methods of communication are daunting.


  1. New sites/places:  The best part of moving anywhere, in my opinion, is experiencing new places and sights that you have not been able to see before!  While I have been in Turkey before, so not everything is new,  I look forward to spending the summer months lounging with my husband in his family’s beach house in Izmir,  watching the snow fall in large feathery drops onto the orange rooftops and rolling hills in central Turkey, and hearing the Ezan as an alarm clock in the morning.  Every country/ city has it’s beauties…and while I may be leaving the Florida beaches and palms, I am gaining the Mediterranean breezes and mountains.
  2. A new standard of living:  While this may come off as daunting for those of us who are used to the luxury of the first world, I am very excited to be able to experience a more Turkish way of life.  Not like Turkey is a poor country by any means, but the standard of living is very different.  For example, I am thrilled to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables every day for incredibly cheap, make my own tarhana (a special Turkish soup) and salca (pepper or tomato paste), hang my clothes out on a line to dry, and utilize public transportation- even ferries!- instead of using my own car to go everywhere.  If that means I can’t afford a smart phone- so be it!!
  3.  Living a new language:  Four years ago I would have laughed in your face if you told me that I was going to speak Turkish- and speak it well.  While I do have a long way to go before being fluent, the possibility of mastering Turkish is more realistic when in Turkey.  There is something so empowering about being able to express yourself in multiple ways…and I can’t wait to live this new language on a day to day basis!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Door


This week’s weekly photo challenge is called door.  Doors have many significant meanings in different cultures… and to me, door makes me think of the one I will be walking out of for the last time at the end of the month, and the one I will be walking through for the first time in four years in August inshallah…

But neither are this door.


The opulent doorway to Topkapi Palace in Istanbul… the home of many Sultans throughout Turkish history.  Yeah, no emotional meaning here…it is just pretty cool :)

Starbucks Name

Starbucks Name

One of my international friends, Chinese, actually, told me about this hilarious concept called a Starbucks name.  What she meant is that some names are difficult to pronounce in another country- like her own name in the US- and therefore she picked a more English-friendly, American name to use at places like Starbucks or Chick Fil A or other places that call you by your name in a crowded place.  It is just easier for everyone.  And to be honest, I totally get it.

When purchasing bus tickets in Turkey, the attendant would butcher my name miserably on the ticket.  Whenever the hubster and I were out and about and a name was needed for an order or something, we would use his name…much like we keep everything under my name here in the US.  So, for unofficial purposes like bus tickets and whatnot, I chose to take a Starbucks name for Turkey.

Have you ever had to make changes like these to get around language or culture issues?

And so begins a new sub-category…