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).

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  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.

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  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?
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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.

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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?

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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…

Fears

  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.

Excitements

  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!

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…

#expatproblems

Gay Marriage: A response

Today is a historic day in American history.  Today the legality of gay marriage is the law of the land.  Every state must recognize and sign off on gay marriage.

The internet and news channels are exploding- everyone has an opinion.  Even the supreme court justices who decided the constitutional stance of gay marriage in a 5-4 vote had a lot to say.  In this country, gay marriage is a very contentious issue.

Well, I guess it’s my turn now.

What do I think about the legalization of gay marriage?:

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…well, it’s about time. duh.

Commentators:  But you’re muslim!

Why yes, yes I am.  And what of it?

Commentators:  Your holy book says that gay marriage is not allowed!

Well…does it?  The Quran actually says that gay relations is not permissible, not actually being gay, or gay marriage, as far as I can tell.  Even if it does, so what?  Not everyone is Muslim. This country, America, promises freedom for all.  That means me, you, and gay Americans.  I don’t feel like a couple being allowed to enjoy legal benefits given by federally recognized marriage is going to hurt me or my beliefs.  I don’t have to partake in a gay marriage… no one is making me officiate a gay wedding.   This country is a melting pot and is made up of many different people with many beliefs, and I have no problem with people living their lives in a way that I wouldn’t live mine.

If I expect to have my rights to be Muslim, wear hijab, etc. to be honored- I will in turn honor the rights of those who do not agree with me.  Live and let live.  You don’t even have to agree with me, that’s ok too.

Simple enough.

The colors of the rainbow

  This week’s photo challenge is called Roy G. Biv…which is an anagram for the colors of the rainbow!  From the sun bleached stones to the vibrant forests, Turkey is one of the most colorful countries I have visited.  Everywhere you turn your eyes are delighted with the rich culture and colors of this country- where east meets west in a brilliant array that cannot be matched.

Red

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Orange

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Yellow

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Green

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Blue

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Indigo

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Violet

DSCN1755  I could have easily prepared a collage for each color…but I don’t have the patience to dig through my old photos for that 😉  I hope this is enough to whet your appetite. All photos were taken by yours truly.

Babalar Gunu Mutlu Olsun/ Happy Fathers’ Day!

Today has always been difficult for me growing up.  My father passed away when I was one year old, and I never knew him.  Whenever fathers’ day would come around I would celebrate with my grandfather, who has always been the male role model in my life.  Still, it isn’t the same.

But now I do have a father.  Well, a father-in-law that is.  But I know that to him there is no difference between the marriage and blood tie.  We are family.

Happy Fathers’ Day to all the dads out there, and to my babacigim (dear father).

Babalar Gunu Mutlu Olsun!

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RAMAZAN GELIYOR!

Ramadan is coming!

downloadAnd I am so excited!

For those of you who are not familiar with Ramadan, it is the 9th and holiest month of the Muslim calendar.  Similar to China, Islamic months are based off the lunar cycle rather than the solar cycle like our present day Gregorian calendars, which is why these months change a little every year (moving backward, so next year it will likely start early June I believe).   But this year…it starts tonight!

  Check out my Ramadan post from last year to get all the details about what one does during Ramadan and why it is special!

Many people are familiar with fasting during Ramadan…and many also ask me:

Don’t you hate Ramadan?  I mean, you have to fast

The answer is no!  I LOVE Ramadan!  My only worry when it comes to fasting is not that I will be in discomfort, but that I will not be able to overcome my physical struggle to focus on my spiritual side.  I guess you know that a faith is right for you when something that appears to others to be a chore is something you look forward to.  I hope to do some additional posts this month about religion and faith, and how it has affected me personally- including opinion pieces about the role of religion in society/ government, etc.   Last year I wanted to post every day about what I was doing during Ramadan…but that ended very very quickly haha- this time I will aim for one or two a week, inshallah!

I may post a little about other things- but I want to aim the majority of my efforts towards my spiritual side during this Holy month… if that is boring, I’m sorry!  You may get a little bored this month…. 😉

The Candid Truth About Farmers’ Markets

Disclaimer: I have a bias for farmers’ markets.  This bias may come out in the following report. 😉

Do you like sleeping in?  Do you like the convenience of having all produce available nearly all year round?  Do you like eating bland, overpriced veggies and fruits?

Then farmers’ markets are not for you!

 Keep reading to get the truth (as I see it) about farmers’ markets!

What I love about farmers’ markets (i.e., pros 🙂 )

1.  You meet the farmer:  I love that I get to meet the person who put their blood, sweat, and tears into the earth.  I hold farmers in very high regard- and being able to meet them face to face to say thank you is always a bonus!  Plus you get to develop a bond with the people that feed you!

2.  It’s usually cheaper:  Of course, this isn’t always the case.  But let me give you an example of the white eggplant, to which I always sing lyrical praise. At the grocery store in Florida, one white eggplant can cost upwards of $7…but at the farmers’ market, I can purchase six white eggplants for $6.

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3.  The quality can be better:  For example- the best okra to buy shouldn’t be much longer than your thumb (see right- but this one is pushing it a little).  Once they get long and big, they are meant to be planted.  I have never seen a small okra in the grocery store.

4.  Greater variety:  I keep coming back to eggplants because I am a die-hard fan…but at the grocery store you can find the typical purple eggplant, and on occasion white or graffiti eggplants…but at the farmers’ market?  Just today I saw purple eggplant, white eggplant, graffiti eggplant, black eggplant (the tops are black instead of green), japanese eggplant, globe eggplant, and whatever you call the itty bitty graffiti looking eggplants… I often see more melon varieties and pepper varieties as well.

5.  Negotiating/ haggling:  Try walking into a grocery store and saying ” you know, I’m buying four squash… you should give me a dollar off this bag of tomatoes, don’t you think?” or “how about we make these peppers 2 pints for 3$ instead of 2$ a piece?”  Yeah, they are going to think you are nuts.  Crazy at register 7!  But at a farmers’ market no one will bat an eye at your effort to get the best deal.  Even better, if you follow number 1 you can build a report that results in a few extra goodies ending up in your bag!

6. Supporting small, local business:  Before reaching for organic (which I have my own opinions on…) I will reach for local.   Besides being morally good for the community, supporting local business means more money coming into the city,  less transit for the product, and for produce- more time on the vine.  I can’t stress enough the importance of supporting your local farmers.   In Turkey, this is the norm…but in America, we have so industrialized our agriculture that local small farms have a hard time keeping up.  There’s definitely a place for both, but don’t forget your local farmers’ market!

What I hate about farmers’ markets (i.e., cons 😦 )

1. The inconvenience of seasonality:  While seasonality is GREAT when what you like is, you know, in season… some seasons are pretty sparse on options.  During the entire winter we didn’t go to the farmers’ market, because there wasn’t much to offer (in the way of products we like).

2.  Things go bad:  Because produce is picked as late as possible in farmers’ markets, sometimes you will find something has gone bad. Then you get pretty bummed!  At grocery stores, you can hand pick each thing you want- but usually at farmers’ markets you get whatever is in the pint basket… good or bad.

3.  Nature happens:  Because a lot of the farmers’ market farmers don’t use the same heavy duty pesticides (or are just organic), you may find…nature…in your produce.  For example, after washing a small cucumber the other day, hubby bit into it to find a worm.  Don’t worry, it was a whole worm. But still… icky.  Most of us find ways of dealing with this eventuality, but it sure does stink when it happens.

CAM008824.  Cleaning:  Unlike a grocery store, there is no team of employees whose job it is to scrub your carrots before they hit the shelves.  Also,  small scale farms don’t usually have flume systems and other large scale cleaning methods pre-packaging.  You are going to have to trim those stems, scrub that dirt, rinse that skin… another example, today I spent nearly 20 minutes scrubbing and trimming the radishes I bought.   They started out nearly black- but aren’t they lovely now (see left)? 🙂  If you aren’t willing to take the time to do the processing that you pay for at the store, then you won’t like farmers’ markets.

Despite my bias, I think this report is very fair.  Farmers’ markets were always a joke to me growing up in the US.  When I went to Turkey, however, I saw their potential….and our local farmers’ market is nothing to sniff at.  I am very grateful for the opportunity to support my local businesses and enjoy the produce that comes from the same soil that I walk on every day.   Saturday mornings at the farmers’ market is always a joy!

Do you go to your local farmers’ market?  Do you think something should be added to this list?