Elbow Room

Great news! 

The renter downstairs (bottom floor, flat 1 of 3) has moved out! 

You know what that means? 

We are finally moving out of this flat (3rd of 3)!!! I could dance and cry for joy simultaneously. I’m not exaggerating. 

Of course the apartment will need a bit of sprucing up.  It is, after all, about 30 years old.  Nothing a fresh coat of paint and some new floors can’t fix! There’s nothing like a little renovation! 

Plus I need a side project.  

Meanwhile we are also working to finish the second floor construction, but now that can slow down as other things have been popping up in our lives lately…more to talk about later. 

Check out our new floors! We only put them in the sitting room and bedroom, but we are so impressed we are thinking to put them everywhere… But that costs money. Crossed fingers we can do enough to be able to move within two weeks! 


new floor in the bedroom! It’s amazing how much it brightens the whole room!

Old furniture frames the renter left behind need to be broken down for fire wood… But the kitchen  cabinets are solid! Old floors are ugly, but a carpet can fix that.  Or maybe more new floors? 

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New Years Resolutions 2017

As 2016 draws to a close I find myself looking forward more than back. I dont particularly care to reflect on the previous year, as it has been a real struggle for me. 

 Honestly, I’m  just not happy.  I’m not.  I don’t want to call it depression because I never went to the doctor for a diagnosis (mostly because I don’t have a history of depression, so any negativity is just situational right now and I don’t want to medicate for that). I can’t really pinpoint when I took this turn, since it’s been just a constant stream of disappointment and struggle. 

On top of general money moods, I’m angrier, swearing more, praying less, feeling ungrateful, picking fights, being petty… 

 I know it’s mostly related to my living situation.  Having no space to call my own, no privacy, no ownership of my life. Not to mention my grandmother passed away somewhat suddenly last month. 

I’m not ready to talk about that just yet. 

And of course I haven’t seen my family for over a year. We talk, but it’s not the same. 

Turkey is wearing me down. 

I’ve found myself pushing against the Turkish language, the culture, and even sometimes I won’t eat the food. I don’t know how to describe this feeling but to say I’m not me anymore, and I don’t like it.  I don’t like this homesick, hate my life, and hate everyone around me feeling. 

But I let myself be a victim of my circumstances, and no one/ nothing can affect me if I don’t let it.  

So in 2017 my resolutions are these:

1. Boost my imaan : I need to make an active effort to reconnect with my religion. A religion I actually chose myself. I thought being in Turkey would make it easier, but I think it’s been harder.  Either way, I need to get back into prayer and listen to more religious lectures. 

2. Count my blessings: Every day I want to reflect on at least 3 things I should be grateful for. Even the small things, like hot soup on a cold day.  When I start looking for the good instead of the bad, I know my mood will improve. 

3. Take control and live NOW: I’m going to do more to have more of an influence on my own life.  I intend to start that by moving out of this flat before winter is over, but that’s a post for next week. And instead of waiting for things to happen, I will take an active role in my fate and live in the now. 

4. Swear and complain less: In the states, the majority of my friends don’t swear terribly much.  I also made a concerted effort to not swear either. But here… Well, I have been seriously slacking.  And all I ever talk about are the bad things that are happening to me and how miserable I am (sorry,  friends) .  No more! The occasional venting is ok, but I don’t want to complain more than once a week. Let’s be honest, cold turkey isn’t going going to work. 
I know it’s cliche to make resolutions, but it’s something I need to do.  Be it December or June, positive changes are never a bad thing… 

What are your resolutions? 

Tile Day

Today we went shopping for bathroom tiles and balcony laminate. 


We also looked at Parque for the rest of the rooms, but didn’t settle on anything yet.  I think we can find a better deal. 

We perused other odds and ends as well. 

We did settle on a bathroom design! 

Not the sink or toilet though.  Also too expensive. 

We also bought a nonslip laminate for the balcony. Not in love with the color, but it was the only nonslip option. And I’m a clutz and a half so… 


Slowly yet surely we are making progress on the second floor.  Too slowly. Not surely enough. 

But it’s better than nothing.  

Our New Apartment!*

*disclaimer: neither new nor ours

Sorry,  I needed a catchy title to reel you in.  But I did include a disclaimer right at the beginning,  so no harm no foil,  right? 

So we have decided what to do about our living situation – final word! Kind of good and kind of bad… 

We decided to finish building the second floor flat in my in laws house for our use. 

WHAT!?

I know what you’re probably thinking.  We are never going to be free again! Probably not, but it’s better than the current situation  and it does have some benefits. 

Namely;

 No rent. 

No landlord.  

Close to work.

Completely by my design. 

When I say finish the second floor,  I really mean finish.  It’s been bare bones since the house was built 30 or so years ago. 

And its been used as a kind of storage space ever since. 

But it’s pretty big (3+1, around 130+m) and all ours.  We need to move everything out and pour leveling concrete (which is the hardest part of what’s left to do), install the floors, paint, attach proper fixtures and outlets, totally finish the bathroom, and install cupboards… 

Oh wow,  that’s a lot. 

But the windows and doors are done, electric and water works, so we just have to finish the inside. It’ll take a chunk of cash, but for less than the price of one year’s rent in another apartment we can have our own built up to our specifications. 

I try to think of it more as an empty canvas. 

And at least we are moving in the right direction. 

(sorry for the lack of posts, a lot going on lately that I hope to be able to explain later…) 

The Obligatory Election Post

As an American blogger (particularly  an expat one) , I’m required to post about the election this week. 

Am I scared? Some. 

Am I angry? A bit. 

Am I disappointed ? Yes. 

Am I surprised? Not really. 

I mean, after the initial shock,  I sighed and shook my head.  America has always had an unfortunate undercurrent of all the -isms . . . Racism, sexism, exceptionalism , and a number of phobias and bigotry.  I’m a big girl and I can acknowledge our downfalls as a nation. 

At first I thought that these election results meant that these horrible things had reached a majority and were socially acceptable now. I was even worried about my own safety when I return home this summer. But then I talked to some people who voted for trump. They didn’t vote for him because they agree with him, they did it because they hate Hillary and the current system.  So instead of being directly terrible, some people just lack empathy and are a bit ignorant to the concerns of the minority. 

It’s better than being hateful. . ? 

So I have hope still that my country won’t fall into total disrepair.  Will there be setbacks? I think so. But hopefully we won’t crash and burn.  

Now it’s up to the rest of us to kick into high gear, write our representatives , and keep up to date on every bit of legislation that comes across the executive desk. Make our voices heard.  We are not a nation of jerks . We are just angry. 

I am American,  hear me roar. 

Knee Jerk Reactions

Whenever something bad happens, you tend to have that initial “knee jerk” reaction. A reflex, if you will.  My previous post basically covered hubby’s reflex to losing his job. 

You know, the “we can’t move out now” , “we will move to new city” , “everything sucks” kind of stuff.  

Well, we are trying to take a few days to step back and really evaluate the situation and the best next move. 

For both of us.  

At the moment, moving out is back in the table, taking some time off to take more professional/technical courses, and other personal development stuff is also a possibility. 

While nothing is clear right now, the only thing we can be certain of is that we have each other- and that’s what matters. 

Prayers and positivity appreciated.  

That Was Fun While it Lasted

Well,  hubby lost his job. 

We knew the company wasn’t doing too well when his pay checks were coming later and later.  They finally decided to shut down that division of the factory.  

Pretty bad timing, considering we were looking for an apartment. 

Notice the use of past tense.  Were looking.  Were.  As in,  we were looking before, but now we are not. 

And we are indeed not looking. Not because we found a place, but because hubby lost his job.  Even though we could afford a place on only my salary, he has been applying to new jobs in other cities (read: Istanbul and Ankara, where he has more options. Never mind my own job).  He doesn’t want us to move out on a lease when he may have to move for work (because I clearly can’t live alone).  

Nevermind my f***in sanity. 

His parents are trying to finish the second floor of their house (which was built like a three flats apartment building), which they intend to “give to us” when it’s finished (and by give,  I mean have us pay to complete and thereof pretty much buy).  With no heating. In,  maybe,  March? 

So in the meantime I will continue to lose my damn mind in this overcrowded flat, serving as both a teacher at school and a maid at home.  Basically miserable everywhere. 

I think I’m going to be sick. 

House Hunt Struggles 

Guys. 

When did it become so expensive to live in Izmir? 

We’ve been on the hunt for an apartment for a few months, just recently visiting locations and whatnot since the prices have been going down for the winter season. 

But dang. If it isn’t expensive, still!

Hubby and I work quite close to each other (he is at a factory and Im at a school, just two metro stops apart). So valid living options are centered in one 5km radius.  You think it would be easy, since there are many new apartments, old sites, etc to choose from.  I mean, there are “for rent” signs everywhere. 

But the PRICE!! 

Not many places have shown up on our radar for under 1000₺/mo, and that’s not even considering proximity to amenities, public transport, pazar locations, etc.  That’s not even taking into account the size (I’m talking tiny in some cases!) of the apartment and its having proper heating systems or not (we need that natural gas!). 

Like, base price for a poor looking, run down, old apartment on the first floor on this side of town is minimum, 900₺. Woah now.  Woah. 

For folks that live in Istanbul, you’re probably laughing at me.  Like, that’s not bad for living in the city.  But considering you make more in Istanbul… We do want to save money from our pay checks, and hope to buy a car and stuff one day in the near future. 

So far the two places we seriously considered from sahibinden were a fantastic price, but the location was terrible.  I mean,  you’re going to get kidnapped on the road terrible. 

And so we continue to live in a room in my in laws apartment… More about that later. 

Note: between work and looking for an apartment, time to write has gone down to near zero.  I hope to pick up soon! Sorry! Check my Instagram for more activity starting today! I ran out of data too fast last month… 

The Hunt For the Holy Grail- FILTERED

Yes, FINALLY.  Finally I’m writing the last installment of a series I started a million years ago.  I didn’t even get to try the last filtered coffee brand I had on my list.  Why? Because I am CONTENT.  I have found THE ONE.

(and because it’s been so long, I can’t find the pictures of each coffee brand on my computer… You’ll have to look at Instagram screenshots instead. Sorry!) 

But first, lets look at a few others.

For filtered coffee, I utilized the french press method for brewing. Because I like a strong cup, I steeped the grinds for 7-8 minutes instead of the suggested 5 minutes.  Also, due to the fact I kept letting milk spoil in the fridge, I’ve switched to powdered creamer (nestle brand). I know, the scandal! But I can’t stand wasting milk, and I simply don’t use it for much else besides the occasional dessert and coffee!

Turkish Coffee (ground for filtered)

Very simply put…Turkish coffee without the sludge.
Taste: 2/10

How is it possible that the taste got worse when I used the same beans as the traditional Turkish coffee, but with a filter?  Maybe because I hold my filtered coffee to a higher standard?  For more information on the flavor of Turkish coffee, check out my Hunt post here.

Texture: 7/10

Not having that nasty sludge was a huge improvement to this coffee.

Aroma: 7/10

One of the benefits of Turkish coffee is that it has a very strong aroma.  You can tell coffee is in my cup from across the room!

Too bad the taste dragged down the score.

Total: 5/10

Sorry Turkish coffee, you will never be my holy grail!

 

Starbucks House Blend

The standard Starbucks flavor we all know and (some people) love! (22TL for 200g)
Taste: 6/10

Like I’ve said on several occasions- I’m not a hardcore Starbucks fan.  But what I do praise them for is their consistency.  The taste of Starbucks here is the same as what I am accustomed to in the states.  So if you are a Starbucks fan, you can buy a bag of Starbucks coffee beans in Turkey and feel completely at ease. It was a welcome taste to have back on my buds, but at the same time, I always added syrups to the Starbucks I drank back home.  Because, while the flavor is a standard filtered coffee type, it doesn’t exactly wow me.  The complexity is there, but there is a bit of a sour note going on as well.

Texture: 8/10

No grits! No grains! This does a happy girl make!  Paired with the powdered creamer, the texture of this coffee has been bumped up to the slightly creamy category I’ve been looking for!

Aroma: 8/10

Everyone knows the smell of Starbucks.  These coffee beans are poignant in a very good way!  I can smell the coffee when I walk into the kitchen. mmm!

Total: 7/10

A solid choice, but still a “nothing to write home about” experience. If you are craving filtered coffee, this is not a bad option.  Plus, like I said before, the familiarity is nice when you feel a little home sick.

Tchibo (Guatemala Grande and African Blue)

Tchibo is a German company that sells a lot of random stuff.  One of their products is coffee. Guatemala Grande (GG) is their medium roast, while African Blue (AB) is their dark.  They have a few other roasts as well, but these are the ones I’ve been refilling over and over again.  I first tried the GG on it’s own…then I tried the AB…and I said to myself “these are both good. But what if I put them TOGETHER?”. (23 TL for two 250g bags)

Then the sky opened up.

Light shined down.

And the angels sang.

Taste: (GG) 7/10, (AB) 8/10, (blend) 9/10

GG is a lovely, if not standard, medium roast.  It has a mild complexity, not overwhelming, but also lacks the sourness of Starbucks.

While I am typically not a fan of dark roast, AB has me hooked!  It is a notch or two bolder than GG, without smacking you in the face with bitterness. It still has a mild complexity, but where GG is solidly in the “medium” category, AB floats softly in the “dark” category, with some of the notes found in the medium. When using the nestle powdered creamer, the bitterness is completely masked*.

But when you bring GG and AB together, it is a taste of heaven.  Even without any added flavors (hazelnut, chocolate, vanilla, etc), this coffee is a dream.  The GG and AB are just different enough that you can tell the difference when you drink them separately, but when you bring them together the flavors meld beautifully without having too much of one particular note.  I like a good 1:1 ratio of GG and AB, and if I am feeling light, I go 3:1.

Texture: (all) 8/10

I think I need to chock the texture up to the great nestle powdered creamer I’ve been using…

Aroma: (GG) 7/10, (AB) 8/10, (blend) 8/10

As is the norm, the dark roasted AB has a slightly stronger scent than GG.  However, when blended, the poignancy of the AB comes out in the scent. In my experience, you need to let this coffee steep a little longer (8 minutes) to get the full effect.

Total: (GG) 7/10, 8/10(AB), 8/10(blend)

Because the texture and aroma don’t change too much with the blend, the blend ended up tying with the AB dark roast…but everything was weighted equally in my assessment.  Because I hate statistics. And I am not about to pull out analysis software to do math on a blog post.  But in real life, the taste is obviously the most important thing.  So, numbers aside, I would say that the blend of GG+AB is the best filtered coffee I’ve had in Turkey.

I’d go so far as to say it’s the best coffee period (so far).

I’d even say…

I HAVE FOUND MY HOLY GRAIL!

Across all types of coffee, and brands, I believe the Tchibo Guatemala Grande mixed with the African Blue is my holy grail of coffee in Turkey.  Sure, there are other brands I haven’t tried.  There are flavored syrups I haven’t used.  But with my GG+AB, I have consistently made good (neigh, GREAT) cups of coffee that have started my morning right.  I’ve even gotten back in the habit of drinking coffee every morning. And that price point though!! (5.75TL for 100g. That’s 12~TL compared to 22TL for Starbucks!!)

 Thanks to Tchibo, Turkey is feeling a little more like home.  And in the end, I think that’s what I was really looking for.

Expat problem? Solved.

 

*Here’s some science for you:  The bitterness in coffee is caused by a chemical compound known as tannins, which also gives the coffee color we are all familiar with. They are also found in coffee and some wines. In order to cut bitterness, we must bind the tannins with protein (commonly milk protein).  Hence the use of milk/cream in coffee! The higher the protein content (like creamer/ powdered creamer vs regular milk vs low fat), the more effective the binding power and the less bitterness you end up with.

By April I mean December, and by December I mean July 2017

Even before we boarded the plane last August,  everyone was asking when we would be back.  I didn’t know at the time, and said we would play it by ear.

The following January,  I had thought that I would be starting a job this September. As you all already know, my headscarf kept that from happening.  But before that,  I had told my family that I would plan on visiting in April (with the promise a future income,  I felt comfortable dropping big money).  Unfortunately I had to take that back.

A bit later,  I had anticipated another job… Another job that didn’t work out.  At that moment I had planned on taking a Christmas break and visiting my family in December.  Well,  looks like that won’t be happening either.

And now I’m starting a course in June,  hoping to find work in the coming months.  Mostly I’ve been applying to schools (which,  as you know,  I didn’t intend to do… But so many are hiring!),  which means I won’t be able to go back to the states until NEXT summer.

image

My mom started a new job on a production line,  so she’s been too busy to miss me.  Hah!  But really, having a scheduled job again instead of being her own boss has made planning a return trip home difficult.  Having to line up her vacation days with my (potential) ones is no easy task! Right now we are hoping I will be able to go stateside again next July for independence day (my favorite holiday!). 

Two whole years (ok, 23 months) since I left.  How will it feel?

Will America still be the way I remember it?

Will it be better? Worse?

What about my hometown? It hasn’t even felt like mine since I moved away for college.  But it feels a lot more mine than Izmir does right now.

While I do feel a little broken hearted (a little crack I guess) that I still have a whole year to wait before I face a 10hr plane flight solo, I knew it could have been like this when we left. Things never seem to go according to plan for us.

And it’s been about a year already, dang!

But hopefully this will.  And maybe if I’m lucky,  I’ll be bringing back more than luggage with me!