What Happens in the Hamam, Stays in the Hamam.

*again I sincerely apologize for a lack of posting.  I’ve snatched my husbands computer for a bit so I can type up something…it may not be the best writing, but that’s because I have to finish before he gets back!!

True to my blog name, I finally was able to “do as the turks do” in the truest sense…

I visited a hamam!

I was only somewhat sure of what to expect (thanks to movies), and I was a little anxious to see how it would go.  Especially since I am a little weird about people touching me (I loathe manicures/pedicures!).  Well, to make a long story short- I loved it!

Lets go through the play by play.

Arrival

Upon arrival at this super fancy hamam (newly built, more like a typical spa from the outside), the whole building was divided in half. One side said “women” and the other side said “men”.  Right out of the gate, I was pleased.  Guys aren’t even allowed in the female reception!

At this hamam, we paid for all of our treatments upfront.  Since there was a package deal, I went for the two massage and entrance packet.  All in all, it added up to 99TL (around 30$ that day). They gave us an electric bracelet to open our lockers electronically, and then rubber wrist bands that corresponded to the treatments we purchased.  I went for a coffee massage (I have very dry skin) and the kopuk/kese massage.

Kese is a special mitt used for exfoliating dead skin.  This beats anything else I’ve ever used in my entire life.

7570ed31ce80e7c027145926b64061c1_1390763179

Kopuk (with dots on the o and u) means foam, so basically they used soap suds.

 

Hamam

If you know nothing about hamams, let me give you a super fast explanation.

They hail from the Ottoman Empire.  They were a form of public baths when indoor plumbing wasn’t a thing.  Typically marble, they are completely closed and very hot, with fountains all around for pouring water to clean yourself.  Sometimes (normally, now) there would be workers there to help clean you (wash your back etc).  They have a long history in the Ottoman Empire, including lore such as men smashing their hands on the marble to increase their fist size and strength for battles.  Maybe longer than the history are the proclaimed benefits of the hamam!

One thing crucial to the hamam experience is the pestemal (peshtemal), a thin towel used to cover yourself in the hamam. Usually you wear a swim suit these days, but back in the day it wasn’t so!

pestemal

I don’t want to say all, since this is my first hamam experience, but most (if not all, based on movies etc) hamams have the same layout. A raised platform in the middle, with sinks and fountains on the outer edge, along with a bench.  Here’s a general idea.

ab-zen-spa-hamam

The one we went to had a different color scheme (white, grey, and blue), but generally it was the same.

Along with the hamam room, most places have the typical sauna, steam room, etc.

So we set ourselves around a fountain and threw water on ourselves (and cold water on each other!) until it was time for the kese.

Massage and spa treatments

So removing half of my swimsuit wasn’t as traumatic as I thought it would be, since everyone else seemed pretty cool with it! We were taken to another room just off the hamam (no door) where the platforms were table sized, and situated beside a sink.  This is where the magic happened!

The workers (all old-ish ladies, maybe in their 50s?) got to scrubbing! They rolled you around like it wasn’t even a big deal. Starting from your back, down your legs, to your feet, then they turned you on your side and did the same, onto your front, on your remaining side, and scrubbed all the way down to your fingers and toes. I felt like a rotisserie chicken! But a clean chicken.  You thought you were exfoliating back home- oh no! I don’t want to describe how much they managed to scrub away, but I think I could form a small child from what remained behind after the kese.

The kese was followed by a coffee massage, which sounds exactly how it was.  Coffee grinds steeped in hot water were rubbed all over, ALL over, over the course of 20 minutes or so.  They were tugging on my arms and hands and feet, I thought I would pop apart!  They were not gentle. But in a good way! (picture is for an idea, obviously not me or the place I went lol)

coffee-chocolate-massage-procedure-woman-beauty-salon-spa-48338077

After the coffee massage came the soap suds massage.  This one was much more gentle, in my opinion.  I was amazed at how they used a large, very thin towel to whip up huge soap suds and squeeze them onto you.  This took another 20 minutes.

After all was said and done, I was sent back to the hamam room to wash myself with my own soap and shampoo.

The aftermath

Ya’ll, my skin was beet red!  I looked like a tomato!  But after sleeping, I woke up and my skin was refreshed and bright, even my face (thanks to the coffee treatment)!  Unfortunately, I ended up having a worse head cold than I started with (I guess sitting in steam for hours then going into slightly brisk weather will do that to you?)…but it was worth it!

Definitely will go again!! Maybe now I will have the strength to finish the school year?

Sihhatlar olsun!

*Disclaimer: Not all hamams are created equal. Be sure to do your homework about the services offered, the hygiene of the facilities, and what you need to bring vs what they provide for you!

 

 

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Return of the TMJ

Oh noooo! It’s back! 

For those if you who aren’t familiar with Tmj, let me direct you to my old posts about my first diagnoses back in Florida almost 3 years ago (check out the tmj tag). 

But for those who are, I had surgery for it while I was in Florida (athrocentesis) which didn’t perfectly fix the issue, but I was eating and speaking just fine. 

Until recently. 

Because of the stress of teaching (I’m sure many of you are familiar with that tightness in your forehead and jaw when you’re pissed) and overusing my jaw because of constantly yelling to be heard over the noise, my tmj is making a comeback. 

So much so, I was in tears from pain and anxiety. 

I don’t want to go through this again. I don’t want another surgery, I don’t want to go 2 months on a nearly liquid diet, and frankly, I can’t.  Not in a job where my sole purpose is talking. 

So as my jaw clicks and pops at almost every movement, I wait anxiously for the day it totally locks again. 

Great. 

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? 

What Did I Eat?! 

Last Sunday hubby, BIL, and I went out for the whole day! We cruised all the holiday deals to find hubs some winter boots, winter dress shoes, a nice jacket, among other things, for an event coming up soon.  We really nailed it on the shoes and jacket! 

While we were out we stopped at a tiny hole in the wall restaurant (literally a hole in the wall, which I’ll post about separately) for fish sandwiches. So. Good. And fritter style! It’s been forever.


 Afterwards, we went to smoke hookah/nargile because we were feeling feisty.  Unfortunately our adrenaline didn’t last and we got tired very fast.  Subsequently, we rushed our smoking and ended up feeling not so good. Hubby’s head was spinning and I was choking on it and my stomach burned.  Not to mention the service was terrible.

Otherwise, a good day.  

And then Monday came. 

My stomach was on fire! It wouldn’t stop burning and flipping as if I’d be sick immediately.  I drug myself to work though, and couldn’t even make myself eat at lunch, for fear of vomiting.  Same for dinner.  Didn’t touch it. I drank marjoram tea to try and help settle my raging insides, but it only helped a little. 

Next morning I ate one plain scrambled egg.  Breakfast was one bowl of soup, and a spoon of erişte. I still wasn’t feeling too good. Zero appetite and stomach pain (but more boiling than burning this time). Had a bowl of soup for dinner and my stomach was bloated to that of a 6 month old pregnant lady. 

What the heck did I eat?! 

Yesterday I managed a few spoons of every food at lunch and dinner.  But still no appetite. Just today I finally had enough of an appetite to enjoy my food, but still half of my normal meal.

Besides stomach anger, you don’t want to know how else my insides were punishing me.

I have no idea what I did.  At first I thought it was from the nargile, but four days of unease?! I thought it might have been the fish, but we all ate the same thing and only I’m suffering. 

Why me? 

First Wife Syndrome

  While the world begins to fret about a new(ish) virus epidemic, I’ve been struggling with my own illness.

Commonly known as first wife syndrome,  this illness is at epidemic proportions in Turkey and commonly occurs in the first wives of families.  It can be particularly aggressive in families with no daughters, and non-Turks seem to suffer the worst from the symptoms.  This affliction can range from very mild to debilitating, and there is no easy way to predict who it will strike. 

Symptoms include,  but are not limited to, back pain, neck pain, head aches, upset stomach, depression, mood swings, lethargy, exhaustion, and general malaise.

But no, really.

Like I described before in a recap of things I love and hate about Turkey, there’s a different standard applied to women rather than men.  In the most extreme cases,  it can manifest as women being treated as near slaves in the house.  This extends to wives, where the women marrying into a family are expected to take on the work of the senior woman in the house (mother in law) when they are there.  This has recently become more of a burden on me too.

Don’t get me wrong,  I have no problem with helping.  What I don’t like is doing things on my own when it isn’t something I’m doing just for me.  For example, forgive me if I get mad about doing my brother in laws laundry.  He’s not my husband and therefore not my problem.

This has been more of a problem since the winter started,  since my mother in law is prone to illness.  The first week it was OK,  but after a month of being asked to make tea (when I don’t want it),  make enough pita bread (lavaş) for our 5 person family without help,  do other people’s laundry, etc… Mmmmm how about no.

But what can I do? If I say no,  I’ll start a traditional rift between wife and mother in law.

This really made my blood boil when I was being told to assist my husband’s aunt in her serving us (as guests) when her own grown female grandchildren were not being made to lift a finger.  This is not normal in American culture (as I know it), and when we first got here nothing was expected of me, it was just a pleasant bonus when I helped so frequently.  But as I’m learning to do things on my own,  it seems that they’ve forgotten I’m not Turkish.

Maybe I should be flattered?

Nah,  I’ll just be mad.

Hopefully things will improve when we move out of my in laws house.  Whenever that will be. The longer I stay the more culture shocks I go through… Is that how it’s supposed to happen?

And now I kind of feel bad for feeling this way! Just because things are different doesn’t make them wrong…

But I can’t turn off 25 years of living my life with a different set of expectations!

What is an expat to do?

Why I Left Nutrition

For those of you who know me personally, this is old news.  But for those of you who don’t, this will be new.  As you can see on my about me page, I obtained my undergraduate degree in Food Science (with a specialization in human nutrition).

But before that, when I first started at Clemson- I was on the Dietetics track.  What’s the difference, you ask?  Well, nutrition and dietetics have the same fundamentals, but dietetics tends to be more clinical- and therefore requires more accreditation.  In the US, a nutritionist does not require extra accreditation, and there is a very loose definition for this label.  However, dietitian is a very strictly regulated field, and one can only be labeled as such after taking special courses and internships at accredited Universities/medical schools/hospitals.

So, back to freshman me. I was (and still am) a huge proponent of using natural remedies/ food as preventative measures and sometimes treatment for acute illnesses and overall wellness.  This can be considered a holistic approach.  I wanted to be a holistic practitioner, and a great place to start was in dietetics.

 However, late in my sophomore year, I changed my mind.

 The main reason is simple, and quite unfortunate.  When it comes to health, everyone is an “expert”

I had determined at the relatively young age of 20, that I could not work with the general public in matters of health and wellness…because, well…they won’t listen to someone with a degree.  They are happier reading from a magazine with bright colors and fun pictures.

I’m going to start ranting now, so you may want to step out…or put on your understanding hat, and try your best not to get offended if you are a self-made nutrition/health “expert”.  Because I have a few things I would like to say to the majority of people out there who googled saturated fat and now know everything.

 Who do you think you are?

In this day and age, where everyone wants to be involved in managing and understanding their health (a very admirable trait), something has gone terribly awry.  A fog has settled in, mixing up the very important distinction between fact, theory, and opinion.  People read an article on crunchygreenearthmother.com and think they suddenly understand everything there is to know about triglycerides, what they are, where they come from, and how they are good/bad for your health.  There is no need for accredited dietitians anymore, not now that there are experts studying under Drs Google and Wikipedia.

I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but there’s a reason people go to University for this topic.  It’s because it isn’t simple- there is a lot more to nutrition than the latest fad.

For a less ranty/more informative post, check out my public service announcement about research articles and food science in general.  I’ll go ahead and leave my conclusion here, since it’s the same as this one…

knowledge>fear

and leave it to the professionals (the real ones)

Climate Change

And no,  I’m not talking about the global change in temperature.
I’m talking about moving to a new climate area.

When moving to Turkey,  there were a lot of changes and differences I expected.  Change in currency,  language,  even the likelihood I would gain weight from all the amazing food if I wasn’t careful… (spoiler alert: I was careful)

But what I didn’t plan for was what the Mediterranean climate would do to my skin.

worldclimate

I had spent the entirety of my life (until now!) bogged in the southeastern US climate region,  characterized by ridiculous humidity and heat in the summer… And a bit more dry and moderate winters.  While living in Florida I took advantage of my new found insurance (thanks University of Florida!) and finally got around to treating my mild hormonal acne with topical treatments.  Why not pay $40 every year and a half for flawless skin? Am I right?  Besides a regular acne wash in the morning and night,  I would occasionally get slightly dry skin around my eyebrows due to the medication I applied daily. Nothing a little ponds humectant couldn’t fix!

DSCN3071

For the most part I would characterize my skin as combination normal and slightly dry,  not particularly oily nor terribly dry.

Let me emphasize the would.

After moving to Turkey it took me a while to get a hold of acne wash (should have brought mine with me… Lesson learned),  and I had a massive breakout that I am still recovering from. Even worse,  my usual trouble regions (forehead and chin) spread to my temples too.  Oh well,  nothing I can’t fix with my new acne wash and normal meds!

for 14TL, this better work!
for 14TL, this better work!

Until my skin dried out.

I’m talking ashy. If you don’t know ashy,  Google it.  It’s not okay.

So suddenly,  thanks to a new climate,  I went from normal skin to very dry.

First thing I did was invest in a little face cream.  I would continue washing my face with acne wash upon waking up and before bed,  apply my medication,  but then use lotion on my whole face in the morning.

DSCN3077

Those dry,  flakey, and rough feeling patches still wouldn’t go! Even my moist and dewy foundation would cling unfortunately to those trouble spots! Even more,  the acne persisted.  Those red bumps under the skin that just won’t erupt into the top of the skin where it can heal… You know what I’m talking about.

So I got the bright idea to exfoliate the dry spots,  certainly it was a build up of dead skin.

Wrong… Dry skinned people,  don’t do that. You will end up with abrasions that take even longer to heal.

Then I began moisturizing after washing my face in the morning and night, but the feeling of tightness and dryness still persisted.

Finally, I found a routine that works. I’ve had to limit my use of acne wash and medication only to the trouble spots in the morning and night (forehead, chin, and temples), while limiting my cheeks and nose to a water rinse.  Any soap I use strips the little oil I do have in my skin.  In order to treat the dry spots quickly,  I’ve had to moisturize around five times a day for a week.  I know it sounds like a lot, but my skin drank it up… My dry patches quickly resolved and the acne reduced. While many bloggers and youtubers may warn of being careful with moisturizers… Sometimes,  dry skin needs a lot of help.  I plan to try other brands and see if there’s something I can use less frequent with the same effect.

When my oily skinned friend visited the Mediterranean for a cruise,  her skin cleared up in a matter of days… It appears the dry and hot climate is perfect for the oily among us (dare I say the majority?).  But for those like me,  dry skin will exacerbate.

So to make a long story short (a little late for that)…

When moving to a new country, consider the climate and how it may affect your skin.

Geçmiş olsun!

My hubby has recently fallen ill as the winter winds have begun to tease their way into the Mediterranean summer heat.  Fall,  and may I add that it is my first fall in Turkey,  is just around the corner. Thankfully I have not yet fallen prey to the seasonal cold that has touched our home.  In the spirit of staying well as we all brave the seasons change,  here is a recipe for the tea my Anne has been giving us.  She told me it’s best for bronchitis and phlegmy lungs,  but it can be used all the time.  I included the Turkish words for some of the ingredients that I didn’t recognize by sight.

Ingredients
1 cinnamon stick
1 chunk ginger root
5-6 rose hips (kuş burnu)
1 lemon butt (mostly rind end)
1 pinch chamomile
1 pinch mallow blossom (hatmi çiçeği/fatma gülü)
1 pinch linden
1 twig sage
1 pinch clove
Honey or molasses to taste
4c water

Preparation
1. Bring the first 4 ingredients to a boil.
2. Add the remaining ingredients,  cut the heat,  and let rest around 5 minutes.
3. Cut tea with hot water to stretch it

Fills around 6 Turkish tea cups

Geçmiş olsun!

Turkey 201a: Kahvaltı part 1

Kahvaltı is the Turkish word for breakfast.  No, I didn’t name this post kahvaltı because it is a turkish word and I wanted to be clever. No. I named this post as such because Turkish breakfasts deserve their own word.  They are in no way comparable to any American breakfast I have ever had, outside of those served by Turkish Americans.  Here is a small sampling of things that you may find at kahvaltı, but this is in no way everything!  This morning our breakfast was actually very basic, and I hope to include additional breakfast items in a second installment, Turkey 201b: Kahvaltı part 2 in the future.

Before beginning, I want to stress that kahvaltı can vary dramatically by location, and by season!  For example, when fresh tomatoes are hard to find in January, you may find a tomato sauce food instead.  In the eastern side of Turkey, eating a lot of meat at breakfast is much more common than in the western region, where fresh fruits and vegetables reign.  So, if I don’t mention something here, that’s simply because my experience has been limited to the Aegean during the summer…but that will change soon inşallah!

tea

çay

The first item of discussion is the ubiquitous çay (ch-ai), which can be found on any Turkish table throughout the day.  Much like coffee or orange juice in the US, this drink must accompany breakfast.  Preparing tea in Turkey is not necessarily an easy task.  Utilizing a çaydanlık (which I posted on instagram), a certain ratio of a variety of black teas are added to the top and slightly dampened, while the bottom container comes to a boil.  The hot water is added to the moistened tea leaves and steeped for as long as the drinker desires.  The tea I made, seen above, is actually kind of light…but I really liked it! SO THERE!  Drink your tea plain, with sugar, or with a candy in your mouth.

cheese

 Peynir

Another common item found on the table when you get up is peynir (pay-neer), cheese.  There are a metric ton of different types of cheeses in Turkey (you think I’m being hyperbolic, but I am serious), and any number of them can find their way to the breakfast table.   Not to be confused with indian cheese paneer, the name peynir applies to all cheeses, and you have to qualify which one you are talking about.

tomato

Taze sebzeler

In my experience I’ve always found a chopped assortment of taze sebzeler (tah-zey seb-zey-lehr), fresh vegetables, drowned in olive oil and salt when I woke up for breakfast.  Tomatoes are always present, but sometimes you will find peppers and/or cucumbers.  At least something on the table isn’t fattening haha!

bread

Ekmek

If you are at all familiar with a Turkish kitchen, you know that ekmek (ehk-mek), bread, is never very far away when it comes to meal time.  Much like cheese, there are many types of bread, depending on what you are eating.  Sandwich breads, dipping breads, wrapping breads…but here you see a standard bread that visited the toasting press before serving.

egg

Yumurta

Most of the time you will find yumurta (you-murt-ah), egg, in some shape or form.  Today we kept it simple and boiled it, but you can also prepare a scrambled Turkish omelette (menemen), scrambled egg with yogurt (çilbur), or even plain fried eggs.  It is all up to the cook.

kaymak (1)

Kaymak

The sky opens up, a light shines down, angels sing…and there lies kaymak (kai-mahk).  Yes, if you think that is sweet cream, it is.  Soft and supple, this super fattening delight is worth every calorie.  I try to only eat it once, like, ever in my life, because when I get started I can’t stop.  Dip your bread in it and go to town.  I can’t even describe in words the glory that is kaymak.

There are many other things that can be served at breakfast, such as olives (zeytin), jams (reçel) a variety of savory pastries (börek), beef sausages (sucuk, sosis), and others.  I hope to share them with you soon.

In Turkey, breakfast is KING!

  Where are you in the world, and what did you have for breakfast?

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.