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.

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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!

 

 

Reverse Culture Shock? 

I have great news! 

Finally! 

I’ve bought my plane ticket to go home this summer! After two years, I finally will step foot on American soil, and I will tread it for two months (insallah). 

Let’s skip the political drama and go straight to the fear of reverse culture shock. A term for when you’ve been out of your own culture so long, when you return you experience a shock as if it were foreign. 

 I’ve read that culture shock comes in three stages. 

First, the honeymoon stage. Everything is sunshine and rainbows, and butterflies fly out of every crevice you can find. I personally call this the vacation stage. Where all the new things are exciting and you just gobble it up. This is very well documented at the beginning of my “in turkey” posts. 

Second comes the homesickness. The feeling of vacation has worn off because you’ve been away from your country long enough that you must put down your roots here. This is when the every day convenience of knowing- you know- everything, becomes glaringly obvious. You never even realized how something as reactive as checking out in the grocery store line was until you are forced to do it in a country where you barely understand the language and don’t recognize the money. You’re frustrated and angry. This is also pretty well documented on my blog. 

The final stage, much like the stages of grief, is acceptance. You accept your new home for what it is. That some things are good, some things are bad, but you are able to function and generally have a life. It’s gonna take many years to get to the comfort of your own country, but it’s a process. 

I guess that’s where I am? I don’t know. But that brings up the issue of reverse culture shock. 

Now that I’ve basically adjusted to Turkey, will America be the same as I remember it? Or will my Turkish tinted goggles make everything look different? Again not getting too deep into the politics, but will things be harder for me as a hijabi than they were before (side note: it was easier in America when I left than it is now.)?

Since I came to Turkey I’ve become more patriotic. I wave my invisible American flag and recite the national anthem every Friday after school (right after the Turkish one is recited at school).  Every time someone does something ridiculously Turkish I roll my eyes and say “no one would do that in America”.

Maybe I’m a stick in the mud for Turkey, but I am how I am and I prefer my interactions as I prefer them. 

But what if America isn’t the way I remember it? What if I have nowhere to aspire to anymore…

The thought makes my stomach hurt.  

Throw Your Hands in the Air

And wave em like you just don’t care! 

Which I am. 

Because I don’t. 

Being a teacher is hard, yall. Especially to spoiled, arrogant children.  

Not all of them are bad, but some are.  I honestly believe a hand full of these kids wouldn’t spit on someone if they were on fire. 

This is especially true for my 9th graders.  Two of the four classes are just hopeless.  It’s not like they can’t do the work, they just won’t.  I’ve tried everything.  Picking up unfinished activities in the main course English book, playing games, watching videos, teaching something else in English (e.g. Slavery in the US), projects, the works.  Nothing. Works. 

And I’m sad, because there are at least three students that are actually interested in the topics and want to learn. They even apologize for the others’ bad behavior. But if I have to call the counselor and the principal five times because they are so incredibly rude (I mean, standing in class, shouting to each other, sleeping, talking back in turkish as if I dont understand), I’m not going to waste my time. 

I did my best. I’m just going to be a babysitter for the 40 minutes that class takes in a week. Usually the good students gravitate to me and practice their English 1 on 1 with me anyway. 

Because this negativity just isn’t conducive to my 2017 resolutions

Teachers Day

My first Teachers Day (Turkish observed) was Thursday! 

It happened to fall on Thanksgiving! And TEOG (a national placement test for 8th graders),  so I had a short holiday Wednesday and Thursday.  

Typically students give gifts to their teachers as a thank you for all they do.  Sometimes it’s just flowers, and sometimes it’s some niiiiiice stuff.  One teacher got a tea cup set from English Home! Dang! 

Of course I got a whole lot of nothing.  Not even a flower! Since parents don’t get to meet the native teachers we don’t really count… İ cant lie,  I was a bit sad when everyone else was being lavished with gifts while I sat in the teachers room all by my lonesome.  

Since we don’t celebrate teachers day in the US it shouldn’t make me sad.  But what can I do? 

At least the school gave us gift boxes! 
We also were treated to a night out at a fancy hotel on Tuesday.  Service took us from the school in the evening and we enjoyed a social evening of dancing, eating, and (for everyone else) drinking! 

I was sick but tried to make the most of it. 

But in all honesty, I was in it for the sales! Every shop had a special teachers day campaign. I got new shoes and replaced some of my makeup that I was scrapping the bottom of the bottle for. 

But no matter what, Thanksgiving was on my mind. We again couldn’t do anything because of our living situation… And it’s making me homesick. 

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. 

My Love/Hate Relationship with Teaching

It’s been a bit longer than a month since I’ve started teaching.

About 5 weeks since we got our books and started classes in earnest.

And I must say, I’ve developed quite the relationship with teaching.  Some days it is more love.  Some days it is more hate.  But it is definitely quite the mix.

As I had expected, the students are wild.  Wild-ish? Well, the ones who started out well behaved are being more and more naughty as the weeks progress; and the ones who were bad are learning how to behave.  What is this madness? For example, the second graders are now staying in their seats (mostly) instead of running around the room…but the 9th graders are fist fighting in the front of the room in the middle of class.

What is wrong with these people?

 Of course, having no real grade to give them, no tests, and not being on the “interactive” list on the computer doesn’t help.  Honestly, my class is a bit of a joke. No one takes it seriously, and I’m starting to not take it seriously either.  And the parents aren’t too helpful most of the time either.

But for some reason, when I see my students in the hall or outside of school completely, they pay more attention to me than they do in class! They will go out of there way to say hello, sometimes spending the whole lunch period trying to speak in English!

WHY!?!?

 When we have a good lesson, or when I hear them shout “HI TEACHER!” from across the street and run up to say hi, I love being a teacher.  The hours and pay certainly don’t hurt. But when they refuse to write the answers to their book activities, even AFTER I write them on the board…play with toys in my class…run around hollering…REFUSING to stop and listen to a SINGLE WORD I SAY.

At that moment, I really hate teaching.

It’s a big learning curve, moving from young adults (university) to children.  I hope it gets easier, and I find my own rhythm, because I want this career to work.  At least in Turkey, where it’s a very cushy job.  Man, but do you earn your pay in the war grounds…I mean class room!

NOTE: Follow me on Instagram tomorrow to see a day in the life of a teacher!

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… 

This is My Life Now

It hit me last weekend, you know? 

This is my life now. 

When we were invited to a sunnet on Sunday night, and my response was “I can’t,  I have work in the morning”.  That’s when I realized things are starting to become normal. 

I was writing just a few months ago about how I felt like I was in some twilight zone.  When I first came to Turkey it was like a vacation, I wanted to do everything and go everywhere. Then I was in a rut, not doing anything (not by choice), and not leaving the house for weeks at a time. 

That was a dark time. 

But now I’m starting to find that balance that people have when they live a normal life.  I have work responsibilities, come home, clean and cook,  get up and do it again. On weekends I do stuff with the hubby or see friends.  When did I flip the switch towards normal? 

I mean,  we aren’t totally settled in to our lives yet. We still live with my in laws,  but they’ve been gone for a few months at the summer house so we’ve had more space. Before you know it they’ll be back and maybe their presence will light a fire under hubby’s ass to get us out of here. 

But then again,  now they are talking about moving us downstairs into the gross bottom floor apartment. But that’s a story for another post.  

In the meantime, I’ll keep striving for a new normal. 

Hello Turkey, Bye bye rights

Well well well, it happened again.

When I entered this private school system, I was told I was free to wear my scarf.  Lo and behold, that wasn’t the case!  Two weeks into working and I’ve been hit with new restrictions:

  1. No black scarf, ever.
  2. Nothing but turban style is accepted.

Well, when did this happen I wonder?  And why? After filtering down the chain of command, the information arrived to my fellow English teacher.  The school principal told the English Dept chair, and they told my coworker, and she told me.  I mean, it was better coming from her mouth because we’ve already formed a relationship (and bless the English chairs heart, she did NOT want to broach this subject.  She knew right away how ridiculous it was).

So after four or five instances of wearing a black turban, I was told I can’t do that anymore because it’s seen as “political”.  I’m not sure how, but ok.  Turkey is pretty crazy so it’s probably true. And I wore a more traditional style (around the neck and down the back, not covering the shoulders) once because the turban looked bad with my outfit.  Apparently that was also unacceptable.  Um…?

While I am partially mad that this is an issue at all (after having a discussion before I even started that this wouldn’t be), I’m mostly mad because this wasn’t laid out at the very beginning. This is stuff I need to know from day 1.  Maybe this info was passed on from down high, I have no idea, but I can tell you now I don’t blame the English department crew.  They had nothing to do with it.  I just don’t like changes being thrown at me like this.

The Chair even called me to make sure I wasn’t upset or thought that anyone had complained or said bad things about me. She encouraged my right to make my own choice regarding covering vs not covering, but that she had to convey this information to me.

Like I said, I’m not mad at her.  Hell, I’m grateful for being able to wear my scarf at all in a school.  And I have no intention of quitting (even though some people live in a world where they don’t need to work, and assume I live there too), because there’s not much better that I can do right now. Most other schools (hell, even most industries) won’t let me wear a scarf at all.

Because when you’re in Turkey…it’s bye bye rights.

Get To Know Me in 25 Questions!

Filling in my weeks with these silly posts, so sorry!  Anything of substance isn’t quite ready to be uploaded…so please put up with me for a little longer.

1. What is your middle name?: my maiden name 😂

2. What was favorite subject at school?: specifically? AP biology!

3. What is your favorite drink?: apple. Sarıkız. Enough said! Maybe not enough,  since it’s Turkish 😅 it’s like sprite, but apple flavored.  And better for you

4. What is your favorite song at the moment?:

5. What is your favorite food?: this question is mean. But if I have to chose, it’d be tacos/burritos with the works! All the guacamole!

6. What is the last thing you bought?:

7. Favorite book of all time?: it’s been a long time, but I believe it still is Jude the Obscure.  It really challenges the social ideas of love and marriage.

8. Favorite Color?: blue, specifically turquoise (how fitting).

9. Do you have any pets?: no, not personally… But do my mom’s dogs count? They claim me…

10. Favorite Perfume?: I don’t really buy perfume, I just take what I’m given haha… But I have a favorite cologne! The One by D&G 😍

11. Favorite Holiday?: religious? Ramadan bayram. National? Independence day.

12. Are you married?: happily, maşallah 😍

13. Have you ever been out of the country, if so how many times?: besides living outside of my own country now? Twice before.  One big trip to Europe (Italy, France, Austria, and Switzerland), and my 2011 trip to Turkey.

14. Do you speak any other language?: I’m learning Turkish 😅 I can understand some Spanish, but forgot most of it unfortunately.

15. How many siblings do you have?: one little brother (not that little! 2 years younger)

16. What is your favorite shop?: I’m still figuring out the shops thing here… Most of the time I deal with pazar stuff hehe. In the US it’s got to be Ross!

17. Favorite restaurant?: in Turkey we have one specific cig kofte cart we go to that is amazing. As far as chains go… Tijuana Flats 🙆

18. When was the last time you cried?: idk, I do it more than I’d care to admit.  Maybe last month?

19. Favorite Blog?: no! I’m not doing that. 😤

20. Favorite Movie?: I love so many movies.  I can’t choose!

21. Favorite TV shows?: oh honey. Honey. Take a seat. Should I bring you some tea? You’re gonna be here a while… But I’ll limit myself because I’m nice. Elementary, Greys Anatomy,  Scandal, Madam Secretary, Breaking Bad, Walking Dead, Lucifer, Rizzoli and Isles… I could easily go on.

22. PC or Mac?: PC

23. What phone do you have?: Samsung Galaxy J5

24. How tall are you?: 5’10″

25. Can you cook?: Yes, and it’s a favorite hobby of mine! Since we have been in Turkey I haven’t been able to enjoy it as much as I used to though.  :/