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.  

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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. 

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.

Turkey 710: How to Host

I’m way overdue for a Turkey lessons post…So I’ll bring out one of the most important topics any lady living in Turkey for any amount of time is going to need.

Especially if you’re married into a Turkish family.

And that’s how to host guests.

If you’ve been here for five minutes, you’ll know that Turks are all about socializing and having guests over to their homes. If you’ve been here for 20 minutes, you’ve probably been roped into helping clean and prepare for them. It is an event.

 Especially if you’re guests are Turkish (neighbors and distant relatives in particular!).

 Here are some guidelines for how to be a successful host by Turkish standards.  Show your mother in law what you’re made of!

Buyrun

  1. Have the cleanest house in the land: Your house has to appear as if a nuclear bomb of bleach and Pinesol went off in every room. If you don’t want someone in a room, close the door.  Even better, lock it.  There’s been more than one Teyze who “accidentally” wandered into a messy bedroom or kids room, just to tell everyone and the street dogs about it later.
  2. Buyrun, to the sitting room:  Coral your new guests into your nicest room, usually the sitting room.  Nothing is better than showing off all your nice things to your guests, so that they don’t talk about how poor of a home decorator you are when they leave.
  3. Kolonya, kolonya, kolonya: Don’t forget to offer a dime-sized drop of kolonya (cologne) to your guests after they have seated themselves. This is particularly important for guests who have come from a distance.
  4. All the tea, all the snacks: Be sure to have the tea going before your guests even arrive. But don’t be fooled into thinking tea is enough.  Even if they are coming to visit when it isn’t even almost a meal time, have the snacks at the ready.  Some borek, kisir, sarma, or potato salad is always welcome.  And you need- need- need to have some kind of sweets available. If it’s nearing a meal time, you best be ready to serve a full meal, with several options.
  5. Keep the sepas at the ready:  Don’t even dream of making your guests keep their plates or tea glasses in their lap!  Put out the sepa (the stackable, small tables) beside your guests before serving.  We aren’t barbarians!
  6. Empty plates are evil plates:  As soon as someone has an empty plate (or glass!) offer to fill it up for them again.  Don’t be shy to do it 100 times.  Even if you don’t get to eat yourself, that’s too damn bad.  They are guests, and you are a slave.
  7. Turkish coffee, anyone?:  After everyone has eaten their fill and talked a lot of gossip, offer them Turkish coffee (or if preferred, nescafe). Be prepared to make four different batches to please everyone’s palate (you can’t add sugar after making the coffee, so if someone wants sade/plain, someone else wants orta/middle, and someone wants very sweet, that means you make three different coffees).
  8. Never stop doing something: If you try to enjoy yourself for even a moment, you are a terrible host.  Get back to work!

Unlike in the US, guests will not try and make your life easier.  It is ok for them to make you miserable and make your life hard as anything.  Like a boy scout, be prepared.

And put on your war paint.

Because hosting is a hard core job, but someone has to do it (and if you are a gelin, its gonna be you!)

Salsa for days

Following up my Turkish taco post with the recipes for my salsas only seemed fair. 

And I needed another thing to post about.  

While I can never make as good of a salsa as the Chipotle salsa at Trader Joe’s, these are pretty damn good. Especially when you’re limited to Turkish ingredients! 

Roasted pepper salsa (right) 

3 tomatoes, grated

1 small onion, grated

4 roasted peppers (green or brown), skinned and diced

1 clove garlic, grated

2 tsp olive oil

2 tsp tomato paste

2 tsp lemon juice

Sprinkle of sugar 

Salt

Cumin

Black pepper

Crushed red pepper

2 tbsp chopped parsley 

Preparation

1. Roast the peppers in the oven on highest broiler setting for about 10 minutes or until the skins begin to blacken. Remove from the heat and let cool.  Peel the skin and cut the peppers finely. 

2. Mix all of the ingredients well, spicing as you prefer. Let wait in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving. 

Peach chutney salsa (left) 

Ingredients

2 tomatoes, grated

1/2 large peach, grated 

1/2 small onion, grated

1 green pepper, juliened

1 small garlic clove, grated

1 tsp lemon juice

Dash of sugar

Salt

1/2 tsp turmeric and ginger powder, mixed together 1:1

1/2 tbsp chopped parsley

1 tbsp chopped fresh mint

Preparation 

1. Mix everything together and let rest in the refrigerator for half an hour before serving.

Afiyet olsun! 

A Very Turkish Taco

I love Mexican food. 

But not just Mexican, that tex-mex/ ‘Murica style Mexican that you get at chain Mexican restaurants (Tijuana Flats, anyone?). 

Turkey, being on the other side of the world from both America and Mexico, doesn’t really have the comfort foods I’m looking for, by way of taco and salsa.  So, I’ve endeavored to make the ultimate mash-up: Turkish/Mexican/American hybrid! And so the Taco Böreği was born.  This may already be a thing, but the way I do it is likely not.  Basically, fill a kol böreği with taco meat+seasoning and grated cheese.  

For a less basic explanation,  scroll right on down. 

Taco Böreği (for 4 large portions) 

Ingredients:

2 yufka

1/4 kg ground beef

1 large onion, chopped 

4 Charleston peppers (long green peppers), choppee

2 tomatoes, chopped

Approx 1c water

2tbsp tomato paste

2 cloves garlic, chopped 

Grated cheese, as much as you like (I like Bergama tulum, 2.5c)

Dollop of olive oil for cooking

Cumin

Salt

Black pepper

Crushed pepper flakes

1/2c milk

1 small egg

1/3c oil for brushing

Preparation

1. Cook onions and pepper with a dash of salt in a dollop of olive oil.  The meat will also produce oil, so don’t put too much! 

2. Once the veggies are nearly translucent, add the meat and break it up in the pan. Add the water and chopped tomatoes and mix well, bringing to a simmer for 6 or 7 minutes or until the beef is browned. Add the spices as you like, the tomato paste, and garlic. Let cook for another two minutes or until the paste has soaked up the water and oil. 

3. Grease a round dish (approximately 9in diameter) and whisk the oil, milk, and egg into a wash in a separate dish.  Open the yufka on the table and spread the wash over it (you can be conservative, as the meat mix is already oily). Cut the yufka down the middle, forming 2 equal sized half moons.  Fold the rounded, uncut side of the yufka toward the cut end, 1/3 of the way in.  Now you have an, approx 2 inch double layer of yufka and 3 inches single layer.  Take a spoon full of meat and strew it along the double layer, end to end.  Sprinkle cheese across the top of the meat.  Now roll the yufka into a tube, holding the meat inside. 

4. Twist the yufka into a pinwheel shape in the dish, adding to the tail end with the remaining 3 yufka halves (filling them as described in step 3).it’s OK if it doesn’t fill the dish.

5. Dab the egg wash on top of the yufka so that it will brown.  Pop in the oven at 200c for approximately 30 minutes or until the bottom and top is brown. 

Serve with salsa, yogurt, lettuce, guacamole… Or any taco toppings you love! 

Afiyet olsun! 

Check back next week for the recipes to my roasted pepper salsa and peach chutney salsa!