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!

 

 

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.  

My Best Friends are Kufar

Let me tell you about my two best friends. 

They know who they are. 

They came into my life at very different times, and I believe, very different reasons.

  One of my oldest friends, let’s call her Brown Eyes, went to high school with me.  Funny enough, she was a relative of someone else I was friends with, and we never really spoke until we ended up in the same homeroom class. She saw me through a lot of my firsts (first real boyfriend, subsequently the first heartbreak, first time moving away, first year at uni, and when I first met my hubby!)… And I’ve seen many of hers as well.  

 My other best friend, let’s call her Blondie (which she embraces fully, don’t worry), dropped into my life unexpectedly in the last year of my undergrad. This was also one of the hardest times in my life, because my husband had to move to another state for school.  But she filled a hole in my life and brought a lot more than I had expected. We both were in the middle of our personal growth, and we kind of fed off each other and took the best from each other and left the worst. I was looking for a roommate and she was looking for a place to live.  Funny enough, she overheard me telling someone about my problem during class (we were both food science majors, but never really talked before)… And the rest is history! 

Oh yeah, 

And they are kufar. 

For those who don’t know, kufar means “non-Muslim”  in Arabic, and if you didn’t already know,  it’s not very nice.  Honestly, I hate that word. 

 (I’m using it now to make a point) 

 We became close (my best friends and I) before I converted to Islam.  And they are STILL my best friends afterwards. Even though they are still in the states! 

Why? Isn’t their lifestyle contrary to my religious values? 

Maybe.  But they don’t bring that part of their life into our friendship.  

They’ve never tried to bring me to a bar.

They’ve never tried to make me hang out with guys (beside saying hi to their significant others).  

They never questioned my wearing hijab or hinted that I don’t have to wear it. 

They never judged me for the level of Islam I’m at right now. 

And they have always encouraged me to keep learning about my faith, even though it isn’t theirs.

They enjoy talking with me about it! 

They even say Maşallah and ask me to pray for them. 

An atheist and a  Christian have been more understanding and supportive of me than most Muslims I have met (particularly the ones in Turkey).  

And that’s why they’re still my best friends. And why (outside of this post) I won’t call them or any other non-Muslim kufar.  

Being Muslim isn’t necessary to be a good person and a good friend. 
 

Turkey 245: Your Guide to Snacks pt 1

Say what you will about Turkey, but their snack game is fierce. 

I wouldn’t consider myself too much of a junk foodie. I’m not so much into cookies and cakes, and only a few chips tickle my fancy. That is, until now! 

How is it possible that I love Turkish junk food so much? 

Anyway, check out my (long overdue) faves list below. Make sure to check the description for any American dupes! Cheap subs are not just for makeup anymore… 

Dude. These chips tho. Specifically Patos sweet chili pepper… Corn chips with a zing, this tastes just like cool ranch doritos for half the price! 

I’ve found this at bakals (corner stores) and Migros

Eti cin (et-E-jin) 

My, hands down, favorite cookie. It’s a shortbread cookie with a gummy orange center and sprinkles.  There are other flavors but orange is the real OG. This is special to Turkey and I need to bring some back with me! 

Found in  bakals and Migros 

Cerezza (cheese and onion) 

Think crunchy cheetohs… But sour cream and onion.  That’s cerezza  PEYNİR AND SOĞAN flavor.  This gets 5 stars from us,  as it’s our favorite junk food. 

Found in bakals and migros

(sorry the next pictures are upside down… I have no idea why…) 

 I’m not a stranger to haribo (in America the Turkish made haribo were the only gummies without pork gelatin that I could find).  The classics are delicious! But there’s also FIZZ haribo! A haribo with a lemon sour sugar coating that is ever so slightly effervescent.  The fizz worms are my favorite (not seen here). 

Found in bakals,  some A101, Kipa, and Migros

I’m not big on chocolate,  but these are really good.  Cookies with milk chocolate stars and white chocolate filling.  They’re a bit rich but perfect when you have a craving. They are my favorite chocolate cookie.   

Found in some bakals, Kipa, and migros

 Not your momma’s rice cakes.  These are a mix of corn and rice that look like standard rice cakes, but taste like lightly salted, no butter popcorn.  A good snack for those wanting something salty but low calorie. 

Found in migros. 

Most of these can probably be found in Kipa or any other large general store, but I never bothered to check for anything but the ones listed as “found in kipa”.  

I’ll probably have a few installments of this as I eat more and more junk :).  

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? 

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. 

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. 

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!

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!)