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.  

Happy Turkey Anniversary to Me! (a.k.a 12 Things I Love and Hate About Turkey) 

Well well.  How time does fly. And what a busy week of celebrations!

As of right now, it has been exactly one year since we touched down in Turkey!

We came with so many expectations- none of which actually happened.  I’ve also improved my Turkish dramatically (I now know to say nasip değilmiş to my previous statement), and I think I’ve had about as many culture shocks as I’m going to have.  But that remains to be seen I suppose…

Am I home sick? Of course. When your past 25 years were spent (for the most part)   in one culture/on continent,  you’re going to miss what once was.  But I’m not losing any sleep over it/crying over it. Hell, even hubby is “homesick”  for America, and he only spent 8 years there. But after its been a bit longer, I’ll probably be missing Turkey whenever I go home to the states.

Anyway, here are 12 things I love and 12 things I hate about Turkey, now that I’ve had a year to let it all sink in.  I reserve the right to recycle concepts from my previous love/hate lists here and here, since it’s been a year! Keep in mind, some of these things may be unique to Izmir (but I wouldn’t know, since I’ve only lived there!)

I love…

1. The food/ food culture!  No matter where you are from, you can’t deny that Turkish food is on point.

2. Pazar.  We have something similar in the US (farmers markets and flea markets), but the Turkish Pazar is on a whole different level.  Check out my descriptions of pazars and pazar etiquette here.

3. Celebrations.  Ain’t no party like a Turkish party, ‘cuz a Turkish party don’t stop! The last Turkish celebration  I went to was a wedding, and I had an amazing time! The dancing, the singing, the laughing when my hubby tried to do some traditional Turkish dancing… It was great.

4.  The cost of living.  Compared to the US, the cost of living is quite low. But the standard of living is also lower. Food, clothes (from the pazar), and non – electric things tend to be pretty cheap.

5. Public transportation. This may vary in different cities, but the public transportation in Izmir is top notch. I can get anywhere without a car (which is good for me, since I never got my drivers license changed and I can’t drive stick anyway).

6. Turkish hospitality. Despite the drama, Turks are very nice.  They are always eager to give you something and provide you with lots of snacks and goodies. You will never be hungry or thirsty if a Turk is around!

7. Ice cream.  I don’t know why, but the ice cream here is better.  I think it has more vegetable oil in it, but I like it better.  Even the ice cream from Burger King or McDonalds is superior in my opinion. In the states, I could barely consume a small milkshake, but here?  Give me the large. Hell, give me two! Maybe they aren’t as sugary? I’m not sure…

8. Fruit juice options.  This may seem silly, but I am all about the fruit juice here.  There are so many (cheap!) options that are very good.  I remember trying to find a decent juice in the US that didn’t taste like the watered down version of whatever I bought.  Plus there were like, 100 orange juice options and almost nothing else.  Here? Peach juice, sour cherry juice, apricot juice, ATOM (the best mixed juice ever in LIFE), and then the standard orange, grape, apple… And I personally reach for the nektari (nectar/thick juice).

9. Snacks. Speaking of consumables, Turks know how to make a good cookie/biscuit/ snack.  The chip flavors here are so good!! Not to mention the dozens upon dozens of cookie/biscuit types that I consume like an addict.  Again, in the states cookies were just too sweet and I almost never bought them.  Here? Come at me with that Eti Cin, Yulafli biskuvi, bademli kurabiye…I’m waiting!

10. Rules don’t apply.  This can be good or bad, but for the most part it has benefited me since I’ve gotten here.  In Turkey, rules can be applied very unevenly, at the whim of whomever you are dealing with. This can make your life easier or harder, but so far it’s been easier for me.  I like how I know that no matter what rule comes my way, I know I can wiggle out of it if I try hard enough (yes, this even applies to the government).

11. Haggling.  Haggling here is a way of life.  You are expected to do it, be it at the pazar or at a job interview for a better salary.  I appreciate the fact that it isn’t taboo.

12. Majority Muslim population. I like how I blend in here as a hijabi.  With the majority of Turkey being Muslim, I don’t have to worry about being singled out like I do in America. If you’ve seen my previous posts, I’m not one to apply religion to politics and what not.  Hell, how I practice Islam is often pretty different from how people here do…but I do appreciate how I remain anonymous in a crowd.

I hate…

1. Nosey nosey nosey neighbors. Or should I say,  nosey everybody? It doesn’t matter if it’s the corner store owner down the street or the family friend of xyz years.  Every dang body thinks they need to know all about your business. To the point where you rethink leaving the house if someone is on the street.

2. Not using brand names. Ok, so I’m American. In America we call thinks by the brand name most of the time (honey, I need a Kleenex. Hey can you get some Fanta and Lays? We are running out of chlorox!). Not so in Turkey. Just the other day I asked for sarıkız (a soda), and the cornerstore owner had no idea what I was talking about.  I pointed to it and he said “oooo you mean soda”.  No,  I don’t mean soda! I mean sarıkız! I dont want Uludağ.  I don’t want sırma. I want sarıkız! Ugh! This leads to a lot of confusion, especially when I can’t remember the general term for something (like a cleaning product) but only remember it by the brand name!

3. Family-centric culture.  I’m about to sound like a terrible person, but I’m going to be real with yall. I love my family (Turkish and otherwise).  I like to be around them and do things with them… To an extent.  What I don’t like is when people get offended when you just want to do your own thing. Or when they think they have a right to make your life decisions for you. I miss the level of independence from family that is normal in America.

4. The cost of electronics.  In a world where computers and smartphones are considered a luxury.. You’re going to cry when you see the bill after purchasing something as small as a clothes iron or coffee machine. For example, a standard iron (like a sunbeam brand one) can cost upwards of 70₺. A basic coffee machine with nothing more than an on button can cost 100₺, let alone one with a timer.  Basically anything with a plug is prohibitively expensive.

5. Being unable to communicate. While I am perfectly capable of getting around, buying these at the shops, and haggling at the pazar, I still can’t fully communicate. There are some complex concepts (like emotions), and other topics that require a delicate tongue.  When I’m upset, I can’t explain why to someone who doesn’t speak English without sounding like an idiot. If I want to have a stimulating conversation, it certainly won’t be in Turkish.  I want to be able to express myself to those around me, beyond simple daily tasks! But sometimes it’s better that I don’t speak Turkish so well, since some things I’m thinking are better left unsaid….

6. Still not being independent. It’s been a year and I still haven’t achieved the level of independence I had in the US. Some of it comes from culture, some comes from my inability to pass my plateau of Turkish language, and some comes from my own fear to continue to push my current the boundaries.  Certainly this will improve in time, but for now I hate it.

7. Being sweaty…all the time.  Being sweaty is basically a part of life in Turkey.  Even though I lived in Florida and South Carolina (both hot and humid states), AC/”klima” are a common fixture in my country.  Every house has central heat and air, the buses and other transportation are nearly refrigerated, and you need to carry a jacket in the summer for the rooms you will be in.  But in Turkey? Nah, man. I have never seen central air, only the window units (klima), and even those aren’t always available. With the massive amount of public transportation/ walking comes massive amounts of sweating.  You need to get used to it.

8. Lack of deodorant.  I think this is an issue more for the older generation, who uses “kolonya” (a scented alcohol rub thing.  Its not like cologne as we call it).  Combine being sweaty/hot with not using deodorant…and in most public places, there is a horrendous body odor.

9. The cost of meat.  It’s just…insane. Compared to the comparatively cheap cost of meat in the states.  Fortunately I’m a “zeytin yagli“(olive oil based food) kind of person 😉 so it isn’t that big of a deal I guess…but I find it hard to make some of my favorite things.  On that note…

10. Lack of other culture’s foods.  Where’s my chinese? Japanese sushi? Italian? Mexican? When you do find foods that aren’t Turkish, they are crazy expensive!  All you can eat sushi for 60TL?  When I used to eat it for 12$? Are you insane?

11. Franchises are NOT the same. When I roll up to a Burger King, McDonalds, or Dominos, I expect the food to be as it was in the states (since these are American franchises). NOPE.  The menus aren’t even the same! So when I get that hankering for something familiar…tough luck.

12. Culture clashes.  As much as I try to adjust my expectations, there are just some cultural differences that I can’t get over yet.  For example, women are expected to take a (in my opinion, EXTREME) service role in the house, particularly for guests.  To a point where, in the US, it’s considered rude/degrading to be expected to do what you are doing. This wasn’t a problem at first, because I was foreign.  But after a year, I’m not foreign anymore…and these expectations are falling on me.  Maybe I’m just too prideful, but I very much struggle to meet the societal expectations here.  Fortunately, my husband doesn’t put them on me.  And when we get to move out, we will have more control.  But for now? ugh.

 

Here Comes The Groom, Dancing To The Tune! 

I don’t know about ya’ll, but my family isn’t very close.  I barely speak to my own aunts and uncles, let alone cousins and whatnot.

So imagine my surprise when a wedding came up (on the Turkish side!) a little like this:

So and so is having her wedding and we are invited!

Who?

So and so, you know, your husband’s grandmother’s sister’s granddaughter’s child!

…right.  So, family.

But it was amazing!!! Unfortunately I missed the kina gecesi because I was dead on my feet after traveling back from the beach all in a hurry for the festivities.  But the wedding was fantastic!

Fantastic, and very different.  Let me run you through the events to show you just how different a wedding in Turkey is from an American one! Honestly, I think the only thing in common is the white dress, the throwing of the bouquet, cake, and signing a piece of paper!

Let me start by saying that we were related to the bride, so everything I witnessed is from the bride’s side.

First off, the close (ish) family met at the bride’s mother’s house while the bride was getting ready at the salon.  Both men and women from the bride’s side were present, and dressed. We were fed pide and ayran (I guess you could be fed anything?) while family members trickled in as they finished getting ready. The last to show up was the bride, in her full gown and makeup/hair.  She was ready to go! She sat in a chair in the middle of the room and tried to eat a bit while we waited.

What were we waiting for? THE GROOM! (check out my instagram for the video).  Lo and behold, I hear drums and some kind of woodwind instrument.  I was rushed to the balcony to see the wedding party (grooms side) and the groom in his full suit coming with musical accompaniment.  

He entered the house and the bride’s uncle (because her father is no longer with us) tied a red ribbon around the brides waist.  They both gave him the respectful kiss of the hand and pressed his hand to their foreheads, as is tradition. Then the bride dropped her veil and was led from the house.  Before getting into a car decked out in wedding goodies (much like the car our couples drive away in, but at the end) they danced together in Turkish fashion (instagram video).  As the bridal procession started to drive away, an auntie on the bride’s side splashed a gallon of water after them, and another threw coins.

Then we piled into a rental bus and off to the wedding salon we went!

After the huge salon was filled, the bride and groom made their entrance. 

 Everyone danced- A LOT. Sometimes it was brides side, sometimes grooms side, but everyone danced! My favorite part of the dancing is that there is a guy with a big drum that gets in there. I wish I had a picture.  It was great.  Sometimes he would be on the ground banging the hell out of the drum.  People would throw paper money (some real, some fake) over the bride and groom, which was collected for the MC who was managing the music (and the very lively drummer!).

After some dancing (slow dancing and also Turkish style), a pause in the festivities was taken for the legal bit.  The couple were sat at a table, and asked if they wanted to be married (like vows, but it didnt sound like our kind of vows?). They both said yes, music played, and they signed their marriage booklet.  Then they cut a cake (like we do), and some more dancing happened.

Eventually the bride and groom stood wearing sashes for money and gold to be pinned on them.  The guests lined up and pinned money, hung gold bracelets and jewelry, etc. on the couple. 

More dancing, woohoo! Including cultural dances that I didn’t know how to do… 

Finally, at the very very end, after dancing for around 3hrs straight, the couple held a large Turkish flag, and everyone sang the Turkish anthem (except me! GOD BLESS AMERICA! :P)

My ears rang all night, and into the next day!

But…now I kind of want one too.

 

 

A Winter in Review (2015)

As those of you who’ve been with me for a while already know, these last few months have constituted my first winter in Turkey!  I was very excited to see what the cold months were like (since my previous Turkey experience had been a summer trip in 2011).  Now that the temperatures are suitably warm (mid 70s/low 80s) I feel that it is an appropriate time to summarize my thoughts on winters in Turkey.

Let me start by saying… Winter isn’t very Turkish in my opinion.

Uh, how can a country be anything other than what it is?

Well,  like I said before… My first (and at the time, only) experience in Turkey before had been during the summer.  For that reason,  Turkey translated to:
The smell of the ocean
Watermelon and white cheese
Late nights spent with family/friends
Picnics and day trips
Midye and mangal
Windows and balcony doors open wide
Snatching figs off trees when no one is looking

image

And of course, none of these things happen during the winter.  It’s simply too cold.  I couldn’t even pick up the ocean smell from the window until the weather warmed up recently.  However, there are other winter things that are unique to Turkey. Honestly, it’s kind of a mixed bag.

First off, here in Izmir, we only saw a flurry of snow twice.  Nothing that lasted longer than five minutes though.  Sure,  it snowed in the mountains and stuff, but nothing I was able to enjoy.  It’s kind of ironic, actually.  The thing I love most about Turkish summers (a lack of rain), translates to a lack of something I would have liked to see (snow).

But even without the snow,  it got pretty chilly!  With a lack of central heating,  we were limited to the soba (coal furnace).  I’m pretty sure I shared that with you guys earlier.  While the toasty warm room was a delight, the freeze-your-buns-off temperature in the rest of the house (including our bedroom and the bathroom) made daily life a bit uncomfortable. Hello two layers of long-johns under sweatpants.  We didn’t go anywhere or do much of anything because it was so cold (and my in laws kept getting sick). It’s just not the season for activity.

Eating new things was fun! I enjoyed roasting chestnuts on the top of the soba.  Greens like spinach and roots like celeriac were plentiful and I enjoy them immensely.  But there’s nothing that compares to summer foods like roasted eggplant and fresh green beans…

So… I think it’s fair to say that winter is not my favorite season (but it never was, anyway).  It’s nice to not sweat your brains out, but you miss out on so many fun things when the weather is too cold!

Helloooo spring/summer!! I’m ready for you!

image

Hijabi problem #99: I am oppressed

I am a hijabi (wearer of the hijab)

And I am oppressed.

image

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term hijab, let me clarify (but most of the world probably is by now). The term hijab technically refers to a scarf, but the way it is understood by Muslimahs (female practitioners of Islam) is a little more inclusive.  When we (muslimahs) refer to hijab, or call ourselves hijabis, we are referring to a style of dress which includes a scarf on the head in some fashion, and a certain etiquette by which we live our lives.  Different cultures will define proper hijab in different ways…some more “conservative “, some more “liberal”.  While I feel comfortable in the way I physically wear my hijab and socially practice it, I don’t feel the need to judge others on theirs. Is mine perfect? Hardly. But I consider myself a hijabi none the less.

And like the media loves to trumpet, I certainly am oppressed.

My attire doesnt stop me from physical activity (hiking, swimming, riding bikes, etc).  My dress doesn’t keep me from being fashionable/feeling beautiful (quite the contrary, I’ve never felt so good looking in my life!).  My social etiquette doesn’t keep me out of the work place or secluded at home (I’ve worked with both men and women with no awkwardness, and I’ve gone on outings on my own).  I’m not oppressed by my hijab.  But as a hijabi,  I am oppressed.

I’m oppressed by you.

Not you, specifically, dear friends.  You support me and my right to practice my faith, my way.  I love you all! By “you”, I mean the traditionally “western” concept of hijabi oppression.

Being glared at on the street and whispered about; constantly fearing a violent outburst from a stranger keeps me at home.  The current fashion of see-through blouses and crop tops makes it hard to dress myself.  Requiring I remove my hijab before I can work keeps me out of the workforce and dependent on a man to care for me.  You consistently, relentlessly telling me I am not a strong woman because of the choices I made for myself makes me feel secluded and weak.

I did not oppress myself.  I would not choose a way of life that makes me feel poorly about myself.  The only thing about being a hijabi Muslimah that is oppressive is other people’s attitude towards me and the difficulty of living in a society that doesn’t want me in it.

So when you see us on the street, don’t cluck your tongue and shake your head.  Smile.  Nod.  Maybe a little wave of “hello”.  Make us feel included.  Makes us feel welcome.  If you are so concerned about the oppression of hijabis, maybe you should stop doing it.

image

I got 99 problems but my scarf ain’t one.

#hijabiproblems

*light-hearted notes below
1. Like I said before, not everyone does this. If you are reading this and are a hijabi supporter,  hey girl/dude! You’re the best!
2. The new style of “shirt dresses” is great for hijabis and am all about that fashion trend right now! Yes!
3. No, I don’t expect everyone to bow down to hijabi style and not wear sheer shirts and crop tops.  You do you, boo. We just want some fashion options that aren’t boring black Abayas*.
4.*if you like boring black Abayas that’s OK too. 🙂

Turkey 315: Olur vs Olsun

Welcome to the third installment of Turkish Cultural Sayings, a subset of my other “Turkey Lessons” (available under said category).

Today we will address a pair of words that still confuse me sometimes.  I even had to ask hubby just now, to make sure my explanation was correct.  I’m talking about

olur vs olsun

Both words come from the root verb olmak, meaning “to be”.  But the variation in the endings give them a slightly different meaning.  Both words are used very frequently (daily…maybe even hourly), making understanding them critical to a successful Turkish conversation.

 Olur:  “it is”

Olsun:  “it shall be”

 So how does one use this, culturally?

 In the most general sense, olur is typically applied to something definite.  As in, it is this way, or no way.  On the contrary, olsun is usually said when you are compromising, or it isn’t really ideal, but can be as it is.

That wasn’t very clear was it…let’s use an example!

  At the pazar, you collect a bag of oranges.  You give it to the vendor, saying you want 2 kilos.  The bag comes to 2.5kg, to which you say olsun, and pay for the 2.5 kg.

 In the same pazar, you make a stop at a sweater stand.  You hold one up to you, and it is perfect!  Your companion looks to you, and asks if it’ll work (olur mu?) to which you respond, olur! Someone is going home with a new sweater!

While this is a hard and fast rule for olur vs olsun, they can commonly be interchanged, depending on the situation.  Different people in different cities may utilize these two terms with different levels of severity.

 Go out and give your new vocabulary a try!

aka, reason to go to the pazar

Are there any cultural phrases/words you struggle with?

Six Things I Love and Hate about Turkey (6mo revisited)

Well, it’s been 6 months since I’ve been in Turkey… And they have been very difficult.  Some of it is the adjustment factor, some of it is the great loss of independence,  but a huge chunk of it has to do with the matter I keep alluding to but refuse to talk much about.  Sorry about that,  by the way…

The last time I wrote about Things I Love and Hate About Turkey, I was speaking from a memory that was made four years ago… And reasonable expectations of how things would go.  Well,  the veil has been lifted, and I must admit there are many things I either forgot about, or didn’t know, that would make the list now!

Therefore, I present to you, my 6 month revisit of the things I love and hate about Turkey (and I feel making it 6 things for 6 months is appropriate). I’m going to make this list a 3 and 3, just because that’s easier 😉
image

I love


1. Sharing
Sharing is caring, and in Turkey those are words to live by.  I love how, if anyone buys any kind of goodie for themselves, they get enough to share.
2. Hospitality
One of my favorite things about Turkey is how people are incredibly hospitable.  For example, whenever we go to visit neighbors- coffee and/or tea, plus some sort of snack, is definitely going to be provided.  Even if you have to wait for a while when you go out for an errand that shouldn’t take long (getting pictures printed, going to the bank,etc), they will offer you a beverage to keep you comfortable. Nice!
3. Friendliness 
So far, in my experience, Turkish people have been very friendly and generally nice.  Our local cheese vendor, neighbor, doctor, bank associate, and others have all gone out of there way to show an interest in my husband and I, and our general happiness. Lots of hayirli(si) olsuns going around, and in the case of our elderly neighbor- blown kisses.

I hate


1. Lack of personal space
 It’s like I wear a sign that says “please touch me, I don’t mind”. Or crowd the hell out of me.  This really hit me when a stranger (female,  of course.  Men don’t get to touch random women without a big fight) walked up to me while I was at the ATM, and started adjusting my jacket hood without even speaking to me.  Don’t touch me lady! I don’t know you! And I’m trying to handle private banking stuff here,  back up!  It’s bad enough when family does it,  but complete strangers?
2. People=politics
People aren’t people, actually. In reality, we are all only our political opinion. Even more,  we all wear our opinions on our foreheads, and therefore whatever you think I believe must be true.  Except… none of those things are true.  In my experience,  people here assume they know your politics just by looking at you (e.g. Head scarf means I’m politically conservative apparently) and will treat you differently based on their assumptions.  They will even make your life measurably more difficult.  Because people aren’t just people.  That is not a thing.
3. Men vs women double standard
Even though this is also prevalent in American cultures,  it can be even more pronounced here.  Fortunately I don’t have to deal with this too much in Hubby’s immediate family,  but his extended family and friends sometimes rub me the wrong way.  I know it’s normal here,  but I can’t help it!  Women are expected to serve while men get the luxury of being serve…  Get off your butt and do something yourself,  jeez. Let me reiterate that this isn’t something I have to put up with (much).

 

‘Tis the Season to Make Aşure

As the onslaught of winter holidays are preparing to commence in the US, Turkey has a few unofficial holidays of their own.  While you may be spying colored leaf decor, pilgrim hats, and probably a few Christmas trees, in the states…in Turkey you will be seeing tons and tons of aşure!

asure2

Aşure (Ah-shur-eh), or Noah’s Pudding, is a dessert that I personally adore.  Sweetened with both sugar and fruit, aşure is a sure sign of the changing season. At least, it is right now.

Along with being a dessert, this is also the nickname of the Muslim month of Muharram (the first month on the islamic calendar- which operates by the moon phases).  For this reason, the months change over time- so in 10 years we may be preparing aşure around Easter rather than Christmas!

asure ingredients

  But I digress.

This dessert comes from the ubiquitous story of Noah (or Nuh) and the flood.  While Muslims and Christians don’t necessarily agree on how big the flood was, we can all agree that there was a guy on a boat for quite some time.  At the end of that time, there was only so many ingredients available to prepare much of anything.  With what remained, Noah prepared aşure.  There is a lot of significance to this month that you can search for on your own, I’m sticking to the dessert!

When one prepares aşure, they prepare A LOT.  That’s because you share your dessert with the whole neighborhood!  Invite over your closest neighbors, say some prayers, read a little Quran, then eat!  Later, load up a tepsi (tray) with as many bowls as you can and distribute them to the neighbors on your block.  More likely than not, you have some coming your way as well!  Just last week we visited Amca and his family, their aşure flavored with orange and clove felt like being back in the states again.DSCN3030

My favorite part of eating/making aşure is that everyone does it differently. While the base is pretty much the same, how people chose to flavor it can vary. Some people put figs and apricots, others put orange and apple.  Rose water? why not. Clove? Bring it on.  And the toppings sprinkled on top are always a treat! It literally took us one entire day to prepare the toppings.  Cracking, blanching, toasting, and pulverizing your own almonds and walnuts is not an easy task. Oh, but the reward…asure toppings

Without further ado, here is our recipe for aşure.  It makes a huge stock pot worth, so if you don’t plan on sharing with a dozen people- feel free to cut down the recipe.  Change it as you like!  We prepared the beans the day before.

Asure

Ingredients

1kg whole bulgur wheat

2c dried chickpeas

2c dried great northern beans

2c rice

1kg sugar

3 apples, peeled and diced

3 mandarine orange rinds, diced finely

1-2c raisins

2tsp cloves

1tbsp rose water

hot water

salt

toppings:

toasted sesame

toasted almonds, pulverized

toasted walnuts, pulverized

pomegranate seeds

toasted pine nuts

currants

cinnamon

Preparation

1.Soak the dried beans separately for several hours until ready to cook. Add a generous hand-full of salt to the water.

2. Wash the bulgur wheat very well*, then cook in a pressure cooker until done.

3. Remove the bulgur and place in a large stock pot. Cook the chickpeas in the pressure cooker until soft.

4. Cook the beans and rice separately in standard pots, until soft.

5. Put all of the legumes and grains, drained, in the same stock pot, add sugar. Meanwhile, boil the mandarin rind twice, removing any undesirable bitter flavors.

6. Fill stock pot with water until everything is submerged, plus two or three inches more.

7. Add the fruits/rind/clove and bring to a boil, letting everything mush together (its ugly but delicious). Add the rose water after boiling and stir it in.

8. Try and maintain a pourable consistency with hot water. Serve with garnish, hot.

AFIYET OLSUN!

*you know, go ahead and wash everything well.  EVERYTHING. Even the raisins.  Any residual color compounds can make your dessert ugly and discolored!

Leave America at the airport

While rocking together on a porch swing in the cool Mediterranean night, my husband turned to me and asked

How are you feeling about Turkey?

DSCN2809

Naturally, my first instinct was to say “good!” but, I wanted to give a more detailed answer than that.  Between jet lag and all of the running around we had been doing, I had been very tired recently and he was worried about how quiet I had been for the week we had been there- and that I hadn’t been my normal, bubbly self.

  I assure you all, I am just exhausted.  

But anyway, I started to really think about how I felt about Turkey. Really. And the word that kept coming to my mind was

different

DSCN2813

But not different in a bad way, like how my mom uses it to describe food she doesn’t like…but different in a..different sort of way.  I know you shouldn’t use the same word to define or describe a word, but there it is.  Turkey is different than the US. It just is.  If you come here looking for a western experience, you are going to be very disappointed.  The traffic is different, the speaking is different, the way of showing affection is different, the buildings are different, the lifestyle is different… the only thing that isn’t different is that we all bleed the same blood.  It is so different.

I can understand how culture shock could flatten a lot of people who aren’t prepared for this huge change.  I suffered it myself the first time we came four years ago.  Fortunately I know what to expect this time around, and have been mentally preparing myself for this change for several years.  Also, I have the huge benefit of the love and support of family (in Turkey and back int he US) while I am here.  That definitely helps take the edge off.

A bit of advice to those struggling with a culture adjustment- jump in with both feet and leave America (or wherever you are from) at the airport.  Fighting against your new home will only make you miserable.  Embrace it, enjoy it, and find the parts that give you comfort.

I hope it keeps working for me too :).

Greetings from Izmir!

DSCN2758

Wow, it seems like forever since we landed in Izmir at 1am on Wednesday morning- but today is only Monday!  Upon landing we were greeted by my in-laws and some cousins and whisked away to the beach…where there is no internet.

But that’s ok! We have been so busy managing the garden, visiting the beach, and seeing family that we haven’t had time to miss it.  Here is a teaser of what we have been up to in the last five days…
DSCN2796dancinguse

DSCN2808
We will be staying at the internet-less beach house until October, so I can’t be sure about my posting schedule.  The posts will come eventually though! Especially now that we are trying to figure out my residency permit stuff and what not. Ah, to be an expat…