Greetings from Izmir!

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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…
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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…

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Turkey 101: A crash course

I was browsing blogs the other day, reading about people who have or who are going to Turkey.  I remember myself when I was getting ready to go- I was so excited, full of wonder and expectation at what this exotic location held for me.  Fortunately for me, though,  I had a Turkish boyfriend (if you haven’t read my about section- that boyfriend is now my husband lol!) who prepped me on how to not stand out as a tourist in Turkey, and what behaviors could result in miscommunication with the locals.  I can’t imagine the hassle I would have dealt with if not for his advice.

Social Interaction

1.  Don’t look passers-by in the eye if they are the opposite sex:  I know this sounds sexist and whatnot, but it is true.  If a woman looks a man in the eye (particularly if they are foreign), or a man looks at a woman in the eye upon passing- they will think you are sexually interested in them.  This isn’t necessarily how every individual feels, but it is a hard and fast rule to keep you out of trouble.

2. Don’t make small talk:  If you are trying to pass the time in a crowd or a line while waiting, don’t make small talk.  While in America making small talk is considered polite, in Turkey it can be considered flirting if you are speaking with a stranger.

3. Don’t speak too much English in a crowded market:  Not because people are going to hurt you or be angry, but because you will get bombarded with vendors trying to sell you something.  For some reason they think tourists have a lot of money to spend…

4.  If your host/friend insist on something, say yes:  This is so common with offering food in particular.  If someone insists you eat more food or go somewhere with them (if you know them ONLY! Don’t do this with strangers), it is rude to decline more than two or three times.  It means they really really want you to if they continually insist.

5. Greetings:  When greeting the same sex, it isn’t strange to do a cheek-to-cheek kiss, especially if that person is family or you expect them to become close to you.  Also, kissing the top of the hand of an elder and touching their hand to your head is a great sign of respect, usually reserved for immediate family (mum/dad) and grandparents…but sometimes it is extended to some aunts and uncles- particularly if they are elderly.

Out and about 

1.  BRING TOILET PAPER:  Wherever you are going, bring a bit of toilet paper with you!  Not every location you will visit provides it.  The custom in a turkish toilet is to clean your places with water…so you may find a spicket, but not toilet paper

2.  Toilets aren’t free…: Oh yeah, and toilets aren’t free to use either- not even public ones. Bring a hand-full of 1 lira and 50 kurus coins wherever you go.

3.  Carry wet-wipes and deoderant:  So, AC isn’t exactly the norm in Turkey- and you are definitely going to get hot.  I learned from my mother-in-law to carry baby wipes/ wet wipes and a little spray deoderant around in my bag to freshen up when needed.

4.  Be modest:  It honestly depends on the town, but I found that wearing modest attire (such as knee length shorts and tshirts) helps prevent unwanted attention.  Not like all Turks are pervs, but if you limit your shorty-shorts to beach towns you appear more like a local rather than a tourist.  I mean, now I am a hijabi so it doesn’t matter for me- but still.

In The Home

1.  Remove your shoes:  When entering someone’s home, remove your shoes.  This is a cultural/religious tradition carried over from the Ottoman times, and it helps keep the house clean!  When you are a guest you may receive “house shoes” upon your arrival.  A lot of the time they are just regular shoes…but don’t wear them outside!

2. Say goodbye to daily showers:  This one took a LOT of getting used to.  Religiously speaking, you only require a shower for two reasons (although more is encouraged of course), because you are a woman who finished their time of the month, or because some kind of sexual deed occurred (even a sexual dream).  Even though you may not be religious, and even your host may not be religious, this assumption is fairly ingrained in the culture.  Even in the US, my husband cocks an eyebrow when I shower every morning…and he KNOWS that I do that, particularly during the summer, because we hijabis get sweaty easily so we need to shower frequently.  So yeah…just go ahead and let go of your daily showers. I know it hurts, but…when in Turkey.

Well, that’s all the time I have at the moment, I hope these tips help you… More over, some people may not experience Turkey how I did and these tips may seem silly or demeaning in some cases- but that is the Turkey I know.  Let me reiterate that I love the country and the culture, but it is only polite to adapt to your surroundings rather than impose your culture on other people.  It can save you a lot of headaches.

Iyi ve rahat seyahatlar ❤

All American Muslim

No, not the TV show (that was canceled)…I just like the picture

On many of the TV shows, youtube videos, movies, etc., that I have seen featuring western converts to Islam, many of them forsake their old identity for a new, Islamic centered one.  Changing their name, their style of dress (not just halal-ifying it), picking up a new language in the hopes of moving to an Islamic country….yes, I’ve seen all of (or many) of these things occur.  Let me just take a moment to remind everyone:

You are still you.

Islam is both a guidebook for living and a religion- but it is not a culture, per se. I think that many of us have identified Islam with the middle east and, when converting to Islam, many people will pick up the culture-ways of the middle east as well.  While I do subscribe to the notion of all muslims being of one ummah (nation)I don’t think that means we should forget who our families raised us as.  While some converts/reverts embrace a new culture because they married into it (like myself- who embraced Turkish culture BEFORE I embraced Islam),  I am troubled by those who seek to isolate themselves from their western identities because they feel Islam is not amenable to their culture.

O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another.– Ch 49, vs 13 of the Holy Quran 

I whole-heartedly believe that Islam can fit into any culture, and therein lies its beauty.  When people seek to release their previous culture in favor of a more Islamically rooted one, they are propagating the sense of “otherness” that many Western societies associate with Islam.  Muslims are “the other”, “the odd ones”, the mysterious eastern people with their strange customs and strange ways…as seen through the eyes of the US and others. But, here’s the thing… Muslims can be American too. Americans can be Muslim.  Please, go to the mall in your hijab, go out for coffee and lunch with your friends. Be SEEN. Interact!  You are no less the person you were born as before accepting Islam as you are after it.  In fact, you are only a BETTER version of yourself. But you are you.  Remaining an active part of your society after converting to Islam can be one of the best acts of dawah (inviting to Islam) you can do!

So, I don’t know about you, but I plan on keeping my name and my identity after my conversion.  I’ll always be that All-American girl next store…with a head scarf!  What about you?

Turkish BBQ/ Mangal

Highs in the 70’s, clear blue skies, and the beginning of spring break…This calls for only one thing.

MANGAL!

Mangal (also known as turkish style bbq) is a right of passage for anyone involved in turkish culture. It is the highlight of the spring/summer season and is, definitely, a must. My day has become a little more bright (if that is possible on this sunny day) just knowing mangal will happen! And the best part is that it is SO easy!

Without further ado, the recipe:

  • Deboned chicken (thighs or flattened or butterflied breasts)
  • Olive oil
  • cumin
  • salt
  • paprika
  • chili powder (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Cut the fat from the chicken and save it for greasing the grill
  2. Dredge the chicken (now flattened/ thin) in olive oil until it is all coated
  3. Mix the salt and spices together on a plate (use chili powder if you like your chicken spicy). Make a lovely pile, don’t be stingy! (Usually my ratio is about 1:3:2:1alt:cumin:paprika:chili but I eye ball it)
  4. Place the chicken in the spices so they stick to it. Rub the spices all over the chicken with your hands (the chicken will now be tinted red)

Now it is ready for the grill!

Even the act of grilling mangal is a little different than the traditional american style. For instance, you don’t use charcoal at all when you grill mangal, simply wood. However, we usually put a few briquets to get the fire started with the wood bundle. You should wait until the wood begins to ash before you throw on the mangal.

As the fire is burning, use the fat from the trimmed chicken to grease the grill. This will keep your chicken from sticking and pulling apart.

Cook the mangal on both sides until it is done.

Typically when we cook mangal, we will also throw some onion slices, cubanelle peppers (mild), and sometimes mushrooms on the grill as well.

Mangal is more than a meal, it is an EVENT!   Have a turkish-styled BBQ on your porch, at your friends house, or even the lake!

Afiyet olsun 🙂