What Doesn’t Kill You

My dear friends and readers, I want to put your minds at ease.

When it comes to our relationship…

Me and hubby are just fine.  Great, actually. Maşallah!

A lot of my posts have been really depressing,  if not a little disturbing,  as of late.  Yes, as far as other aspects of our lives are concerned… It kinda feels like a wrecking ball came flying in through the wall followed by a legion of space aliens intent on probing us in unpleasant ways.  We may or may not be their dinner, it is not yet clear.

But we are holding each other’s hands through it, and telling each other it will be ok.

Aside from the mysterious shroud that’s been upon us since last year that… Hopefully… I’ll be able to release to you in a bit, I’ve been struggling with filling my role as a bride in Turkey.

Not wife,  but bride.  It’s a little different.  It comes from my in laws’ perspective rather than my husband’s.

But when it comes to my hubby,  he is a gem.  He is always willing to give me a hand when I need it, pamper me when I want it (and even sometimes when I dont), and bend over backwards to make our current situation as comfortable for me as possible.  Some things can’t be helped though, like the increasing expectations being put on me by others.  We can’t do much about that without making this delicate living situation far worse.  So for now I have the grin and bear it, waiting until we are able to start our own lives,  just the two of us.

While all of these things have been putting a lot of stress on us, it’s just another battle that we have to go through together.  Our lives have been nothing but battle after battle against outside forces trying to make things hard for us.  At this point we are more than just husband and wife,  we are life battle buddies.  But I guess those two things are the same.

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Rough weather ahead...

Well,  you know what they say…what doesnt kill you makes you stronger.  And we aren’t going down without a fight.

First Wife Syndrome

  While the world begins to fret about a new(ish) virus epidemic, I’ve been struggling with my own illness.

Commonly known as first wife syndrome,  this illness is at epidemic proportions in Turkey and commonly occurs in the first wives of families.  It can be particularly aggressive in families with no daughters, and non-Turks seem to suffer the worst from the symptoms.  This affliction can range from very mild to debilitating, and there is no easy way to predict who it will strike. 

Symptoms include,  but are not limited to, back pain, neck pain, head aches, upset stomach, depression, mood swings, lethargy, exhaustion, and general malaise.

But no, really.

Like I described before in a recap of things I love and hate about Turkey, there’s a different standard applied to women rather than men.  In the most extreme cases,  it can manifest as women being treated as near slaves in the house.  This extends to wives, where the women marrying into a family are expected to take on the work of the senior woman in the house (mother in law) when they are there.  This has recently become more of a burden on me too.

Don’t get me wrong,  I have no problem with helping.  What I don’t like is doing things on my own when it isn’t something I’m doing just for me.  For example, forgive me if I get mad about doing my brother in laws laundry.  He’s not my husband and therefore not my problem.

This has been more of a problem since the winter started,  since my mother in law is prone to illness.  The first week it was OK,  but after a month of being asked to make tea (when I don’t want it),  make enough pita bread (lavaş) for our 5 person family without help,  do other people’s laundry, etc… Mmmmm how about no.

But what can I do? If I say no,  I’ll start a traditional rift between wife and mother in law.

This really made my blood boil when I was being told to assist my husband’s aunt in her serving us (as guests) when her own grown female grandchildren were not being made to lift a finger.  This is not normal in American culture (as I know it), and when we first got here nothing was expected of me, it was just a pleasant bonus when I helped so frequently.  But as I’m learning to do things on my own,  it seems that they’ve forgotten I’m not Turkish.

Maybe I should be flattered?

Nah,  I’ll just be mad.

Hopefully things will improve when we move out of my in laws house.  Whenever that will be. The longer I stay the more culture shocks I go through… Is that how it’s supposed to happen?

And now I kind of feel bad for feeling this way! Just because things are different doesn’t make them wrong…

But I can’t turn off 25 years of living my life with a different set of expectations!

What is an expat to do?

For the love of NAZ

Clingy
Needy
Jealous
Coy

All of these things can fall under the category of Naz behavior.
And in Turkey… It’s a good thing.

Before you become thoroughly confused and suspicious of this posts authenticity, let me explain!

  Naz is a noun that encompasses many different teasing actions and attitudes that can be performed between lovers,  or families of lovers.  These things are not done out of petulance or caprice, but purely for the purpose of playing with the one you love… Trying to wind them up,  if you will.

It isn’t that the pair are actually clingy,  coy,  or jealous… They are just playing at these attitudes.

A few examples:

– A man’s family comes to ask a woman’s family for a marriage agreement,  in old Turkish fashion.  The man and woman already agreed to marry,  a private proposal occurred,  and the family is all on board.  But for the sake of tradition,  they are including the marriage request.  The woman’s family may play a little game of “well… I don’t know.” all the while, both families know it is a sure thing.

-A husband and wife are laying in bed,  reading books.  The wife turns to the husband and says “honey,  I have to go to the bathroom… Will you walk with me?” the husband sighs in exasperation and the wife snickers to herself,  loving his reaction.

While naz is usually associated with women and their families,  let me tell you a secret… My husband is the king of naz,  sitting on his naz throne.  He loves to push my buttons and watch me go crazy,  all the while laughing his head off.  I always wondered why he insisted on driving me mad,  and I’ve only recently come to discover it is a common activity in Turkish marriage tradition, and can be seen as a type of affection.

Now that I know what he’s up to,  I take it in stride.  It seems I had also been participating in naz,  though mine is of the clingy type – dragging him up and down the halls so he has to be with me no matter what I’m doing.

In America, I had never determined a word for it… And in most cases,  it’s considered bad in western culture!

Well… This explains a lot!

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Turkey 650: Turkish Family Residency Permit-How To!

Today, after weeks of preparation, we finally went to the immigration office in Izmir to turn in my documents for my residency permit.  Alhamdulillah and Allah cok sukur, we got it right the first try!  Let me tell you right now, so many people/websites/officials told us different things- that I was very concerned about succeeding in this endeavor.  Several friends told me about their struggles of getting a work permit for Turkey, and that really had me wondering if I would be ok.  Well, here I am, with a successfully completed Family Residency Permit!  It appears as though being married to a Turk makes a huuuuuge difference when it comes to the residency permit process.

I really wish someone would have told me straight how the process went…so now I am going to tell you!

Keep in mind that every situation is different- and these are a few of the things that made our situation unique:

  1. I am American, my husband is Turkish
  2. We have been married 2.5 years, so citizenship eligibility is right around the corner
  3. Hubby is awaiting assignment to his job by the government- he isn’t just jobless
  4. We went EVERYWHERE for these things together, and with his dad.  I feel like having a “team” helps the process
  5. We applied and completed everything in Izmir
  6. I have no criminal record

If I were a Cuban male, married for five minutes, and applying in Kayseri by myself- would things be different? I have NO idea.  That’s why I want to really impress upon you that what I did and what worked for me may not work for you.  But this is how it went….

 What you need:

4 photographs of you, within the last 6 months, BIOMETRIC (Biometrik)

1 photo of your spouse, BIOMETRIC

Your passport, and a photo copy

Your spouse’s Turkish ID and photo copy

Proof of 24k TL from the bank, in your spouse’s name (from the day of your application)

Proof of Turkish insurance

Your Turkish marriage licence

Proof of Turkish residency for your spouse

Your vergi (tax) number

Your entry visa

$145 (in TL, at the exchange rate of the day) and 55TL

What is a family residency permit?

The family residency permit is intended for allowing the spouse (and children) of a Turkish citizen to remain in the country for 2 years.  The 2 years is kind of pre-determined.  Whether or not you can make it less, I am not sure.  However, I am pretty sure that you can’t make it more than 2 years on the first application.  This is my understanding.  I went for the 2 years permit even though I am eligible for citizenship in a few months, because that citizenship process takes forever- and it is better to be safe than sorry.  A friend of mine recently applied for citizenship based on bloodline, around 3 months ago, and she is still waiting for approval.

The good side is that it seems like the easiest/ cheapest permit to obtain. On the bad side, you don’t have the right to work.

Biometric photos

We obtained our biometric photos from a “foto kent”. Biometric is basically just a face close up with a white background.  I was scarved and also wore some makeup- but nothing crazy (a bit of blusher, eyeliner, light eye shadow, and filled in eyebrows). If you look like someone else, they may not accept it.  No problem with being covered though. Ask for a digital copy- it will make filling out your online application form a lot easier.

Passport/ Turkish ID

I think this is pretty straight forward.  Make sure you copy the page with your info and picture on it.  Turkish IDs need both sides copied.

Proof of money

The proof of money was also a lot simpler than I though it would be!  You simply go to the bank and ask for the proof from your Turkish citizen spouse’s account. It will be signed by the bank worker on duty.  If you have your account in dollars rather than TL, ask the bank associate to include a statement of what the value of the dollars would be that day, in TL.  That worked for us- but if someone at the immigration office is having a bad day, they may not accept it.  Fair warning.  ***IT IS CRITICAL THAT YOU OBTAIN THIS FORM THE DAY OF YOUR APPOINTMENT

You can spend it all after you’re done 😉

Proof of insurance

Ok, this is where the situation becomes uniquely married.  That is, I am covered under my husband’s SGK- national health coverage.  If you just got here, you will have to pay a fee for it (unless it is after the elections on Nov 1, 2015 when you read this- then I have no idea).  There is a form to obtain from the SGK office, and something to print off from online to prove you are covered.  Bring it all.  Heck, we even got a special form from the SGK office with my name on it saying I am covered too, just to be safe.

No need to buy private insurance when you are married ;).

The first lady we saw at the SGK office told us that we had to get all of these forms to prove that we just arrived in Turkey and had been in the US previously.  What a headache.  We asked someone else, and they said a stamped passport was enough.  This is a GREAT example of how things in Turkey sometimes depend on the person you talk to.

Turkish marriage license

If you got married outside of Turkey as we did, you would have to file your marriage with the Turkish consulate.  You will receive the aile cuzdani (marriage license).  We did this the week after we married. YOU NEED THIS. If you haven’t done it yet- do it now!

Spousal residency

Again, as we just arrived, we had to go to some building that said nufus on it…don’t ask, this was when we just got here about 2 months ago, and have hubbys father sign a paper saying that hubby was living in Turkey again.  You are going to need that form.

Vergi/tax number

When you are a non-citizen who wants to have a bank account or do something financial with the Turkish government, you need a tax number.  You will be able to get this with your passport at your local Vergi Dairesi.  It takes a few days for the system to register you, so do this early.  You need this number to pay your fee.

Entry visa

THIS is something that took me FOREVER and a lot of STRESS to find out.  If you are coming into Turkey and intend to get a family residency permit.. you can enter on an E-VISA/tourist with no problems!  Everywhere I looked it said E-VISAs can only be used for short term residency permits.  Well, that was a big fat lie.  You can get your visa for entry into Turkey as simple as click, click on the internet!  Bring a copy of the print out when you go to the appointment.

$145/ 55TL fee

This is where we hit our snag today.  The fee for a 2 year family permit is pretty low compared to others, that I have heard.  Is this because Im American or because it is a family permit? I have no idea. But that was the fee.  PLEASE note, so you don’t make our mistake, the $145 should be paid in TURKISH LIRA according to the exchange rate of THAT DAY.  You will pay at the vergi daire that is closest to your immigration office.  Bring two photocopies of your receipt!

The application form

The application form is pretty standard and easy to answer.  YOUR permanent address should be the one in your home country.  You only have to answer the questions in red.  The area that was confusing for us was the “supporter’s work/income” section.  Because we had the proof of funds, we simply put 1000TL for the income, because you are basically showing 2 years of minimum wage when you show the 24K TL in the bank.  I don’t know if this could be a problem for someone who is NOT waiting for a gov’t job. As hubby understood it, if you have the cash in the bank- the income is not important. Either way, it worked out.  Also, I filled out and sent in this form the day before the appointment (because that’s all we had open).  I heard that if your visa runs out while you await your permit appointment that it’s ok…but I don’t like pushing the limits.

I want to stress- very much stress- HIGHLIGHT, UNDERLINE, and BOLD:

everyone and everywhere is different

It is unfortunate that, as I have come to realize, everything can be made more difficult when someone is in a mood.  If the bank teller doesn’t like you, they may not give you a form stating turkish lira and dollars. If the vergi daire person doesn’t like you, your form could take longer to process.  If the immigration office person thinks your hair needs work, they can say your insurance proof is insufficient and you need more documentation. That is Turkey.  Sure, if you complain you can probably get around all that nonsense- but it is a head ache none the less.

If you have any other insights for different countries/ cities/ situations, please send me a message or drop a comment below to help out the others in your situation!

 GOOD LUCK!

Gay Marriage: A response

Today is a historic day in American history.  Today the legality of gay marriage is the law of the land.  Every state must recognize and sign off on gay marriage.

The internet and news channels are exploding- everyone has an opinion.  Even the supreme court justices who decided the constitutional stance of gay marriage in a 5-4 vote had a lot to say.  In this country, gay marriage is a very contentious issue.

Well, I guess it’s my turn now.

What do I think about the legalization of gay marriage?:

Rainbow_flag_breeze-665x443

…well, it’s about time. duh.

Commentators:  But you’re muslim!

Why yes, yes I am.  And what of it?

Commentators:  Your holy book says that gay marriage is not allowed!

Well…does it?  The Quran actually says that gay relations is not permissible, not actually being gay, or gay marriage, as far as I can tell.  Even if it does, so what?  Not everyone is Muslim. This country, America, promises freedom for all.  That means me, you, and gay Americans.  I don’t feel like a couple being allowed to enjoy legal benefits given by federally recognized marriage is going to hurt me or my beliefs.  I don’t have to partake in a gay marriage… no one is making me officiate a gay wedding.   This country is a melting pot and is made up of many different people with many beliefs, and I have no problem with people living their lives in a way that I wouldn’t live mine.

If I expect to have my rights to be Muslim, wear hijab, etc. to be honored- I will in turn honor the rights of those who do not agree with me.  Live and let live.  You don’t even have to agree with me, that’s ok too.

Simple enough.

…and nothing else matters

the future?
the future?

Every day things look worse and worse for us here.  I really have no idea what we are going to do…and what will happen.  When you don’t know how it is going to end, it is hard to care about the assignments in front of you.  For instance, I have a paper due (the lit review of my masters thesis proposal) as a class assignment for one of my courses, at the end of this semester…but oh how hard it is to give two cares when I probably won’t see next semester.   At first I was partially excited to return to Turkey, imagining the days spent without any stress or concern, baking and watching TV all day with no end to the relaxation in sight…

But then there’s the money problem.

The stipend for PhD students is minimal at best, if you get any at all.  With uni being free in Turkey, the  stipend side is iffy.  Here, if you get an assistantship to pay tuition, more likely than not you get a stipend as well.  Not so in Turkey.

Also, if he decides, or comes to the point, where he will be working solely from his Master degree, he will receive a monthly pay (thats how they do it, a monthly rate instead of hourly) of approximately as much as the stipend he is receiving now to take his PhD in the US.  Two people living off the measily stipend of a student? Good luck with that.  Yes, Turkey is a much cheaper place to live…because many of the comforts we enjoy in the US are not as common place there.  I am quite certain I cannot work on a resident permit, let alone work without a grasp of Turkish.  This adds to my concerns.  It was hard enough starting over in a new state when we were able to drag everything we owned with us (pots, pans, linens, etc), let alone starting off in a new COUNTRY where all we have is what could fit in 4 suitcases!

This adds to the urgency of finishing up in the US. First, padding our savings with the stipend money that we try very hard to save could benefit us enormously when we move.  Second, the starting salary he would receive from finishing his PhD would be a good 1,000TL higher a MONTH.  Roughly, ofcourse.

We are trying our best to make it work here.  He does NOT want to go back to Turkey empty handed, and neither do I.  Clearly, staying in the US is the best option… if he can get his PhD.  If not, there is no chance of being able to get it after waiting even one year.  With military service looming overhead, he would not be able to finish a PhD in Turkey in time…the long term result being a minimal salary that couldn’t provide the lifestyle (or the family size) we had in mind.

He said already “Raziysan gel” (great song), and I agreed and came with him.  Regardless of our situation, I will be with him in the end.