Knee Jerk Reactions

Whenever something bad happens, you tend to have that initial “knee jerk” reaction. A reflex, if you will.  My previous post basically covered hubby’s reflex to losing his job. 

You know, the “we can’t move out now” , “we will move to new city” , “everything sucks” kind of stuff.  

Well, we are trying to take a few days to step back and really evaluate the situation and the best next move. 

For both of us.  

At the moment, moving out is back in the table, taking some time off to take more professional/technical courses, and other personal development stuff is also a possibility. 

While nothing is clear right now, the only thing we can be certain of is that we have each other- and that’s what matters. 

Prayers and positivity appreciated.  

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… 

What a Difference Coffee Makes

I want to take a second to really focus on something that may sound dumb.  Something I said before, but may have sounded like an off-the-cuff kind of thing.  Like a joke. But it wasn’t a joke. It isn’t.  It’s very, very real.

Coffee (finding the Holy Grail) has changed my life.

 To many people, that probably sounds really really dumb.  Like, come on girl, it’s just coffee.

But is it?

Is it just coffee?

Is it just coffee, or is it reclaiming something from a previous culture that I thought I lost?  Is it one small comfort that had been a routine in my life for over 10 years, that I had to give up during one of the most difficult challenges I have had to face?  Is it, perhaps, a little piece of home that has brought me a little more sanity?

 It’s all of those things, and so much more.

For people who have had to make a huge life adjustment, like moving to a new (and very different) country (or maybe town), you know what I’m talking about.  There’s little things that you may or may not have known were important to you in your old life, that you suddenly don’t have anymore.  Maybe it’s that specific brand of cookie, a lotion that you love, or a special place you liked to go during your free time. But now, it’s not there. On top of the struggle of giving up the life you knew, and shaped, for the last (however many) years you’ve been on this earth… you lost your security blanket too.  That thing that helped keep you grounded, regardless of what you’d been going through.  Something that was always there.

 After  while, you get used to its absence. You’ve gotten past it.  That was part of your old life, and you don’t need it now.

But then…then it’s back.

You have it again!

And you realize you didn’t really get used to it. You hadn’t gotten past it at all.

And slowly, things start feeling more normal.  You start to own the life you have now, instead of just getting through it on a daily basis.  You look forward to the next morning again, because, even if you don’t have anything to do (for now)- you have a cup of coffee to enjoy in the morning.

And for me, that’s enough.

Next on the list? Getting our own apartment, maybe learning how to drive stick, putting myself out there (friend wise)…

But I’ll do all that after my first cup.

With coffee to start my day, I can do anything.

The Hunt For the Holy Grail- FILTERED

Yes, FINALLY.  Finally I’m writing the last installment of a series I started a million years ago.  I didn’t even get to try the last filtered coffee brand I had on my list.  Why? Because I am CONTENT.  I have found THE ONE.

(and because it’s been so long, I can’t find the pictures of each coffee brand on my computer… You’ll have to look at Instagram screenshots instead. Sorry!) 

But first, lets look at a few others.

For filtered coffee, I utilized the french press method for brewing. Because I like a strong cup, I steeped the grinds for 7-8 minutes instead of the suggested 5 minutes.  Also, due to the fact I kept letting milk spoil in the fridge, I’ve switched to powdered creamer (nestle brand). I know, the scandal! But I can’t stand wasting milk, and I simply don’t use it for much else besides the occasional dessert and coffee!

Turkish Coffee (ground for filtered)

Very simply put…Turkish coffee without the sludge.
Taste: 2/10

How is it possible that the taste got worse when I used the same beans as the traditional Turkish coffee, but with a filter?  Maybe because I hold my filtered coffee to a higher standard?  For more information on the flavor of Turkish coffee, check out my Hunt post here.

Texture: 7/10

Not having that nasty sludge was a huge improvement to this coffee.

Aroma: 7/10

One of the benefits of Turkish coffee is that it has a very strong aroma.  You can tell coffee is in my cup from across the room!

Too bad the taste dragged down the score.

Total: 5/10

Sorry Turkish coffee, you will never be my holy grail!

 

Starbucks House Blend

The standard Starbucks flavor we all know and (some people) love! (22TL for 200g)
Taste: 6/10

Like I’ve said on several occasions- I’m not a hardcore Starbucks fan.  But what I do praise them for is their consistency.  The taste of Starbucks here is the same as what I am accustomed to in the states.  So if you are a Starbucks fan, you can buy a bag of Starbucks coffee beans in Turkey and feel completely at ease. It was a welcome taste to have back on my buds, but at the same time, I always added syrups to the Starbucks I drank back home.  Because, while the flavor is a standard filtered coffee type, it doesn’t exactly wow me.  The complexity is there, but there is a bit of a sour note going on as well.

Texture: 8/10

No grits! No grains! This does a happy girl make!  Paired with the powdered creamer, the texture of this coffee has been bumped up to the slightly creamy category I’ve been looking for!

Aroma: 8/10

Everyone knows the smell of Starbucks.  These coffee beans are poignant in a very good way!  I can smell the coffee when I walk into the kitchen. mmm!

Total: 7/10

A solid choice, but still a “nothing to write home about” experience. If you are craving filtered coffee, this is not a bad option.  Plus, like I said before, the familiarity is nice when you feel a little home sick.

Tchibo (Guatemala Grande and African Blue)

Tchibo is a German company that sells a lot of random stuff.  One of their products is coffee. Guatemala Grande (GG) is their medium roast, while African Blue (AB) is their dark.  They have a few other roasts as well, but these are the ones I’ve been refilling over and over again.  I first tried the GG on it’s own…then I tried the AB…and I said to myself “these are both good. But what if I put them TOGETHER?”. (23 TL for two 250g bags)

Then the sky opened up.

Light shined down.

And the angels sang.

Taste: (GG) 7/10, (AB) 8/10, (blend) 9/10

GG is a lovely, if not standard, medium roast.  It has a mild complexity, not overwhelming, but also lacks the sourness of Starbucks.

While I am typically not a fan of dark roast, AB has me hooked!  It is a notch or two bolder than GG, without smacking you in the face with bitterness. It still has a mild complexity, but where GG is solidly in the “medium” category, AB floats softly in the “dark” category, with some of the notes found in the medium. When using the nestle powdered creamer, the bitterness is completely masked*.

But when you bring GG and AB together, it is a taste of heaven.  Even without any added flavors (hazelnut, chocolate, vanilla, etc), this coffee is a dream.  The GG and AB are just different enough that you can tell the difference when you drink them separately, but when you bring them together the flavors meld beautifully without having too much of one particular note.  I like a good 1:1 ratio of GG and AB, and if I am feeling light, I go 3:1.

Texture: (all) 8/10

I think I need to chock the texture up to the great nestle powdered creamer I’ve been using…

Aroma: (GG) 7/10, (AB) 8/10, (blend) 8/10

As is the norm, the dark roasted AB has a slightly stronger scent than GG.  However, when blended, the poignancy of the AB comes out in the scent. In my experience, you need to let this coffee steep a little longer (8 minutes) to get the full effect.

Total: (GG) 7/10, 8/10(AB), 8/10(blend)

Because the texture and aroma don’t change too much with the blend, the blend ended up tying with the AB dark roast…but everything was weighted equally in my assessment.  Because I hate statistics. And I am not about to pull out analysis software to do math on a blog post.  But in real life, the taste is obviously the most important thing.  So, numbers aside, I would say that the blend of GG+AB is the best filtered coffee I’ve had in Turkey.

I’d go so far as to say it’s the best coffee period (so far).

I’d even say…

I HAVE FOUND MY HOLY GRAIL!

Across all types of coffee, and brands, I believe the Tchibo Guatemala Grande mixed with the African Blue is my holy grail of coffee in Turkey.  Sure, there are other brands I haven’t tried.  There are flavored syrups I haven’t used.  But with my GG+AB, I have consistently made good (neigh, GREAT) cups of coffee that have started my morning right.  I’ve even gotten back in the habit of drinking coffee every morning. And that price point though!! (5.75TL for 100g. That’s 12~TL compared to 22TL for Starbucks!!)

 Thanks to Tchibo, Turkey is feeling a little more like home.  And in the end, I think that’s what I was really looking for.

Expat problem? Solved.

 

*Here’s some science for you:  The bitterness in coffee is caused by a chemical compound known as tannins, which also gives the coffee color we are all familiar with. They are also found in coffee and some wines. In order to cut bitterness, we must bind the tannins with protein (commonly milk protein).  Hence the use of milk/cream in coffee! The higher the protein content (like creamer/ powdered creamer vs regular milk vs low fat), the more effective the binding power and the less bitterness you end up with.

American Things I Took For Granted…

In all of my excitement to move to Turkey eventually, there were a lot of things about the US I took for granted.

Some things I didn’t take for granted, but I still miss them dearly and wish I would have enjoyed them more when I was there.

Sure,  several of these things are still doable/available in Turkey,  but not at the same level of ease/confidence/etc that they were before.  You don’t know what you have until it’s gone!

1. Filtered coffee

If you haven’t noticed my lamenting on Instagram, my supply of filtered coffee is hard to come by.  I miss being able to walk into ANY grocery store and find a dozen different coffee options… Being able to buy a half decent coffee machine on the cheap! It’s basically a God given right in the US to have coffee.  But here? It’s kind of an elitist beverage and it’s expensive when you do find it!

2. Driving

I guess I could drive in Turkey, but I would probably die. People here drive like the rules don’t apply to them (which I guess they don’t, since the cops seem to be pretty “whatever”  as long as there isn’t an accident).  Walking and public transportation is fun, don’t get me wrong, but I would like the option to comfortably drive if I wanted to.

3. Etiquette

You don’t even realize how ingrained your behaviors are until you have to monitor them.  There are so many social norms in America culture that could get you in trouble in Turkey.  I took having an automatic APPROPRIATE response for granted!!

4. Walmart (and other stores)

I miss how, in the most part, goods in the US have specific stores to shop at that are basically everywhere.  Walmart, Ross, grocery chains, Target, and Best Buy for example.  I still haven’t found a mouth guard in Turkey and I’ve been looking for months!!! Where is Walmart when you need it?!  While the specialty shops here are “cute”,  ain’t nobody got time for running all over the city looking for one specific item!

5. Knowing the value of something

Because I grew up in America (and lived on my own for 6 years), I’ve come to learn the value of things.  Tomatoes by the pound, notebooks, jeans, toilet paper,  you name it.  I know what it should cost.  I’m sure it helps that I’ve worked in retail for a long time too.  But in Turkey? I’m just starting to figure it out.  Is ₺25 appropriate for this item? Hell if I know! My husband doesn’t even know the answer anymore! This makes it hard to buy things on my own.  For all I know,  a better deal is right around the corner.

6. Living On Our Own

This is one of those things I knew I would miss, but had no idea at the time it would be this bad. We had thought that we would have everything ironed out and be on our own in 6 months… Well, we are rolling up on month 10 and yet there is no end in sight.  I can’t believe I miss our tiny one bedroom apartment with all of two sticks of furniture in it!

7. Multicultural food

In Turkey you get Turkish food. And Turkish food.  And Turkish food. What’s a girl got to do to get a taco up in here?!  I would kill for some lo mein,  sushi, or a tuna sub from subway! Maybe you can find these things in Turkey, but they are NOT the same!  Not to mention other staples like a good chipotle salsa or sour cream!

Coming soon… Things that are better in Turkey than America!

 

 

Hijabi problem #99: I am oppressed

I am a hijabi (wearer of the hijab)

And I am oppressed.

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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.

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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. 🙂

When The System Doesn’t Work

  Well, I hadn’t announced it on here, but I applied for that job (permit) I had told yall about a month ago.

Come to find out,  I can’t take it.

Why?

Because of Turkey’s back assward system.

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Apparently, if you apply for a work permit while living under a separate residency permit (short term,  family, etc), your new work permit voids your old residency permit.  Regardless of how much time you have left.

Regardless of the giant fee you just paid a few months ago.

Regardless that it’s a shorter residency permit than the one you have.

Nevermind the huge amount of money you had to come up with to get the permit to begin with.

You’d think someone on a family residency permit would, you know, have a family and want to work.

So, when I came to find this out… I had to say no to the job.  I feel like a jerk because they had put in so much effort to get the work permit for me, but I didn’t sign up for voiding my previous permit that I just paid a hefty sum for. No. No good. 

Plus when you take a work based residency, your residency permit is tied to the job.  If you leave the job, you lose your residency permit. I had been so comfortable with knowing that my residency permit wasn’t tied to a working – that if I was wronged in the job I had the freedom to leave and be in the clear.

Well,  if I’m going to be in this kind of risky situation,  I sure as hell need to be paid a lot more.  Plus, if I’m throwing away my expensive family permit, I should be compensated for that.  Maybe I’m not being fair, because it isn’t the fault of the job that this happened.  It’s the fault of the system.

But I can’t put myself at risk because I feel bad for the company. I have to look out for me.

I hate this.

So it’s back to staring at white walls for me. One more step closer to insanity.

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?

It’s not you, it’s me

  Within less than a week of putting my CV out there,  I’ve gotten several call backs.

One of which I was extremely excited about.

I was asked to interview for a marketing position in a small dried goods company.  They only dealt in international clients, all of whom spoke English. For this reason,  they needed a fluent/native English speaker, particularly one that could help them break into the US market.

Perfect!  And my extensive education in food technology was a huge plus! By the end of the interview,  they had practically hired me.

But there was one big problem.

The commute.

One hour by train and a 20 minute walk (including crossing a major road with no cross walk) in a large industrial complex stood between me and this great opportunity.  With my limited Turkish abilities,  it wasn’t possible.

I really wanted to make it work.  I wanted it to happen,  but what can I do?  The pay wasn’t outstanding, but I feel it was negotiable.  The job was exactly up my alley, plus the great benefit of doing all communications from the safety of an office.

An office practically a life time away.

If it wasn’t for that long,  creepy walk after the metro… It could have been.

But it can’t.

Sigh.

It’s not you…
It’s me.

My Playlist

Sometimes, when things are really bad, you just want to cry.  But after you wash your face and pull yourself off the floor, you need to remember how hard you are. 

And that it takes more than a hurricane to knock you down.

This is my (currently quite short) Playlist that helps me thug it out/cheer me up (I used to use Pandora but…) :

Moment 4 Life – Nikki Minaj
Cruise (Nelly remix) – Florida Georgia Line
This is how we roll- Florida Georgia Line
Bangır Bangır – Gülşen
My House – Flo Rida
Sen misin ilacım – aydilge (aka the kiralik aşk song)
GDFR – Flo Rida
Worth it – fifth harmony
Fancy –  iggy azalea
All I Do Is Win – dj khaled
And especially
Let’s go – trick daddy (this has been my go to since high school… Thug life chose me.)

Look at that… It’s working already!

What do you like to listen to when you need a boost?