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.  

A Warm Wind is Blowing (So stock your freezer!) 

Yay! Sunshine! 

So dlst ended yesterday in the states, or started, or whatever… All I know is: sunshine! All the sunshine! 

But it has been raining here… 

Rain and warmth, it must be spring! 

Almost, anyway. 

So while the students prep for their exams, I start prepping my favorite winter veggies for the freezer! Since Turkey is keen on selling products according to season, some things are nearly impossible to find when the weather changes. 

 And if there are rows and rows of frozen veggies, I haven’t seen them at bim or şok or migros! So I guess it’s up to me… 

Over the last two weeks, I have prepped and frozen spinach (Stems separately), Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and celery root. Yeah, I know most people prepare food for the winter, but sometimes you crave something different. 

If you’re curious how I prepped these, scroll down! I took the advice I found on the web and combined it with my own knowledge of food science to, hopefully, succeed in a prep method that will keep my veg intact for summer use! 

 Celery root and cauliflower

1. Chop up roots/cauliflower to create a uniform size (I usually do around thumb size).  

2. Rinse it.  

3. Bring a pot of water (enough to submerge) to a hard boil with a pinch of citric acid. Throw it in. 

4. Boil for about three minutes or until all pieces are slightly soft, but not mush. 

5. Strain out veg from the hot water and plunge into ice water until cool. 

6. Strain and pat dry with a paper towel. 

7. Spread veg out evenly on a tray (celery pictured below) and put in the freezer for about two or three hours, or until hard. 

8. Scrape veg off the tray (they should mostly pop off) and put in a freezer bag (air tight is better, but I don’t have a vacuum sealer). 

Brussel sprouts/spinach

0. For spinach, chop leaves and stems separately. Both should be washed very well to remove all grit (I use the submerging method). Leaves and stems should be processed separately. 

0. Quarter or halve Brussel sprouts to create a uniform size.  Rinse the sprouts. 

1. Bring a pot of water to a hard boil (enough to cover the bottom third of the veg). Throw it in. 

4. Stir occasionally to pull the bottom bits to the top and visa versa. Boil for about three minutes or until all sprouts are bright green and slightly soft. Spinach will be wilted but not slimy.  

5. Strain out sprout1. Quarter or halve Brussel sprouts to create a uniform size. 

2. Rinse the sprouts. 

3. Bring a pot of water to a hard boil (enough to cover the bottom third of the sprouts). Throw sprouts in. 

4. Stir occasionally to pull the bottom sprouts to the top and visa versa. Boil for about three minutes or until all sprouts are bright green and slightly soft. 

5. Strain out sprouts or spinach from the hot water and plunge into ice water until cool. 

6. Strain and pat dry with a paper towel (let the spinach wait in the strainer and press it with a paper towel)

7. Spread veg out evenly on a tray and put in the freezer for about two or three hours, or until hard. 

8. Scrape veg off the tray and put in a freezer bag. 

Bereketli olsun! 

Settle down 

Oh my lord. 

Moving plus school starting up again sure is a hand full! 

And yes,  even though we are  just downstairs, it was still a hard move! Because we are literally starting from 0. You have no idea how much you collect through years of living until you start from scratch again. I can’t say this enough. 

But I must admit I’m all about those new appliances (even if the bill made my eyes tear up a little). 

So, deepest apologies for not posting, I know I should be better… But I’ve been swamped with house projects after coming home from work.  

But I am alive and relatively well! Nothing a little chocolate can’t fix…! 

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 :).  

Elbow Room

Great news! 

The renter downstairs (bottom floor, flat 1 of 3) has moved out! 

You know what that means? 

We are finally moving out of this flat (3rd of 3)!!! I could dance and cry for joy simultaneously. I’m not exaggerating. 

Of course the apartment will need a bit of sprucing up.  It is, after all, about 30 years old.  Nothing a fresh coat of paint and some new floors can’t fix! There’s nothing like a little renovation! 

Plus I need a side project.  

Meanwhile we are also working to finish the second floor construction, but now that can slow down as other things have been popping up in our lives lately…more to talk about later. 

Check out our new floors! We only put them in the sitting room and bedroom, but we are so impressed we are thinking to put them everywhere… But that costs money. Crossed fingers we can do enough to be able to move within two weeks! 


new floor in the bedroom! It’s amazing how much it brightens the whole room!

Old furniture frames the renter left behind need to be broken down for fire wood… But the kitchen  cabinets are solid! Old floors are ugly, but a carpet can fix that.  Or maybe more new floors? 

Throw Your Hands in the Air

And wave em like you just don’t care! 

Which I am. 

Because I don’t. 

Being a teacher is hard, yall. Especially to spoiled, arrogant children.  

Not all of them are bad, but some are.  I honestly believe a hand full of these kids wouldn’t spit on someone if they were on fire. 

This is especially true for my 9th graders.  Two of the four classes are just hopeless.  It’s not like they can’t do the work, they just won’t.  I’ve tried everything.  Picking up unfinished activities in the main course English book, playing games, watching videos, teaching something else in English (e.g. Slavery in the US), projects, the works.  Nothing. Works. 

And I’m sad, because there are at least three students that are actually interested in the topics and want to learn. They even apologize for the others’ bad behavior. But if I have to call the counselor and the principal five times because they are so incredibly rude (I mean, standing in class, shouting to each other, sleeping, talking back in turkish as if I dont understand), I’m not going to waste my time. 

I did my best. I’m just going to be a babysitter for the 40 minutes that class takes in a week. Usually the good students gravitate to me and practice their English 1 on 1 with me anyway. 

Because this negativity just isn’t conducive to my 2017 resolutions

Happy New Year! (plus a Güveç recipe) 

Today we rung in the new year with one of my all time favorites! Enjoy!


Ingredients
 

1 kg cubed beef

2 small onions, diced

4 Charleston peppers, diced

3 sweet sıvı peppers, diced 

5 tablespoons crushed tomato

2 tablespoons tomato /pepper paste

Sunflower (or canola) oil

Butter, margarine, or tereyağ 

Salt to taste

Cumin to taste

Black pepper to taste

Crushed red pepper flakes to taste

**note: you should use a stoneware pot (it’s not 100% necessary but does make a big difference**

Preparation

1. Cube the beef to the size of your thumb.  Stew beef can be used for this recipe, as can a lean cut.  I prefer stew beef. 

2. Put oil and butter in a 3:1 ration (oil:butter), enough to cover the bottom of your pot with about 1cm standing. Add the meat and close the lid, cooking on high.  Stir occasionally until the meat is nearly browned (it’s OK to have some raw spots). 

3. Add the tomato or pepper paste (or a blend) and stir, letting the paste melt into the simmering oil/butter/grease. Prepare your arteries mentally.  

4. Add the diced onions and peppers.  Also add your spices and salt (personally, I like 2tsp black pepper, 1tsp cumin, 2tsp crushed red pepper, and 2/3 tablespoons of salt.  The salt is determined by if there is salt in your paste or not.)  Cover and let cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are soft. Around 8 minutes. 

5. Add boiling water until the meat is just sticking out of the water.  Cover the exposed meat with the crushed tomatoes.  DO NOT STIR . Simply press the tomato lightly into the water. 

6. Cover the mouth of your pot with tinfoil, putting the lid over the tinfoil to create a seal. You should see the foil poof up from the steam.  Move your pot to the smallest eye of your stove, and turn it on low. It should barely be seeping out steam from the lightness of the boiling inside (this is crucial!). Let cook for about 1.5 –  2 hours on low until meat is tender. 

Serve with warm bread or rice. Maybe some pickles too! 

You can’t go wrong with Güveç! 

Afiyet olsun! 

 

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? 

What Did I Eat?! 

Last Sunday hubby, BIL, and I went out for the whole day! We cruised all the holiday deals to find hubs some winter boots, winter dress shoes, a nice jacket, among other things, for an event coming up soon.  We really nailed it on the shoes and jacket! 

While we were out we stopped at a tiny hole in the wall restaurant (literally a hole in the wall, which I’ll post about separately) for fish sandwiches. So. Good. And fritter style! It’s been forever.


 Afterwards, we went to smoke hookah/nargile because we were feeling feisty.  Unfortunately our adrenaline didn’t last and we got tired very fast.  Subsequently, we rushed our smoking and ended up feeling not so good. Hubby’s head was spinning and I was choking on it and my stomach burned.  Not to mention the service was terrible.

Otherwise, a good day.  

And then Monday came. 

My stomach was on fire! It wouldn’t stop burning and flipping as if I’d be sick immediately.  I drug myself to work though, and couldn’t even make myself eat at lunch, for fear of vomiting.  Same for dinner.  Didn’t touch it. I drank marjoram tea to try and help settle my raging insides, but it only helped a little. 

Next morning I ate one plain scrambled egg.  Breakfast was one bowl of soup, and a spoon of erişte. I still wasn’t feeling too good. Zero appetite and stomach pain (but more boiling than burning this time). Had a bowl of soup for dinner and my stomach was bloated to that of a 6 month old pregnant lady. 

What the heck did I eat?! 

Yesterday I managed a few spoons of every food at lunch and dinner.  But still no appetite. Just today I finally had enough of an appetite to enjoy my food, but still half of my normal meal.

Besides stomach anger, you don’t want to know how else my insides were punishing me.

I have no idea what I did.  At first I thought it was from the nargile, but four days of unease?! I thought it might have been the fish, but we all ate the same thing and only I’m suffering. 

Why me?