Kısmetse olur

If it’s meant to be, it will be. 

Hubby and I like to think that some things in life are just fate.  No matter what you do, you can’t escape it.  Or no matter what difficulties come your way, the good that is fated for you will arrive.  It goes both ways, doesn’t it? It helps us deal with the fact that, for a very long time our best laid plans never worked out. Because it wasn’t meant to be.  Right? 

Speaking of fate… 

We had our first “date” six years ago today.  

I don’t remember if I’ve ever told yall about how everything had to align for us to meet. How a guy from Turkey and a girl from small town South Carolina wound up in the same place at the same time under such circumstances that they ended up talking to each other. I probably have, but it’s been a long time. I might as well tell it again so you don’t have to go sifting through hundreds of posts to find it. 

I had a short blurb about it on my about me page, but I’ve taken it out because it deserves it’s own space (plus no one needs that much information in an about me. It’s just too much). 

The more I look around the more I see stories like ours, but it doesn’t make it any less special to me.  It just reinforces my belief in fate and soul mates. 

Hubby was born and raised in Turkey.  He went through his education in Turkey, took his undergrad in Turkey, then went to the US to better his education. He came to the US and started with ESL in Mississippi and Texas, later starting his Masters degree in Connecticut. 

Meanwhile, I was born and raised in South Carolina.  While he was starting his ESL I was roaming the halls of my high school during junior year,  sneaking wine coolers, and trying to balance my rebellious self with my southern surroundings. After graduating, I started my undergrad at a local campus of USC (as in, the University of South Carolina, not California).  

 He was in Connecticut, and I was in South Carolina.  Hey, but we were on the same continent! 

When things in Connecticut started going down hill, a friend of his suggested giving Clemson a try.  He thought about it long and hard, and said “what the hell”, and moved there for the winter term in 2010. At the time, I was still at USC trying to figure out what area I wanted to study.  Come to find out, my interests best aligned with food science. Only two schools in the state have that major (and SC residents get a sizeable scholarship at SC universities, so I was limited to my home state)… The best being Clemson. 

I moved to Clemson for the fall term, right after my birthday in August 2010. I had been working for a grocery chain in my hometown, so I transferred my employment to the local branch in Clemson.  The same grocery store that my future husband happened to live behind. 

Due to that graduate stress, hubby got sick in September (bless his heart!).  He took a walk with his roommate to the grocery store for some tea and otc medication. While perusing the aisles, a certain messy haired glasses wearing employee sat on the floor checking dates on some product or another.  She was cute, but he was too shy to say hello. 

After I was done pulling expired product and putting back items left by customers at the registers, I was called to clean up a spill at the front. 

Hubby was having a hell of a time figuring out which medicine to buy.  In Turkey, you have to go to pharmacies to get your hands on any kind of medicine.  In the states (at least in SC and FL) , the actual pharmacy window in a Walmart, Target, or grocery store can be closed while otc products like Aleve, Tylenol, Thera flu etc is still available on the shelves for purchase.  Who could he ask? There was an old lady stocking the shelves in this department just a second ago… 

After cleaning the spill in the front, I pushed the mop and bucket to the back of the store, the double doors easiest to reach by cutting through the pharmacy department. As I passed down the toothpaste display, I heard an “excuse me”  from the neighboring aisle. 

The old lady he saw before was gone.  He had picked up two possible options, Thera flu and alkaseltzer cold. But which one would be better? Looking up, he saw the frizzy top of a girl’s red head, lead by a mop handle.  He called out to her, and when she rounded the corner he ran into the bluest eyes he’d ever seen. 

And the rest is history. 

It’s crazy to think about how close to not meeting we could have been.  If he hadn’t been sick that day. If I hadn’t been going down that aisle after mopping.  If my coworker had still been stocking shelves.  If I had applied for a different job instead of transferring to the local branch of the chain I had been working for (which, BTW, I hated that job). If he hadn’t said yes to going to Clemson.  If I went to the other university that had my major. 

If he would have gotten cold feet and never came back later to get my number. 

I don’t believe in coincidences.  

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?

Baby Steps AKA: What sucks (initial months)

The full title of this post should be “Baby Steps AKA: What sucks about moving to a country that doesn’t speak your language (the initial three months experience)”, but I thought that would be way too bulky a title and clutter up my blog space.

I know I’ve been singing the praises of Turkey and showing all of the good times I’ve been having (the best that I can while remaining anonymous), but there are some difficulties to moving to a new country…particularly one where the main language is not your own (or close to it- but the alphabet is almost the same so I guess that’s a win).  I like to think of the “learning curve” I’ve been experiencing as baby steps…both, because you learn things slowly and in small pieces, and because I feel like I’m two years old.

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There are so many aspects of living in Turkey that I didn’t even think of that could become a hurdle for me to overcome.  Going from 25 years old and managing my own house (apartment…shack…cardboard box.) and holding down a job/academic career to being basically a child who can’t work or speak or really do much of anything without assistance is quite difficult.  No, it’s freaking hard. FRICKIN’ HARD (read with a southern accent).

These are a few things that I have been having to learn from the beginning. AGAIN.

Language

Honestly, this is a no brainer, and I was pretty prepared for it.  I knew that there was going to be a language barrier- especially when it comes to speaking culturally.  Even with the vocabulary and grammar understanding of a five year old, I’m managing alright.  The hardest part, really, is that some things don’t translate directly from English to Turkish.  For example-  you don’t take a picture, you pull a picture.  Yeah, I know it seems so weird- but if hubby can overcome these obstacles going from Turkish to English, I can too!

Cooking

If you have perused my recipe tag at all, you will know that I am no novice in the kitchen.  I’m not a supreme chef, but I can cook.  However, everything in Turkey is different.  I’m really struggling to adjust to propane ranges rather than electric.  When I first came, I was scared to even turn the things on.  I lean slightly towards being a pyrophobe- no thanks to the ubiquitous stories we are told as children of people burning their faces off with propane tanks/stoves, in an attempt to make us careful.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then I’m sorry, but your parents don’t love you.

Along with the methods of cooking, the spices, I swear, are different.  Is there an enhancer in American salt? I know I should know this already since I’m a food science major- but I focused more on microbiology than production.  Here, I have to use a pound of salt where I used to use a pinch (slightly hyperbolic, but it feels that way). Also, most of the spices Anne uses are freshly ground, so the taste is different.

I used to be able to cook up a breakfast, lunch, and dinner like a pro- but now…I poke around and help where I can.  And some people here are picky… Sometimes, I feel useless.

Laundry

Even the washing machines here were a conundrum to me! They are not the same!  If you are accustomed to a front loading washing machine with buttons for temp/cycles/ etc then you would be fine- but I’m a good ol’ southern gal who uses top loaders with a dial.  While I have now gotten the hang of the washing machine- it is still something Anne does most of the time, because I just don’t know what I’m doing…

And also, drying machines aren’t a thing.  I think this is the case for most of Europe though.  Did you know there is a technique to hanging clothes on a line? Yeah, I didn’t either.  I’m still trying to figure that out.

Those are just a few things for now.  Grocery shopping, hosting, and cleaning the house are a few others that I haven’t written here…maybe another post.  I often feel like a burden on the family- like a useless little girl that doesn’t know how to be an adult.  Especially since brides/daughters play a big role in the upkeep of the house. I really can’t explain how hard it is to go from a card carrying adult to a child.  I really can’t. It’s just something you have to experience.

Fortunately, I have a very patient mother-in-law who doesn’t hesitate to help me, and also accepts my poor attempts at assistance when I offer them.

#expat problems

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!