Back to NH and Blogging

I flew back to NH in the beginning of July.  I was really looking forward to this summer, I had many visits with friends and family scheduled.  Actually, I had only 4 days unscheduled for the whole five weeks I am here!  So many fun things to do, so little time!

My mother has been getting really active and adventurous.  Once I had made it from Turkey to Boston, then Boston to New Hampshire, she asked me if I wanted to do something fun that weekend.  My brother was away on a cruise to Alaska with all of my cousins, so it would just be the two of us.  I was game, so we went up to North Conway on an outdoorsy adventure. 2014-07-11 14.17.10

Pumpkin, the family dog, came too. First we went mountain biking at the trails at Echo Lake Park. It was great, there were these narrow trails all through the woods.  At the end, we went down to the beach to relax. 

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The next day we drove up to Jackson to visit my mom’s “God Parents”.  They are always fun, and we love spending time with them.  Freddy, the God Father, is this incredible diminutive man, who until he broke his hip last winter, could probably out-hike or out-ski you, even though he is in his early eighties.   On the way to our visit we stopped at Black Cap Mountain, and did a quick hike. 

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For a short hike, Black Cap has some beautiful views. 

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After our visit, we went up to Cathedral ledge, a beautiful spot, and one very popular with rock climbers.  There were men and women scattered all over the rock face that day. 

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The view of Echo Lake from Cathedral ledge.

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After our visit,  we stopped for the short hike to Diana’s Bath, a series of waterfalls and a popular swimming hole

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The last day we went to the bike paths that run along the old rail tracks from Northern NH into Maine.  We biked along the rails into Maine, and then came back and did a bit of shopping in North Conway. 

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Our visit to North Conway was very fun.  I love Turkey but I do miss New England quite a bit, with the hiking,and biking and kayaking and skiing and snow-shoeing.  I have been able to do everything but the winter sports since I have gotten here.   There will be more belated posts coming on that soon!   The summer has been beautiful here so far, and I am working on enjoying every minute I can until I leave. 

Québec City and Le Carnaval

While I was home on semester break, my family and I decided to take a vacation together.  Last year we went on the memorial cruise, so this year we wanted to do something different, and closer to home.   We decided on Québec when we found out that their Winter Carnival or Le Carnaval de Québec coincided with my trip.  We knew it was going to be cold five hours farther north, but it is winter, so it was going to be cold at home too!  It is one of the oldest cities in North America, and the only fortified city as well.  We stayed just outside the walled city, and right off of Grande Allée, one of the cities oldest streets, filled with cafes, restaurants and bars.

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Between hearing the French on the streets and the architecture, if you ignored the people walking around posh areas in snow pants (with no ski slope in view) you would swear you were in some Francophone part of Europe. 

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I particularly loved where the old and new cities met.  On the right there is a historic building, in the background a modern high-rise and in between an urban ice skating rink. 

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After touring around the Old City, we headed about 10 kilometers out of town to check out the Ice Hotel, or Hôtel de Glace.  While I wouldn’t want to sleep there, it was amazing. It had almost everything a typical hotel would, including a bar with drinks sold in ice glasses.

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Some of the rooms were plain while others were intricately decorated with carved ice bed frames and snow murals on the walls. 

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Many of the hallways were artistically carved and lit as well. 

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There was a chapel, complete with an ice alter and pews, and apparently many weddings are held there.  It was very lovely, but it would take a special kind of wedding dress as the temperature was about 20°F. 

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The Winter Carnival was very entertaining.  It catered to families and adults.  Private outfits had set up booths to advertise their wares, like outdoor winter spas and heated hammocks.  There were food stalls selling everything from fried dough to poutine to grilled trout.  There was a bar that sold beer and wine as well as hot wine in ice glasses.  There were also many fun activities, like tubing, sledding, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing.  One night when it was snowing my brother and I participated in a game of human foosball.  We won. 

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There was even a stand that had set up an ice fishing area, with a heavy layer of ice laid over a reservoir stocked with trout.  When you exited there was a stand where you could buy a grilled trout or get the one you just caught roasted. 

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The ice luge

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There were also some amazing snow sculptures.  It was a competition, and the snow artist had a limited amount of time to complete their sculptures.  Many of them worked over the night, and we stopped by to watch for a while.  In the morning we went by again to see the finished products.  Some were based on fairly large concepts. 

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While other were abstract. 

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And some just right out there. 

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We had a great time in Québec, not just because of the city and the carnival, but because it is so nice to spend time together as a family.  Between getting the old house ready to sell, moving to the new house and getting Mom’s new place all settled in, there is usually always something to do at the house (or one of them.)  I don’t mind this, and am really glad I was there to help out during at least part of the transition.  However when there is always a project to work on, it is hard to get quality family time.  Going away to Québec for part of my trip was great. I was able to hang around the house, relax and help out on  few projects, but also have some really great time with my family while we did nothing but be a family.

Nana, A Centenarian

Born October 5, 1913, she immigrated to America on the SS Carpathia with her parents and three of her six siblings (the others were yet to be born).  They arrived on December 2th,1919 on the SS Carpathia.

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She moved to England in her twenties and worked as a companion to an elderly woman.  She joined Women’s Royal Air Force just a week after Sarah Churchill, in 1941.  She met my grandfather and married him in 1942.   She had almost completed her first BA, but her college in London had been hit by the Blitz and all records were lost.  She was told if she could find three professors to vouch  for her, the school would transfer her credits.  Unable to do this, she began again when she relocated to the U.S.

After she moved back to the States, she had six children, two are still living.   Of those who have died one was a twin who was stillborn, two died in their twenties, and my father who died almost two years ago.

During this time she finished her second B.A. completed a M.A. a M.F.A. and a Ph.D.  She has written several books, contributed many articles to the MetroWest Daily News and painted many beautiful pieces of art. 

An amazing storyteller, for decades she has regaled us with tales of her life and our heritage.  Stories of her family, about putting out magnesium bombs in London during WWII, and of our ancestors in Roman times. 

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Happy Birthday to Nana, someone who enriches us with her presence, wisdom and we are lucky to have in our lives.  If you have met or know Nana, feel free to call or send a card.  I am sure she would love to hear from you.  If you need her number or address please contact me. 

Birthday Week

Last week was my birthday.  I was very lucky to have many friends who want to celebrate it with me!  Bülent took me out for a lovely romantic dinner.  His gift to me is a romantic trip to Antalya, planned in April when it will be a bit warmer.  Another friend had me over on my actual birthday for a delicious dinner.  We also went over to Bülent’s parents and had a family diner with his parents and aunt an uncle.  His mom knows I love fish and made a special dinner for me. 

The day before my birthday I went out with my friend Terry from Adventures in Ankara, and had an adventure!  We went to Cer Modern, a modern art museum, for lunch.  Lunch was great, the museum very nice, and time with Terry—always fun!  What made our outing an adventure was that we got a traffic ticket!  I was driving and she was navigating from the GPS on her phone.  It told us to take a right, so we did, but turns out it was an illegal right on Ataturk Bulvari.  So we were sitting at the intersection and I was trying to figure out how we were going to make it across the traffic with no light when a police man waved me across.  I was very thankful to make it across in one piece, but then he asked for my license and registration.  We explained we didn’t know the area and were following the GPS.  He nodded knowingly and said, Ah yes, GPS…”   and then gave me a ticket.  It is kind of a novelty.  I don’t know anyone else who has gotten a traffic violation ticket from a real life police man.  It just doesn’t happen here.  Most people get tickets from cameras, even though I have talked myself out of one of those before too.  This office was very polite and apologetic but would not budge.   So ticket it was! 

For my birthday present to myself I made cupcakes.  Two kinds.  The first a carrot cake with labne frosting (tips coming soon on how to substitute Labne for cream cheese) and the second, devil’s food cake with peanut butter frosting.  I have to say, carrot cake is my favorite, but the peanut butter frosting was decadent on the moist chocolate cupcakes. 

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It was an amazing week, so filled with friends and family we had to rest all weekend to recover.  It made me feel so appreciated that so many people wanted to celebrate my birthday with me, I definitely have a community here.   It was fun and uncomplicated, my last birthday before marching into my 30’s, which seems a little bit daunting!

Belated Cruise

Before my father died he wanted to take one last vacation with the family.  Unfortunately he died just a few days before we were supposed to leave.  So this year, during school vacation, my family and I decided to take our “Last Cruise” as a family of four.  Like the slightly morbid and irreverent family we are, we decided that everyone should go—so we brought Dad.  He is small and doesn’t take up much room, so we didn’t have to buy him a ticket. We did bury some of him next to my brother, but he was a wanderer and explorer, so we wanted to honor that too.

So the whole family went on a cruise, and we had a great time.  It was really special to just be together, with no distractions or work.   We didn’t take too many photos because we were just having so much fun!

We were active most of the trip, trying to avoid the consequences of the open buffet!  Mom and I jogged each morning, and twice we climbed the Rock Wall.  The first time my mother didn’t make it to the top, so she dragged us back the next day and she rocked it! (Bad pun intended!  Sorry!)  She made it all the way to the top and rang the bell!

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Doing it another time allowed me to try the harder path the second time around.

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Elliot and I had lots of sib bonding time.  Though I kept getting the evil eye from the single girls because they thought we were a couple.  Apparently we don’t look alike as much as we did when we were young!

(Example A: Stone Cold Fox)

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Elliot had picked out a shore excursion in Cozumel Mexico that included ATVs and wild animals.  I was a little wary at first, but we had a lot of fun.

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They were raising money for conservation efforts and we were able to meet some of the species they were trying to help.

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In Cozumel, I passed a store named “Deniz”  and HAD to stop in.  Of course, the owner was Turkish.  He had moved to Mexico five years ago.  He thought his path in life was set, he was in his fifties and had never been married.  But, as it happens, he fell in love with the woman he hired to help run his store.  They married a couple years ago–he is 60,she is 35, and they have the most beautiful baby, named Deniz!  So I got to practice my Turkish, and he was excited to speak it.

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It was a lovely trip, which sounds a little like bragging after hearing about that cruise ship that had to be towed in from sea while the passenger reenacted Lord of the Flies.   It was a vacation, and a time to let go and say good bye.  As I mentioned previously, we had brought some of my father’s ashes with us.  We used this time to scatter his ashes around the Caribbean Sea.  We thought he would enjoy it as a (partial) final resting place.  So we returned to NH with one less corporeal family member, but some good memories of all four of us on vacation.

The Things He Was

One year ago today, my father died.  I could lament all the things he will miss. (Weddings, Grandchildren, and General Awesomeness)

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However, I feel this day deserves a celebration, because my father was truly amazing.

For starters, he had some good stories.  The first time I was going to bring Bülent  home, we had to take down the twin bed in my room and set up the old double he and my mom used to share.  Apparently he bought it in the sixties and I was treated to the entire history of the bedframe.  Which I suppose was only fair as I only set it up to share it with my BF.

Also he started the Wellesley Fuck Truck, oh, I mean the Cuddle Shuttle.  When my father went to Brown in the 60’s he took some time off.  In that time he chartered (and drove) a bus between Wellesley (all women’s school I went to) and Harvard, MIT and Dartmouth (all men’s at the time).  When he stopped driving the bus and returned to Brown, the student body at my school demanded a  replacement bus from the administration.  I was also slightly wary introducing myself to alumnae from the 60’s and 70’s should they remember my last name, via my dad. 

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He was awesome with kids.  Seriously.  He rocked the 2-10 age group like a rock star.  Reading stories, finding age appropriate activities on-line. 

Dude rocked the babies 

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He was a feminist.  My body was my decision from way back.

He was a family man.  I never doubted his devotion to us as a family.  He would love nothing more than spending time with us.

He was a reader and lover of books.  Both my parents instilled this in me.  There is still nothing more exciting than opening the first pages of a new book.

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He had strong hands for a computer guy.  Often his knuckles were bleeding from some home improvement project, but he never noticed it unless one of us told him. 

He talked to everyone and anyone, often creating friendships and bonds with strangers who entered his life. 

He swore like a sailor when appropriate.

He was a fighter.  Life couldn’t have been easy.  There have been tragedies and triumphs.  He was diagnosed with cancer back in 1998.  He fought with a vengeance.  Our family, and those who know us were able to appreciate that time we had.  Of course we wish for more, who doesn’t?  No one wishes they had less time with their beloved family members.  I am glad I had the time I did and the memories I had.  I have learned many things from my father, raunchy jokes and tragedy included, and am glad for everything I had.  Every movement of it. 

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Hoşgeldiniz to 2013

Welcome to the New Year!  I hope everyone had safe and happy New Years celebrations.  Bülent and I have been so busy lately that we welcomed the New Year from bed, where we had been snuggling and watching movies.  It worked for me!  Start the New Year as you mean to continue right?  I am sure many people are thinking about New Year Resolutions and how to make changes.  I think I am just going to continue the journey I started several months ago, trying to appreciate the good, and live a more balanced life.

It has been a difficult year.  This day last year I was packing my bags to go back to the U.S.  I  had taken a leave of absence due to my father’s health and was supposed to head back at the end of the semester in late January.  I had spoken to my family a couple of days before and I had decided to change my plane ticket on December 30.  It was expensive to change a ticket two days before the flight, but it was the best decision I ever made.  My father’s funeral was on the original date in January on which I was supposed to arrive. 

I had taken the semester off and my school had hired someone to take my place, so I stayed in N.H., grieving and healing with my family.  It was difficult to be separated from my husband for six months, but has changed our relationship for the better.  We are stronger and more united, we know there is nothing we wouldn’t do to help the other…been there, done that.  We have now had bad and trying times and just love each other more for our individual responses to them. 

My time in the U.S. last year was very precious to me.  It allowed me to spend time with my mother while she needed me, and while I needed her.  I was able to get to know my brother as the man he is now, as opposed to the boy he was when I left.  I was also able to get to know his long time girlfriend, who is as lovely inside as she is out.  I went to my college roommate’s wedding and celebrated her happiness with her, and our college friends, some of whom I haven’t seen in five years.   I drove from Texas to New Hampshire, meeting Bülent’s dearest old friends, and visiting mine along the way.   I also went to BlogHer ‘12!

My oldest and dearest friend made me an Auntie—albeit in a terrifying way.  Due to her daughter’s insistence to make a (extremely early) entrance I was able to meet her in the NICU before I came back to Turkey.  

Health wise: Bülent and I went vegetarian (almost six months now) and I joined a gym a few months ago.  The breast lumps have been vanquished—well not vanquished but at least identified as benign.  To top it all off, our dog, Butterfinger, is not letting cataracts get her down.   

The year has been challenging and rewarding.  I am hoping that this next year will be easier, because we kind of need a break.  But we are starting the year off right.  Last year my dad wanted to take our family on a last vacation, a cruise, due to his limited mobility, but he died before we were able.  

Well, we are taking that fucking cruise.  Come January break, my mom, brother and I are going to go.  We are going to celebrate what was, what is and what is to come, because that is what life is all about.  So 2013—bring it on!

Kurban Bayrami or Eid al-Ahda

This holiday is also known as the Feast of Sacrifice. This is a very important Islamic holiday which celebrates willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his first-born son Ishmael. The sacrifice was not completed as God intervened and had Abraham sacrifice a ram instead. To celebrate people usually a set of new clothes, dress up and visit family and friends and sacrifice an animal.

The animal depends on the weath of the family. Most often it is a goat, sheep or cow. The family keeps a third of the meat, gives a third to family and friends and gives a third the poor. In the country people may do it themselves their yards, but the government sets up sites of trained butchers in many neighborhoods.

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On their way to the feast...

This year we celebrated more traditionally than we have for several years. Normally since it’s a long weekend Bülent and I usually travel. This year it was 6 days. We did go to Marmaris, but so did most of the family. So while we enjoyed the sunshine and nature we also celebrated Bayram. In the U.S. often there are celebratory dinners, but here it is ususlly brunches and lunches.

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The family got together several times, aunts, uncles and cousins for brunches and luncheons.  It was a nice and casual way to visit.  Since it was happening often I was able to excuse myself when the level of Turkish became too high, rather to sit there bored.  Also the older generation entertained each other. This allowed Bülent and I to have more private time than we might have if we just went down with his parents. 

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We had a lovely time and are our way back to Ankara today.  To the real world for a couple of days!

Kaida Rocks the NICU

My friend Sarah is my oldest friend and was the amazing Matron of Honor at my wedding.  We met on the first day of first grade, when she let me sit with her on the bus.  We pretty much have be together ever since.  She is even the one who helped Bülent pick out  my engagement ring.

She was expecting her first baby in September. I joked with her that her timing was bad, since I was leaving the U.S. in August, that she should hurry it up.  I didn’t expect her to take me seriously.

She and her husband, Chris, were originally planning to name their baby Olivia, but changed their minds and decided on Kaida (the Japanese word for “dragon.”)  They made an excellent choice, the name is completely apropos.  Kaida is a damned amazing fighter, something she has shown already.  As her mom says, “Don’t poke the Dragon.” 

Kaida was born a full month early and was a very sick baby.  Sarah was rushed to a hospital over an hour away, that specializes in high-risk births and infant care.   They asked all family members to wait to visit Kaida until the family was home together, but Sarah contacted me and invited me to come meet Kaida before I left for Turkey. 

Being invited by my friends to see them while they were excited and joyful, frightened and in awe of this tiny being they had brought into the world, was incredibly special and a privilege I will never forget.  I can see them now, Chris holding  Kaida, her eyes closed, so tiny and fragile, Sarah gazing at the two of them. Sarah and Chris were madly in love, with Kaida, so much so that their love was almost tangible.

Since Kaida’s birth Sarah and Chris have ben doing anything and everything to help their little girl.  For the last three weeks they have either been sleeping in the hospital or a a dorm nearby.   Thankfully, Kaida has been doing just as much for her parents as they have for her.  Each day she has been fighting, growing stronger and healthier.  The sick baby I saw in the hospital is a far cry from the rosy, alert baby with the chubby checks, in the pictures her mother is emailing me.  She is doing so well, in fact, that she has been transferred to the local hospital NICU, since she is no longer high risk!  Woot Woot!  Kaida Sarah and Chris, Congratulations on your very precious new daughter.  She couldn’t have more kind, amazing parents, ones who even gave her an awesome name to fight with!  Welcome to the world Baby Kaida, clearly you have a sense for the dramatic, but we’ll need to have a serious talk about how it is not polite to rush your mother.

P.S.  Auntie Jules already has started buying adorable stuff to send to her little dragon.