Allergic Catastrophe

Oh Thanksgiving!  We celebrated it on Saturday because in Turkey we don’t get the day off. (It is an American holiday after all.) We had a fantastic holiday except for the fact I thought I was going to pass out from pain starting at 4 am Saturday morning.  It was extremely fortuitous that I had prepared the majority of the food before Saturday because otherwise I would have had to cancel.  Cooking a large dinner for 16 people while you are fighting the urge to throw up from the pain is less than ideal.

In case I have not mentioned it before, I am allergic to walnuts and hazelnuts.  My reactions have become stronger and more severe since I moved to Turkey and have had more accidental ingestions.  Allergies are not understood the same way here as they are in the US because people here rarely have allergies.

For example, last year someone in my husband’s family, at whose home we had eaten very regularly, cooked with hazelnut oil in the food for six months.  They knew I was allergic and would even make me special desserts when the recipes called for hazelnut or walnuts.  I was incredibly ill for those six months and had to be hospitalized.  I thought my IBS had transformed into colitis.  I only found out my nut allergy triggers colitis when I saw them use the oil from a labeled can and they admitted they had been cooking with the oil since I moved to the country.  It turned out I do not have a chronic illness, and as soon as the oil was out of my system, I was absolutely fine.

Friday night, I was at a banquet dinner for work and apparently they used nut oil in one of the sauces.  Cue incredible gastro-intestinal pain.  It started Saturday and continued into Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and subsided Wednesday evening.  Whew!   Yesterday I was able to discontinue the exclusive kefir and low-fat yogurt diet and eat some rice.

While I feel lucky that my allergic reaction is not life threatening, it does affect my quality of life, as I was ill and miserable for at least five days.  After the original illness it does take another few days for my system to go back to normal.  It has been a full week as of today and I am fine as long as I eat lightly, and only low fat, easy to digest food.

I am pretty vigilant about food when I eat out and cannot control the ingredients myself.  I have not actually had an accidental exposure to nuts since the original incident one a year ago.  As a saftey precaution I do not think I will be attending large banquet dinners where I cannot control my food choices or talk to the chef about ingredients.

I do always try to look at the positive side of things.  While the whole situation was horrific it has provided me with a perfect excuse to avoid work dinners!


So as you know, we are staying in Turkey.  While this is exciting, I also miss things from home.  Like sushi and bacon.  There are just some things here that I can not get, or are incredibly expensive.  I certainly miss the convince of the U.S.  I think the biggest difference is in cooking.  It takes me twice as long to cook things here because everything has to be made from scratch.  There are no short cuts.  No cake mixes, or frozen bread dough or pie crusts.  No canned tomato sauce, or semi-prepared veggies, etc.

The good news is that we are eating very little processed food and we have lost weight without trying.  So anyone who would like to send me love swag, otherwise known as care packages, let me know.  In preparation for the flood of goodies, I have started a list. Seriously.

ish–Definition: experiencing trouble or difficulty

I am having Potty-ish. As many readers know (all 5) I no longer have a laptop and have been spending copious amounts of time in Internet cafes. While this has made me appreciate my laptop even more than İ already did–İt has also caused me to ponder the bathroom.

I know the correlation is weak, Internet and toılets, but hear me out. The Internet cafe we patronize has the most functional keyboards and stronger air conditioning than any of the others in town. However, as İ found out the other day, it is sorely lacking in the bathroom department. As has already been over shared–İ have İBS. This means sometimes İ have to USE the bathroom in less than a dainty way. İ have already learned to overcome many challenges, such as the shame of using the bathroom several times–or the FEAR that İ might be overheard. Fuck it. İ know everyone does the same thing—maybe not as frequently, but that just means İ am better at it for having more practice! However the gross-out factor is not one İ can overlook. By no means am İ a prissy, picky pottier. İ go places others will not, if need be and İ have tissues with me İ will go behind bushes. Nature is way cleaner than many gas stations. İ don`t even have any issues with the ”Old Fasioned” toilets here. However- this bathroom reeks of urine, the toilet is stained and has no seat and there is NO TOILET PAPER…EVER. The ”ish” are too many and İ had to search out alternative means. Thankfully the Turkish are much more understanding about the need to use the bathroom and pretty much every hotel or restaurant will let you use theirs without purchase. Bülent likes to only use 4 star hotels when we are out and about which leads to many high class pit stops. All of this made me ponder bathroom-ish.

For example when you are stranded without toilet paper–What do you do??. Well in response to that, I try to always have at least a tissue or two in my purse. If no tissue and desperate, use the inside of the empty roll–better than nothing. Other related ish–the 5 second light. İn Turkey electricity is MUCH more expensive than in the States. This has resulted in some very Eco-friendly solutions. Most bathrooms have motion sensor lights. This is wonderful, it saves money and electricity. However, some people are either trying to save too much money or have no idea how long it takes to pee. İ was in this situation just today. İ walk in to the bathroom. Light comes on. Good. İ walk into the stall, the light comes on. Good. İ sit down, the light turns off. Not good. When İ was peeing it was like İ was at football game leading the wave. Every 5 seconds İ fling my hands up in the air to activate the sensor after being plunged into darkness. What is even more fun is sometimes your hands do not reach up far enough to activate the sensor and you have to just finish up in the dark. Then when you stand up, the light is like…Oh, you`re still here? İ realize this is way more potty talk than many of you will want to read. But come on, in the first sentence İ reported İ had potty-ish. You KNEW I was not going to talk about food or give a recipe. Or at least you hoped.

I Saw Jesus In Greece

I really did.   Several times.  In the hospital.  I have never been in the hospital for myself before, never broke a bone or needed stitches or even urgent care.  I chose to break this streak on my parents vacation visiting Turkey and Greece.  Did I do this in Turkey where I had been living for five months and where it would be inexpensive?  NO!

After my parents met Bülent’s parents and stayed in Marmaris for a few days, it was off to the Greek Island of Santorini with a daytrip in Rodos on the way.  I had gotten a stomachache on Wednesday.  It was unpleasant but I thought nothing of it.  (TMI Warning)  I have a gastro-intestinal issue commonly known as IBS.  (Or–You did something horrible in a past life and now have to pay!) Stomachaches are part of the package of eating anything but yogurt, bread and water.  So I got this stomachache on Wednesday and every night honestly believed it would be gone by the next day.  So on Saturday, when we are touring yet another beautiful historical sight, I begged my parents to go on without me.  Because by this time I could not walk without to cry.  I thought I might need an exorcism to kill the demons that had taken up residence in my intestines.

While we waited for the night ferry to Santorini, instead of touring the Old City of Rodos, we had a lovely excursion to a Greek hospital, which is where I saw Jesus.  In every room.  There was a painting high up on the wall which varied between different themes.  I was glad to see him becuase I thought I might need some prayer after looking at the prices in Euros.  Do you know what the dollar is against the Euro.  If you don’t, please don’t look it up.  It is too depressing.  Unless you are not American and your currency is worth more than toilet paper.  Anyway.  I got a diagnosis (IBS—Shocking!) and some stomach meds and we went on our way.  That is, Bülent and the family went out to dinner, while I rocked in fetal position in the car.  Thankfully the medications helped and I now am absolved of any sins I might have committed in a past life.

I did get to see Old City of Rodos later, because Bülent and I had to go home to Marmaris by way of Rodos on the ferry and it was lovely.

TR Family Vacay 400