Another Day

Thursday night my father died.  We were so stunned and exhausted that we came home, had a drink and went to bed.  It took us a long time to go to sleep.  I know this because I slept with my mom that night.  Neither one of us wanted to sleep by ourselves.

Friday we woke up, and the sun was still shining, and my father was still dead.  I made pea soup, called my husband, researched how to submit obituaries and managed not to die of sadness.

Saturday I woke up, and the sun was still shining, and my father was still dead.   It helped to know that my husband was coming in Saturday night.  My brother’s girlfriend is amazing.  She was (and is) so helpful.  She was at the hospital all afternoon on Thursday, brought sandwiches, and helped advocate for my father.  She drove down to Boston and picked up my husband from the Boston airport at 11:30 PM and then drove 2 hours north to our home.

I have felt so supported by my family and friends, people sending food and calling.  Many of my friends emailed me such wonderful things.  One friend tried to move heaven and earth to get food and flowers delivered to my remote home.  Another went through my closet finding clothes I asked to be sent to the States with Bülent.    The last few days have been extremely difficult, but with the help of friends and family it has been, maybe not less painful, but a more supported journey.

The Things You Do…

I am heading back to the States, a little sooner than anticipated, and am taking care of business.  As you do when you live in Turkey, and return to the U.S. for extended periods of time…you take care of the expensive shit.  Which is why I have gone to the gynecologist and the dentist in the same week—Because you know that is fun!  Also my dog ate my night mouth guard yesterday.  Awesome!

It is also why I am going to stock up on birth control and allergy medication before I leave.  Not only do I have comprehensive health insurance in Turkey, both private and State, but also many things are available over the counter that are not in the US.  For my time in the U.S.  I am also paying out of pocket for six months of private health insurance, all health insurance related expenses will be reimbursed up to the (fairly generous) limit once I return to Turkey—for $300!  Ridiculous!  So tomorrow I will get my eyebrows done, but since it is winter—I will skip the bikini wax—I think between the gynecologist and the dentist I have had enough fun.

Congratulations!

This Saturday I went to an amazingly lovely wedding.  My cousin Eulalie and her new husband Mike were married in their apple orchard underneath a beautiful old White Ash Tree.

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Eulalie and Mike started dating around the same time as Bulent and I did.  We shared a lot of the beginning trials and tribulations of new love and relationships.  I was so happy I was able watch their relationship grow and be a part of their special day.

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We had a lovely time seeing family and friends.  It has been almost a year since our wedding.  It was amazing to go to a wedding and just be able to attend, as opposed to being the host.  Best wishes to the happy couple for a long and beautiful life together.

Holidays-The Best and Bittersweet

I LOVE the holidays!  I love the warmth and the cheer.  I like the brightly decorated tree and the decadent food.  It is also a time for friends and family.  Which brings us to the bittersweet.  In those family times there is intense love and joy and there is pain.   We always miss the ones who are gone.  The loss haunts us at he holidays.  For some more than others.  I miss my grandparents, but when death is expected, when illness is long and slow, the grief is healthy and the wound heals.  But for some loss –the wound never heals, it aches and festers and becomes a part of your experience.   Maybe it would be better if I had faith, if I belived in the after life and a loving God.  But I don’t –so there is no comfort for me there.

My brother died 19 years ago.  He has now been dead for longer than he was alive.  He was not ill, it was not expected and the grief has never dissipated.  Perhaps because I grieve not only for what I lost, what he lost, what my family lost, but for what could have been.  For what should have been.

My brother took his own life.  Ten days before Christmas.  I think that is why I can not let go, why I haven’t healed.  Why the pain still takes my breathe away when I least expect it.  Why I don’t feel comfortable mentioning him to my family even though I know they are thinking about it too.  Because it is like a knife wound and I do not want to inflict it upon them if they are having a movement of peace.

The holidays are here.  Warm and Fun.  Gift shopping, gift giving, cooking, eating, laughing. Loving.  Remembering.  Bittersweet.

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Thanksgiving

THXGIVING TURKEY FRUITS N CHEESE

How to have a successful Thanksgiving…

Friends+ Laughter+ Love+ Food+ Wine= Fantasticness

When I first moved away from home I was far enough away that I was not really able to go home for Thanksgiving. I have to admit to a lower lip tremble over that. I am from a very close family and getting together for the holidays has always been very important to us. But since I was away, I decided to make the best of the holidays and to create my own holiday rituals and customs.

I have been very lucky in my Thanksgivings since I left home. The first year, I lived in San Diego, it was just Bulent and me. After the large chaotic extended family Thanksgivings it was a little hard emotionally. However, the high point of that year was that I successfully learned how to cook the entire meal by myself.

The second year in San Diego my BFF from New Hampshire came out with her husband and we had an amazing time. They had never been to California so it was a beach vacation rolled into the Thanksgiving holiday for them. Together we made the meal and had such a happy holiday. It really soothed my holiday homesickness.

The third year in San Diego my cousin had moved to LA and we had many more close friends. That year we hosted a Bad Ass Thanksgiving, complete with apple cider martinis and after Turkey clubbing downtown.

Last year we didn’t host but this year we really did it in style. This was our first “Married” holiday so it was pretty special that way. We had a fantastic Thanksgiving. We hosted 16 people, there was food, conversation and general merriment. We had an amazing time.

In the short time I have been in Ankara I have been lucky enough to make some truly amazing friends. Now I have my family that I was born to and the family that I have made. Holidays are no longer a time of the lower lip trembling– which is excitement in itself.

While Thanksgiving was a blast there was a lot to the preparation because of the amount of food to be cooked.

TXGIV TURKEY 2010 It included–

2 Turkeys
3 Kilos of green bean casserole
4 Kilos of mashed pumpkin
3 Kilos of cauliflower gratin
2 Kilos mashed potato
1 Salad
1 Pecan pie
1 Pumpkin pie
1 Apple pie
1 Crazy Allergic Reaction*

THXGIVING SPIRIT

While I did cook most of the food myself, two of my amazing friends decided to deal with the kitchen afterwards. They did all of the pots and pans, put away the food and in general took care of 90% of the clean up. It was the best gift EVER!

Next year I will re-introduce the apple cider martinis and the dinner may be potluck. It will still be fantastic though, no matter what! All the trappings and trimmings Thanksgiving just disguise the real point of the holiday. A time for our “Framily” (friends+family) to spend time together.

*One of the reasons this post is so late and also will be the subject of the next post.

Safranbolu

While my parents were here they wanted to head up north as well.  My mom did not want to make plans or reservations, just to play the adventure by ear.  So one day we hopped in the car and drove north towards the Black Sea.  We stopped in Safranbolu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for its well preserved Ottoman-era houses and architecture.

TR Adventures and Wedding 009 We had a lovely time.  We stopped and had a bite to eat at small cafe and then explored town. Yes, in this photo I am on the phone.  I had checked for local hotels and was calling to see if there was room for the night.

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And there was!  We stayed at Mehves Hanim Konagi, it was a lovely old Ottoman Style house, wonderfully refurbished. The proprietor was great.  Since it was just my parents and me we thought we could share a large room.  However, since there was no room with 3 beds (only cots for children) she gave us two rooms for the price of one.  IMG_0471

Later we hiked all around town.  There is a large covered pazar which sells all kinds of goods.  Above the city on a hill there is a small park.  For a lira admission you can go in and see a panoramic view of the whole town.  Up on the far side you may be able to see a large yellow building.  That is a restored Ottoman mansion, which is now a museum.TR Adventures and Wedding 013

The museum hosts photos and examples of Safranbolu’s history and culture, though all the explanations are in Turkish.  It also has a gallery of local women’s art work.

After exploring Safranbolu a little morn the next morning we headed off in the morning to the next town on our list.  While it was not too far on the map, it took us longer to reach Amasra than we had thought.  Between the construction, the one-lane bridges and the mountain passes without guardrails it was an exciting drive.   More on that later.

Kapadokya with the FamFam

The trip to Kapadokya with my family was fantastic!  We stayed at an adorable little place in Goreme.   The owner was incredible helpful.  He steered us to some really wonderful small family owned restaurants where we had some truly incredible food.  I even went back to one of them later and learned how to make Turkish Manti (ravioli).

Showing my parents the incredible rock formations, with their amazing natural properties and unbelievable carvings and churches was really wonderful.  I was so excited to share my favorite parts of my new country with my Famfam.

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We stayed in a lovely hotel which had a great view of the valley of Goreme.

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We had two rooms on slightly different levels.  The rooms themselves were carved into the rock walls of the fairy chimneys.

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We shared a balcony which worked out very nicely for post hiking cocktails.

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My parents were game for all kinds of hiking and tromping.  We climbed hills and rocks, looking for the best views.

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This visit to Kapadokya we actually had time to hike in Ihlara valley.  This is a valley about 45 minutes away from Goreme.  To enter the valley you have to climb down about 400 steps because the valley walls are made of sheer rock cliffs.  Into these cliffs thousands of year ago people had carved large and elaborately decorated churches complete with vivid frescos.  There are also many cave-dwellings carved into the rock as well.

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We hiked from the halfway down the valley to the end and saw several lovely churches and lots of cave dwellings.

056  A stream ran through the middle of the valley separating the two sides.  At the end of the valley we wanted to walk back on the other side to see different scenery but there was no bridge.  We intrepid explorers found a shallow spot to cross and trudged through.  The effort to get to the other side was rewarded as the path was beautiful and there were several more churches on that side.   047

We also managed to visit a few wineries and take advantage of the regions other natural attractions.

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Pig Roast means pork right?

My cousin lives in New Hampshire, she and her fiancé own several hundred acres of orchard and a couple of houses that sit on the property.  With their gorgeous setting they have hosted parties and weddings over the years.  This year they decided to host a “Pig Roast.”  In translation that means a pig on a spit, cooked for 12 hours, and a keg of beer.  However my cousin, in her infinite class and wisdom, decided to do a whole lot more. I arrived to find the whole orchard mowed, a large tent with several picnic table covered by table clothes, and a tremendous amount of tasty food.  There was guacamole, salad, casseroles, lasagna and paella.  That is right.  This was a “Paella and Pig Roast.”

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(There were two large paella-That’s right, be jealous)

I might have eaten enough to impress the young men there.  I think after my 2nd or 3rd plate one guy told me,  “ I KNEW I liked you!”

Then there was the pig.  Oh the pig! Scary to look at, moist and delicious and tasty!

after wedding 004That was a lot of pork, but I ate as much as I could and then snacked all night!

My younger cousin and his friends were there too.  The young guys thought that the keg would be lonely if they did not keep it company. To do so they decided to do “keg stands.”  I had no idea what this was—I went to an all women’s college-We drank profusely but never standing on our heads.  Our university taught us all about gravity.

after wedding 021“Keg Stands” are when you tip yourself upside down, other people hold your legs steady and you drink directly from the keg tap-while upside down.  This particular guy upped the challenge and started doing upside down push-ups while drinking beer upside down.  Wowza!

I was able to eat copious amounts of food, mostly slow roasted pork, scarf paella and hang out with my cousins all night.  It was a wonderful time and an awesome party!

Turkish Ev Yemek (Home Cooking)

We had dinner at Bulent’s aunt’s home the other night.  It is always a treat because she is a great cook.  It is also really fun because I get to practice my Turkish with her.  She is really patient and so excited by my progression in Turkish that she heaps on tons of compliments (positive reinforcement) and I always feel really confident speaking with here which actually raises my language level.

This is one of my favorite foods.  Eggplant salad.  She roasts the eggplant ( it has that yummy charred taste), and then mashes it.  After she adds yogurt and garlic that she has pulverized with a mortar and pestle (it has a different taste from a garlic press when you process it that way, I have no idea why.)  It is creamy and tangy and just amazing.

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You can’t see this well because of the decoration of eggs and tomatoes but this is piyaz, a cold white bean salad, made with onions, parsley and apple vinegar.

013 These are whole stuffed artichoke hearts, stuffed with peas and carrots and potatoes, topped with dill.  They are considered an “olive oil” dish and served cold.

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Below is a vegetable rice pilaf molded and served with green onions on top.

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This is how they serve steak in Turkey.  Meat is never eaten rare in Turkey.  This is called bonfile or tenderloin.  was cooked casserole style with tomato sauce and mushrooms topped with cheese.

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She really went all out with the food that night.  This is great because I am still learning how to cook Turkish foods, and seeing and eating it give me a better idea of how and what to prepare.

Settling In

I had a fantastic time at home with my friends and family.  It was really fantastic to see everyone.  However the transition was rough.  I flew back on Saturday night.  I landed in Turkey Sunday night, my bags were still in London.  After filling out the lost baggage paperwork we drove home.  I went straight to bed and Monday I dragged my behind out of bed at 6 to go to work.  It is difficult to have the necessary patience for 6th graders when you are tired and jet-lagged.  The first two days of the week were tough, and the next few I was used to catch up on life, sleep and laundry.  I am finally back….Which also means Back to Blogging!  Yay!  It might take me a while to get back into the swing of things, but no more long absences.

Here is a souvenir of my trip home…January 2010 029 This is my super cool little brother.  Right after this was taken he swung me up on his shoulders kind of like a yoke, head facing one way, my behind the others.  As I was struggling to get down, using my only weapon (the tickle),  his friends walked in.  Thankfully being a mature person he dealt with this tactfully.  Did he put me down?  No.  He turned so my face was facing them instead of the other end.  We may be adults, but some things never change.