I talked about the reasons I had not been blogging, and part of it was that I could not fully express myself.  We have had plans in the works, but they have been tenuous and uncertain.  Bülent and I have been incredibly happy in Turkey.  We have had so many adventures, travelled to so many places, and met so many people.  When I first came, I was 24, young and excited.  Everyday was an adventure.  After six years in Turkey, everyday still brings joy and appreciation.  Just last week I was stopped by strangers on the street while walking in my neighborhood, invited in for coffee and had a tour of their garden. 

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I have learned the language, and developed a deep understanding and appreciation of the nuances of the culture—my original goals.  In the six years we have been in Turkey we have made friends, embarked on our careers, gotten married, moved twice, received a Masters and (almost) a PhD, and celebrated a decade of being partners.  We have lost parents and grandparents, and we have loved.  We have gained a deeper understanding of ourselves and each other. 


Turkey will always have our hearts, and will always be home, we have so many friends and so much family here.  We have loved our time in Turkey, but thinking about the future and our careers, we have decided it is time to move on. It is time for a new adventure.  The next couple of months will be filled with packing, details, saying goodbye and excitement.  We are moving back to the United States.

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Wait for us Austin!  We’ll be there soon!

Bulent’s Take on

This summer my husband used to arrange for his lodging while he was participating in a program at the London School of Economics.  Unfortunately he was extremely disappointed and felt exploited by the business. He asked me to post this because, as our friends and family know, he does not use social media, including Facebook or Twitter.

I recommend everyone to not use They exploit you like it is their business.

· Bulent rented an apartment in London for 6 weeks to attend a program at LSE.

· He completed the program at the end of the 3rd week, and asked the landlord to leave 3 weeks earlier than planned.

· She said “no problem”. Bulent notified Airbnb about the change, and came back to Turkey.

· After he came back, he realized that Airbnb charged his credit card as if he stayed the whole time.

· Because a chunk of the overcharge went to the landlord’s bank account, he asked the landlord to remind the Airbnb that his stay was only 3 weeks, and to ask for a refund of over a thousand dollars.

· Landlord said that she would “accept Bulent’s offer only if he agrees to pay her nearly twice the daily rate that they had originally agreed.”

· Bulent told her that this offer nearly a month after the whole thing was over was outrageous as she did not mention to him that she would want a higher rate when she accepted his offer to leave the place early.

· Landlord insisted on her condition.

· Bulent entered the case to Airbnb’s “dispute resolution” for Airbnb to resolve it.

· Dispute Resolution required him to accept their condition that “their decision will be final”

· Can’t possibly knowing what is behind that condition, and having no other choice; Bulent accepted it.

· Dispute Resolution reviewed the case, and “ruled” that they would refund $30 to him! (The amount Bulent was overcharged was little over a thousand dollars!!!)

· When Bulent asked how in the world they came up with that figure, they said that “stays shorter than 28 days are subject to weekly rates (his original agreement with the landlord was a monthly rate) and the weekly rate that applied to his case was such that they would only refund $30!”

· Bulent asked for a copy of the contract that shows this “policy”, and how they determine weekly rates.

· They sent him a webpage in their site that only talks about landlords’ options when they receive a request for early leaves (which are either to have Airbnb charge the guest for only the duration of his stay, or for the entire term). The site includes no information about this supposed policy to bump monthly rates down to weekly rates when stays are fewer than 28 days. Nor did it include any formula as to how they determine this weekly rate.

· Bulent pointed out these nonsense, and renewed his request for the 1,000+ Dollar refund.

· Airbnb answered by saying “as you accepted when you submitted the case to our Dispute Resolution Department, our decision is final!

· Next week, Bulent will sue the company for violation of consumer rights to be protected against arbitrary and exploitative practices. He will also file a complaint to the Better Business Bureau in California where this company is registered. But as importantly, he asked me to disseminate this message to all my friends and family so they do not use

Christmas in Vienna

This year for Christmas we decided to do something different.  For the last three Christmases we have been in Ankara.  It is usually pretty quiet, there are some expat arranged parties, but somehow without family it seems a little hollow.  The malls are brightly decorated for New Years, but in Turkey Christmas has always seemed a little anti-climatic.  In the past we usually have a special dinner on Christmas Eve and go out to brunch on Christmas since I have to work the next day.  I am lucky to have an employer who give me Christmas Eve and Day off, many others have to work.   

This year the stars aligned and Christmas fell on a Monday and Tuesday, combined with my regular day off (Wednesday) and the weekend, gave me a five day break for Christmas.  My friend Lisa told me about the sales Turkish Airlines was having, and we decided to make the most of it!

Bülent was in the Czech Republic the week before Christmas, guest teaching at a couple of different universities.  We decided he would take a train and meet me in Vienna.  I was able to get a great flight out of Ankara on the Saturday before Christmas.   It was wonderful! The air in Vienna emanated Christmas cheer, we kept coming across Christmas markets, lured by the scent of sausages, cookies and hot punsch (a warm alcoholic beverage).

Rathausplatz Christmas Market

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Christmas Ornament Stalls

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We walked a lot during this vacation, we set out with a vague itinerary and then just ambled around the city.  We would have liked to go to more museums, but many things were closed for Christmas—naturally.

The Museum Quarter

Most days, we looked at the map before we left the hotel room, but not after.  We had a vague idea of where we were going, but did not feel the need to pull out the map and check to make sure we were going in the right direction.  It was an adventure, and planning everything and stressing out about where we we going would have ruined it.  For Christmas Eve, we ambled. We started out near our hotel at Rathausplatz, and walked by the Votive Church and the the University of Vienna. 


From there we checked out Hoher Markt. We went into some shops, everything was bustling as people were trying to finish their shopping to get home for Christmas Eve.  We visited some grocery stores and could not believe the price of produce.  I could get a kilo of apples in Ankara for what a single one cost there. 



We saw the famed clock, but decided not to wait for its figurines to move across the face of the clock to show the passing of time. 


From there we headed to Stephansplatz and saw St. Stephen’s Cathedral.  It was so incredibly large that mist shrouded the upper levels and you couldn’t even see the whole steeple.



We found Stephansplatz, the area around St. Stephen’s Cathedral, to be a little too touristic. 



There were many of the same shops I would see in mall in the U.S. and Ankara.  There were some beautiful buildings, but the men in old fashioned cloaks hawking concerts were a little distracting.


After our walk we wet back to the hotel room, warmed up and relaxed.  Later we went out to the Rathausplatz Christmas Market for some punsch, then had a nice dinner.   Most of the Christmas Markets closed on the 23rd or the 24th, but the Schoenbrunn Palace Christmas Market was still open on Christmas.  We decided to go there for Christmas day.  The Christmas market was lovely and festive.  There were many food vendors and stalls selling souvenirs and gifts.  The Schoenbrunn Palace Museum was open as well.  We had coffee at the café, took a tour through the place and then wandered through the Christmas market buying gifts for family and friends.  There was even a band playing Christmas Carols in the center of the market. 2012-12-25 15.23.00


I have to say it was one of the most romantic and relaxing vacations we have had in a while.  Just the two of us, no distractions, for five whole days. It was also the most Christmassy Christmas I have had in a while.  I definitely think we will try to sneak away for a weekend at the Christmas Markets next year—Maybe it will be our new Christmas tradition! 

I hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday season! 

Best wishes for the year 2013!

Aegean Weekend

Last week Bülent had to go to Çeşme for the Turkish Economic Association conference.  It was at the Altin Yunus, a five star hotel.  Unfortunately it rained for most of the week.  I joined him on Friday and it rained the whole hour drive from Izmir to Çeşme.  But when we woke up on Saturday morning the weather was beautiful. Bulent went off to some meetings and I enjoyed the hotel.

I was a little surprised by the Altin Yunus.  It is advertised as a 5 star hotel, but the rooms are pretty basic, something you might see in a Motel 6.  However, the location was fabulous and totally made up for it.  This pool on one side…

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and the beach was on the other.  The food was also included in the price and was quite nice. 

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The conference ended Saturday afternoon and we spent the day exploring.  We went to several secluded bays in Çeşme.  It is off season, and so was not crowded.  It was a lovely way to explore the area.    We also went to one of my favorite places in the area, Alaçatı, a former Greek town.   The old section of town is full of cobble stone streets and stone houses.

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The old houses have been transformed into cafes, restaurants and shops.


We were lucky enough to stop by on Pazar day when the streets were filled with vendors.  All sorts of fruits and vegetables, homemade olives and olive oil. 


One of the things I love about the Aegean is the secularity.  People there are very strong Atatürk supporters and very secular.  Women might be “closed” and wear headscarves, but it is not a political stance but a choice.  Walking though the pazar I saw these boys playing soccer.  If you look closely you might notice the architecture.  The terrace of the mosque made a perfect soccer pitch, so their ball didn’t get away from them.  No one minded, no one even looked.  This might not happen in many communities.  Honestly, I don’t think it would happen in my neighborhood.   


We ended the day with a night time walk on the seaside in Çeşme.  The next day we spent the day exploring coves and köys. 

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We have been able to travel quite a bit this year.  So far we have been to Texas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Québec, Marmaris twice, now Izmir.  But the year is not over yet!   We have a trip planned to Vienna for December, and I suspect another impromptu one will be scheduled soon for an as of yet unannounced family event. 

Back to US Road Trip Adventures!

In the beginning of the summer we did a road trip.  We started off in Texas with a visit with Bülent’s BFF Shawn.  I was able to visit with Shawn again and meet his wife Larinda.  They were great hosts, I had never been to Texas before and they had planned an awesome trip.  We visited in Fort Worth, near their home, then hopped in the truck and started the first leg of the road trip.  We drove to Austin, took a look around and then headed to the Salt Lick BBQ, a little bit out of town.  There was meat, meat and more meat!  It was amazing!

From there we drove to Fredericksburg where we hit up a few wineries and then stayed in an adorable cottage right off the main street.  A former German settlement, the buildings and cuisine have an authentic German flair.  I went running each morning we were there (Not optional: The food was amazing.  Example: Duck Hash with Eggs.  *Duck* Hash!)  It was fun, because running along there was so much to look at and enjoy.  The town had lots of great local wine, since it was close to the wineries.  It also had some really fun kitschy shops where you could buy useless but amusing things.

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For your information the glassware, jam jars with stems, was billed as “Texas Crystal Wine Glasses.”  Clearly all about the class.    There were also quite a few fudge shops.  This is pretty typical in tourist towns, apparently people walking the streets for souvenirs love to court diabetes and heart disease and pack away that delicious mixture of sugar and butter.  There were also some novelty treats.

Chocolate Covered Bacon

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Chocolate Covered Jalapeños

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Chocolate Covered Pickles

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I talked with the teenagers selling the atrocities, and and they insisted people actually bought the “treats” and that they were pretty good.  I pressed them, Really?  They are actually tasty?  The boys said they liked the bacon and jalapeños.  But they remained suspiciously quiet regarding the deliciousness of the chocolate covered pickles.

From there we went to a small winery near Luckenbach, named Sister Creek.

June 2012 116It was a small place and informal.  When we said yes, we would like to see the winery, we we told to just on on through and come back to taste when we were ready.   We had run of the place.  It was like a dream!

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Generally I prefer dry wines, Sister Creek had a lovely Muscat Canneli  that was fairly sweet, almost effervescent and delicious!  We bought a bottle to bring back to NH and another for a hostess gift on the return leg of our road trip.

From there we went down to San Antonio.  We spent a night enjoying the River Walk, and in the morning went to the Alamo.   Then we drove back on up to Fort Worth.   I had never been to Texas before, and Shawn and Larinda went to great lengths to plan a lovely vacation and show us around the state.  From pit BBQ to wineries to Chocolate covered bacon, we had a blast!

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Blogher 12

Holy Moly!  BlogHer!  I am still working though my experiences there.  I went to almost all the sessions.  A couple were productive and interesting.  However, the main even was…not lunch with Martha Stuart, or even lunch with Katie Couric (although that was awesome!)   It was meeting and connecting with other bloggers.  I don’t mean the random networking and thrusting of cards at each other, but the truly meaningful connection I made with some of the individuals there.  Sometimes it was just a short conversation that stayed with you, other times it was a discussion that was so intriguing you changed your plans just to continue it.

I met some great friends, finally understood the nuances of Twitter, and learned quite a bit at BlogHer12.  I also had a wicked good time!  There was a party every night.  Saturday night at  the Sparklecorn party I had a blast!   I danced so long and hard that my friends thought I was drinking, while I was sober and just dancing it out.  That was a blast.  Plus, any party where Ace of Cakes brings a Punk/Space Unicorn clearly rocks!


Hopefully there will be more BlogHer posts coming, however I am a little distracted with a couple of events.  1) One of my Besties gave birth to a darling little girl—and I get to meet her tomorrow.  2) Packing for my trip back to Turkey.  There is a lot of bag weighing and triaging of clothes at my house.  GRRR…Damn the one bag, 23 kg limits!

The Road Trip Begins

Last Friday Bülent and I  flew to Dallas from our respective cities.  We have had a blast visiting with friends in Texas, and made a mini road trip from Dallas, to Austin to San Antonio and back.  There will be lots coming on our time in Texas but it needs its own post.  Our plan was to fly down, hang out, buy a car and drive back to NH.  And today it commences.   Bülent is picking up the car this morning and from there we will be hitting up cities willy-nilly in a northerly direction.  YAY!  It should be blast, and give me lots to post about.  I may be trying to post from my phone, so bear with me.

Romantic Getaway: Bolu

One of the romantic weekends Bülent and I planned was to Bolu.  We had an amazing time, but it wasn’t actually in Bolu.  We had planned to stay in the Bolu city area and take day trips to Abant Gölü and Yedigöller, however the place we stayed was actually two hours from both, in Bolu province.  In the end it all worked out, and we had a wonderful time.   The drive there was very pretty.  There was still snow on the hills lining the freeway!


We arrived at Hindiba Pansiyon, an ecofriendly resort with small bungalows.  It was really lovely.  The bungalows and outdoor tables straddled a clearing in the woods which a creek ran through.  There was a full service restaurant, and breakfast and dinner were included in the price of the bungalow.  The eals were great, produced with locally available foods.


There were two types of bungalows, stone and wood. I would recommended the stone. The wood bungalow was very cozy, with not much floor space, but since we were on a romantic weekend, the size of the bungalow didn’t really matter.


We relaxed, read, rested and took walks.  The best part of walking was that immediately after leaving the pension we were deep in the country.


We did take a day trip to Gölcük, a small lake up in the mountains of Bolu.  The drive was gorgeous, and once we got there—there was water!  That is always a focus for people who live in Ankara.  Water, since our city is sort of arid, we all prefer vacationing in areas that are lush and green, preferably with a body of water nearby.  In this respect Hindiba was perfect for our needs.

Even though it was not what we were expecting, we had a great time.  The focus was on time together anyway.  It wouldn’t have mattered if it was a dive motel—but that is a post for next time…

My Roomie’s Wedding!

My sophomore roommate from college was great.  Katie and I were very different.  She was organized, I was not.  We had a line down the center of the room, as long as my things did not escape the line, it was not an issue.  She was an art history major.  Her side of the room was always lovely, as was she.  She had a talent for putting together outfits.  Once, I was going out on a date.  She asked me, “Oh, is that what you are wearing?”  My response was, “No, apparently not.”   She dressed me like a doll, and I encouraged it.

So she got married in February.  I had a very complicated relationship with her wedding.  Not her—Her wedding.

1) I got the wedding announcement and was totally depressed. One of my BFFs was getting married and again I was out of the country.

2) My dad was terminally ill.  I was going to take care of him, so I would be in the country for the wedding.  I could GO! Yay!

3) My dad was SO ill I couldn’t plan on going because his death was imminent.

4) My dad died way before I thought he would.  So…Wedding was on.

My friend asked me to be her bridesmaid.  Through out the entire #1-4 she was awesome.  She told me she would love for me to be in the wedding.  All she asked was to let her know when I knew, a few days before the wedding would be fine.    Katie is amazing in that way.

While I wanted to be there for her I had hesitations. I hadn’t done anything social since my dad died.  But I had already bought the tickets.  It was hard for me because it was only a year and a half ago that my parents walked me down the aisle at my on wedding.

But I went anyway.  And I had an amazing time.  I saw some of my friends I hadn’t seen in five years.   While I was a little sad, I was also so happy to be there for my friend.  Also, it was not my wedding.  It was Katie’s.  Katie’s wedding.  The weekend was not about me—It was about Katie (and Pete).  A woman who we all wanted to celebrate, and share in her experience.    Every moment of that wedding day, I was fiercely glad I could be there with her.


To start the Wedding Weekend, I flew to Nashville,  from where I made the road trip to Memphis with my friends Kate and Ben.  The weekend started off on an interesting note.

First, waiting for my flight to Nashville, I recognized a woman in my gate.  I knew her from some where, but could not place her for a few minutes.  Waiting for my flight was made much more interesting by sneaking peeks at this woman and racking my brain for where I had met her.  Then I realized, I hadn’t met her…I knew her from her blog.  Yes, at the Charlotte airport was Mr. Lady!  An auspicious beginning indeed!

I got off the plane, and Kate jumped out of her car, there was hugging and shrieking and then Kate started doing both as well.  Then, we got a call from our friend Ben.  He had dislocated his shoulder right before he left for the airport…What should he do?  Well, because the theme of the weekend was “Everyone Loves Katie!” he sucked it up, got on the plane and asked the flight attendant for ice.  We had a sling waiting for him when he got off the plane.  113.large

Every aspect of the wedding was a lot of fun. Seeing old friends, making new ones. Blind Mississippi Morris performed at the rehearsal dinner, blowing us out of the water. Also, it was at Fire Museum of Memphis, where they served martinis that smoked.


The whole weekend was amazing, and really a journey.  There was time with friends, a beautiful wedding, and I think some healing too.

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.