A visit to Amos

A couple of weeks ago, our good friends were visiting from the US and we decided to take a day trip to Amos. Amos is a small village a few miles from here on the coast. In this area of Turkey, each town or village is nestled in at sea level surrounded by high mountains. To get to them you have to drive UP into the mountains and then down the other side. These roads are twisty, narrow and have breathtaking views down the side of the cliffs.

The mountains we drove through.

From İçmeler we drove to Turunc, and the road was merely narrow, however the road from Turunc to Amos was essentially a one way path through the mountain pass, so narrow that you have to pull to the side and stop to let the other car by. My mother in law actually go vertigo during the ride from sitting in the passenger seat. I could see her visibly flinch every time we went around a curve.

Amos is an ancient city on the road to The city is surrounded by 1.8-meter-thick and 3.5-meter-high walls and towers. The largest surviving structure is a theater, was settled from the Hellenistic era until the Roman era. It is quite a climb to the top of the ridge, and since there were so many cliffs, I carried Kayra up on my back. From there he was able to enjoy the view, watch me sweat, and not fall off of a cliff or rock formation. #ParentingWin

The ruins aren’t particularly well preserved, but it is still fun to go and poke around in them. The view is also absolutely stunning. The whole area has wild thyme growing all over it. When we first arrived I saw two men harvesting it. Those bags in the trunk, wild thyme from the Roman ruins.

After the hike we went down the mountain to the beach in the cove and spent all day resting. There is a restaurant on the cove that has a serving area with couches under the shade of trees, beach chairs and cabanas, and a pool as well. It worked out wonderfully. We swam for a while, then had a nice leisurely lunch while Kayra took a two hour nap on one of the couches next to our table. Then we were able to spend the rest of the afternoon swimming and playing in the sea and the pool. Actually I am hoping to go again this weekend.

Photos courtesy of Larinda Bucklew

The Med.

Doesn’t that sound smarmy? One of the best parts of visiting İçmeler is being about a mile from the Mediterranean.

My in-laws summer house is snuggled up against the mountains that surround the village. While it would be nice to be closer to the water, it is kind of an either/or situation. The summers are really hot here, and you need to either be right on the water to get the sea breeze, or back by the mountains to get the winds that roll down from the higher altitudes. The center of town that is closer to the beach but not right on the water actually suffer from the heat more. So while we are in the part of the village that is farthest from the water, it is still only a 20 minute walk, and we are surrounded by green mountains and chickens run around the parks wandering loose from the village houses that have livestock and fields in the middle of a vacation town.

View of İçmeler from the mountains. Our house is in the section closest to the forefront.

Kayra’s first glimpse of the sea!

Kayra was almost two when we got here but we hadn’t brought him to the ocean yet. There are beaches on the Texas coast, but for the the quality of the beach vs the length of the drive we hadn’t bothered. So his first sea/ocean swim was in the Med. The water is cool, and clean and the beach filled with a mix of Turkish and international tourists. Despite the coolness of the water, he absolutely loves it. The water is so so salty that he is incredibly buoyant and can practically float on his own. He is working hard on swimming and paddles his little legs and arms all on his own, with just a little support from us. We chose not to bring his floaties to help him learn how to swim without being distracted or a false sense of safety. He will swim for so long that his lips turn blue and he shivers. At that point I try to get him out of the water, but only get as far as the beach because then he wants to play with the sand and stones. There are also little fish that play in the shallows, so that gives us endless reason to run in the waves and splash into the water trying to catch them.

Unfortunately we have not been able to go every day because I am working full time remotely while I am here and have to overlap my afternoon/evening hours with East Coast time. With only three weeks left I am going to make an effort to go after breakfast each day before my work day starts and get as much beach time and play time as possible!

Back to Içmeler

I have spent most or part of the summer in Içmeler since 2009. When we moved back to the US in 2015 we didn’t go to Içmeler that summer. I have missed it more than I realized. It has also changed quite a bit. Between the “attempted” coup, the bombing in the Istanbul Airport in 2016 and the rate of inflation, the tourism rate is down significantly. We can see the results in the community here, and the business that are, and no longer there.

What I have been enjoying the most is watching Kayra absorb the language and the culture. What I have appreciated the most, is watching his grandparents interact with him, and respect the differences in which we have been raising him. For example Turkish folks kiss and hug babies. This means waiters kiss his cheeks and touch his face, strangers will stroke his face and kiss his hands, teenagers will pick him up and play with him. We have been raising Kayra with bodily autonomy, meaning we ask him if he wants kisses and hugs, and if he says no we respect that. While it is hard for them to not smother him in kisses and hugs, but they do ask, and listen to him, at least 70% of the time. It’s a start.

Return to Ankara

It has been four years since I left Turkey. I lived there for most of my (young) adult life, from 24 to 30. I absorbed much of how I live my life from that time, learning to move more slowly, savor time, cook with the seasons, avoid waste and over consumption. I learned the language and culture, which means my son can grow up in a bilingual and bicultural household.

We speak Turkish at home to Kayra, and I cook Turkish meals often, but this first week in Ankara has been a whirl wind of newness for him. Rather than the normal vocabulary of daily life, he has been immersed in Turkish. I can practically see his head spinning to absorb it all. He is learning to code switch, as his grandmother and great aunt do not speak English, he notices and responds to them only in Turkish. He is learning tens of words each day and hundreds each week, it seems. I love to watch his amazement and wonder. The first time he heard the ezan, or call to prayer, reverberate off the hills and buildings in Ankara he looked at me and asked “bu ne? (What’s that?) The camii, I said. He repeated it two or three times, rolling it around his mouth, such a new word, such a new sound.

We were only in Ankara for a week. He met his extended family, and I was able to visit my old friends with him, some of my chosen Ankara family. We went to Kuğulu Park and visited the swans. We listed to the amca (uncle) playing the accordion for tips in the park, wearing Apple ear pods, of course the juxtaposition of old and new in Turkey is always there. We walked by my friend Terry’s old house and I practically stopped in for tea, so strong are the memories of love and adventure with friends.

Chasing pigeons in Kuğulu Park

The city I grew up in has grown, and shrunk, the politics have change, there has been a coup, there is an undercurrent that I can’t quite figure out. Many things were different, but many are still the same. Just like me. I came to Turkey as a young woman, fell in love with the land and people, found friends, lost family, and generally became an adult. The woman that came back to Turkey this summer is not the same woman that left four years ago. I have grown, developed, discovered a career I love and an ambition I didn’t know I had. I got pregnant, and birthed a child, I am stronger and braver and more full of love than I ever knew I could be. I am glad I left, it was the right time for us and allowed our life, personal and professional, to flourish in a way they would never had here. However, I am glad to be back, for the summer.

Listening to music in the park while eating a cookie from Mado.

It’s been a while!

I had hoped to keep blogging when I moved back to the U.S.  It’s obvious that it didn’t work out. I was too absorbed in living my life, instead of being an observer, to keep writing.  Many things have happened since.  I continued working for my non-profit, my career advanced, I made new friends and found a new community.  I have lived life to the fullest in Austin, taking advantage of the weather and live music and generally had a blast! I also got pregnant, had a baby, traveled for work, and continue to take advantage of the amazing city in which I live, with one more person in tow.

And now I am back! Four years after we left Turkey, we have returned for a visit.  It has been fascinating to be back in Turkey.  It simultaneously feels the same and different. While I missed some things, in others I am reminded why we wanted to move back to to the U.S.  While I am here, I hope to have a chance to blog about it.  This is one of the things, from my time in Turkey, I have missed.

Back, I hope. A Re-introduction.

It has been more than a year since I have blogged.  I have started different posts many times, but never finished.  The last year has been exciting, fun, challenging and full of new adventures, as always.

Last year in August I started my job as a Computer Science teacher at a charter school in Austin.  While the work was incredibly fulfilling, it was also very demanding.  Not only did I have to master a new discipline (CS) but my work hours were 7am to 5 pm.  Add an hour or more on either end of the day for the commute and it made settling in a new city difficult.  Though we moved to Austin for its vibrant nightlife and music scene, I really couldn’t be a part of it.  Rising every day at 5, getting home after 6 and spending most of my weekends grading and lesson planning  did not leave much time for new Austin adventures.  However, we did have some!  We  bought a house last September and celebrated our “Houseiversary” recently.

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We also got adopted a puppy from the shelter in January.  Butterfinger is more or less resigned to the situation at this point.  He tries to engage her in play, but she is not really interested.  In her defense, at 15, she is not as energetic as she used to be.

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This summer marked our first year in Austin, and the start of our new life here, the life we wanted originally. I started work for an exciting non-profit. One that is part of the education realm, bringing educational access to students in underserved communities.  It is fulfilling in the same way teaching was, but with a work/life balance.   Since I have started my new job Bülent and I have been incredibly happy.  We are able to do all the things we looked forward to in Austin, while we were in Ankara.  We go to live music regularly, during the week and on the weekends! We go hiking and biking, swimming and exploring.

Now that we have our “new normal” I am looking forward to many more adventures.

 

 

Anniversary

I cannot believe it has been a year.  The move and changes have consumed my life, but in an amazing way.  I hope to start blogging again.  Our lives are full and rich, with new friends, renewed friends and old friends.  We now own a house, belong to a community and have exciting adventures on the horizon.  My heart bleeds for the state of the political situation in Turkey, and I am feeling relieved that we moved when we did.  More will be coming.  The adventures are part of life, and unless things change, I will always be “Far from the Sticks”, no matter where I am.

Reblog:  Published 4/18/2015

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!

Changes

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. 

ScreenHunter_03 Apr. 18 11.51

 

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.

ScreenHunter_05 Apr. 18 12.11

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

Uzungöl

The road to Uzungöl was a lot more pleasant than the place itself.  We had heard it was a lovely lake, pictures with places to hike and bike ride. It was a lake, and there was a walking path, and bike rentals.  That is about as close to the description as it came.

We left the lovely snow capped Kaçkar Mountains and the Ayder Plateau, for Uzungöl.  We decided to do some sightseeing along the way.

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We stopped by one of the Fırtına River bridges on the way.

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Built in the Ottoman era during the 18th or 19th century by local stonemasons, they are still architecturally sound, and very charming.

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After that we traveled deep into Fırtına Valley (Stormy Valley), we went to Zilkale, or Bell Castle.  It was only about 20 km but on the winding steep road, it took almost an hour.  We kept seeing villages up on the steep mountain sides.  They were amazingly isolated and beautiful, with their dark wood buildings, surrounded by the deep green of the tea bushes.  P1017087

Almost impossible to reach by road, some of them only seemed accessible by funiculars or teleferikler

Photo from http://www.son.tv/haber-213915

After we made our way through the mountain passes we finally reached Zilkale.  It was striking, high up on the edge of a cliff the castle had been restored and was worth the trek into the wilderness.  From its vantage point we were also able view of the deep canyon and the waterfalls from the castle walls.

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From here we went to Uzungöl.  On the road to Çamlıhemşin we had been struck by the green mountains, covered in tea plants, the clear water of the rivers and streams, and the mountain vistas.  In contrast, the road to Uzungöl was industrial, the river muddy and filled with silt from the mining and hydroelectric dams.  In comparison to the mountain villages, with their wood houses high up on the hills on the Çamlıhemşin road, on the way to Uzungöl the roadsides were filled with typically Turkish concrete multi-storied buildings and tea processing factories.

Uzungöl (Long Lake) is no longer a natural lake, dammed up and the embankments covered in stone, it actually resembles a man made lake more than anything else.  The lower end of the lake is built up, pensions, restaurants and neon lights creating a hodge podge of tourism.  The area is fairly conservative as well, catering to more devout foreign tourists.  I was surprised at the number of women wearing full covering, or burkas.  While Turkey is an Muslim majority nation, and some areas are more conservative than others, full covering with only ones’ eyes showing is not typical.

We also had a major issue with our hotel.  We stayed at the Aygün Motel, the accommodations were clean and it was a spacious bungalow, with plenty of room for all three of us for a decent price.  However, when we woke up in the morning it was very cold inside our room.  See your breath cold.    There was also no hot water.  Reception kept telling us the heat would come on soon, in two hours.  In an hour, in 45 minutes…  After huddling in our room, wearing our jackets for several hours, we went out to eat just to warm up.  After hours and hours of a freezing cold room, the heat finally came back on.  It never really warmed up though.  We tried to change our tickets to fly out that night, but the plane was full, instead we paid the penalty just to move our tickets up by a few hours.  The next morning, the room was frigid again,  it was then we learned that they actually turn off the heat each morning, and turn it on back at night.

In the morning we planned to leave at 8 am to be to the airport 9am, at for our 10 am flight.  However, when I woke up at five to use the bathroom, I saw outside there was at least 6 inches of snow, with more falling steadily.  Uzungöl had been transformed to a winter fairy land, but we still didn’t want to stay.

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Afraid we would be trapped there if it kept snowing, we left the motel by 5:20 am to make sure we would be able to make it down the mountain.  The switchbacks  were a little hairy at first, but once we were halfway down the mountain the snow turned to rain, and we were all relieved.

Bülent and I were talking last night and we honestly have not had a trip with so many challenges and unfavorable conditions.  We have traveled all over Turkey for the last five years, staying in five star hotels, motels, pensions and even hostels, and have always had a great time, with warm and hospitable hosts. It was certainly a memorable birthday trip, one that none of us will forget in the future.  We still had a great time though.  I was with my two favorite men, one who had flown thousands of mile to surprise me!  I felt lucky and beloved to have such a grand adventure planned for me, and an adventure it was!

Bakla Köftesi (Fava Bean Balls/Burgers)

Fava Bean köftesi, a type of vegetarian köfte.  Since we have gone mostly vegetarian I have been trying to find alternatives and interesting food.  This seemed to fit the bill, interesting, healthy and seasonal.   

400 grams of cooked, shelled fava beans
1 onion
1 carrot
clove of garlic
Cilantro about 1/3 cup, half a bunch or so (parsley would work too)
1 egg
salt and pepper (I used chipotle pepper)

  First shell your fava beans. Then simmer the beans for five or six minutes, until tender then submerge them in cold water to make it easier to take off their outer skin.  You will need about 400 grams of the cooked shelled fava beans in total, so the original weight should be more. Dice and sauté the onion and carrot until soft, add the garlic, minced and cook until aromatic.

In a food processer add, onion, carrot, garlic, fava beans, cilantro, egg and spices.  Pulse until combined’, but not a complete puree.  Roll into small balls or flat latke type shapes.   I made two batches using different methods.  The first I baked at 350 for twenty minutes.  I sprinkled sesame seeds on top for crunch.  These held together well, and would be great for burgers.

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The second batch I “fried” in a nonstick pan with a tiny bit of olive oil.  This batch was more tender but not as sturdy.  Both were tasty.  Even Butterfinger liked them. 

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