Doğa Karadeniz

Recently I went on a trip to the Doğa Karadeniz with my brother and husband.  I will blog about the places separately from the experience…which was a doozy.  While certain parts of the trip were very lovely, it was sort of a comedy of errors.  We flew into Trabzon and from there made our way to Çamlıhemşin. Bülent booked a bungalow for us, Eko Danitap, it was supposed to be lovely and beautiful.  The directions were wrong. We followed them to a T, and in following the signs we were led up a narrow, scary series of switchbacks, and at the top of the mountain…no Eko Danitap.  Even asking for directions we were unable to find the hotel and when we called for directions, the land line had been disconnected and no one answered the cell number.  Even knowing we were coming, as we made a reservation, we never got a response or a call back. 

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We had to find new accommodations.  However, one of the the reason we had a reservation was because it was early in the tourist season and not all hotels were open.  We decided to  head up to Ayder Yaylası, we had heard it was incredibly beautiful.  It was, but also cold.  We managed to find an open hotel, and the rooms were very nice.  The owner said it would take a little while for the water to get hot for the showers.  We didn’t think much of it.  Except the water never got hot, and the toilet in our room didn’t work.  They couldn’t get it fixed.  The toilet in my brother’s room worked though, thank goodness…Welcome to Turkey, thanks for flying thousands of miles for my birthday—the least we could offer would be indoor plumbing.2014-03-15 08.29.34

Despite the issues, we decided to stay the night, as it was getting late and we were far from anything.  When we woke up there was still no hot water.  We had breakfast and then decided to take a walk. Ayder was absolutely breathtaking. 

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We were near the Kaçkar Mountain Park, so we walked up that way.  It really was gorgeous. Icy mountains, crystal clear brooks and pristine air. 

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After a brisk walk we all felt the need for a shower, and decided to leave Ayder Yaylası, for a place that was heavily recommended by a local we had met, Uzungöl.  The wonders (or lack thereof) of “Long Lake” or Uzungöl deserve a post all of its own.  

Surprise!!

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I have written about my brother before, and even created a meme.  But this really out does it.  My brother is a great guy, sweet, caring, kind to children and animals and good looking.  He cooks, will do pedicures and when necessary he will stand calf deep in shit and dig up the septic system, because that it what needs to be done.  We get along really well and have a great relationship, I had a blast when I went to visit y family in February.  We had a couple of “sib” nights and hung out, just the two of us. 

Last week I turned 30.  I was a little less than thrilled to leave my twenties behind, but I was not too concerned about turning thirty.  I had planned to go out to sushi with a friend after work, but my husband asked me to join him for a basketball game instead.  I decided we could do sushi another time.  I came home and Bülent was still in his nice work clothes, which is unusual.  We usually come home and change right into comfy clothes.   Then from around the corner appears…Elliot.  I COULD NOT BELIEVE IT!  My brother was there.  IN MY APARTMENT.  IN ANKARA!   Apparently there was a bet between Bülent and Elliot that I would should “Oh my god” first, but the first word I said was “WHAT?!” My darling brother flew in for my birthday! 

My brother, on my couch, in my house in Ankara!

Bülent  had told me we would go on a surprise trip for my birthday, which I will detail in a later post.  He told me that there were two surprises, one was the location, which he would reveal before we went for packing purposes, the other he would not.  They had been planning the surprise for about three weeks.  It was such a great gift, to spend time with more of my family together. 

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The trip was to the Doğa Karadeniz (Eastern Black Sea) where I have been wanting to go for a while.  It certainly was an interesting trip, filled with adventure, and challenges-more on that later.  However, the scenery was beautiful and we all had a wonderful time being together.  

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I couldn’t have asked for a more special or memorable birthday.  This new decade was ushered in by a surprise of such magnitude and a week of such happiness and excitement, that I can only imagine what is to next to come.

My Brother Earned a Meme

I have been home visiting my family for winter break.  I love my family, but also feel very lucky that we are friends too.  Not everyone has a brother or a mother that they would chose to be their friends.  I have been having a great time with both, but hanging out with my brother is particularly fun.  And on that note, he has earned a meme.  Generally he is a great guy, but in the last week there were two really amusing incidents which illustrate his matter of fact stance on equality.

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Elliot has never been one to discriminate, but as he got older and more aware, he became a feminist and an equal rights supporter.  The best part is how nonchalant he is about it, it is not something he believes, it is just something he does.

While I was home for winter break my mother and I were considering going out and getting pedicures.  But then we had a discussion about not having enough time, and we decided to forgo the pedicures.  My brother was in the room and was aware of the subject, but not participating.  My mother then switched the subject from human pedicures to the dog’s nails.  Elliot still wasn’t paying attention fully yet when mom asked him if he would give her, Pumpkin–our Rhodesian Ridgeback, a pedicure.  Unaware of the subject change, he glanced at me, shrugged and said, “Sure. But I am not sure how good I will be at painting the edges.”  He was willing, if not able, to give me a pedicure.  Instead, together we ended up taking care of Pumpkin’s nails.  He wielded the trimmers, while I held the huge dog still.

The next day we were picking up a four wheeler.  We had to get it repaired for the new owners of our childhood home. We had to move a table with two large (occupied) rabbit cages on it to access it.  Once we had access to it, it was still a little tough to get it up on the truck.   We only had two narrow boards and a hand winch to get the massive four wheeler up on the back of the big truck.  We started out with Elliot working the hand winch, while I guided the four wheeler up the boards. Then we changed places thinking if someone had to push it over the edge of the truck bed, it should be him.  Feminism aside, this dude is way stronger than I am.Image

So there I was, slowly winching the four wheeler up the steep boards, and Elliot is somewhere off to the side.  I called out to ask him what he was doing, and he said he was standing away from the four wheeler so if the sagging boards cracked he wouldn’t be in the way.  It made sense.  Though if the boards did crack, I would be the one holding the the ATV by the hand winch with no other supports.

So I finally finish winching the four wheeler up, and the ATV is completly up on the bed.  After, Ell comes around from the side. I hadn’t seen him the whole time.  I asked him what he was doing in the garage when I was getting the four wheeler up onto the truck.  His reply, ” I was petting the bunnies. They are really soft.”

So there you go, from pedicures, abstaing from the assumption he would do the heavy lifting, to petting bunnies, for equality in all ways, my brother.  Though I have to say, I was dissapointed.  I would have liked to pet the bunnies too.  Image

Root Vegetable Roulette

Hmmm…Maybe not the best idea.  I have been seeing lots of yummy winter vegetable recipes online.  One of them was for roasted root vegetables; beets, carrots, rutabaga, parsnips and turnips.  YUM!  In Turkey, from that list we only have carrots and beets.  There are some turnip varieties, but they are usually only used raw.  So I decided to try out what was available in the market.   I used carrots, black turnips, onions, beets, and celeriac.  I brought some to school for lunch yesterday, it was tasty.  Cue a sleepless night and intestinal distress.   I thought maybe it was the fiber causing indigestion.  So I kept food light today and packed chicken soup.  It was all homemade, down to the stock.  At lunch I ate my beautiful homemade soup, and vicious intestinal distress ensued.  Just in time for my most challenging classes.  Hmm.  So since I knew exactly what went into everything, I figured out the common denominator.  BLACK TURNIP.  I checked it out online and apparently it increases acid and bile production in the intestinal track, great for people with sluggish systems. But eating too much causes over production and irritation of the digestive tract.   Bummer.  So watch yourself with the black turnip.  It might get you.    Root Vegetable Roulette…almost as dangerous as the version with guns.   Well, that might be a slight exaggeration, but it is definitely no fun. 

On Touching Children

In the United States you are not supposed to touch children familiarly unless they are yours, or the spawn of a close friend or family member.  As a teacher I was always very careful to keep my physical distance.  The only time I touched kids was when I was breaking up fights and tearing them apart or when they graduated and were saying goodbye.  There was one time when I flashed a girl my fun bits, but that was on a field trip to the beach and there were no doors on the stalls of the public bathrooms.

When I was a babysitter in college I always asked what the parents wanted me to do when I had to go to the bathroom.  When you haul a baby into the bathroom it is one thing, but when a toddler talks you want permission.  It was never a problem, “So…do you want me to leave your baby alone and unsupervised or do you want them to come into the bathroom with me?”  It was always the latter, but I still felt the need for specific permission.

In Turkey it is completely different.  Strangers pet children on the head and pinch their cheeks.  In a restaurant a toddler might be carried off by a waiter, played with, coddled, given treats and returned a while later.  Children running around in restaurants (1st difference…this is acceptable behavior) may be snatched into laps for kisses and then let go, a Turkish catch and release program.

In Turkey, parents and their children may feel insulted if you do not touch or snuggle their child.  They might feel rejected or unappreciated if they have not received a certain amount of physical attention.  I have gotten used to touching my students.  It was really strange at first.  In the beginning it made me really nervous to touch them, or worse when they touched me.  GAHHH.  They would come up, lean on me , put their heads on my shoulder, or touch my arms.   *Shudder*  I was so accustomed for this to be taboo it took quite a while to become comfortable with the situation.

Nowadays it is easy for me to touch students.  I have actually pinched cheeks.  I tweak their pony tails, rub their heads, pass a hand over their back, rub their arm, give their hands a squeeze.   Occationally I drag them around by their itty bitty neck ties they are required to wear.  They love it.  It makes them feel appreciated and valued.  It gives us a connection, a foundation on which to build a working relationship in the classroom.  I don’t hug my current students, but will my former students.  I kiss their cheeks when they give me presents, whether it is a bracelet or card they made for me or a silk scarf.

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Today I cuddled a child completely unknown to me, I was walking my dog in the park and the situation led me to it.  He was being chased by a street dog, one I know and never bothers me.   I feed him, and his puppies, he usually rolls over for belly rubs from me and has actually protected my small terrier from other street dogs.  About 10, the boy was terrified, the dog wasn’t biting him, but was barking and lunging at him.  He had gone too close to where the puppies were.  He kept running, and the dog was chasing him.  I told him, in my teacher voice, “Stay still, Don’t run.” I was so glad I know all the imperative forms in Turkish from my hall duty experience at school!  “Come here, son.” (In Turkey you only refer to children as “children”, “daughter” or “son”)  So while the dog was lunging at him (I knew the dog wouldn’t hurt us) I hugged him, stroked his face and talked to him.  “It’s ok, let’s go, together  ok…?” My Turkish is still a little weak.  The dog continued to follow and lunge, so I tucked the kid under my arm and held his hands so he wouldn’t get nipped.  Meanwhile I scolded the dog, who then stopped.  But the minute I separated from the boy, the dog started lunging again.  So I put my arm around him, stroked his face and then Butterfinger and I walked him home.  While I could have helped him regardless of the touching, but it made him feel safer, feel comforted.  Without it he might has still felt scared and lost and alone.

Clearly touching needs to be appropriate, but I have learned the value of it with children, the connection it can provide, a link to help a child, encourage, and console.  Maybe I find this interesting because I do not have my own children and discovering how this stuff works.

As with everything, there are pros and cons for each of my countries.  For example, in Turkey people don’t stand in lines, they push their way to the front and fight for service.  But while you are standing there bewildered and waiting your turn, I guarantee that some old lady will haul your kid onto their lap so they don’t have to stand while you figure it out.

The Vicious Dog in question…

Yes, that is him playing with children on the slide.

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Surprise!

I am still trying to catch up on back posts from Kurban Bayramı.   I have been a bit behind and was a little tired last week, but for a great cause.  I flew home to surprise my mother on her birthday…for the weekend.  Yes. The Weekend.  It was epic.

My mother was throwing herself a birthday party, celebrating her new life and new start.   I really wanted to be there.   As an expat you get used to missing the birthdays and other important events like weddings, reunions and births, but you still wish you were there.   I missed my grandmother’s 100th birthday party last month.  I decided this time it was worth it to make the trip.

My brother was my partner in crime.  We arranged the pickup and the meeting.  I was supposed to fly into Logan at 1:30 pm Friday, take the bus to Concord and meet my mother for dinner.  Timing was crucial because I was going to get there Friday afternoon and fly out Sunday afternoon.   But the Airplane Gods were against me.  I almost didn`t make it.

I got to the Esenboğa airport at 3:30 am.  I was in line at 3:45.  The third in line to be exact.  The Lufthansa employees said they would start checking us in at 4 am.  At 5 they were still unable to boot up the computers.  After a change of computer venue, a race and a blood bath to get in line AGAIN, I was checked in.  Then I waited some more.  We were delayed and I almost missed my flight.  Actually EVERY flight was delayed.  By the time I got to Boston Logan I had missed my bus, but I knew it left Logan and went to South Station before it left for NH.  I ran to a taxi and made my bus with 1 minute to spare!

Once on the bus I was finally able to relax.  I was almost there!  My brother picked me up, and we went to the restaurant he had arranged to meet my mother at for her birthday dinner.    When she came in, she was shocked.  She actually didn’t know what to say.  The first thing she said was, “Why are you here?”  Ouch!  But by the time we had dinner and the shock wore off.  She was really surprised, and really happy.

Saturday was surreal, we went out for a jog and then prepped for her party.  I was given a list and sent to the grocery store, it was just like a normal visit.  I loved every minute of it.  Of course the party was a blast.  Old friends, new friends and neighbors came.  Everyone had a great time, especially my mother.  Sunday we met my brother for lunch and then did some shopping and went to the buys station.  I hate leaving, every time it is very difficult.  The worst time is the couple of hours before you get to the bus station or airport, when you can`t pretend you aren`t leaving anymore but the leaving part is not final.  Waiting in the airport is less sad, plus there is wine there.

It was a whirlwind trip and I was certainly tired when I went to work the morning after flying in at midnight the night before.  But it was absolutely worth it.  To be able to celebrate with my mom, to have that time with her was amazing.  Happy birthday mom!  I hope this year is the first of many that are fantastic, full and exciting!

A 9 Day Bayram!

This year Kurban Bayrami started on a Monday (1/2 day) and ended on a Friday.  Since it connected to the weekends it made a 9 day HOLIDAY!   Bülent and I wanted to take advantage of this time and check out some places we haven’t been before.  Based on the weather we decided to do a northern Aegean road trip.  Our original plan was to leave right after work on Friday and drive straight through to Foça, a 9.5 hour drive.  However, even if we never stopped to use the bathroom  (Like that is possible with my bladder capacity! HA!) we wouldn’t get there until after 2 a.m.  So Friday afternoon we changed the plan. We decided to hit the road, but stop in Uşak, a city on the way, about 400 kilometers from Ankara. 

 

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It is an inner Anatolian city, but part of the Aegean region of Turkey.  Occasionally I find the smaller inner Anatolian cities pretty conservative.  However, Uşak was a really nice city.  Their central street was pedestrian access only with tons of bars and cafes.  It was pretty lively with a wide range of people, even though we arrived at 11 pm.  The next morning the streets were filled with families shopping and young people getting brunch and old men in their Aegean Style hats people watching. 

 

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The next day we hit the road to begin our Aegean tour.  On the trip we stopped by Izmir, Foça, Ayvalık, Alibey Island, Assos, Bozcaada and Bursa.  We had such an amazing time that I will be doing a blog post about each of our main stops.  What was really special was that even though we were busy for the whole trip we got back and felt relaxed and rested. 

Lost and Found

Several times recently I have gotten lost on my way somewhere.  I got the directions confused and ended up having no idea of where I was.  I had two options, go with it or turn around go back and start stressing.  In years past I would have done the latter, however, one of the things I am better at now is the former. 

In Turkey this is important.  Sometimes when you are doing something, whether it is driving, paperwork, trying to get something done, there are obstacles.  But getting tense about it will not help. TRUST ME!  My husband likes to say the F-Word in Turkey is “Flexibility.”  One has to be flexible to get stuff done. 

So when I was lost, I just kept driving.  One of the great things about driving in Turkey is the road signs.  Not the street signs, you could die of old age looking for a particular street.  But the road signs are great, they are all over the place and direct you to different neighborhoods.  Most people know how to get around then they are in a neighborhood, the hard part is getting there. 

In this sign the white signs are to neighborhoods, the blue to a different city.  The blue sign will take you to a highway.  Another thing about Turkey is there is no East/West North/South Highway nonsense.  The highways are designated by the major city they go to.  For example, for this highway, one direction is called Konya Road, the other Samsun Road.  This is helpful for people (me) who get their directions mixed up. 

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So when I get lost, I just keep driving and look for the road signs.  The other day when I was completely lost, I ended up right where I wanted to be.  Funny how that happens. 

Spring?

The weather has been strange this winter in Ankara.  It seems to go back and forth between cold and spring-like weather.   Today, the sun is shining bright, the weather is lovely and it looks like the trees are budding. 

Not that I would know.  I have been trapped inside with a nasty cold.  I am planning to be fully recovered by tomorrow.  I have been hacking and sniffling since Wednesday…Enough is enough!

I am really excited for spring.  I can wait to get flowers for the window boxes on the balcony.  This year I also have some nasturtium seeds to plant to climb on the railings  I have already started basil and thyme inside, as well as cilantro and mustard greens. 

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I started some chives I started a few months ago, but  I  have to say, they have been really struggling.  I am sure they will like going out on the balcony again and having some more sunlight.    On the positive side—my tulip bulbs are blooming which makes the apartment seem  nice and cheery! 

I do not have a green thumb, but am trying to practice, so when we have a yard it does not look like a barren wasteland!

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New Page Under American and Turkish Fusion

SUBSTITUTIONS!

We have all been there.   You are craving a certain dish from home, or want to make some food in your recipe repertoire but are lacking ingredients.  Maybe they are not sold in the local market, or you would have to sell a kidney on the black market to afford it.  I will keep adding substitutions as things I have done in the past occur to me.