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.

Moving. Is. Torture.

The weekend after the first week of school I had to move.  I didn’t schedule it, a change in corporate housing mandated the move.  While I was trying to cement my classroom management and learn 200 students names, I was also making lists of what to pack each night.  The move was quite daunting as we could not get the key to the apartment before we moved, and we had never seen it in person. 

The apartment turned out to very nice.  Farther out than I would like, compared to my last easy to get around neighborhood, but has the benefits of the boondocks. The air is cleaner, we will not have issues with coal smoke here during the winter, there are no traffic problems, and we have a great view of undeveloped Anatolian hills. 

However, while the apartment is beautiful, it is a new building and there are some issues.  Last night, after the 7th visit from a plumber in two weeks, the toilet FIANALLY stopped leaking onto the floor  YAY!  They also turned the heat on last night, which is great because it was REALLY cold.  But now we have to turn it off because it is leaking. 

However, to put it in perspective, my friend just found out that internet is UN-INSTALLABLE in her apartment.  The pipes that lead into her apartment to allow the fiber optic to be snaked in was crushed and so there is no way to bring in the cable. 

Packing was horrendous.  I just hated it.  It feels like I just did it.  I did help my mother move our home last year.   It was a lot of work.  Even though out house is smaller, it still was a lot of work.  Unpacking is a little better.  Though at one point I got so visibly overwhelmed by the amount of work ahead, Bulent broke down all the boxes we had unpacked and removed them from the apartment. It helped significantly.  Actually he turned Defcon 1 to something more like mild craziness.   A miracle worker. 

As of now, we are mostly all set.  There are some paintings I have been unable to hang because the walls are made of concrete.  But that is just a challenge.  It is coming!

UPDATE: I just served coffee to a few men in my house.  They have been working for over an hour on the heating.  Things are looking up.  

UPDATE 2: The man, who says that my eyes are like those of the people he met in Kosovo when he was a soldier in NATO, fixed my heaters and bleed out the air from the system.

Back to Ankara

We came back to Ankara the Saturday before school started.   We had been away from the house for so long there was a lot to do, cleaning, food shopping, and getting ready for work the next day.  Since we went vegetarian we pack our lunches, so we also had to do some food preparation.   Due to the time constraints, it took a while to get back into the normal swing of things.  But by last weekend we were back, and by that, I mean I was back at the pazar. 




I wanted to make some hot pepper jelly, and found a great hot pepper stand.  I spent quite a while tasting this pepper and that pepper.  I  bought some really spicy green peppers and he gave me quite different kinds to try.  Just as I was leaving I realized there was another type of pepper at the stand.  I hit the  jackpot!  He had a couple of plastic tubs of fresh jalapeños!  Normally you can only get jalapeños pickled, which do not have the full flavor of fresh.  I immediately started picking out the best ones, and chatting with him about the peppers.  The pazarci gave me some more peppers as gifts (probably five different types), and then a mandarin orange as he was concerned about how many hot peppers I had tasted.  I told him about my plans to make hot pepper jelly and he was very interested.   We talked some more and then I headed off to scour the pazar for the best figs for jam. 




Yesterday I got around to making the jalapeño pepper jelly.  I haven’t tasted it yet, but at least it jelled, so that is a step in the right direction.  Yum!  I can’t wait to try it with some labne.  I left some seeds in so it actually should be pretty spicy. 



It only took two weeks for life to get back to “normal” in Ankara.  I am glad we got there because our schedules are pretty packed for the next two weeks.  Bülent’s sister is getting married  this month.  She is doing the nikah (legal marriage contract) with her friends and co-workers in Antalya next weekend, and the weekend after that is having the reception in Ankara.  We are looking forward to celebrating both with her. 

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. 

2013-04-24 16.17.04


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. 


Oh Thanksgiving, the ways we celebrate you.  Today I was talking to Bülent and realized that this was our 5th Thanksgiving by ourselves. All of which one I cooked.  If we had been living in the US within a five hour drive of my parents, I would have been a guest, and had been a Thanksgiving Virgin.

However, after I graduated from college I moved to the West Coast, and then to Turkey.

So there is a Thanksgiving Timeline.

2006: Just the two of us!  Small Turkey!

2007: My BFF (since age 5) joins us with her husband.  Thanksgiving and the Beach!  Yay for vacation!

2008: Bad Ass Barraford Thanksgiving.   My cousin Hilary joins me on the West Coast (LA) and we have a rocking Thanksgiving with a party of 12 and clubbing after dinner!


2009: Arrive in Turkey, guests at a co-workers home.  Lovely dinner, great introduction to the world of NO SHORTCUTS cooking.  Want stuffing?  Buy a loaf of bread, cut it up, spice it and make it into stuffing.  Forget anything out of a can, jar or box.  Delicious but time consuming.

2010: Awesome fun but crazy hard. Read above.  Cooked for 18.  18! With Colitis!  Ouch!

2011: We have decided to go for a more intimate Thanksgiving.  I have decided to include one of my favorite recipes before the dinner.  My friend and I have also decided to make it a more intimate Thanksgiving.  When living abroad, some of your friends transcend boundaries and become family, as my kanka (blood sister) has.  I am looking forward to this Thanksgiving, enjoy the prep, the cooking, the eating and the drinking.  There will be just six of us, so it should be relaxing.  As one of the guests of the 2010 Colitis debacle, my friend from upstairs said “ Tell me what to make…or I am not coming!” Yay!   Here is a list!  Let’s all have fun.

Seriously Gorgeous!

The weather is so beautiful that I had to take four walks yesterday. Today I will be walking to the market to buy sunscreen. I look a little bit like Rudolph the Reindeer without the antlers.

There are cherry and apple trees in bloom all over the place. The park is really lovely. There are also these cafes all over the place that overnight have expanded their outdoor seating areas by 10 times.

Military Send Off

There was a family dinner party the night before Bulent went off to Burdur to the military. When his family does food, they DO food. As shown below.

Celery Root shredded with garlic and yogurt
Rice (one of two)

Salad, red pepper preserves, baked beans

Kofte: meatballs with garlic and peppers


I have been fairly busy this week. I spent Tuesday driving to Burdur, about 5 hours from Ankara, and Wednesday driving back. By driving, I mean I was in the car. Bulent is now in the military, for three weeks. It is the mandatory Turkish conscription, all men have to serve their military duty before the age of 39. It can be anywhere between 3 weeks and 18 months. The created the three week stint for Turkish men who are living out of the country and have careers so they would not lose their job and could still complete their military duty. I spent the next couple of days with Bulent’s parents and am now back at the apartment. I miss my boy. And the dog does too. She won’t eat. I on the other hand just enjoyed some lovely leek borek.