I am waking up everyday so excited for our new adventure. It is getting more and more real! I packed up most of the shipment that will be staying in Turkey (at the summer house) as well as the stuff that will be shipped to the US. We are going to be staying with some friends in Dallas for a while which will give us time to get phones, buy a car, maybe even get Texas drivers licenses. I have to get fingerprinted for my new school as well. We will get all the bureaucratic things done in Dallas, and then we will go on vacation in Austin with our friends. They were the friends we toured Texas with in 2012, and they came to visit us in Turkey last year. I apparently have been very lax on the blogging as I did not blog about the epic international fun. Anyway, we are incredibly excited to be moving close to our friends, Shawn was Bulent’s landlord when he was a grad student in Texas in the early 2000s. Their bromance has lasted and deepened over the years. I met Shawn’s wife Larinda in 2012, two years after she made and sent (to Turkey) the most beautiful shadow box with our wedding invitation and wedding photo. I was so glad we hit it off, and so excited that we will be closer in distance! Whee! 27 days and counting to the move!
Oh my! We have been paring down our belongings. What we are going to ship is already packed! And minimal! We have sold many of the things we will not be taking with us, the rest we will give to friends and family, or donate. My balcony is looking bare, since the flowers have been sold or given away, but I did keep keep the mesclun and chard plants. While Incek is far out of town, it is beautiful in the spring. We have been taking walks and enjoying our bucolic life while it lasts.
We have bought our plane tickets, which was more complicated than it sounds, as we bought our tickets so we could be together, but I am going to be reimbursed by my work for my ticket. It included several trips to HR, many calls to the purchasing office, and formal written requests. We have also started training Butterfinger to not completely loathe the carry bag she will be squished into and then in which she will be shoved under a seat. Poor baby. We have already given her her summer haircut so that she can recover from the embarrassment before she is completely demoralized from the bag.
Our next step is to get ourselves ready for the trip. We are going to get complete health and dental check ups before we leave. We have really comprehensive health insurance here, and procedures are pretty inexpensive. Wheeeeeee! I am so excited!
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.
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.
Wait for us Austin! We’ll be there soon!
As you may have noticed, I have not been blogging as frequently. Or at all. Over the last year or so I had slowed down my pace. Partially because I was busy and partially because the main bulk of my blog was travel and exploration, and after living in Turkey for five years, the adventures had slowed down. I want to start writing again. I really appreciate being able to express myself and have a connection with my readers. I have been thinking about it for a while, and have put off writing until I think I could make a commitment again.
The herd of sheep that regularly pass in front of our building.
I can no longer walk to the grocery store, have easy access to the town center or have my community of friends. I do have a new community of friends, but many of the friends I used to visit with on a day to day basis are back in the old neighborhood. Day to day life has changed, basic things like cooking and errands are more difficult due to sharing a car, and not being able to walk to neighborhood shops and the pazar.
However, there are many benefits to living on the edge of town. The air was clean all winter, the smell of coal smoke does not infiltrate our hair and clothes and the accompanying smog did not disturb us. Our view is lovely, and faces south west, so we have had lovely sun all year, and the floor to ceiling windows have allowed enough light into our home to keep our plants alive inside since the frost hit. We have also hosted and been hosted at many more intimate gatherings with friends. Since the restaurants and shops are more distant, we meet at friends’ homes rather than restaurants to visit.
Things have happened, which I will tell about.
Places have been visited, which I will share.
And adventures may be coming…I will keep you posted!
This summer while I was home in the US, I was incredibly busy, scheduled to go here or there almost every day. One of the things I squeezed into my travels was a trip to Tennessee. I am very lucky to have two of my best college friends living in the same state.
I flew down on a Friday, and was supposed to arrive in Nashville at about 4:30 pm, when my friend would be getting off from work. After a hellish bout of “How long will that delay be?” with U.S. airways I arrived just at 8:30 (EST). My friend was very patient with the whole situation and entertained with the fun texts from me.
“We are boarding the plane.” “We are de-boarding the plane” “We boarded the plane!” “We are leaving!” “Just kidding, we are missing paperwork” “We landed!” “We have to wait for a gate” “We are going to get off….oh wait…still no gate.”
After all the delays and waiting on the plane for what seemed like forever (for a gate), we ended up just going down the stairs of the plane and walking across the tarmac to a lower level door to the airport. Which we could have done when we first landed. Mmmph.
Despite the inauspicious beginning, the trip was fantastic! My friend Kate lives in Nashville, the plan was to visit with her, then we would drive down to Memphis to visit our very pregnant friend Katie, or depending on the fates, Katie and her new baby.
After Kate picked me up from the airport, we stopped by her home to drop my things off before we went out for dinner. Waiting for us was a package from our other friend friend from college, Katie, who lives in Colorado. She had sent us a gift basket filled with treats for our visit! Can you feel the Wellesley love?
The next day we left for Memphis. Memphis is a three hour drive, so we were able to chat the whole way and had a great time. Katie politely stayed pregnant while we were in town, so that we could catch-up. I haven’t been able to see my Wellesley friends as often as I would like. We are scattered all over the US, and living in Turkey complicates visiting even more. However, when we do get together, it is as if no time has passed. I am hoping that soon they will plan a trip to visit me! In Memphis we relaxed, visited, played with Katie’s dogs and took turns feeling her belly when she was having contractions. Kate started to time them, but then Katie pulled out her phone to do it. Apparently there is an app for that! She didn’t have the baby for another week, but we didn’t let that keep us from getting some snuggle time with the baby. Katie and I were room mates, so she knows I am pretty hands on.
We drove back to Nashville and the next day we played tourists. Kate took me downtown to the Honky Tonk bars and the tourist areas. We wandered around for a while, listening to the country singers preforming on the street. We went to the Johnny Cash museum as well. Nashville is fun city, with beautiful green spaces, navigable, a vibrant downtown and nightlife and great food.
Now when in Tennessee, it is best to stick to local cuisine. BBQ. Kate knows I love barbeque and went out of her way to create a culinary experience. They have some of the best barbeque I have tasted, very different from other regions such as New England or Texas. Here, the pork is cooked slowly until it falls apart, and is served dry. You can then add BBQ sauce (here with a vinegar base) if you would like.
Pulled pork dinner from the iconic Loveless Café in Nashville, served with fried green tomatoes.
Pulled pork tacos with roasted corn from the Acme Feed & Seed in downtown Nashville.
OHHHHH. The best BBQ I have ever had is from B&C (full name: Bacon and Caviar).
It is not a fancy place, but you wouldn’t want it to be. They have several locations throughout Nashville. I loved it, the food was fresh and delicious and the people behind the counter friendly and personable. I am not that familiar with southern food, and they were very patient with all my food questions, some even unrelated to what they were serving. At B&C you choose your meat (pulled pork sandwich above) and then your sides. They had many sides, but I asked the girl behind the counter to serve me what she would have chosen herself. The sides are squash casserole, a sweet corn and summer squash bake topped with a little cheese, and the grits of the day. Yes, that is right, grits of the day! They have a different one each day of the week, in addition to the regular cheesy grits. These were buffalo chicken grits, slightly spicy, with vinegar and bits of chicken. DELICIOUS!
My trip to Tennessee was one of the highlights of my visit home. Not only did I get to see TWO of my dearest friends for the first time in years, but I also got to be a tourist in my own country and take in a bit of Southern culture. I would highly recommend visiting Nashville if you have a chance, even if you are just driving though.
Wellesley Mini-Reunion! Three 2006ers and a future 2032er!
I flew back to NH in the beginning of July. I was really looking forward to this summer, I had many visits with friends and family scheduled. Actually, I had only 4 days unscheduled for the whole five weeks I am here! So many fun things to do, so little time!
My mother has been getting really active and adventurous. Once I had made it from Turkey to Boston, then Boston to New Hampshire, she asked me if I wanted to do something fun that weekend. My brother was away on a cruise to Alaska with all of my cousins, so it would just be the two of us. I was game, so we went up to North Conway on an outdoorsy adventure.
Pumpkin, the family dog, came too. First we went mountain biking at the trails at Echo Lake Park. It was great, there were these narrow trails all through the woods. At the end, we went down to the beach to relax.
The next day we drove up to Jackson to visit my mom’s “God Parents”. They are always fun, and we love spending time with them. Freddy, the God Father, is this incredible diminutive man, who until he broke his hip last winter, could probably out-hike or out-ski you, even though he is in his early eighties. On the way to our visit we stopped at Black Cap Mountain, and did a quick hike.
For a short hike, Black Cap has some beautiful views.
After our visit, we went up to Cathedral ledge, a beautiful spot, and one very popular with rock climbers. There were men and women scattered all over the rock face that day.
The view of Echo Lake from Cathedral ledge.
After our visit, we stopped for the short hike to Diana’s Bath, a series of waterfalls and a popular swimming hole
The last day we went to the bike paths that run along the old rail tracks from Northern NH into Maine. We biked along the rails into Maine, and then came back and did a bit of shopping in North Conway.
Our visit to North Conway was very fun. I love Turkey but I do miss New England quite a bit, with the hiking,and biking and kayaking and skiing and snow-shoeing. I have been able to do everything but the winter sports since I have gotten here. There will be more belated posts coming on that soon! The summer has been beautiful here so far, and I am working on enjoying every minute I can until I leave.
Ramadan or Ramazan started today. It is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar where observant Muslims observe a month of fasting from sun up to sun set as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Not to say that all Muslims fast, it is the same as every religion, some people are more observant than others, just like during Lent. It is based on the lunar calendar and so it moves through out the year. This year it has fallen during summer, which makes it more difficult because it is hot and the days are longer. There are of course exceptions, if you are ill, traveling, pregnant, breastfeeding, diabetic or menstruating you are exempt. Those who are fasting refrain from eating, drinking liquids, smoking and sex during those hours.
During this time people get up before dawn and east their pre-fast meal called sahur, and at sunset people usually break their fast with a date, and then eat a large meal called Iftar.
How does this affect your vacation or non-fasting residents? It won’t. But…
For one I try to be more patient and less reactive with people. When people are fasting they have not eaten or drunk for hours, and may have given up smoking cold turkey (pun not intended). This would make anyone cranky. So if I run into people who are a little brusque, I just go with it. I also let my cleaning lady off early because she worked all day without drinking anything and has to get home and prepare dinner before she can break her fast.
My husband and I try to be discreet about food as well. We will still eat in restaurants, but we try not to sit in street view parts of the dining areas. We do not eat or drink on the street during this time either. I am also more discreet about alcohol as well. Alcohol consumption is forbidden in the Quran, and I know some Muslims give up alcohol for Ramazan, even if they do not fast.
In tourist areas with large amounts of foreigners, not too much changes. Restaurants are still crowded, alcohol sold, etc. They understand they you are not fasting, do not expect you to, and honestly tourism is their livelihood. They need you to buy food and alcohol. However it is polite to be sensitive and eat mostly in restaurants or defined eating areas, not in the street. You make want to make a reservation for dinner, as restaurants may be crowded during iftar. Also, do not be alarmed if you hear drumming at 2 or 3 in the morning. It is to wake up people for sahur.
So welcome to Turkey, enjoy your vacation. The people here are still incredibly hospitable and warm, just give your hosts a break if they are moving a little slow…they may not have eaten or drunk all day and are still trying to serve you yours with a smile.
*Idea from Adventures in Ankara hold off your grilling until after iftar, even though it is prime grilling season.
One of the benefits about working at my school is lojman or corporate housing. This concept is not uncommon in Turkey, actually we live pretty close to the Belediyesi or public works corporate housing. What I really love about living in the lojman is the company and community. Getting together with friends can be so difficult. Going out after work can be exhausting, you are tired and often times have to get up early the next day for work. If your friends have kids it can be complicated, they need a sitter, or plans change and their husband has to work late and can’t take them for the night, etc.
In the lojman it is easy to have an hour of two of company. My friend often watches her kids play at the apartment complex’s park. Getting together for a chat is as easy as peeking out the balcony to see if she is there, and then going downstairs. If you need help, a potato or a cup of sugar, there are at least 30 apartments in the building you could probably pop in to ask.
We all help each other out. When a co-worker had to go on bed rest during her pregnancy, we organized a schedule to drop off food. I have stayed at the complex’s park with toddlers while their mothers’ ran up to their house to use the bathroom. The other day I called in sick to work, and several co-workers called to see if I needed anything. In the past when Bülent was away and I was really ill, my co-worker sent her teenage son to walk my dog.
It is such a luxury to be able to pop upstairs for for a coffee for a hour and talk with a friend. We are able to get together so much more often because we do not need to arrange our schedule and a time and place to meet. Just send a text, are you there? It also works really well before formal events. I had a wedding last week and needed accessory advice. My friend popped down and consulted on belt, purse and jewelry. What was funny was after all that I forgot to put my second earring in, and rocked an asymmetrical look all night.
It is also great for people with children, there are always lots of kids playing in the apartment complex playground. The older boys organize football tournaments, and some neighbors live close enough to tuck their babies in, go to dinner at a friends and still be able to listen to their child via baby monitor.
Now that I have experienced the lojman -if I ever move out of it, or back to the US- I would search out an intentional community or a communal neighborhood. There are some amazing benefits to living in an area close to others and cooperating with them!
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.
We stopped by one of the Fırtına River bridges on the way.
Built in the Ottoman era during the 18th or 19th century by local stonemasons, they are still architecturally sound, and very charming.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
clove of garlic
Cilantro about 1/3 cup, half a bunch or so (parsley would work too)
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.
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.