Québec City and Le Carnaval

While I was home on semester break, my family and I decided to take a vacation together.  Last year we went on the memorial cruise, so this year we wanted to do something different, and closer to home.   We decided on Québec when we found out that their Winter Carnival or Le Carnaval de Québec coincided with my trip.  We knew it was going to be cold five hours farther north, but it is winter, so it was going to be cold at home too!  It is one of the oldest cities in North America, and the only fortified city as well.  We stayed just outside the walled city, and right off of Grande Allée, one of the cities oldest streets, filled with cafes, restaurants and bars.

In and around the walled city, the architecture takes on a distinctly European look.2014-01-31 14.55.29 

Between hearing the French on the streets and the architecture, if you ignored the people walking around posh areas in snow pants (with no ski slope in view) you would swear you were in some Francophone part of Europe. 

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I particularly loved where the old and new cities met.  On the right there is a historic building, in the background a modern high-rise and in between an urban ice skating rink. 

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After touring around the Old City, we headed about 10 kilometers out of town to check out the Ice Hotel, or Hôtel de Glace.  While I wouldn’t want to sleep there, it was amazing. It had almost everything a typical hotel would, including a bar with drinks sold in ice glasses.

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Some of the rooms were plain while others were intricately decorated with carved ice bed frames and snow murals on the walls. 

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Many of the hallways were artistically carved and lit as well. 

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There was a chapel, complete with an ice alter and pews, and apparently many weddings are held there.  It was very lovely, but it would take a special kind of wedding dress as the temperature was about 20°F. 

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The Winter Carnival was very entertaining.  It catered to families and adults.  Private outfits had set up booths to advertise their wares, like outdoor winter spas and heated hammocks.  There were food stalls selling everything from fried dough to poutine to grilled trout.  There was a bar that sold beer and wine as well as hot wine in ice glasses.  There were also many fun activities, like tubing, sledding, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing.  One night when it was snowing my brother and I participated in a game of human foosball.  We won. 

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There was even a stand that had set up an ice fishing area, with a heavy layer of ice laid over a reservoir stocked with trout.  When you exited there was a stand where you could buy a grilled trout or get the one you just caught roasted. 

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The ice luge

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There were also some amazing snow sculptures.  It was a competition, and the snow artist had a limited amount of time to complete their sculptures.  Many of them worked over the night, and we stopped by to watch for a while.  In the morning we went by again to see the finished products.  Some were based on fairly large concepts. 

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While other were abstract. 

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And some just right out there. 

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We had a great time in Québec, not just because of the city and the carnival, but because it is so nice to spend time together as a family.  Between getting the old house ready to sell, moving to the new house and getting Mom’s new place all settled in, there is usually always something to do at the house (or one of them.)  I don’t mind this, and am really glad I was there to help out during at least part of the transition.  However when there is always a project to work on, it is hard to get quality family time.  Going away to Québec for part of my trip was great. I was able to hang around the house, relax and help out on  few projects, but also have some really great time with my family while we did nothing but be a family.

Smells Like Home

Yesterday I went to the pazar.  When I first moved here I went to the pazar almost every week. It was fun and exciting.  It still is, but it is also a lot of work.  I have to come home and wash and process it all.   I also tend to buy more when I am at the pazar and it is hard to consume it all before it spoils.  I am very careful to try to avoid wasting food.  But yesterday I dragged myself out of the house and headed to the pazar.  I was pleasantly surprised.  It was pretty cold yesterday, and scattered throughout the pazar were bonfires.  Some in barrels, some not. 

In Ankara, in the winter the smell of black coal usually covers up all others. Coal is cheaper than gas, and is burned quite frequently in lower income areas.  It creates a distinct smell and a dark haze in the valleys.  Often times in the winter, when I go out I come back smelling like coal.  It is not particularly pleasant. 

But last night I went to the pazar, and besides the normal sensory experiences the pazar usually offers, there was a new scent.  Wood fires.  Being from New Hampshire, I am well used to the smell of wood fires.  Almost every family I knew, ours included, had a wood stove for winter hearing.  I find the smell of burning wood aromatic and homey.  The smell,  plus the ambient light, made the pazar WICKED FUN!  The pazar is definitely back on my list of fun excursions. 

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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!

Foça

Foça, sometimes called Eski Foça to differentiate it from Yeni Foça, was a beautiful place.  We stayed in an adorable pension named Iyon Pansiyon, about a block from the water. The rooms were clean and comfortable, opening on to a large stone courtyard filled with green plants and fruit trees.  At night it was beautiful to sit in the serene courtyard and read with the lights hanging from the trees P1016506

Foça is still an actual fishing village, so while you walked along the wharf with the tourist shops and restaurants, along the water side there were fishermen cleaning and selling their catch, fixing their nets and preparing to go out.

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I was lucky to run into a couple of pazars. One was the typical pazar, the exception being a difference in some local produce and the amount and varieties of olives available.  Foça is on the Aegean and the area is known for its olive production.

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The other was a local organic pazar that was part of the “Slow Food” network. The products were locally produced with a minimum of interference and without the use of forcing or overproduction via hothouse.

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Above from left to right: walnuts, olive oil soap,sundried tomatoes                Second row: garlic and almonds

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First row: lettuce, Black Sea cabbage (Laz lahanasi) eggplants                                Second row: Arugula, parsley, mint, beans

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Foça used to be a Greek town, and so there are many beautiful old Greek stone (Rum) houses.

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Honestly, it was quiet and charming. There were shops and restaurants enough to make it fun and interesting, but quiet enough that you did not feel bombarded by tourism.  We asked one of the locals about living there, were there any negative aspects to life in Foça?  She thought hard and then told us she would need more time to think about it.  A few hours later she said the she still couldn’t think of one…It is definitely on our short list of places to live if we every move from Ankara!

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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. 

Nana, A Centenarian

Born October 5, 1913, she immigrated to America on the SS Carpathia with her parents and three of her six siblings (the others were yet to be born).  They arrived on December 2th,1919 on the SS Carpathia.

Nana

She moved to England in her twenties and worked as a companion to an elderly woman.  She joined Women’s Royal Air Force just a week after Sarah Churchill, in 1941.  She met my grandfather and married him in 1942.   She had almost completed her first BA, but her college in London had been hit by the Blitz and all records were lost.  She was told if she could find three professors to vouch  for her, the school would transfer her credits.  Unable to do this, she began again when she relocated to the U.S.

After she moved back to the States, she had six children, two are still living.   Of those who have died one was a twin who was stillborn, two died in their twenties, and my father who died almost two years ago.

During this time she finished her second B.A. completed a M.A. a M.F.A. and a Ph.D.  She has written several books, contributed many articles to the MetroWest Daily News and painted many beautiful pieces of art. 

An amazing storyteller, for decades she has regaled us with tales of her life and our heritage.  Stories of her family, about putting out magnesium bombs in London during WWII, and of our ancestors in Roman times. 

NANA NORA

 

Happy Birthday to Nana, someone who enriches us with her presence, wisdom and we are lucky to have in our lives.  If you have met or know Nana, feel free to call or send a card.  I am sure she would love to hear from you.  If you need her number or address please contact me. 

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. 

 

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. 

 

Peppers

 

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. 

 

Pepperjam

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. 

Summer Migration

Since I have moved to Turkey, each year I have returned to the U.S. for the summer.  This year was no different, through it seemed to go by very quickly.  When I go home things are usually really busy.  I try to visit as many friends and family members as possible, as many times as possible.  This summer I was also able to attend two great friends’ wedding receptions.

This year was especially busy as we relocated.  I knew when my father died, it would make sense for my mother to downsize sooner rather than later.  The home I grew up in is amazingly beautiful, built in 1880, set deep in the country, with many acres of lawn and gardens and flower beds.   However, it is a large  property to maintain for a single woman.  

HOUSE

The new house she found is great.  Big enough for our family, but small enough for her needs.  There is space for Elliot  when he visits and  for me to maintain migration pattern from Turkey.  It also is 20 minutes closer to the city, and she is practically neighbors with several of her friends.  And wonders of wonders, she is now a FIVE minute drive to a town where there is a grocery store, liquor store and several small restaurants! 

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The new place, dubbed “The River House” , is adorable.  Lest you think we are leaving we are leaving the idyllic country for suburbia…there is enough country there to make the transition easy.  Behind the house there is a field of wildflowers and waterfront on a river.   It does not quite compare to the view off the porch of the big house…but little would.

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Considering that we moved from a five bedroom Victorian to a two bedroom house the move went surprisingly well.  Between maintaining the yard at the new house, sprucing up the yard at at the old house, the move, two wedding and many visits with family and friends, the summer went by very quickly! 

Last week I completed my migration cycle and returned to Turkey.  I flew in on a Wednesday and the very next day drove down to Marmaris with my father-in-law.  I have about a week left at the summer house, with very limited internet access.  I am using the time to rest and rejuvenate before the school year starts again.   I plan on resuming regular posting once I no longer need to use my cell phone as a portable hot spot.  

School is starting soon or has start already for many. As a teacher, for me the start of the new year is not January, but rather September.  New year, new students, and life goes on.   Enjoy what is left of summer!