The Holidays

The holidays went by with a flurry of activity and snow, and I’m just now realizing that I have not written a blog post to end 2016. I had hoped to have more good news about my business venture but things have been slow going and so for this post I’ll just stick to the more enjoyable holiday news and local happenings.

In November I spent a delightfully restful 37th (gasp!) birthday weekend with my friend Kate and her family. I enjoyed escaping Ankara for the clean and organized ways of Zurich, and for a little gluten free eating/shopping. But best of all was meeting Reese and reconnecting with a dear friend. Kate, thank you for a peaceful weekend filled with love!

 

 

 

At the end of November and into December I went with my friend Cozby to Sarajevo for a Women’s Prayer Training, of sorts. It was really spiritually uplifting and we learned a lot. It was interesting to see how so much in the city still spoke of the war 10-years past. Bullet holes still riddle most of the buildings and there are many memorials documenting different aspects of the war. I appreciated that they are choosing not to forget, perhaps as a way to never repeat the tragedy. If anyone has read a good book on the war I’d be interested in reading it, I was woefully unprepared for the history that Sarajevo contains. Some places you visit and then you feel like you can cross them off your list and never go back, but I would happily visit Bosnia again.

December was a busy time! I survived another residence permit renewal process and just last week my new permit arrived in the mail. We also moved into a new apartment. We loved our old place but for several reasons needed to move. Our new place has already proven to be a blessing in many ways, which will become evident as this post continues. A short timeline should suffice:

Our friend Sarah and half our Christmas guests.

December 22: Furniture for new apartment delivered. Hours of assembly ensued.

December 23: Officially transitioned to new apartment. Our first two guests (from Egypt and Mexico) arrive for the weekend.

December 24: Special Christmas program at church.

December 25: 36 friends (including a few random people we had never met) came over for a Christmas Dinner party. We were especially grateful for our Iranian friends who prepared the main course, significantly lightening our food preparation. It was a wonderful evening that could not have happened in our old smaller apartment!

But everything had been so crazy that after this point I had completely lost my voice and took a vacation day and a sick day. Of course due to all the company, I still have unpacking to finish!

December 30: Two good friends from Istanbul arrived (with their two friends from Canada/Armenia). An evening dinner and study with them and our Iranian friends, 12 total, was a fun way to start another busy weekend in our home.

December 31: Sabbath afternoon 26 friends came over to celebrate the New Year with dinner and games. I’m pretty sure that at this point my neighbors were wondering if there would ever be peace and quite in their building again!

Last weekend we had another house guest (from Guinea Bissau but studying in Ankara). And on Sunday evening my good friend Olga (Russian) and her husband (Turkish) came over for dinner and a movie. When we first moved to Turkey we never would have thought that our friends would be such an international group!

Although we only moved a block and a half down the street from our old apartment, the Lord has already richly blessed and changed our lives. I love how He provides just what we need in order to accomplish His will. This past year I started a bullet journal. I’ve always enjoyed intentionality and every year I also set goals and choose a new word that sums up what I want my new year to be. Last year my word was TIME and I focused on how I was spending my time. The year before that was REST which was just what I needed to do in many areas of my life in order to survive that year’s move to Turkey. This year I wasn’t going to pick a word, but a word has clearly chosen me and it’s so appropriate to the Middle Eastern culture that I’m slowly adopting. HOSPITALITY. In 2017 hospitality has already played an increased role in my everyday life. This is requiring new skills that I’m starting to learn. Last week one of my Iranian friends taught me how to make a traditional Iranian meal, and one of my Turkish friends showed me how a Turkish handicraft was made. She also represents the epitome of Turkish hospitality and I love learning from and spending time with her.

In 2017 I also plan to read more books (last year’s 33 fell short of my goal), dive back in to Turkish language learning, and Lord-willing will have my business open in a few months. I don’t know what else the new year will bring but I can’t wait to find out!

Bulgaria and Business

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As some of you know, I have been working on the groundwork for opening a business in Turkey. The complexity of being a foreign business owner has at times gotten me down, but I’m moving forward and learning a lot of patience in the process. Right now I’m looking for a good location for my cafe. Who knew that in Turkey you have to rent a storefront first and can then apply for a business license and work permit?  Seems a little backwards to me. In the meantime I’m also enjoying finalizing recipes, meeting with suppliers, and building out the website.

img_1232Because healthy lifestyle practices will play a big role in my business, I had the opportunity to travel to a lifestyle center in Bulgaria at the end of August. One of my friends here in Ankara wanted to make some major lifestyle habit changes and so we attended a 10-day session together. It was a wonderful opportunity to not only make a good business contact and learn delicious recipes for my shop, but to also enjoy massage and hydrotherapy treatments in a relaxing country setting.

img_1105Traveling through Bulgaria was a little like stepping back in time. The older trains and abandoned buildings in small towns were fascinating. I was extra thankful that my friend spoke Russian and could read the signs! On our last day there we visited Plovdiv. Veggic was an excellent vegan restaurant. For tea, this was a fun stop. As we were lugging our suitcases, our last stop before our late night bus ride back to Istanbul was a summer evening stroll through Tsar Simeon’s Garden to see the Singing Fountains. It was a lovely end to our trip. I hope to visit Bulgaria again to see not only more of Plovdiv but also Sofia, and to of course visit my new friends at the Lifestyle Center.

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A Memorable Anniversary

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Prayer times on display at the beautiful Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara.

On the eve of our 10th wedding anniversary there was an attempted coup in Turkey. We were staying in Adrasan, a peaceful village on the coast and did not have internet. We were blissfully unaware until early morning when we turned on our data and my brother had sent me 30 messages with news links and thoughts of concern. And then, once we had satiated ourselves with the news coverage, we spent a relaxing day at the beach, surrounded by Turkish families doing the same.

When all you have known is a peaceful stable democracy, the news stories can sound really scary. But what I find so interesting is that before I moved here I assumed that suicide bombs and coups, even failed ones, would completely disrupt daily life. Yes, for a few days road blocks and massive protests restricted movement around the city. But unless you were connected to the subsequent firing and jailing of government opposition, life continued as mostly normal. This summer families are still enjoying summer vacations, just as many people are out shopping, and thanks to a free public transportation initiative that has continued past the Bayram festivities, people are traveling around the city in mass.

One of my Turkish friends agreed with me but said that people are “keeping their heads down.” Now is not the time to stand out, she said. Another one of my friends who had a front-row window view of the bombs going off and aircraft fighting said that she no longer feels safe here. There has perhaps been a perceivable shift in attitude. There is a feeling of foreboding about how things are going to transpire during this three-month state of emergency. But the Turkish people love Turkey and they continue their normal way of life. And so I do the same, going about my daily tasks and praying for peace.

 

Ramazan Mübarek Olsun!

This was a full month! Justo is walking easier now, although with a limp and still only short distances (although an unexpectedly long two-mile hike while we were in Lebanon tested his limits). I tried to get a post out at the beginning of the month, but we lost internet for a week and then things got really busy. So much for timely posts!

June 4: So we have started participating in a new Vakıf (foundation), it’s call Adventist Vakıf. Today I was the main speaker at the meeting. It was a blessing. We are mainly a group of international students and we are hoping to do community service projects and meet together for encouragement.

June 5: Today is the 10th anniversary of the car accident. Each year it gets a little easier but there are still weekly painful reminders. I am grateful for how far I have come.

June 6: Today is the first day of the Islamic holy month of Ramazan, as it (Ramadan) is called in Turkey. Last year, during this time of fasting and prayer, there were several new things that we learned and I’m looking forward to observing more this year. For instance, just like our big holidays in the  US, the grocery stores stock foods that are traditionally eaten during the holiday – dates and other dried fruits, special flat breads, rose water. Restaurants have special Iftar menus, meals that break the fast at sunset, soup is popular. Later in the evenings the streets are more crowded than usual as more people are eating out late at night. Then around 3am every morning we hear a drummer walking the streets, reminding everyone that fasting will start at sunrise and that they might want to get up and have a pre-sunrise breakfast. In Ankara you will still see many people eating during the day but for the next month there will definitely be a big shift in lifestyle in the city.

June 17: I have been working all week to help some friends apply for visas to Bulgaria this summer, for a one month healthy lifestyle training. It has been a complicated process to get all the documentation that they required put together. Today we successfully submitted all but two of the applications. I can’t go for the whole trip, but since I don’t require a visa, I may decide to visit them the last week they are there. (Update: As of today, only 2 of the 6 visas have been granted. The others are still in process. Please pray that they are approved, and on time.)

June 19-22: I traveled to Izmir with some musician friends. When we arrived it was 106 degrees outside and much more humid than Ankara. We practiced in the shade along the waterfront and then for the next three days recorded 24 songs. It was a tight schedule but between the 45 minute walk twice each day between our hostel and the recording studio, and dinner out each evening, we were able to enjoy a little of the city.

June 23-26: Justo and I traveled to Lebanon for a retreat at the Monastery of St. Anthony, located in the Quadisha Valley. It was so peaceful to get outside the city where we could see the stars! We hiked with friends, picked cherries, and with no distractions I was able to do some planning for the business I hope to open. More on that soon :)

Today: I’m just getting over food poisoning (from Beirut airport I think) but yesterday I visited some Turkish friends and also met with a former language classmate from Russia. The month is almost over and with it the end of Ramazan and the beginning of feast days.

Springtime Growing

Tulips in Istanbul

Eating apricots always transports me back to summers in the PNW. Here in Ankara they have just arrived in the markets, and accompanied by warm weather, it seems like summertime in April. Yesterday while riding a crowded dolmuş into town I passed a farmer selling watermelon out of the back of his pickup truck. On the way home a flatbed truck filled with onions, potatoes, and an old fashioned scale was moving up the street. Farmers coming into the city on the weekend to sell their produce on busy neighborhood streets is one reason why Spring is my favorite season in Turkey. Meals this week will be filled with fresh spring peas and strawberries!

While Spring often signals all things fresh and new, for us it has been filled with more than enough new experiences to navigate. In February Justo broke his ankle while walking down some stairs in Istanbul, requiring two surgeries, and many more months of recovery to come. During this same time we discovered his residence permit had been canceled back in October! We had to pay a fine and leave the country before he could get a new permit. A weekend trip to my brother’s, followed by extensive trips around the city to government and translation offices, and I was able to get his permit approved. These and several other challenging experiences have taught us how to do new things in Turkey. While stressful, they are also good opportunities to improve my Turkish and also learn to rely more fully on God.

Aside from monthly updates on our lives here in Turkey, I’m going to start writing some short posts for other expats here in Ankara. There are so many things I wish I would have known!