A Memorable Anniversary


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 new 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!

One Year Anniversary!

Pergamon: past and present.

We recently celebrated one year in Turkey! And while we have learned a lot, there is still so much more to understand. This week I’m working on our US taxes (not entirely sure how it works from here) and have signed up to vote by absentee ballot in the upcoming US primary and general elections this year. In December my residence permit was approved for another year! The new online/mail process is so much easier than going in person and we are hoping for a similar good experience when Justo applies this month.

Justo’s parents visited us at Christmas time and we explored Istanbul, Bursa, and four of the Seven Churches. We also had Christmas Dinner at our house for the students from our church. We brought the picnic table inside to create enough seating for a formal sit-down dinner. It was a wonderful evening.

I continue to enjoy the snow here in Ankara, pomegranates in season and salep, a traditional Turkish hot creamy drink made from orchid root. This week I and some of my friends were invited into a strangers home. Two hours and many tea cups later we left as friends. We are hoping that through this relationship we will be able to enact change in their small shanty neighborhood. I was so involved in community service back home and it has been a blessing to start to see how I can be involved here as well.

Our second year here has started out full of meetings, reunions with friends from college, and meeting new kindred spirits. We will be back in language classes next month but continue to practice on a daily basis. At the same time, I’m working on a plan and budget for a business I’m hoping to open this year. With Justo starting his PhD next semester, the business will be a great way to get to know my community over the next few years while he is in school. And will hopefully be a good business decision too.

Ankara Refugee Ministry

ARC EntranceToday Justo, Harriet and I visited the Ankara Refugee Center that we just learned about last Sabbath. It was started four months ago by the church that we rent worship space from. They already have over 5000 refugees, mainly from Syria and Iraq, in their database of clients and have recently rented a large building to help meet more needs. I managed to take a few photos to share the experience with you.

Lining up

Several small churches from different denominations that exist in Ankara are combining resources to reach as many refugees as possible. Current services include food boxes, clothing, minor first aid, and a child care room open while parents receive assistance. They are starting free English language classes soon and also hope to eventually offer bible studies as well.

Child CareOur local Adventist group is currently participating by donating clothing and volunteers to help out on distribution days. We are looking forward to seeing how much we can be involved. It would be amazing if we could raise enough funds to sponsor a program or service each week!

They have set up a registration process with numbered ID cards to ensure that resources are well-managed and fairly divided. Every time they have enough funds to have a distribution day, they send out text messages equal to the number of food boxes they have available. They rotate through the list to ensure that each family has an opportunity to receive help, but they have yet to serve everyone on the list and refugees continue to sign up every week.

ARC7How can you get involved? You can donate money directly to the ministry on their website. For $10 you can provide one food box to a family. Each food box contains rice, lentils, pasta, oil, salt, tea, and sugar. They estimate that this box can feed a family of three for one week. Today they distributed 500 boxes! A recent $4000 donation from an expat in Turkey helped them accomplish this. Tomorrow another church will be running a food distribution with 100 boxes. Their top need right now, besides food, is winter clothing and blankets. As you can see in the pictures they have very little clothing to give out! Justo and I were wishing we had a mountain of donated clothing, like what TSC has :) If you would like to keep refugees warm this winter I can facilitate the purchase of clothing and blankets on your behalf. Just contact me.

Center DoorWe have been praying for a door to open, for a way to get involved with our local community. Going to school is great, but becoming a part of something bigger while we are here is even better!