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!

Today is November 10

Ataturk: Today at 9:05am city sirens blared, people got out of their cars, and everyone stood still in silence, marking the 77th anniversary of the death of Ataturk. Children at the school around the corner could then be heard singing what we assume to be a children’s song about Turkey and Ataturk that included a loud spoken “AT-A-TURK”.

IMG_2653Summer: It’s been over four months since my last post and it’s about time I caught you up on our summer. In July I traveled to the US for two weeks to attend meetings in San Antonio and visit family in Oregon. It was a huge blessing to see so many friends and spend time outside in God’s beautiful forests. Sharing my room at the GC with Justo’s parents, completing a 5K, a trip up the Gorge with my parents, down to Salem to see family, and some shopping at Bob’s Red Mill were highlights of the trip. I stocked up on quinoa, amaranth, chia seeds, Brazil nuts, and a few other things I can’t get or are very expensive here.

DCIM100GOPROG0032648.

My Cool Grandma: My trip home also provided an opportunity for my grandma Betty to celebrate her 90th birthday by flying back to Ankara with me. With my language school on summer break, my grandma and I spent time creating memories. She amazed everyone with her youthfulness and spirit of adventure. She was up for a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia, paragliding over lake Annecy when we visited my brother in Geneva, and a church field trip to Hattuşaş. She also climbed four flights up and down our apartment steps several times a day, was an active participant in our small church group programs, and enjoyed every minute of exploring Ankara.

Language: My language classes started back up in September and although my vocabulary is growing, I’m still struggling to keep up in class. A couple weeks ago we had some plumbing work going on in our building and did not have water on our floor. A humorous visit to the neighbor lady ensued, where I tried to explain that I really needed to use her bathroom and she meanwhile invited me in for tea, food, and a trip down memory lane in her photo albums. She is so kind and does not mind that we really can’t understand each other. I practiced my Turkish with mixed success. One day at a time! There was also a somewhat unfortunate haircut that was lost in translation. . .

Safety: The last several months we have also learned more about national and religious holidays in Turkey, and experienced a major election/re-election. I heard from a lot of you after the bombing in Ankara. Thank you for connecting! We have experienced some small protests in the part of town that we live in but we are safe here. Foreigners are not being targeted in Ankara and as long as we don’t attend any major public rallies, we are not in any danger. The other night we were walking home and realized that we are blessed to live in a safe place, where we can walk home late at night, something that we could not do in many US cities. As a woman I can travel around the city freely, although if I’m going somewhere I’ve never been I prefer to have Justo with me. But part of that is to have his help speaking/reading Turkish.

Church Field Trip

Church Field Trip

Fall: In October we took a short trip in Bodrum for some meetings and I spent a few days visiting my cousin in Amsterdam. Since then we have had visitors almost every weekend. Friends from Beirut, Istanbul, Cyprus, and Egypt have filled our weekends. We continue to discover new parts of the city. This month we will have one free weekend and I’m hoping it can be a peaceful birthday celebration.

I was recently voted church treasurer (these things happen when you are out of town for the church business meeting!) and have accepted the call. It’s a good opportunity to stretch my Excel skills. I marvel at God’s sense of humor in giving me this task. Thank goodness He is by my side!

This week I had lunch with an expat from Canada that I met at the airport this summer. We spent several hours chatting and running errands together. Speaking with a native English speaker was really nice. I saw a lot of Christmas decorations for sale in the malls. They don’t celebrate Christmas here but they do have a celebration for the new year that includes a Christmas tree, gift giving, and all the types of decorations we would use at Christmas time. Tomorrow I’m bringing in the plants from the balcony, hoping that they will overwinter inside. We are finding winter squash, pomegranates, chard, apples, and citrus in season. Fall is finally here.

How was your summer and what are you up to this Fall?

Geçmiş Olsun (Get Well Soon)

Roses

After a month and a half of illness and two rounds of antibiotics, I’ve finally caught up on my to-do list. Spring has come and gone and my final language 1B test is next Tuesday. I start my third language class on Wednesday.

I’d like to think that I could have healed naturally without antibiotics, and I tried with EOs and tinctures, but it was a nasty bug! To repopulate my gut flora I’ve been taking a glass of kefir every morning. I started out drinking half kefir/half apricot juice but now I can drink kefir strait up.

IMG_2193I also noticed that my teeth came out of my illness rather sad. So I found a dentist that spoke English, had my teeth cleaned, and was relieved to find out I didn’t have any cavities. I also added a couple steps to my daily mouth care routine. I oil pull every morning for 15 minutes and am flossing twice a day (instead of whenever I though of it, which I’ll admit was not that often). My teeth are now happy. Since last fall I’ve been making my own tooth powder and really like it. I also use this natural lip gloss and love it.
GF Pancakes

In the kitchen we have started branching out as we find new shops and try new ingredients. You can’t find many canned beans, or much of anything canned here, and so Justo has been mastering cooking dried beans in the pressure cooker. I’ve also found some gluten free products. I read about two ingredient pancakes but ended up using this modified recipe since I had some GF flour on hand. They were delicious! We tried several different kinds of common Turkish rice but were happier when we found basmati, our favorite, at a shop down the street. We have also really been enjoying a small variety of eggplant, swiss chard, apricots, and cherries. I’m in love with the many varieties of yogurt here (and I don’t mean brands or flavors) and am planning to do a taste test comparison blog post sometime.

I’ve started putting plants out on the balcony, mainly herbs, and will take some pictures soon. Since I’ll be gone most of July we are holding off on a summer vegetable garden and are planning for a fall crop of greens.

Elections are coming up here in Turkey on June 7 and candidates are especially fond of having large buses drive around the city blaring campaign messages and loud music. I continue to watch the journalism news with interest. I recently downloaded the NPR One app. This story made me smile as I remembered playing in the woods during recess at my elementary school in Maryland.

Now that we are getting used to the day-to-day routine of living in the city we are hoping to explore Turkey more. Next week I’m going on a school field trip and we will be taking some friends on a day trip. More updates coming soon!

Musing from Ankara

Our resident permit applications were accepted and we should receive our cards in a couple weeks! We’ve sent up a prayer of thanksgiving, a sigh of relief, and then focused on studying for our final exam. On Friday we finished our first intensive Turkish language course. It has been a whirlwind of grammar and vocab, and I passed marginally, only after the teacher made Justo promise that he would help me study more. But I’m slowly learning and starting to recognize words on the street and simple questions. It’s a start that I can be proud of after only being here one month.

There has been a congeniality that comes from a group of people from different countries coming together to learn a language. In class we celebrate birthdays with cake, and last Tuesday Hoorah walked into class with a tray full of coffee from the cafeteria, celebrating the arrival of her resident permit card. She is a young student from Iran and is planning to study pharmacology in Turkey. Our teacher’s pleasant and helpful demeanor has added to an overall environment of acceptance and friendship that has made learning much more pleasant. We will miss her when we start classes again in April.

Culturally our senses are bombarded daily with new insights as we walk to school.

  • When passing someone on the sidewalk, you typically move to your left instead of your right, as my brain is automatically accustomed to doing. A small cultural faux pas that I’m trying daily not to commit.
  • In most restaurants all the employees are men. This makes sense in a Muslim culture. At grocery stores the main employees are also men, but the cashiers are mainly women.
  • Every week I am blessed to be witness to small acts of kindness along our route. An old man feeding a stray cat, a young business woman on her way to work handing a few coins to the resident gypsy beggars. Ankara has been a welcoming city and we hope to add our own stories to this overall sense of good will.
  • College students are passionate about their mostly peaceful protests. Most days we can hear a small group off in the distance, distracting us from our teacher’s instruction. Our realtor, a linguistic grad student, told us that recently the government cut down a swath of trees in order to build a new road. They completed the project rather secretly over a break when the university students were on holiday. This led to a protest for not being given the opportunity to protest. But these days most of the protests center around the major changes taking place in the elementary/high school system. The secular public school system is being replaced with a mandatory religious system, unless you can afford to send your kids to private school.
  • Calls to prayer. It reminds me of visiting my family in Amsterdam and hearing the church bells toll throughout the day and night. I read about a Christian man who used the calls to prayer as an opportunity to stop and pray throughout his day, something we could all use a reminder for.
  • We were walking down the street one Friday afternoon and came across a normally busy intersection in a small neighborhood. Friday is the Muslim holy day. The sidewalks were covered with men kneeling on scraps of cardboard, in the same direction, praying. If you can’t make it to a mosque or cami in time, you stop where you can. After a few minutes the men got up, folded up the cardboard that appeared to have come from nearby shops, and the busy street was once again on the move.

In March we will take a short break from our language learning, traveling to Lebanon to visit some friends there and attend a cross-cultural development seminar for two weeks at a university in Beirut.

I would love to have a whole post of nothing but photos, but until we have good internet it will have to wait :)

Farewell to Our Town

Chattanooga,_Tennessee_Skyline

 

When I left the fir trees and free spirits of the PNW and moved to the Bible Belt in 1999 I had no idea that Chattanooga/Collegedale/Ooltewah would become my town. And so when the opportunity to study in Turkey presented itself, and our house sold, and the car was all packed, it was a bitter-sweet departure. This is my farewell.

I first knew Collegedale as a university student. It was here that I was blessed to live with and love my grandparents. In those first summer days I succumbed to the sweltering humidity, thankful for the backyard pool and the sweet smell of Little Debbie’s in the air. I worked as an announcer at WSMC where I learned how to pronounce Ooltewah, Chickamauga, LaFayette. I switched my major from Occupational Therapy to Mass Communication with a minor in Near Eastern Archaeology. I met and fell in love with my first boyfriend and now husband of 8 years. I also fell for the natural beauty of the Tennessee hills, and the southern charm right out of Gone With the Wind. I learned that I loved boiled peanuts, okra, and sweet tea. And I even picked up a little southern drawl, y’all.

After graduation I spent a year in Ventura, CA studying Visual Journalism.  Yet not even a full 12 months later I was back in Collegedale working as a photographer for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. When we got married we moved to Michigan for a year while Justo finished his Masters in OT Archaeology. And then yet again we found ourselves back in Collegedale, this time for 7 years. We were definitely meant to be there!

It was during these years that I began to call Chattanooga my home (we even bought our first home!). My work as a photographer, librarian, archaeologist for three summers, and Communication Director gave me the opportunity to connect with my community on many different levels.  I did a lot of volunteer work, shopped every week at the Ooltewah Farmers Market, ate at Aji Peruvian Restaurant, and attended the Worlds Longest Yardsale with my cousin Laura. The Lord always brings people into our lives when we need them the most. For the last few years I have enjoyed attending two book clubs, and in 2014 I made a ladies bible study group my top priority. By the end of our time in Collegedale I had experienced so many of the things that make Chattanooga a great place to live.

To Monika, Evonne, Stephanie, Faith, Cheryl, Joanne, Paulette, Emily, Milli, Susan, Elaine, Debbie, Gretchen, Jim, Tony, Keila, David, Raquel, Pilar, Uncle Jim, Le, Frieda, Andrew, Shirley, Tony, Erin, Sharon, Sally, Debra, Keith, Linda, Joey, Gwen, Rebecca, Stephanie, Laurie, and Nikki – Thank you for being a part of my life in Collegedale. And, come and visit me in Turkey anytime!  I may be an Oregonian but I’m now also a Southern gal at heart.