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!

 

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.

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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?

Then Sings My Soul

Hattuşaş Valley

June went by in a blur of language studies, visitors, elections, field trips, apartment construction issues, and planning for a trip home. Be sure to check out the Hattuşaş slide show at the end of this post.

Orchard HouseJusto passed Temel level and moved on to Orta (middle) level at TÖMER. He hopes to finish it by Christmas break and then will have only one more level to go! I’m still in the middle of Temel level but am feeling good about my progress. A school field trip to the Orchard House and Ve­hbi Koç and Ankara Re­search Cen­ter was a highlight of my class.

 

 

Bird Watching at Hattuşaş

At the beginning of June Homer and Barbara visited us for a long weekend. On Friday we had a lovely time visiting Hattuşaş and Yazılıkaya, which is about 2 1/2 hours away. Not only is it an impressive Hittite archaeological site, but it is also out in really beautiful countryside. I did not really realize how much I missed being out in nature until I was out in nature, and I could hardly stop gushing over the magnificent views and wildlife. I cannot put into words how much this trip meant to me. From now on we are hoping to make one trip a month outside the city, to refresh the soul!

AnıtkabirLast weekend, Alex, Ammy, and their boys visited from Beirut. We went to Anıtkabir, the mausoleum to Atatürk, and it will definitely be on our list of places to take visitors. We also attempted a walk around lake Mogan but were completely rained out.

At home, apartment management replaced a couple water and drain pipes in our whole building, it was a major undertaking and we were without water for a day and a half. Since then we have had a plumber here four times trying to fix a problem that we are sure was caused by the repairs. Lets just say that if we can flush TP soon and our bathroom stops flooding we will be happy. Oh the joys of living in an old apartment building!

In a few hours I leave for the GC, followed by a week with my family in Oregon. I’m looking forward to conversations in English and enjoying foods I can’t get here: sweet potatoes, blueberries and cheddar cheese, just to name a few :)

Photos of Hattuşaş