In the News

The GOOD NEWS – as of last week we have internet at home! In 2012 fair use policies were put into place that limit upload/download quotas each month, so even though we technically have unlimited internet, when we reach our monthly limit our internet speed goes way down. Quite an adjustment from living in a Gig City.

There is no bad news :) We have started entertaining at home and have had a lovely time meeting other expats working here, and also inviting students from TÖMER over for lunch after class. Yesterday we had all the windows open and I’m hoping spring is really here. But last Sabbath we woke up to snow! I’m not going to put plants out on the patio yet.

The day after our internet was hooked up the power went out and did not come back on until late afternoon. We did not find out until later that most of the country was without power! In other news, Justo went to view something on YouTube last night and the website would not load. VPN to the rescue! Could Google be next? With my journalism background, it is really interesting to live in a place where free speech is not a given. And yet recently a different type of free speech was celebrated in a heartfelt ad in Istanbul. Take a look.

With internet at home I’ve been catching up on news stories. But somehow still just about missed Easter! Thanks to my friend Nikki and a humorous text conversation we had last Friday for reminding me it was Easter weekend. Living in a Muslim country, there was no sign of Easter anywhere. I wonder what else I’ll miss?

On a personal note, I was really irked by this NPR article yesterday. I’m not against the technology or the idea of improving a person’s ability to do everyday tasks. And what I would not give to have equally balanced muscles in my back and shoulders. I’d happily give up that pain! But the tone of the article seemed to go against the whole way I’ve lived my life. I too have moments of self consciousness, but never shame. I can’t relate. The article quotes a doctor saying “I can understand why … this young man would want to have two hands and look like everyone else and be whole,” There are times when I desire to look like everyone else but I take offense at being called un-whole. I don’t feel un-whole. The patient says “But I don’t think I would ever be as happy as I could be . . .” Again, I can’t relate to the point of view. This is not the case for me. While I believe that the sin of this world had a big part in forming my arm, I also live my life knowing that God’s will for my life is perfect and that the way I was born has positively shaped who I have become. It’s an interesting opportunity option for this young man but I would not want the surgery.

Last week there was a beggar in his 20s down on Esat street, just around the corner from our house, and his ploy was that he was missing his right arm below the elbow. And so he stood there with his right arm prominently on display, begging for money. Maybe no one ever told him he could do anything he put his mind too, or maybe he knows what his worth is but is shamelessly betting that passersby won’t see that worth. It’s all about perspective. There have been a lot of people in my life that have inaccurately measured my worth and my ability based on my arm. But my friends have always been people who I perceived as seeing me as whole and capable just the way I am. And that has meant the world to me.

From a Hill in Beirut


Two weeks in Lebanon was not enough time to see a beautiful country! We are already looking forward to going back to explore the countryside and many archaeological sites.

We stayed at MEU with our friends Boaz and LaRae and their two children. We enjoyed good conversation around the breakfast table every morning and reminiscing about college days. LaRae was so kind to cook gluten free meals and even sent me home with some Amaranth, which I have not found yet in Ankara. MEU is located at the top of a hill overlooking Beirut and the Mediterranean. The campus is peaceful and lovely.

One afternoon we hiked a hill with friends to see some ancient inscriptions that have been carved into the mountainside. On Sunday we spent the day exploring Beirut, walking the streets, visiting a church, mosque, street fair, and the Corniche. We enjoyed amazing fruit smoothies and fresh pressed juices at Honey Boo and falafel with the locals. I learned about a great local organization and plan to eat at their restaurant, Tawlet, next time we are in Beirut. I also heard good things about Hanna’s but they were closed the day we visited.

5 things that surprised us:

  • So many people could speak English, compared to what we experience in Ankara. But I’m so thankful I can at least read signs in Turkish. I can’t imagine trying to figure out Arabic!
  • We did not have to exchange any money, as they use US dollars and Lebanese pounds interchangeably. The exchange rate is currently about 1500 to 1. It reminded me of when I visited Greece in 2002 and would easily pay thousands of drachmas for a meal. In Beirut the fresh pressed pomegranate juice was 8000 pounds!
  • You definitely feel like you are in the Middle East. Turkey seems very European to me, but Beirut has the beautiful architecture, crazy traffic, and street markets typical of this part of the world.
  • During our second week we almost ran out of water at the apartment when the city turned off the pump that pipes water up the hill. Creative water conservation ensued! The water finally came back on the day we left.
  • It was 20 degrees warmer in Beirut. I’m really ready for spring!

Enjoy some pictures from our trip!

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 :)

Merhaba. Hello.


snow from apartment

As I write Justo and I are sitting down to a lunch of rice and yellow lentils, and cucumber red bell pepper salad with a yogurt dressing. It has been two and a half weeks since we arrived in Turkey and despite our busy schedule, we are settling down.

Our TÖMER language classes are five days a week from 9-1 in Kızılay, Çankaya, which is the downtown Center in Ankara. One week after arriving in Turkey we moved into an apartment on Kennedy Caddesi (street) in Barbaros, Çankaya, 1.3 miles from school. We are getting good exercise walking there and back each day. Additionally our apartment is on the 4th (top floor) of our building and there is no elevator :)

We have a great language teacher who is easy to understand. Of the 17 students in class there are many countries represented: France, Norway, Russia, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Palistine, Korea, Australia, and the US. Most of them are young college students. There are five of us who are a bit older and married, and also a 12 year old boy from Iraq. We are all becoming friends despite the language and cultural differences. Learning Turkish is another matter! While I’m starting to catch on to the grammar, keeping up with the vocab is really hard for me. The class is very fast pased and I’m so glad for Justo’s help. Prayers appreciated!

We envy those coming here to work at an embassy or for other work, who have help with the settling process. We have learned that we do indeed need to know some Turkish in order to get anything done! We found out that we cannot get internet until we get our residence permit. We are reduced to getting wifi while eating dinner at a restaurant, and then anytime we walk by the restaurant, loitering outside to check our email on our phone while the waiter glare at us. Hence the lack of communication. We are going through withdrawls and of course find it hard to get stuff done. Bus routes are online, and you have to make your residence appointment online, go figure! We had an appointment at the police station yesterday to start the resident process (which we are required to do within a month of being here) but they did not accept two of our perfectly good documents and so we are scrambling to find something they will accept. We have opened a bank account, no easy feat, and have figured out how to put money on our gas card so we have hot water at home. Grocery shopping is also coming easier as we learn more Turkish. I know how to avoid wheat (buğday) but have yet to find baking soda. We are taking things one day at a time. When we first got here and were starving, I decided to attempt bread, as I had heard that some people can eat gluten in Europe when they can’t in the US. This however did not prove true for me and I was sick for several days. To a gluten-free vegetarian’s delight, there are Kumpir restaurants that serve nothing but baked potatoes with all the toppings. For 10TL I can have a very filling meal.

Every afternoon after class we have had to travel to different parts of the city to get documents or talk to officials for one matter or another. It has not been condusive to studying or unpacking. I’ve still got one duffle bag to go.

What else can I share? They do not drink the water in the city and so everyone buys large 5 gallon bottles with attachable hand pumps. We are very happy that we brought a Berkey water filter with us and it is working really well. No need to haul water up the stairs every week!

We are getting used to doing laundry without a dryer but are looking forward to drying out on the balcony once the weather improves. We fell in love with our apartment for the large balcony that runs around three complete sides. It’s so nice to have somewhat private outdoor space in such a crowded city. We are looking forward to a balcony garden too.

It started snowing yesterday and this morning we walked to school with the snow coming down in giant flurries. It made for a slippery trip and I wished I had brought snow boots with me. The mountains we can see from our balcony are covered in snow.

I look forward to showing you more of our city life once we are residents and are allowed to sign up for internet (crazy, right!). Until then, I’d be happy for any news from home and will reply when I can.

Packing Up and Taking Off

IMG_1736For our first time moving overseas I think we did pretty good. Four duffle bags, three suitcases, two carry on suitcases, my camera backpack and Justo’s laptop bag. Of course there are things that we probably forgot or just don’t know yet that we need, and we will also be asking ourselves someday why we paid to bring all the things that we did. But after packing, and repacking, and changing from a shipping container to taking everything on the plane, I’m ready to settle down.

Our trip started off right with Turkish Delight, compliments of Turkish Airways. It was actually a lovely flight. We are staying with friends in Taksim, Istanbul for a couple days before heading to Ankara. Getting all our bags from here to there is still a bit of a mystery, but I’m sure it will all work out. In the meantime, I’m enjoying my first visit to Istanbul. Dinner on the walking street was fun. I had corn on the cob and fresh pressed pomegranate juice. Justo visited a shop he had been to before for a tavuk doner. We are attempting to stay up reasonably late, trying to beat jet lag.  But as I type my eye are heavy. After a good night’s sleep I’m sure I’ll be ready for the adventure to really begin!