We live is a nice sitesi/residence, with a few buildings, where for a reasonable monthly fee we get to enjoy different advantages of a residential compound, such as security, cleaning/maintance, a nice yard with a playground, and all possible shops and services located on the ground floors. Here, you can find hairdresser, laundry, dentist office, few grocery stores, some textile shops, a pastane with delicious cakes and çay/kahve… Well, you get the picture.
It is (
or it used to be) very quiet, except maybe for a few things – young ladies walking their barking dogs in the yard in the morning, teyzeler exchanging latest news across the corridors during, and an occasional child crying at night or riding his/her loud-ish bicycle early Sunday morning. I’d get annoyed with this children sometimes, especially if their parents drop them off their grandmother’s place, who happen to be my neighbour across the hall, and she would decide to punish her grandson by switching off WIFI at home and he would ring our door on the weekend to ask for a password :D Adorable, right? So, I’d get annoyed but it would quickly pass, and as long as I don’t live in a penthouse on a 25th floor somewhere, I can’t complain.
Until 1 month ago the horror began…
One full year spent in Turkey.
I go from being totally overwhelmed and excited to being completely antisocial and alienated. Last night having a conversation with a fellow expat in Bursa I got to thinking that not having any expectations is the best way to start building your experience in a new culture and new society.
Let’s think of it like building a house with little LEGO bricks. But let’s say that the box with the bricks does not indicate whether they are colourful or black, square or rectangular, moreover it doesn’t say how many pieces are inside, what age is appropriate for using it and it doesn’t give you even a little glimpse or idea of what you can build from it. Yes, you go online and you search for blogs with instructions, you read through thousands of DIYs, you register on websites that say “the easiest way to build stuff from LEGO bricks”.. but you still don’t know what can you build from it.
Some days I feel that I don’t belong here. And then I remind myself that I don’t belong anywhere anymore.
Funny thing about being an expat, running away from a well-ordered life at home to face new adventure, new cultures, new difficulties. For people like us there’s never enough of the world. Continue reading
I’ll start with a little expat-whining. Sometimes it is so damn hard to be a foreigner in your new ‘home’ country which is neither “home” nor truly “your”, if you know what I mean. Little things become difficult, especially when you don’t speak the language. For instance, going to the dentist becomes a whole tragedy (like it wasn’t hard enough before when you were simply frightened of pain). No, now you don’t fear pain anymore, because you’ve learnt how to say “I’m neurotic and I’m really scared and I need a double dose of whatever anesthesia shot that you have” in your new language but now you have to always bring a company for translation, because there are so many things you can not explain. You can not explain the degree of pain that you feel or your dental history, or your allergies, or anything important for that matter. This covers going to any other doctor. And when they prescribe you pills that you don’t know, you come home and search the ingredients and different brand names to find an english leaflet and make sure everything is in order. It is uncomfortable and time-consuming.
In Bursa, if you want some Asian-inspired stir fry chicken and rice, you’d better make it yourself. Just couple of days ago I was thinking.. when I moved to Turkey I thought how incredible that people here love their national food so much. And that it tastes equally good – either served in a little street cafe or in beautiful garden restaurant on a fancy plate. And I love it too now, I do! The köfte, pide, saç kavurma, 56739875 types of kebaps (just kidding, but there are really a lot of them), named after people or places, endless selection of helva, baklava, Turkish delight etc.
But like many other expats in their new country (I’m sure) some days
you get tired of pretending that you’re almost a local you just want something different. I want my dinner to TASTE different. I want flavors and colors that I can’t find here, even in one great restaurant in Bursa where we go for a to the best-steak-I’ve-ever-had (no kidding!) with a wide selection of local and world wines.
So for those days I have a great recipe – stir fry chicken with vegetables served with rice. This chicken is full of flavors and colors, and the combination of soy sauce and honey, infused with ginger and garlic does a good job of satisfying my craving.
It’s easy to make, goes well for a weeknight dinner for two and the recipe is adjusted to the simplest ingredients one can have (no garlic powder, no reduced-sodium chicken broth that is suggested is many recipes and is nowhere to be found in Turkey, no special sauces). It does take some time to prepare and you can’t get away with just one cutting board and a bowl, but I assure you it’s worth it!
While in Turkey one simply must take advantage of the street markets. In some cities they emerge in different areas on different days of the week and then there is pazar pazarı (Sunday market) and here, in Turkey, I made my habit to visit the market weekly and stock on fresh local fruits and veggies. To be honest, the market is literally 100 meters away from our home so it might have helped me with motivation :D
No matter how much I love Turkey, it is a fact that a lot of tourists get ripped off on various occasions and amounts can vary from 20$ to hundreds of dollars. Last week I had a chance to experience this myself and also to crash test my knowledge of Turkish language. And it was more or less successful :)
A friend of mine was visiting last week, so we spent a couple of days together in the touristic areas of Istanbul, where the most rip-offs usually happen (thought, probably leather and gold stores in Antalya area in summer can easily beat Istanbul in this “competition”). Beforehand I was prepped to remember the simplest rule – 20 TL (turkish lira) for a local is 20$ for a tourist. And I am sure that a nice transparent umbrella we bought on Istiklal caddesi, caught in an expected rainfall, for just 5 TL, would have a different price had I asked the man in English instead of Turkish.