A Tale of Two Swatches

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. 

My watch is the reason I am unhappy with the color of my hair.

You read that correctly. I have two Swatches and two hairdressers named Orhan, and my hair is just a big ol’ mess because of all four of those things/people.

In June, I went to Orhan #1 for a routine updo for a work-related event. I’ve known Orhan #1 longer than I’ve known my husband. In fact, I went to him the day I went on my first date with my husband. He’s seen me in some pretty desperate beauty situations, but he’s always managed to help me pull myself together. He’s always made me look good and no one, I mean no one in all of Turkey can do a blowout like he does (AND FOR ONLY 5 LIRA! That’s less than a cup of Starbucks coffee).

But, talented though he may be, he’s a shady character and I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him (which would actually be pretty far because he’s a tiny man and I am also pretty sure he stays so thin by using drugs, but that’s none of my business).

ANYWAY. On that fateful day, I came to the salon wearing my usual silver/white gold standard jewelry pieces. For the party, I was planning to wear gold, so when I got dressed (at the salon) after I was all dolled up, I removed Swatch #1 (my first Christmas present from Canim), because as you can see, it is silver.

Two or three days after the party, I realized my watch had gone missing. I searched every crevice of my apartment and Canim’s car, to no avail. I realized (with a twinge of horror) that I had left it at the salon. I wanted to believe that Orhan or his employees had found it and put it in a safe place, waiting for me to return. But when Canim called him (several times), he said he hadn’t seen any watches.

CUT TO: Late August, when I returned to Turkey from New York. My precious husband surprised me with a new, identical Swatch surrounded by roses. I mean really, I don’t know how I got so lucky!

A few days later, I received a message from Orhan #1. It was a picture of – you guessed it! – Swatch #1. He said someone found it while cleaning the salon. My first thought was, “You mean you haven’t cleaned the salon in two months??”

Canim said he probably had the watch the whole time, but held on to it in case I didn’t return to Turkey. When he saw that I had returned (we’re Facebook friends), he decided to let me know he had the watch so I would go back. I really don’t want to believe that theory, especially because O does not need to be sneaky to get me to go back. I like the way he does my hair! That’s enough for me!

So, as “revenge”, when I got married a few days later, I went to the salon and got my hair and makeup done. I lied about where I was going (“a friend’s wedding”), and left the salon in a hurry to go get hitched. Two days later, (thanks again to Facebook), Orhan saw his work of art all over my wedding announcement. I only paid 1/3 of the price for the bridal package. Well, to be fair, I didn’t have a real wedding and the price is completely bogus anyway.

I haven’t gone back to his salon since. It’s been 3 months, and hair can get really jacked up in 3 months without proper care.

Since August, I’ve bounced back and forth between some salons in my town, but they suck. Plain and simple. And they charge more. I decided to be brave and let Orhan #2 (who may in fact be a Neanderthal) dye my hair. I figured dark brown is the EASIEST thing to do, aside from black. I brought pictures AND my live-in translator to explain it to them.

Tell me why I ended up with that horrendous BLEACHY CHLORINE GREEN color?!!? So after a very calm, firm, “Bu renk istemiyorum. Kahverengi istiyorum. Sari, yesil istemiyorum. Bu renk cok buyuk bir problem,” and a call to my husband, they managed to get it right. Mind you, Orhan #2 was blowing my green hair out like it was nothing, chomping is gum like a cow, and when I called him out on it, he laughed and said,”This is a problem?”
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That was two weeks ago, and my old blonde (but not green) color is already creeping back in and I made the mistake of wrapping my hair in a white towel after washing it. Let’s just say I found out where the reddish-brown dye has gone.

My second wedding is in less than 50 days. I need to get this color right once and for all. So what do I do? Swallow my pride, even though I was wronged first, and go back to Orhan #1? Do I try to find a third party to do it?

I don’t know what to do. 😦

Work Friendships: Not the Perfect Blendship

Well, I’ve been back in Turkey for 5 days now. Being reunited with Canim has breathed some life back into me. It’s fantastic and we have some SUPER exciting things coming up in the next week (a post about that will follow). 

I have been back at work for 3 days. It’s a little surreal and it’s definitely taking some time to get myself back into full Workey (work in Turkey) mode. I have been “promoted” to team leader for my department. Awesome right? 

No. Not awesome. I mean, I’m thrilled that my boss believes in me enough to have given me the position, and it will be a great learning experience and of course it will look great on my resume. That said, I am also now managing people who: 

1. Are older than me by at least 10 years (some 20).
2. Have been in this line of work longer than I have been. 
3. Have been working with this specific company longer than I have been. 

I think I was a bit of a dark horse during the application process in June (for reasons listed above). Last year was my first year with the company, but it was my second year in Turkey (Workey). I arrived later than the other foreigners because of work visa drama, but I hit the ground running and held my own for the entire year. I didn’t go through the typical culture shock that was expected of many first-year employees because I had already done that in a far less nurturing environment the year before. 

To make it worse, some colleagues had suggested that we have a department vote to choose the new team leader. I pride myself on being a practical person, and I figure out the way things work rather quickly. My boss is a powerful, driven woman. She has clear vision for our company, and if you are not with her, you’re gonna get left in the dust. If you aren’t picking up what she’s putting down, then it’s best to relocate. Basically: if you can’t work with her, move on, because you aren’t gonna change her or the system. That said, I KNEW that a vote would be a complete waste of time, energy, and petty drama because in the end, Boss would pick whoever she wanted anyway. So why bother? 

Well, they had the vote when I was already back in NY. I didn’t even bother to vote. Somehow, I won. 

Two months later, I’m trying to manage people who bring “resistant” to a new level. In Workey, meetings are abundant. That’s just the way it is. So, we have had two team meetings in the last two days. Each time I communicated exactly what Boss said she wants, I was met with resistance, objections, and a 50-year-old woman who was acting more like a 12-year-old girl whose mom bought her a black iPhone instead of a white one and she hated her for it. 

Twice today I overheard colleagues snickering about work they had submitted to me and whether or not I would deign to approve it (but is it my fault if people don’t proofread and catch their mistakes?). Then, in a weekly wrap-up email I had reminded colleagues that we will be doing something that is as natural and obvious as a teacher giving homework, and behind a closed door, after hearing the email receipt chime, I heard,”OMG look at the list of what she expects! Who does she think she is? Who makes these decisions? She didn’t mention this in the meeting – she has to ask us before she makes these choices.” 

 It’s no coincidence that the most resistant person is one who applied for the position, interrupted my interview for the position, and when I was announced as the new leader, sent me a message that said:

“Congratulations 🙂 I wish you well with your new responsibilities. It’s going to be a lot and you will have a very full, if not overloaded, plate. Congrats again!” 

I cannot quit this position, nor do I plan to or think I should, because I am willing to prove myself and I truly do care about the company and I want to do everything in my power to help it thrive. I believe my boss chose me for many reasons, and one of them is definitely my relationship with colleagues. I have a good rapport with them without actually being their friends. It’s hard in Workey because when you meet other foreigners, you may feel temptation/pressure to become “fast friends” with them simply because you have a language or culture or foreignness in common. But that’s not always the best idea, especially when that person is your co-worker. My philosophy is that it’s best to treat my Workey co-workers as I would my co-workers in America. Be kind, friendly, thoughtful, respectful, socialize/fraternize from time to time, but keep the professional boundaries clearly marked. The distance I maintained last year will help me this year, because it is already clear that I am friendly but I am not their homegirl and I can’t be pushed/pressured/bribed into helping people get away with slacking and lacking. 

Still, it is only day 3 and I’m wiped. I’ve got a long year ahead of me! 

“Let Us Love – Let Us Be Loved”

Today is an important day in Turkey and in the Muslim community in general. It is Ramazan Bayramı, or Şeker Bayramı, or Eid al-Fitr (I can only pronounce 2 out of the 3). Today marks the end of Ramazan (Ramadan), or the Islamic holy month of fasting. I have yet to be in Turkey during Ramazan, and I honestly can’t describe what today’s celebrations must have looked, sounded, tasted or smelled like. Maybe next year. 

Sultanahmet Mosque in Istanbul. The banner says,"Let Us Love" and "Let Us Be Loved".

Sultanahmet Mosque in Istanbul. The banner says,”Let Us Love” and “Let Us Be Loved”.

Over the last few days, I’ve had a heavy heart because of how much misery and conflict is surrounding my loved ones in that part of the world. Turkey has had a whole lot to say (and excuse me, but a lot of what I’ve read is shameful, embarrassing, and not even factual. Come on guys) about the newest chapter of the Israel-Palestine conflict. I am slightly concerned about what will happen to me personally upon my return, because I know that in addition to rising anti-Semitism, people have taken to lashing out on places like the American consulate near my home. It feels like the news gets more and more grim with each passing day, with no hope for peace or a resolution of any kind. 

I know my opinions and my experiences are as significant as a speck of dust when compared to people who are *actually* struggling over there, but I can’t help feeling frustrated and confused by the hatred that seems to be spewing like an oil spill. 

I’m from New York, which I really do consider to be the capital of the world (sorry, Istanbul). I have friends of pretty much every shape, size, color and creed. If you looked at my Facebook news feed and saw only what my friends share and not what I share, you would have no idea where I stood politically, socially, economically, whatever. I have friends who are very conservative and share Glenn Beck articles — unironically. I have friends who are super duper liberal and probably think I’m backwards and out of touch for believing in Jesus and choosing to change my last name to my fiance’s. I have friends who have shared countless pro-Israel things, and I have friends who have shared heartbreaking news from Palestine. We disagree, sometimes on a lot of things. But we always agree to show each other love and respect. No matter what. Period. 

At the risk of sounding naive and self-involved, why the heck can’t the rest of the world do this too? 

Fear and ignorance have far too much control over us. I took my niece to get her hair blown out the other day (she’s only 3 but I feel it is my duty to spoil and pamper her, however unnecessary the activity may be). Three women at the salon managed to offend me. One woman was raised by an Egyptian woman and a Lebanese man. Her fiance served 8 years in Iraq as a soldier. Naturally, that makes her an expert on Middle Eastern politics, with an emphasis on whatever the heck is going on in Turkey. When it was already too late for me to run out of the salon, she cornered me to lecture me on how Egypt, Iraq and Turkey are pretty much the same and I actually *should* be covering my head with a scarf out of “respect” for the culture.

The woman who washed my hair was of Egyptian descent, and upon seeing my engagement ring said,”Yeah, Turkish men LOVE to marry women who don’t know anything about Turkish culture. They can take advantage. Is your fiance a MUSLIM?!” So I said,”Well, I’ve lived there for two years and my Turkish is at a conversational level. I held my own for a year without his help, despite a helluva lot of adversity. I think I know a bit about the culture.” (I didn’t answer the religion question because my fiance’s faith is between him and God.)

The other idiot told me I had green hair. Do you have a clear idea of the caliber of individuals I was dealing with? 

This is why people need to travel. I know it isn’t always possible, but I believe it is critical to understanding what is happening in the world around us. Before I moved to Turkey, I honestly thought I’d get death threats or something for not being Muslim. I was concerned about having to cover my head. I look back on that and roll my eyes, because I know how silly it is now. If I hadn’t taken the chance and actually EXPERIENCED a different culture and lifestyle, I would probably still be as ignorant as the broad who said my hair was green (just kidding. I couldn’t be that dumb).
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If we don’t take the time to experience that which frightens us, we are destined to always fear and hate the “other” at their expense and our own. I wear a crescent and a star pendant around my neck because Turkey is literally and figuratively close to my heart. I will defend Muslims when I hear people making ignorant, hateful generalizations about them. I will defend Jews when I hear people making ignorant, hateful generalizations about them. I have had people question my faith because I show too much “sympathy” towards Muslims. Frankly, that pisses me off. 

If people could stop being so ignorant and fearful, they would see that our similarities greatly outnumber our differences. How about joining forces to create positive change, for once? 

Let us love. Let us be loved. 

#EndRant

A Tale of Two Cities: Turkey and the Big Apple

The last time I tried to respond to a daily prompt, it went awry and I have been too bitter to attempt it again. However, today’s daily prompt is tempting bait, and I’m biting. 

Prompt: If you could split your time evenly between two places, and two places only, which would these be?

Answer: I would split my time evenly between New York and Turkey. I already do split my time between the two places, but I’d like to split it evenly. And, if I can add a demand to this wish, I would need to bring my fiance along with me every time. In a perfect world, Istanbul’s land bridge wouldn’t connect Asia and Europe, but Asia and America. I only choose the Asian part because that’s where I live and I’m quite happy here. It would be a dream to be able to go back and forth between both places without having to endure 18+ hours of travel, sweat, close quarters, and all of the other factors that turn me into quite the misanthropist whenever I have to go back to either country. 

So, I guess what I’m saying is I would split my time evenly between New York and Turkey, with my fiance at all times, and in some sort of machine that can travel at least 10 times faster than an airplane. Preferably with better bathrooms, too. 

I expect many yabanci brides to respond to this daily prompt, at least internally. 🙂 

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May God Protect You From the Evil Eye

It’s Sunday evening and I feel a case of the Mondays creeping up on me. I haven’t had a full week of work in over two weeks. I’ve grown accustomed to spending my abundant holidays with Canim, relaxing in the sun, reading, eating delicious food, and enjoying a whole lot of nothing. I had planned to blog about my fantastic weekend (which included a delicious dinner that brought an end to our diet, a lovely trip to the zoo, a triumphant trip to the bookstore, a village breakfast and a quaint afternoon spent on our friends’ farm), but then something happened to make me put all of my focus on Canim. He began the day feeling a little funny, and by the early evening, he was barely able to walk because he was experiencing severe pains.

Aside from being concerned about his welfare, and aside from coming up with every possible idea to make him more comfortable (I nearly broke my face after slipping on a rug while running to him with a steaming hot towel in my hands), a thought that had been floating around in the back of my mind managed to inch its way up to the front of my mind: I brag about my fiance too much. It’s not like I can really help it. He is absolutely worth bragging about. He is handsome, clever, hard-working, creative, charming, sweet, thoughtful, funny, effortlessly adorable, and he seems to draw energy from doting on me and showering me with love and affection. I sing his praises without even realizing it. I know I look like a teenager in puppy love whenever I hear his name, or see his picture, or get a message from him on my phone. I can’t control it and I don’t really try to, because dangit, I am in love with that man and I’ve waited my whole life to find him.

I think I’ve been in Turkey too long, because I find myself  thinking, albeit very briefly, about the “nazar” whenever something both unexpected and unfortunate happens. I am not a superstitious person, but I am a spiritual person and I do believe in the supernatural, to a point. I believe in God and all of His goodness, which would not be so evident if it were not for the abundant evil in the world. He (God still) is the light in the darkness. So, I do believe that evil thoughts can bring about evil things. The entire country seems to believe the same thing, as the blue boncuk eyes are EVERYWHERE you turn in Turkey. The boncuk is supposed to ward off the nazar, or the evil eye, which can be cast at unsuspecting people in many ways and for many reasons.
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Your child is really cute? WATCH OUT. If too many people compliment the child, the evil eye may be lurking.
New car? Surely someone out there will feel a pang of envy and may unintentionally (or totally intentionally) send an evil eye your way.
Flattering new haircut? New shoes? Nice manicure? Beware, beware, beware!
Do you have an extraordinary fiance who you still can’t believe is real? You’d better tie a big blue bead around his neck and say “Masha’Allah” every chance you get. And be careful about sharing too many pictures on Facebook and Instagram of the two of you frolicking merrily through a field of daisies — that’ll conjure the evil eye as well.

As a result of the ever-present danger of the evil eye, the solution (it seems) is to attach the blue beads to all valued objects (or people). Fortunately, merchants have figured out a way to help people fight off the evil eye with countless blue-eyed products readily available wherever you go. Literally. They are everywhere.
ImageWhen I first came here, several foreigners I encountered adamantly opposed the blue beads. I understood why. My faith opposes using man-made objects to protect us from supernatural forces. Only our faith in God can do that. I think Muslims are supposed to follow a similar rule, but of course, it can be hard to distinguish religious practices from uniquely Turkish practices. The lines often blur. In my year and a half in Turkey, I have received about a dozen trinkets with the blue eye on it. I always felt strange accepting the gifts. Is it rude if I literally never use the gifts? Should I even accept them? Would I make God angry for accepting them? And besides, those blue earrings were really pretty.

Personally, I think it’s up to each person to decide. I don’t believe the blue eye has any power to protect me, just like I don’t believe a cross has any power to protect me, and I don’t believe a shamrock, horseshoe, or poor rabbit’s foot will bring me good luck. Those are all just trinkets and symbols, and symbols only have as much power as a person is willing to give them. Only my faith in God can protect me (and now us) from evil things. However, the boncuk gifts were given to me with love, from people whose friendship I cherish. Their intentions were good. So, I accept the gifts, and use them as a reminder to thank God for all of the blessings in my life, and to ask for Him to protect me and my loved ones from anything wishing us harm.

Allah sizi nazarlardan korusun. (May God protect you from the evil eye.)

– YB

 

So, You Think You Want to Live and Work in Turkey?

They say it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in a field. I have been a resident of Turkey for 14,400 hours, but I did spend roughly 120 days in the States during that time, so I am really closer to about 11,500 hours, give or take a few, and if you want to challenge me on that, congratulations. You’re a bigger nerd than I am.

Since I am an expert on what it means to live and work in Turkey as a foreigner (totally kidding), I figured I would compose a list of rules/things to consider BEFORE you take the leap of faith and move to Turkey. Disclaimer: This list applies to people who want to live AND work in Turkey. If you are here just to live but not work, you are so lucky and I’m really jealous, but you may find that some of these things do not apply to you. Second disclaimer: I already know I will probably contradict myself a few times here. If contradictions make you uncomfortable, do not move to Turkey. You will not be able to handle it.


So here, in no particular order other than what pops into my head first, I give you:

THE TOP 10 RULES/THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE LIVING AND WORKING IN TURKEY

  1. Learn the Turkish alphabet and at least SOME basic words and phrases. I came to Turkey knowing very little Turkish. I knew greetings, the names of some fruits and vegetables, and numbers under 100. Now, I speak much more but I know I still sound like Tarzan when I try to put sentences together (God bless my future in-laws for their patience while I try to speak). My point is, a little bit goes a long way here. People will be happy that you at least try to speak their language rather than expecting them to know English. However, undercover bilinguals are lurking everywhere, often eager for the chance to help you and show off what English they know. The Turkish alphabet, in my opinion, is one of the best alphabets in the world. It is everything the English alphabet ought to be. You can put any Turkish word in front of me, and I will know how to pronounce it, even if I have no idea what it means – unless it has a circumflex/”hat” on it, such as â, î, or û. I will never be able to pronounce those letters. Image
  2. Embrace and Respect Turkish Hospitality. If you’re considering moving to Turkey, you’ve done plenty of frantic Google searches and you’ve come across so many things explaining Turkish hospitality. They’re famous for it, and rightfully so. People are seldom in a rush here (unless they’re waiting behind you in line. Just kidding. I rarely see anyone “waiting in line”). There is always time for çay (tea) or coffee, and you should be willing to make time for that as well. Be prepared for the tulip-shaped glass your scalding hot drink will be served in. My advice is to hold it very gently from the rim, but you’ll learn what’s best for you.Image It is not uncommon for visitors to show up with little to no advance warning, but it seems hosts don’t feel irritated or inconvenienced by it like they might in the States. That could be because Turkish households are immaculately clean and there is always some food to offer guests. Accept what is offered to you, at least a little bit, and try not to leave your çay glass half-full. Now, if you are living and working in Turkey, after some time you won’t really be a visitor and it is possible to exhaust a Turkish host’s hospitality, even if they won’t admit it. Know when you’re wearing out your welcome and don’t expect people to serve you all the time. Sincerely offer to help. I can’t believe I even have to write that, but I’ve been amazed by the way some foreigners carry themselves when visiting. Do not be the entitled foreigner people worry you will be!
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  3. Tidy Up! Like I said, Turkish homes are immaculate. That’s another thing Turks may modestly deny, but trust me. It doesn’t matter how big or how small, Turkish homes are always clean and presentable to whoever may drop by. No one expects your home to be that way, and unless you are assisted by a Turk, your home will never be that way. Just accept that. However, it’s worth it to put a little more effort into housekeeping than you normally would. Tidiness also applies to your appearance and eating habits. I can’t tell anyone how to dress or eat, but as a foreigner, you will already be a bit of a spectacle, at least in the beginning. If you’re going to be watched/gawked at, don’t you want to at least look good? Americans tend to be a bit more relaxed when it comes to appearances. Going food shopping in pajamas with major bed head or wearing dirty sneakers with wrinkled jeans and a hole-y t-shirt is common in the States. Don’t do it here. Again, take some time and put a little extra effort in, because most of the people here, no matter how rich or how poor, strive to be tidy in appearance. I feel embarassed for other foreigners when they walk around in public looking like they just got out of bed. Just don’t do it. And as for eating habits: at my previous job, people stared at me when I used my left hand (I’m a lefty) to eat or drink. But as you already know, they were a little old-fashioned. I’ve since learned to eat with only right hand, but now it doesn’t really matter anymore. However, Turks are much more polite when it comes to the dinner table. *Contradiction alert*: Though “community plates” are common, especially for things like salad, and forks are often double-dipped, that does not mean their standards of table etiquette are lower. Chew with your mouth shut, finishing chewing before you speak, and cover your mouth if you’re going to use a toothpick at the table – AND FOR PETE’S SAKE, USE A TOOTHPICK, NOT YOUR FINGERS!
  4. Learn a Few Things About Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. I am not even going to tell you why he is so important, because really you must research him for yourself. However, I will tell you to be very careful about which Atatürk “facts” you insist are true. People’s feelings about him vary, but whatever the feeling, I can promise you it is likely very strong, and things can get super awkward if you say things about him without knowing how your audience feels about him first. Be sensitive. 
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  5. If You Don’t Know What to Do, Take a Hint from a Trusted Turkish Friend. Okay, *contradiction alert* this rule is valid but you should also know that as a foreigner, you can’t always get away with doing things the way a Turk would. For example, your colleagues may be able to come to a meeting a few minutes late, but DON’T YOU DARE DO IT. See item #8 to find out why I will slap you if I find out you’re slacking while on the job in Turkey. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing which exact things you can and can’t do. Eventually you will develop the instinct to know, but mostly you will just have to be embarrassed from time to time when you do something that you probably shouldn’t have done. Don’t know when to kiss cheeks, shake hands, or just smile politely? Look at your TTF for that. Depending on how religious/conservative a person is, he/she may not want to even shake hands with a person from the opposite sex. That one is hard to gauge, so pay attention to what you see others doing. If you make a mistake, it’s not a big deal, but it is awkward.
  6. Religion, Politics, and Football: The Trifecta of Sensitive Topics. In the States, pretty much every world religion is represented, and pretty much everyone feels free to practice their religion as they see fit. Do not — I REPEAT — do NOT come to Turkey assuming it is like other countries in this part of the world. If I were you, I’d hesitate before even calling Turkey “the Middle East” out loud. Yes, the population is mostly Muslim, but do not presume to know what that means. Do not assume that people know nothing about your religion or that they hate you because you pray to Jesus (if you do). For the most part, that will not be true. At the same time, don’t assume that they know “the truth” about your religion — gently and respectfully explain what you believe IF (and really, only if) someone asks. Learn a little bit about the headscarf and why it’s controversial these days. Also, be cautious when talking about it with other people here. Just because a woman is uncovered does not mean she is not in favor of the headscarf. For all you know, her mother and sisters cover and she considers herself to be religious, but she doesn’t want to cover her head for whatever reasons. Do not make an ass of yourself by assuming anything about people’s religious or political views here. Religion can be very political and politics (read: loyalty) can be kind of religious at times. Tread lightly. The call to prayer can be heard five times a day, every single day, without fail. It may be a little startling in the beginning, but you’ll get used to it. Certainly do not complain about it.
    ImageAlso, learn something about football so you can have something to talk about with new people. Be wise about which team colors you wear in certain places, and brace yourself for the emotional, heart-wrenching experience of watching your team lose miserably, although inşallah Galatasaray will have a better year next year. 😉
  7. Adjust Your Expectations. I was going to say “lower” your expectations, but that would imply disappointment or dissatisfaction. So, adjust them instead. Turkey is not a third-world country where people have never seen a television or heard of Michael Jackson. We have wifi, Starbucks, real Nike shoes, iPhones, and pretty much everything else you can find in the States with the exception of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Of course, not every city/village is exactly like that, but it’s very common and it is easy to live comfortably here. You won’t be living in a hut and drinking water from a well unless you really want to. At the same time, sometimes the power does go out unexpectedly and for a long time. Traffic rules may be a little lax, but I know of someone who get a 90 TL ticket for jaywalking last week, so stay alert!
  8. Understand How Hard Turks Work. Life is comfortable here, but work is hard. As a foreigner working here, you will most likely have some perks that your Turkish counterparts don’t. You will most likely be paid more money, because the company needed something to attract you to the job. You may even have your house and flight paid for. Your work hours will probably be a little less, but again, you may be paid at least twice as much. Be sensitive and be wise. Don’t brag about money or all your flashy purchases. What may be worse than bragging about money is complaining about money. Do not go on a two-week trip to Europe (where most Turks can’t travel because of bogus visa requirements) or some exotic island and then have the audacity to complain that you only have $1,000 left in your bank account. Also, do not go on holiday and come back later than planned, requiring a Turkish colleague (or any colleague, really) to cover for you. Like I said before, I will slap you hard, Ottoman style.
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  9. Lighten Up. In many ways, Turkish culture can be conservative. However, there are many ways in which it is not. If you’re going to live and work here, get comfortable with people being in your personal space. That means members of the same sex will show affection towards you in ways you may not expect (relax, it’s nothing creepy). People may get reeeeally close when they talk to you. As I mentioned in #3, community plates are normal and double-dipping is just a fact of life. I had a hard time with it at first, but now it’s normal to me. It will have to be normal for you too. If you’re going to live and work here, be prepared to dance. I’m talking to guys here, too. Men dance without shame here. Don’t worry, the dance moves are pretty simple and people often dance in groups. If you see a man reaching for a napkin as he heads to the dance floor, be advised that he is about to BREAK. IT. DOWN. And it will be awesome. 🙂
  10. Either Accept Things or Let Them Go. In previous posts, I’ve vented about how confusing/frustrating cultural differences can be here. I have to remind myself that just because something is different does not mean it is wrong. Turkish culture is awesome but it takes getting used to sometimes. Don’t try to change it or make it “better”- and certainly don’t come here with any ideologies that resemble “white man’s burden” because again: Ottoman slap. While the Turkish Republic is only 90 years old, Turkish culture goes waaaaaaaaaaaay back before anyone even knew America existed, and if you’re from an English-speaking country other than the US, it probably goes back before your culture as well. Sorry. Emperors, sultans, presidents and prime ministers have come and gone, different religions have dominated, but the culture hasn’t changed all that much, so do not think you will change it either. Do not think that it NEEDS to be changed. Embrace it for what it is, and celebrate it, because really, there are so many things to love about Turkey. Deep down, I think I secretly even love the frustrating things. Culture shock is real, it’s inevitable, it’s sometimes painful, and I don’t think it ever really stops (but it does work in cycles). Living in a new culture is an adventure. Adventure is hardship by choice. Be real about why you want to live and work here, and understand that living and working in a foreign country (specifically Turkey) is not just Eat, Pray, Love, but also Struggle, Adapt, Love. Even if you try it and find out it’s not for you, I don’t know anyone who has left Turkey without loving it just a teensy bit. I mean, I love Turkish culture so much, I’m choosing to marry into it!Best of luck! I hope this list helps.
    YB

    P.S. – If I’ve left anything out, please feel free to add other things to consider before relocating to Turkey! 🙂  

Meet the Parents

This post is loooooong overdue. 12 days ago, Canim and I returned from our week-long adventure in the States. We didn’t just visit the States. He met my whole family (give or take a dozen people). He didn’t just meet my whole family, but he met them just 4 hours after landing in the country. Two of those hours were spent waiting at passport control. 1.5 of those hours were spent driving home from the airport and frantically getting ready for our engagement party.

Yes, after 18 hours of travel (from my Turkish doorstep to my American one) and almost no sleep for over 24 hours (I slept a little on the plane, but he didn’t), my brave fiance met my immediate and extended family, as well as my closest friends (whose opinions are just as important as my family’s).

ImageI was nervous. I was jet-lagged. I was a little dizzy and sleep-deprived. He, though tired, WAS A ROCK STAR. He managed to be his usual handsome, charming, incredibly endearing self despite our long journey. He knew the pressure was on and that all eyes were on him, but he did not seem to be worried one bit. He impressed my grandmothers by kissing their hands when he greeted them. That’s not really done in the West, but for him, it was perfectly natural and sincere.

I confess that because I lack the bride gene and at times I even feel like the anti-bride, I had daydreams of eloping and just having a party a few months later. Of course, neither of our families would stand for that, but a girl can dream. However, after seeing everyone’s smiling faces as we entered the party, I realized I really do want a wedding, even if I still lack the enthusiasm for planning one (or in our case, two).

Our week was very exciting on some days, and incredibly boring on others. Boring in the sense that there wasn’t much action, but we still had fun because we were together. On Monday, he waited 6 hours for me while I attended a mandatory seminar at my university (I am still working on my MS). On Tuesday, we visited a dear friend who just had a baby. Then we visited a local brewery and had an impromptu dinner with another dear friend. On Wednesday, he finally got to see the touristic sites near my home. THAT was fun. I loved seeing the city through his eyes. I’m also happy that I’m marrying someone who values taking pictures, because I personally don’t. John Mayer has a song called “3×5” and it’s about how he’s thinking about taking less pictures and just enjoying his experiences for what they are. That’s my philosophy. I remember my experiences in my mind, and it’s good enough for me. But at the same time, I’ve never regretted taking a picture of something special.

On Thursday, we had our glorious engagement photoshoot in a famous park, which was shot by my best friend Liz (whose blog I’d like to somehow link to this post, if I knew how to use this website properly). My other best friend was there also helping to direct and assist me in preserving my sexy while at the same time not losing my neck. I mean really, what are friends for? We took a break from shooting so Canim could try some world-famous hot dogs (oh BABY were they good), and on our way back to the park, we stopped in a Turkish restaurant so 1) we could take more pictures, 2) Canim could give his brain a break and finally speak his native tongue normally and 3) so Canim could introduce everyone to Efes. It was great. 🙂

On Friday, Canim finally got to meet the other person who I love to love, spoil, and shower with affection: my niece (age 3). She recognized him right away, and instructed him to sit down so she could play with him. She also introduced him (by name, without my help) to the other adults in the room, to be sure everyone knew he was there. We bought her a dress from Koton (my favorite store in Turkey) that exactly matches my grown-up version of the same dress. She loved it, as well as the giant plastic lollipop filled with more lollipops, the hot pink purse and the magic wand we bought her. My niece and I are so connected, she was able to predict everything that we bought for her without even looking.

We read Once Upon a Potty to her, which is a classic my niece and I always enjoy reading together. It was Canim’s first time reading it, and when it gets to the part when Prudence “sat and sat and sat and sat…” Canim and I developed a cool rhythm to get through the page without missing a single “and sat”.

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After that, we cuddled up and watched Frozen, because like most American pre-schoolers, my niece is currently OBSESSED with the movie. Canim watched attentively and appreciated the music and the refreshing storyline (you know, the part about women being able to rescue each other and the risk one takes when agreeing to marry someone after only knowing him one day). My niece sang “Let it Go” so well, I cried (as I was filming it, because I may not like taking pictures but I do not hesitate to capture every precious moment with my niece).

On Saturday, we had to leave again. I’ll tell you, one week is not enough time. I’m happy everyone got to meet Canim and I believe everyone has a sense of peace about my choice to marry a foreign man from a mysterious land. They were able to see that he is a normal, sane human being with a heart of gold, a heart that seems to be (inexplicably) overflowing with love for me and now for my loved ones back home.

I cried as we drove back to the airport. I always feel emotional when I leave my family, but this time I cried more than before. I realized moving back to America wasn’t quite as unattractive as it had felt over the summer or even when I visited in January. The difference is that this time, I was with Canim, and I now understand that Turkey, America, any country or city is just geography. If I am with him, I can live anywhere and be okay.

-YB