Under the Portakal Trees

January 29, 2010

The streets in our neighborhood are lined with portakal (orange) trees, and this month they are heavy with ripe fruit.

You’re probably wondering like I was if people actually eat the fruit that grows so abundantly from the trees.  The answer is no.  First of all, a busy city sidewalk isn’t the most nutritious place to eat fruit from, no matter how beautiful they look.  Second, and I learned this just the other day, they’re not really orange trees at all.  I can’t remember the name, but they’re basically citrus trees, and the fruit is actually as sour as a lemon inside.  Apparently the seeds from the fruit can be taken and cultivated into lemon OR orange trees.  People do make marmalade out of the skins though.  For the most part, these fruits fall onto the street and are cleaned up by the city later.  At least they’re pretty to look at and they make the streets smell fresh!  On the outskirts of the city there are tons of orange farms so there are plenty of sweet, edible oranges to go around.  Yum.

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Beach Daydreams

January 22, 2010

Have I completely abandoned my Turkish blog?  Well…yes and no.  But as part of my New Year’s goal to write more often, let me start by dusting this thing off and giving you a little bit of what has been happening in my (Turkish) world.

Four months ago we took a little vacation to the coast.  The main reason for the trip was to take a ferry to Northern Cyprus which is part of Turkey but still technically its own country (while Southern Cyprus is part of Greece, and if you are Turkish or Greek you cannot go the opposing side of the island…Sad, really), so the idea was when I returned from Cyprus to Turkey I would get a new stamp on my passport, thereby extending my travel visa for another three months.  It was a great idea in theory, but actually it was a lot more hassle and money than we bargained (or budgeted) for, so the Cyprus part of the trip was really more of a disappointment.  Because of the ferry schedules and our lack of money we ended up staying there less than 24 hours.  Everything cost about twice as much as it does here, needless to say we didn’t really see much of anything.  There were a few things that we did like about it though!  The main thing was it was really diverse, and had a lot more foreigners running around.  The part of Turkey that we live in is NOT touristy at all, is very homogenized, and basically we just get stared at a lot.  The feeling of “fitting in,” even though it was for less than 24 hours was…nice.  I will say we’d both like to go back when we have more money and time.  Here are a few pictures I managed to snap while we were there.

Date Palm Tree

The REAL highlight of the trip was the two days we spent on the Turkish coast.  We stayed in and around the tiny town of Taşucu.  We went there at really good time, the weekend after the end of Ramadan.  At the end of Ramadan is a holiday to celebrate the end of fasting called Seker Bayrami which translates to “Sugar Holiday”.  Seker Bayrami is similar to Halloween in some ways because children go door to door (minus the costumes) give you blessings, and get candy in return.  Seker Bayrami is also when most people go on vacation, so if we had gone to the coast at that time (like we had originally planned) all of the hotels would have been crowded and expensive.  Since we went the following weekend, we had the town almost completely to ourselves.  Now that’s my idea of vacation!

My husband has fond memories of Taşucu from his childhood.  His grandfather loved the little village and took him there as often as he could.  It’s only a two hour drive from Adana.  We stayed at the same hotel that his grandfather always used and few people even recognized him!  Amazing since he hadn’t been there in over 20 years.  If you’re ever thinking about visiting Turkey, this should be your number one reason:  for $50 a night, THIS was the view from our hotel room-

Life does not get much sweeter than that.

Here are a few more pictures from Taşucu

I daydream each day about going back…

New Apartment and Pics From My Birthday

September 1, 2009

Sorry I haven’t updated this in a while!  But between working and moving there hasn’t been much “turkish” stuff to talk about.  We’ve been talking about taking a little weekend vacation to the beach soon, which I’m excited for.  I’ve only seen about 8 square blocks of Turkey so far, it’s time to see something besides downtown Adana!

Anyway, on to our apartment…it’s downtown like I said, which has it’s upsides and its downsides.  Upside is we don’t need a car, everything is pretty much within walking distance.  If it’s not within walking distance it’s only a 5 lira cab ride away.  Downside is it’s noisy as hell during the day.  Around 8 am the honking begins and continues until around midnight.  Seriously, I think honking is Turkey’s national pastime.  And Turkish is not the official language, it’s “beep! beep beep beep!”  To compound this issue we live right in front of a bus stop.  Buses honk like it’s part of their job…it probably is, for all I know.  Another downside, apartments here don’t come with appliances.  We had to buy a fridge, oven/stove, and an air conditioner.  Washing machine (they don’t have laundry mats here…or driers) and microwave were donated by his grandmother, I think in part to ensure we got out of her house faster.  We also bought furniture, drapes (most expensive thing surprisingly) and dishes and cookware.

Back to the upsides though!  It’s spacious, affordable, and in a great location.  It’s technically three bedrooms, but two of the bedrooms have already been joined into one huge room, and we only use half of that for our office.  The baby will probably sleep in our room for the first six months anyway.  It also technically has two bathrooms, but the second one has a turkish style toilet (which is a glorified porcelain hole in the ground) so we converted that one into our laundry room, and the washing machine conveniently covers the hole.  The other bathroom has the bathtub/shower and regular toilet.  The apartment did come an electric water heater, which is just a small box that heats the cold water as it runs through the shower piping.  It works well, but the downside is that the shower is the only thing it heats, no hot baths.  Boo.  But we can eventually buy a regular water heater.  Also saving up to buy a TV and satellite dish.  I never knew this about foreign satellite dishes, but you don’t pay for a service, you buy the dish and the receiver box, hook it up and voila!  4,000+ global channels for free!  US channels are encrypted though, but pretty much every American show is rebroadcast in other English speaking countries.  It almost makes me feel stupid for paying for cable all my life.

Now for a tour of our apartment:

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Couch, coffee table and those pricey drapes I was talking about.

Love seat, all of this was bought used, btw.  We got a really good deal.

Love seat, all of this was bought used, btw. We got a really good deal.

Chairs, and a peak into the dining room.

Chairs, and a peak into the dining room.

Dining room, I think the fourth chair was hanging out in the office that day.  Can you tell we have a color theme going?

Dining room, I think the fourth chair was hanging out in the office that day. Can you tell we have a color theme going?

Kitchen

Kitchen

Our first fridge!  I like how the sparkley silver plastic gives the illusion of "stainless steel"

Our first fridge! I like how the sparkly silver plastic gives the illusion of "stainless steel"

The stove...that I slave over.  *NOT

The stove...that I slave over. *NOT

Bathroom, note the "evil eye" shower curtain--to protect us from evil while showering, duh.

Bathroom, note the "evil eye" shower curtain--to protect us from evil while showering, duh.

The cleanest our bedroom has ever been.

The cleanest our bedroom has ever been.

No pictures of the office, I don’t have the energy to clean it enough to take pictures, so just use your imagination…it’s a big room, there are two desks and two chairs with lots of computers and cables.  It’s also where our AC unit lives so it feels like Siberia in there 24/7.  I wear a parka.

But I did take some pictures of the outside:

Looking down the boulevard.  We live on the 6th floor in case you've been wondering.

Looking down the boulevard. We live on the 6th floor in case you've been wondering.

Same street, other direction, and a few of those cursed buses.

Same street, other direction, and a few of those cursed buses.

Yes, that is a Billabong store.

Yes, that is a Billabong store.

So, my birthday actually happened about a week before we moved, but clearly the apartment is way more exciting to me than turning 25.  That was the day that we bought most of our appliances (best birthday present ever!) and that night we went had seafood by the lake with some new friends.

Feliz, Murat, Q and Me

Feliz, Murat, Q and Me

Health code?  Whatsthat?  The restaurant had cute animals wandering around the tables to entertain the guests.  A bunny and two puppies.

Here's me and the bunny.  I'm trying to feed it bread, but he wanted watermellon instead.

Here's me and the bunny. I'm trying to feed it bread, but he wanted watermelon instead.

And just for fun here’s some pictures of a really pretty mosque I manged to snap as our cab sped by it.  I think it’s called Merkez Camii, according to Google.  It’s the biggest one here.

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So pretty!

So pretty!

Graffiti is Cool

July 30, 2009

We walked through a tunnel and this is what we saw.  I numbered them in case you want to discuss.

1

1

2

2

3 and Jank, Q's cousin

3 and Jank, Q's cousin

4

4

5

5

6

6

7

7

8

8

9

9

10

10

Number 8 was our personal favorite, what’s yours?

Pictures of where we’re staying and other things…

July 19, 2009

Because people won’t stop asking, mom, I finally got around to taking pictures of our room and office:

Our room.  That christmasy-looking thing in the corner is our closet.

Our room. That christmasy-looking thing in the corner is our closet.

The view from our window, and the balcony we're not allowed to use :(

The view from our window

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Fresh sheets, and happiness.

Another view of our closet, and my feet.

Another view of our closet, and feets.

While I was chatting away on the phone later in the day, Q made some wall art, and I was really quite impressed with his draping skills!  He made them with tape (since the walls are concrete, the tacks we bought didn’t work) and silk head scarfs we bought a few weeks ago at the bazaar.   Here’s the result:

Wall Art 1

Wall Art 1

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It really brings some much needed color to the room.  We were both starting to feel a little institutionalized by the bare beige walls.

On to our office, just down the hall.  It’s very basic, but it’s got plenty of room.

We bought the computer desk and chair at the bazaar for a grand total of 100 TL (cheap!)

We bought the computer desk and chair at the bazaar for a grand total of 100 TL (cheap!)

My corner of the world

My corner of the world

I told you, lots and lots of cords.  Don't worry they're usually more spread out.

I told you, lots and lots of cords. Don't worry they're usually more spread out.

Most nights we eat in, but we do have our “spot” a few blocks from our house.  We always talk about trying other places, but we always end up eating here:

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Because you can get a spread like this:

Everything you see here, including tip, 20 TL (which is just about $13)

Everything you see here, including tip, 20 TL (which is just about $13)

Now I want to prove something to everyone that was afraid Turkey would be an ultra-conservative country, mom.  Tell me, would you see manikins like this in the windows of Macy’s in the US?

What's growing out of her face?

What's that growing out of her face?

The worst offender

The worst offender

This is not some sleazy shop, this is like the biggest, poshest department store in the neighborhood.  It’s called Ender Park, and it’s huge!  It even has penthouse apartments on top of it.  The manikins are boarder-line obscene though.

The living situation with his grandma is temporary.  She drives us crazy, we drive her crazy, so the feeling is mutual.  We want our own place!  Savin’ up our liras…

German Starbucks…Weird.

July 10, 2009

Our morning routine is the same over here:  wake up, go get latte.  Every morning we go down the street to a German coffee chain called Tchibo.  It’s good espresso, and cheap, but the most entertaining part of the cafe is the merchandise.  It’s like they’re trying to be a Starbucks and a Bed Bath and Beyond all in one tiny store.  Each day they add new random products to their shelves, and I’m endlessly entertained by the bizarreness of each one.  I took some pictures today.

SANY0287This is the “ladies” side with bras, panties, cooking gadgets and picnic supplies to name a few.  That bumpy red thing in the foreground is a sewing box.

SANY0279The “mens” side where you could buy an entire outfit including leather jacket, jeans, and shoes.  Down near the end they have a fake light house, scented candles, lamps and bedding.

SANY0280Shoes, socks, more scented candles, a pocket calculator, a necklace, wind chimes, lingerie, velour pants, a baby dress, a photo album, and some sandals.  I told you this place was random, and there’s more…

Another view of the women's side

Another view of the women's side

Apple and Banana box

Apple and Banana box

Talking bottle opener

Talking bottle opener, that thing to the left is an air purifier...for your fridge

Waffle cone maker.  Just say Nein to store-bought?

Waffle cone maker. Just say Nein to store-bought?

Creepy mp3 speaker.

Creepy mp3 speaker.

Perhaps the strangest part, is the fact that I actually see people come in and purchase these things.  It would just never occur to me to buy a tiny hibachi grill or covers for my outdoor patio set along with my morning coffee, but I guess other people do.

I know I was supposed to talk more about my adventures in food, but this is more of an adventure in beverage…and retail.  Oh well, next time.  Oh, and I’m finally getting around to uploading pictures onto facebook, so if you want to see more, check my page.

Goodbye Austin, Hello Adana

July 7, 2009

Leaving Austin was in some ways easier, and in other ways harder than I thought.  I miss my mom and dad the most, and also my cats.  But on the day I left there were no tears, only excitement to be with Q again.  On the day I left, June 29th, I talked to him once early in the morning and he was thinking they were not going to take him to the airport that day.  But then I didn’t hear from him the rest of the day, I knew that they probably took him, I was excited, nervous, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up.  When I landed in Chicago, it took some time to get to the gate.  I had to take a train to the international terminal, get a new boarding pass from the Turkish Airlines desk, and then wait to go through security again.  Security took about 30 minutes.  Then I was finally making my way to the gate when my cell phone rang…it was a San Antonio number.

“Hello?”

“Hey baby, where you at?”

“I’m in Chicago, where are you?”

“I’m at gate 16…waiting for you.”

“Holy shit, I’m almost there!”

The first hug in two months…it was ecstasy.

His air marshalls were nice, we were expecting them to be hard-nosed federal agents with no heart, but it just goes to show it’s not the job that makes the person.  They let us sit together.

I was able to fit everything we needed into two big suitcases and two carry-ons.  One big one held only clothes, with our Vonage modem and few spare cell phones shoved into pants pockets.  Oh, and I shoved a keyboard in there  too.  The other big one, a hard-sided Samsonite case fit one desktop computer, one flat screen monitor (minus the base), three power strips, another keyboard, and enough cords, network cables, and power adapters to choke and elephant.  On the carry-ons I had two external hard drives, two internal hard drives, two laptops, a video card, and I somehow managed to fit our other flat screen monitor (also minus the base) in there too.  I had to unload everything each time I went through security which was once in Austin, once in Chicago, and like three times in Istanbul.  I had it down to a science by then.  Sending the hard drives through the x-ray machine that may times made me sweat, but nothing got wiped.

Besides the delay in Istanbul, everything went pretty smoothly.  My visa was only $20 and that buys me 90 days.  I can apply for a residence visa when we get our Turkish marriage license, or in the worst case scenario we can take a ferry to Cyprus and I can buy another visa on the way back in.  Weekend in Cyprus…oh darn… 😉

The food here has been amazing.  For breakfast we usually have bread, feta, awesome strawberry and apricot jams that his grandma makes, and olives.  She also makes homemade yogurt that is super thick, and it looks and tastes just like the best phily cream cheese you’ve ever had.  She laughs and thinks I’m crazy when I put in on bread.  You get offered hot tea anywhere you go, even in stores.  I used to hate turkish tea (rize tea) but over here it tastes so much better because it’s fresh.  I drink it everyday now.

One thing Adana is really famous for is it’s lamb.  Here’s an analogy for you-  Kobe : Beef :: Adana : Lamb.  The have a special breed that’s extra fatty, and extra finger-licking good.  Now don’t get me feeling all guilty about eating cute little baby sheep, if you tasted it, you would understand.

We also both love that there is no pork here.  He’s Coptic Orthodox and follows Old Testament dietary laws, and I’ve just never liked the taste of anything pig.  Coming from a place where you have to ask them to keep bacon off your salad, it’s a nice change.

Food is ridiculously cheap over here.  A kilo of tomatoes cost about 50 cents, and we bought two kilos of cherries from this cart for a dollar and a half.  We also bought some apricots.  I never realized this before, but I had never had a non-dried apricot!  Tastes just like a peach.

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Much to my relief, I was able to find some good peanut butter in the grocery store, if not I was going to have my mom ship some to me.  I can’t live without peanut butter.  The orange juice here tastes odd though, very tart.  It tastes more like grapefruit juice.

More about my adventures in food next time!