Browsing Tag:

expat life

    Bacon, Anyone?

    I stole this pic from a friend. A group of us went to a grocery store a ways from where we usually shop and he found bacon! Anyone want six strips of bacon for 100TL? (That’s around $45 USD!)


    Bacon in Turkey


    It’s the strangest thing to want the products you suddenly can’t get any more. We rarely bought bacon and Oreos in the States. But now? They’re a special treat we ration and savor. Fortunately, our students with commissary access keep us stocked. What better present could a teacher in Turkey get than bacon?!



    Our New Apartment

    Due to unforeseen circumstances, David and I had to move out of our previous apartment in June before summer vacation. Two of our friends left last year and we got their apartment. All of the buildings in our area were built similarly. However, our new place is a lot nicer of an apartment and we’re loving it. (Especially the view!)

    We rent our furniture from our employer. We inherited a few new rugs and furniture pieces from some of our friends.

    I found a metal “B” for $2 over the summer, brought it back to Turkey, and covered it with twine for some front door decor:


    Front door decoration


    Here’s the entry foyer area:


    Foyer area




    I made this wood pallet art last year. The pipes made hanging it a lot easier this year:


    Wood pallet art


    Here’s the kitchen. The shorter counter by the window is a great height, but the rest of the counters and cabinets were made for giants. It’s kitchen Olympics every time I cook. I can barely reach the lowest cabinet shelf without the step stool.






    Kitchen counter


    The balcony is right off the kitchen. Some pigeons welcomed us when we first moved in, but we quickly vacated them.




    This is the hallway to the bedrooms:




    First door on the left is the spare bathroom. No squatty potty this year! This is our cleaning supplies storage closet.


    Spare bathroom


    The second door on the left is the full bathroom. We don’t have to put the drain hose in the shower any more when we do laundry! It’s amazing! This bathroom is all fancy with fancy tile and gold accents. We like it a lot better:




    Our bedroom is on the right. I plan to add some decorations to the walls sometime soon:


    Master bedroom


    Master bedroom


    Master bedroom


    Also on the right is our guest bedroom. It’s pretty sad looking, especially since I haven’t put any linens on the bed yet. It has a small porch behind the curtain:




    The room at the end of the hall is our “dolap” room. (Dolap is a Turkish word for any kind of cabinet.) We couldn’t get the chair to fit in the living room, so we put it in here. This was originally supposed to be the guest bedroom since it’s larger, but it’s where the movers put the dolap. It ended up working out better this way, I think. We hang our laundry to dry in this room.


    Dolop room


    Dolop room


    The living room and dining areas are off of the foyer. It’s amazing what a difference crown molding makes! (PS. See my peace lilly on the right? I didn’t kill it over the summer! I cut the dead shoots away and it’s growing again!)


    Living room and dining room


    The art on the wall by the table was a print we purchased in Bruges. We got the frame from Ikea. It ended up matching our light fixtures:


    Dining area


    Living room area


    This couch is amazing. We rarely have the footrest put away:


    Pull out couch footrest


    Our cabinets, TV stand, and buffet are all against one wall now:


    Living room wall


    So that’s the new place! Home sweet home.


    Staying In Touch While You’re Overseas: Calling & Texting

    Whether you are living overseas, studying abroad, or traveling for an extended period of time, it’s important to stay in touch with family and friends back home. The internet and our many electronic gadgets have made communication amazingly easy compared to how it was even just a few years ago.

    David and I spend about 10 months out of the year teaching in Turkey and the other 2 in the States. Apart from Facebook, email, and our blog, Google Voice is one of our favorite resources for keeping in touch with our family and friends back home.


    Staying in touch when you're overseas


    Calling and Texting: Google Voice and Talkatone

    If you have an iPod (or any iOS or Android device) and an internet connection, your iPod can be used as a cell phone for calling and texting:

    1. Create a Gmail account if you don’t already have one.
    2. Set up Google Voice. I did this on my computer, but you can probably do it through the app. (I got to choose the area code of my Google Voice number!) Note: I believe this must be done in the States before you travel.
    3. Install the free Google Voice app on your iPod. 
    4. Install the free Talkatone app on your iPod. During the set up, you’ll link it to your Google Voice account.

    And that’s it! Your Google Voice number + the Talkatone app + Wi–Fi = an iPod that can call and text for FREE! (Note: You will want to use headphones if you are in public. Otherwise, you’ll be walking around on speakerphone.)

    I use Talkatone on my Barnes and Noble Nook to text. (I can also make calls with the Nook, but I prefer to use my computer for calls.) David has a 5th generation iPod and often times, we’ll make our calls from that.

    Google does have international calling rates, but since we set our Google Voice numbers as U.S. numbers, we can call any U.S. number (or Canada) for FREE!

    We can also send and receive calls on our computers when we have our Gmail email accounts open:


    Calling while on your Gmail


    What is also great about Google Voice is that it allows you to set up call forwarding. When we were home over a break, we purchased a T-Mobile prepaid phone. We can only use that phone and number when we are in the States. However, we give everyone our Google Voice number because we set it up to forward both calls and texts to our T-Mobile phone. When we travel back to Turkey, we change the Google Voice settings so calls and texts do not forward and we don’t get charged by T-Mobile. (The only “problem” with this is when we call or text back, it shows our T-Mobile number rather than the Google Voice number.)

    Do you use Google Voice or another free calling/texting service?




    Moving overseas has changed my life in so many ways. In some aspects, living in Turkey is similar to when Leah and I lived in Virginia. Our families in Michigan are not physically accessible, but they are only a phone call or video chat away.


    The Benedict family


    However, something I’ve struggled with since I first moved away from home was my longing to still be an active participant in the lives of my brothers. Being home-schooled first through eighth grade, I interacted closely with my four brothers. Whether we were chasing each other around with sticks, pulling each other into a fort with a rope to depict the Ascension in our “Easter Play,” or making a roller coaster by riding Mom’s baking pans down a ladder, there was always a level of appreciation and companionship.

    Being away from my brothers has had a major impact on me. I often wonder if there’s more I could be doing to encourage them in their spiritual and personal endeavors. It is an uncomfortable feeling, but one to which I’ve become accustomed. I’ve missed many concerts, musicals, and sports events. It’s left me wishing Leah and I could be beamed home to Michigan at any time.

    Lately, this feeling has been much stronger.

    The birth of Joe and Brittany’s son, Jonah, is something that has brought joy to my heart. I am so happy their family is safe and happy. I am very excited to meet my new nephew. While I’ve seen him through Skype, my heart aches to hold him and let his tiny fingers latch onto mine. Joe and I used to be roommates at home, and I have fond memories of our relationship. He and Brittany will be great parents. I’m excited to be Uncle David.


    Joe, Brittany, and Jonah


    I miss being at home for Sam’s high school years. I have followed his athletic stats online after every game. One of my favorite things to do when I’m at home is to watch Sam play baseball and basketball. His knowledge on and off the field and court amazes me. I miss joking around with Sam. He has a great sense of humor and a great personality.


    Sam playing baksetball


    I also miss my interactions with my youngest brother Benny. Although I am 14 years his senior, we have an interesting relationship that is constantly developing. With him, it’s the little things I miss – the “funny” jokes he comes up with, his crazy brain and its academic achievements, and running around the house during Nerf wars.


    David and Benny


    I have enjoyed Daniel’s time with us in Turkey. Ever since we were little, we have been great friends (whether we wanted to admit it or not). I am sad I will miss his graduation from Liberty. Other than last semester, we have never lived more than a 40 minute drive apart.


    David and Daniel on the 2nd floor of the Hagia Sophia


    It’s not just my brothers that I miss. I miss being able to talk face-to-face with my parents. I’m almost 25 years old, and I still think my Dad gives the best hugs. Those hugs have embraced me during some of my most difficult and exciting moments. He and mom have always been a solid support system. I miss my grandparents and Leah’s family. I wish I could see Mary run cross country for her college team, and I wish I could see Leah’s mom at her various award ceremonies. I miss my close friends and my aunts, uncles, and cousins.


    Hugging my dad


    Grandpa and Grandma Wilcox


    I think these feelings of guilt have spurred from a lack of trust in God’s plan. Lately, God has been teaching me something valuable. Who I am and the level of influence and support I give has nothing to do with my physical presence in the lives of those I love. God has placed us in different places of the world for a reason; my responsibilities lie where God has placed me. I pray that by following His will for my life, I will be an example of Christ. Rather than being bogged down by guilt, I can praise Him for the relationships we have. 

    I’ve wallowed in self-pity because there were events I could not attend. I have realized this kind of thinking prevents me from being effective in my current career. I am surrounded every day by kids who look to me for guidance. As a teacher, I have an opportunity to display forgiveness and other character traits to my students.


    My sixth grade class


    I often take for granted the relationship I have with my wife. Leah is my best friend. She does so much for our relationship and constantly devotes herself to loving me. I am so thankful God brought us together. I want to to focus on being a better husband and communicator.


    Izmir sunset on the water


    While I may never get completely accustomed to missing important events in the lives of my family, I can rest assured my hope and my contentment lies in my devotion to Christ. My underlying fear has been that I am not fulfilling my responsibility as an older brother. I choose to redirect my thinking so I am measuring my life’s value not by my physical presence in the lives of my family, but by my obedience to Christ.




    One of the special perks of being a teacher is being exposed to the germs of 250 kids. Many kids were out sick this week, as were a few teachers – including me.


    Lots of tissues and liquids!


    I started to not feel well on Saturday. Things only got worse from there. I did a half day of work on Monday, went in Tuesday (when I probably shouldn’t have), tried some Sudafed which didn’t work, stayed awake all night coughing, stayed home Wednesday, and finally caved and went to the doctor in the afternoon.

    We had a great first experience with the Turkish health system. We went to TOBB ETÜ Hastanesi (I don’t think Turkey has doctor’s offices – just hospitals) and had a translator escort our entire visit. The doctor also spoke English. In about an hour, I saw the doctor, got bloodwork, took a chest x-ray, and saw the doctor again. The hospital was impressively efficient. It was definitely better than the waiting lines at health clinics in the States!

    Turns out I have a viral infection. I got a Z-Pack, nose spray, and 2 other medicines for symptoms. I went back work today and feel so much better.

    There’s a lot of medicine you can purchase here without a perscription that you can’t back home. However, I’m glad I went to the doctor – I feel nervous about self prescribing!

    Being sick is always a humbling experience. I always have the thought of: “Oh, I’ll just rest a while, fight through it and be fine.” But sometimes, your body commands you to STOP and rest, which is never an easy thing for me. I’m very thankful for an understanding employer, Turkish friends who will make appointments, and a husband and brother who took care of me and the house.



    An Indulgence

    We consider ourselves very blessed to live in a country that has delicious food. And while bacon, vanilla extract, and other selections are not readily available, we do alright.

    All that to say… I found out there are Girl Scouts in Turkey.


    Samoas and Thin Mint cookies


    Here’s to indulgence. (And rationing…)


    Girl Scout cookies