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expat life

    12. 12 Lira. 12 Lira, 30 Centimeters Looong!

    Last night we went to a mall to pick up a few groceries and supplies. (Our neighborhood has a few small grocery stores, but they do not carry everything. When we need certain items, we shop at the larger grocery stores in the malls.) We decided to grab some dinner, too.

    We were very excited the new Subway in Kentpark’s food court had opened! Subway is a favorite of ours, and it’s always nice to get a taste of home while we’re overseas. (There are several American chain restaurants in Turkey like McDonalds, Burger King, Starbucks, KFC, and Arby’s, though the taste and quality is usually quite far from what we have in the States.)


    Subway in Kentpark


    Subway in Kentpark


    While they did not have the full Subway spread of meats and cheeses, they did have some familiar favorites. I got the teriyaki chicken on honey oat bread. They had sweet onion sauce, and my sandwhich tasted just like it does at home. David got the spicy Italian.


    David with Subway in Turkey
    The people that work there are super nice, and some of them spoke English.

    We also ran into one of the families from our school. Just a bunch of forigners at eating at Subway!



    The U.S. Embassy Bombing

    Friday was a half day of school for the kids and a teacher work day for us. Our students went home around noon, and we were treated to a lunch provided by the parent association. Most of us were working in our classrooms when we received the news that the U.S. Embassy in Ankara had been bombed.

    There were a lot of unanswered questions. Some initial online reports said many were killed, some that one or two were killed, many were injured, several were injured, it was a suicide bomber, someone just threw a package… We were concerned for our kids and their parents.


    Ankara snowline


    We later learned the embassy had been hit by a suicide bomber. The man killed a Turkish guard and injured several others. (Read the CNN report at this link.) A Reuters article said “the bomber was a member of the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), a far-left group which is virulently anti-U.S. and anti-NATO and is listed as a terrorist organization by Washington.”

    Thank you for all of the messages asking if we were okay. We so appreciate your prayers, concern, and support.

    The embassy is far enough away from our neighborhood that we did not feel threatened the day of the event. We felt and continue to feel safe. In talking with family, we were reminded events like this could and unfortunately have happened everywhere in the world – riots near colleges, extremists in big cities, and shootings in places you’d never imagine a tragedy occurring.

    We rest in God’s good and perfect will. We will be cautious, and ask that you please remember our school and this country in your prayers.



    1. Safety for the country of Turkey.
    2. The safety of our students and their parents: Many of our students’ families work for embassies and government offices.
    3. Please also pray for those that were injured and for the friends, family, and coworkers of the Turkish guard Mustafa Akarsu who lost his life. He is survived by his wife, an 18-year-old son, and a 15-year-old daughter.



    Home Sweet Türkiye

    Welcome to our apartment tour! We live in an 11-story building in a neighborhood on the outskirts of Ankara.

    The picture below is our entryway. We usually pile our backpacks and shoes on the rug.




    Also part of our entryway is this dolop. Dolop is a Turkish word for any kind of closet or wardrobe. It’s nice to have a place to set our keys, hang up our coats, and store extra shoes.


    Entry dolop


    Connected to the entryway is the kitchen. We love the marble countertop! (There is a lot of marble used in the buildings in Turkey, especially on the outside.) The strangest thing about the kitchen is the cupboards. Giants must have built the kitchen (or very tall Turkish men who don’t ever work in the kitchen). I can reach the front of the bottom shelf, otherwise, I have to use a step stool. That was one of the top things on my shopping list after we first moved into the apartment! We have a gas stove, fridge, and microwave. You can see a blue water jug on the left hand side of the picture. We order water jugs for drinking water. It would be OK to use tap water, but excessive use over time can cause kidney stones. Across from the sink, there is access to a porch.


    Turkish Kitchen


    Next to the kitchen is the dining/living room. It was nice not to have to shop for furniture here in Turkey. Transportation can be a little complicated. As of now, we are renting comfortable furniture from the school. We have a good sized table with 8 chairs. There is also a china cabinet type thing. We’ve filled the drawers with office supplies and electronic cords.


    Dining room table and chairs


    Beyond the dining room table is the living room. This set is very comfortable. We don’t really use the loveseat or armchairs much, but we love the full sized couch.


    Living room


    Can you see why? Most couches in Turkey have this awesome pop up footrest. Super comfy!


    Living room and comfortable couch


    We also have a nice entertainment center and bookcase set. We were just given a DVD player, so we hope we’ll get a cast off TV sometime eventually.


    Living Room Shelves


    After entering the apartment, directly to the left is the hallway to the bedrooms and bathrooms. We have two bathrooms, one of which we never use. It is the Turkish bathroom – the squatty potty. We have a cover for it and store cleaning supplies in this tiny room. The door always remains shut! Sometimes it can smell a little weird. The ventilation system for all the apartments is connected to this toiletroom.


    Turkish Bathroom


    And then there is the regular bathroom (which I know you’re dying to see…). We have our washing machine in the bathroom.




    Here is our bedroom. When we were shopping, David didn’t understand why we needed a comforter. Afterwards, he agreed it looks nice. The mattress lifts up for more storage.


    Master bedroom


    This dolop is in the master bedroom. I so graciously allowed David to use it as his very own closet.


    Master bedroom closet


    Because the next room’s dolop is all mine! Just kidding – I share. He uses one section and we store linens, towels, and extra bathroom supplies in it, too. There’s a small balcony off of this room.


    Dolop room


    The third bedroom is our guest bedroom slash laundry room. And by laundry room, I mean we hang dry our clothes in here. Hence the drying rack and clothesline.



    God has blessed us with a roomy, comfortable place! We would love to paint some of the walls and get a couple rugs for the floors. However, right now we are okay living with just the essentials.


    Turkish Hospitality

    To follow up on Leah’s last post, I also have had times of selfishness since we arrived. I tend to be pretty laid back, but sometimes I’m so laid back that I can view her concerns as petty, worry-some, or not that big of a deal, which is wrong. It should be “a big of a deal” because she is my wife and it is my responsibility to show her love. To shrug off her concerns like they’re unimportant is telling her she’s unimportant. This week it is my goal to make sure I am putting the concerns of my wife before my own.

    On Thursday of last week we got our first taste of Turkish hospitality. Our neighbor across the hall brought us a plate with food a couple of days previous. Fortunately, we were informed it is customary to return the plate with food on it. So we bought some baklava and situated it decoratively on the plate with some grapes.


    Turkish Sweets

    Şeker Bayram is a holiday including lots of sweets!


    It was about 8 pm when we made our way across the hall to knock on the door. We figured with it being so late, we would be arriving after dinner. We were welcomed into their home, and the family scattered everywhere. I noticed plates in the living room which they quickly relocated to the dining room table and added two more places.

    As we sat in the living room while dinner was prepared, we began our attempt to communicate with the father and three kids. We found he and the two oldest children learned a little English in school. During the very broken conversations that followed before, during, and after dinner, we were able to communicate that:

    1. We are from Michigan and Michigan looks like a hand on a map.
    2. We are both teachers.
    3. I grew up on a farm.
    4. How much we liked the food.
    5. We were done drinking çay (tea).

    Our neighbors were able to communicate that:

    1. Leah was very cute.
    2. We should drink more tea.
    3. They were happy we came.
    4. We should eat more.
    5. We should drink more tea.
    6. The father has lived  in Turkey his whole life.
    7. The mother makes the best baklava.
    8. We should drink more tea.
    9. We were invited back on Sunday for Şeker Bayramı.

    The two hours we spent with our new neighbors was definitely a learning experience. I’m not going to lie, it was also awkward at times. Turkish people are a lot more comfortable with silence than we are. When there’s such a big language barrier, you don’t have a whole lot to talk about. But we tried… and tried… and tried. And we won’t give up. Turkish is not easy, but we are hoping to learn the basics with a little practice and interaction.

    Yesterday we spent another few hours at our neighbors house for Şeker Bayramı. From what we gather, this holiday is celebrated at the end of the Ramadan. In Turkey, it is as major a holiday as Christmas in the United States. This holiday lasts three days and is filled with visits to family and friends. Since many have been fasting throughout the hours of daylight, Şeker Bayram is a time filled with eating sweets (Şeker = sugar!). That being said, yesterday we found out that Turkey has delicious chocolates, and our host does indeed make the best baklava.

    We have found the Turkish people to be very friendly and hospitable. They will drop anything or miss a scheduled event to spend time investing in relationships. Often I get so rushed and busy that I forget to invest in relationships. Our neighbors have unknowingly reaffirmed the value of quality time and fellowship with others.


    Week One and a Confession

    It’s been 8 days since we arrived in Turkey. We attended new teacher orientation this past week in the mornings. Our afternoons have been filled with settling into our apartments, preparing our classrooms for the school year, and shopping for supplies.


    David in front of the school


    Most days have been “çok iyi” (choke-eeyee) – very good. It’s been wonderful to learn more about the school and our host country at orientation. The returning teachers have been arriving back to the school and they are warm and welcoming. We’re learning more Turkish phrases to help us at the grocery store and restaurants. We met a friendly neighbor. The apartment is slowly coming together and becoming more of a home.

    There was also one day that was “çok iyi değil” (choke-eeyee-dee-eel) – not very good. This particular day’s emotions was an accumulation of several things. Though we didn’t suffer greatly from jet lag, I was fatigued, became more irritable, and was not kind to my husband. Things selfishly became all about me and my inabilities. I felt worried about and unequipped to do the job I was hired to do. We went to the grocery store and instead of grabbing the toilet paper we needed (at a great price!), I got an 8-pack of paper towels. I started a load of laundry – the typical, easy task of laundry – and I broke the door handle off of our washing machine. The day ended with me sobbing in David’s arms. I so undeservingly have a kind and forgiving husband. We both needed forgiveness that night, and vocalized that the frustrations we had with adjusting to our new surroundings should not be aimed at each other. We are on the same team.


    These two verses will be very important to me as I continue to adjust:

    • Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” – Ephesians 3:20–21 {emphasis added}
    • He must become greater; I must become less.” – John 3:30



    1. Safe travel for the rest of the teachers: Some of the teachers will be traveling this weekend from the states to Turkey.
    2. Prayers for our roles as teachers: We have a lot to prepare before the school year starts!
    3. Our adjustment period: There is still a lot to learn – public transportation routes, language, more about the school, paying bills,  etc. Please pray we will have patience and an open heart and mind.



    Our First 30 Hours in Ankara

    After about 18 hours of travel, we arrived in Ankara yesterday at 3:30 pm (Turkey time). The three flights went very well; there were no long delays and all of our luggage made it to our destination. It was quite the experience for me as I had never before flown overseas. I think Leah got a kick out of me looking at our GPS location and how excited I was about flying over various places. This trip was our first time riding in a plane together!


    In-flight GPS


    Upon arrival, our director picked us up from the airport to take us to our new home. Immediately we noticed how the people of Ankara are packed in tight. The city is filled with high-rise buildings, and most people live in apartments. The “packed-in” feeling is also evident in their driving. There were several times when drivers filled the road five cars wide in a three lane area. Our director said the philosophy of driving in Turkey is “find a place that’s empty and fill it.” The Turks have a much smaller driving “bubble” than Americans, and it is not uncommon to be within centimeters of the car beside you.


    Ankara from the plane


    Our apartment is much bigger than we expected — even larger than the house we rented in Virginia. We have two balconies, a full kitchen, and were provided with plenty of modern furniture. Last night we sat out on the balcony and took in the noise of the city and the cool breeze. Some new sounds are the Islamic call to prayer and the packs of wild dogs that roam the forest next to our building.


    Ankara at night


    Last night, I thought I’d give Turkish grocery shopping a whirl. It turned out to be a bigger whirl than I had predicted. Leah stayed in the apartment because we were having issues with our keys and lock (which is now fixed). My first challenge was trying to order baklava; I realized I didn’t know how to say the quantity or number of pieces I wanted. I had two teenagers behind the counter laughing as we tried to overcome the language barrier. After getting about five times the baklava I wanted, I decided to try something where I could choose my own quantities. As I was selecting produce, I noticed a gentleman trying to tell me something. After many hand motions, I found that unlike Walmart or Meijer, this guy had to weigh the produce before I checked out. My last communication challenge came at the register. I didn’t realize it was bag your own food until my stuff started piling together with someone else’s. This bagging strategy makes sense — it’s my food, so if I want it in bags, why should someone else put it there? Eventually, I made it home and made our first meal in Turkey.


    Our first meal in Turkey


    Today, we went on a tour of our school and neighborhood and did some small scale shopping. On the tour, we ate at our first Turkish restaurant. Each meal comes with complimentary salad, a salsa type dip, pita bread, fried vegetables, and hot tea. For my entree, I chose Döner Kebap. This delicious dish consisted of fried strips of beef served over a pita with a spiced grain (similar to couscous).


    Eating out for the first time in Turkey


    We are enjoying our new home Ankara. The people are friendly, the food is good, and jet lag has not hit us much yet. We have a lot of language yet to learn in order to function well on our own. Until then, the few phrases we know in Turkish will be most important: “My Turkish is not very good” and “I don’t understand.”