Sunday, November 28, 2010

Turkish Families

I've been in Turkey for such a short time but there are things I've observed that have helped me to connect to this place and this culture. One of those things is the family relationships. Turks are such loving and kind people. They are so affectionate with their family and their close friends. It makes me feel like I can easily connect to them too. One such friend is my teaching partner, Nilay. She was gracious enough to welcome me into her family home and introduce me to her closest friends in her hometown for one weekend. I felt warmly welcomed and like I was not just a visiting stranger, but some long lost, foreign language speaking cousin or family member. I loved seeing the affection and love in their family. The were all genuinely happy to see us arrive and genuinely saddened to see us walk out the door on our last day. It helped me to feel like I wasn't so far away from my own family.
Today, I am deeply saddened to report that my good friend's father passed away from a heart attack. It was such a shock. I can't and won't erase the last image I have of him. This man who pretended to be annoyed with his middle daughter's most exuberant of hugs when all the while his eyes twinkled with mirth, love and a beautiful pride for the beautiful daughter in his arms. I love that image, I love the way that this man with all his daughters so embraced and cared for them. I love the way Nilay spoke of him as the gentlest of men with the kindest of hearts and the openest of minds. My heart breaks for my friend, for her mother, her two sisters and her young niece. My heart breaks that this tragedy has happened to one of the sweetest families I've known here. My prayers go out to them for today and the days, months and years to come. This blog post is dedicated to Nilay, her father and her family. May they find strength and comfort in each other and in knowing that their special family impacted and touched the lives of many.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Soccer in Turkey (Türkiye'de futbol)

The other day a couple who I work with were going to attend a soccer game here in Ankara, they happen pretty regularly and they are CHEAP to attend, and they invited anyone who would like to to come along. So along I went. I enjoy sports a lot and have a love of soccer ever since I coached my first boys varsity team in Korea at ICS (now YISS) way back in 2000. Those boys taught me all about the game and why it is worth loving (thanks, guys!). So when the opportunity arises, I like to go and see games. Anyway, I went to this game and it was nothing like I had ever been to before. It was 99.8% men in attendance at the game and their cheering was deafening. But it wasn't just random cheers or jeers, but organized chants and movements. It was highly distracting for me because I was fascinated and thrilled to watch the crowd. The soccer on the field was pretty great too. I have pictures on my phone, but can't work out the password to this computer in order to bluetooth them over... sorry gang, you will just have to take my word for it. The stands were full of zealous fans who shouted, clapped and made high pitched whistles in unison. Some chants also involved running up and down the stands etc. It was overwhelming, but in the best way possible.
As a woman in the crowd, I didn't feel unsafe at all. In fact, when one of the chants required the mob to run to the left and then to the right, the crowd saw that a group of foreigners (mostly female) were there and simply went around us. Now, I don't know if I'd go to a game alone, but with a group, for SURE!
So if you are in Ankara and really want to have a great cultural experience of modern day Turkey, let me recommend that you spend 5 Turkish Lira and get yourself in the stands! It's awesome!

Here is the smallest taste I could find of what it was like to be there, and we didn't sit in this crowded of an area:

Friday, November 19, 2010

Beypazarı, Türkiye

Beypazarı is a small, Ottoman styled town that is just outside of Ankara. It can be a quick day trip of looking, shopping and eating or you can extend it for a couple of days. I did it in a day, enjoy the pics:

This is me and my travel buddy, Kim. We were both saving money this holiday so that the next one can be more extravagant. It's just 6 TL each direction to get the bus to this little spot and it takes about 1 1/2 hours to get there. We are standing in front of a dried goods store. The long strips hanging down are intestines... ew!! hahaha I had to ask, right?

The whole town is pretty much these Ottoman houses. They are OLD!! And I liked this picture because you can see how they were constructed. They look beautiful when they are finished because you can't see that they seem to be made out of twigs. But here you can... interesting.

More Ottoman houses... beautiful, right?

The museum of culture and history. It was just an Ottoman house that had been restored.

One of the mosques in the town. It was just nestled into the neigbourhood.

A typical Turkish scene, men sitting down to drink tea and a woman making gözleme. Both are delicious, by the way.

This is the same dried goods store from the earlier picture. You can see the owner standing there. He was really helpful and nice.

Apparently this town is the carrot capital, as evidenced by the giant carrot I am pointing to! haha And I had the carrot juice, tasted exactly like a fresh carrot. Yummy... and they sell it on the streets everywhere for just 1 TL.

A bakery that we passed on our way from the bus to the square, I asked if I could take his picture, he nodded and proceeded to ignore me, guess I wasn't the first foreigner to ask! haha. He was making simit, a bagel-like breakfast food here that is beyond yummy!

This is right when we got off the bus... from this picture, the town looks like all the others, not special in any way... but don't let that fool you, across the road and up the street is like a time machine, you end up going back in time. This place is a MUST see if you come to Turkey!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Safety First

As an expat (one who lives and works overseas) there are just some things you have to know. You have to know what are the requirements to getting into the country, you have to know what little unspoken things you need to try and avoid so as not to draw too much attention to yourself or insult the local people, and you need to know what to do in case of an emergency. I'm lucky because I am not just traveling here in Turkey, I am living and working here with an organization who handles matters of health insurance, life insurance and the like. I'm in good hands, but it's not like that for all workers and it is most definitely not like that for travelers. Sure, when you travel you are told to make sure to have traveler's insurance and to keep your wits about you. But those warnings aren't enough. Do you know what to do in case of a medical emergency? Do you know what your local embassy will and will not do? The reason this has come to my attention recently is because some former student's of mine had a relative who had a terrible accident while traveling abroad. He had travel insurance but the insurance company wants to blame the hotel, the hotel is throwing up their hands at the whole thing and as of yet, the local embassy hasn't been much help. Now, I've never come across any issues with the embassies while I've been overseas (and that has been for 12 years), but I've also never had a major medical issue to contend with. So I looked up some stuff online with my embassy to see what I need to do to safe guard myself. I found out that while the embassy can help with evacuations etc, they will not and cannot pay for it... so you have to have that money ready or an insurance company who is willing to pay. That's pretty intense. Makes me think that I need to get busy saving for a rainy day!! They will also help you find medical care if you need them to do that, they will contact your family and friends at home on your behalf, and they will help arrange for funds to be transfered from home to the local medical facility if you need that. Sure, seems like they can really help, but what if your situation falls outside of those neat little norms? Then what?
Please watch the attached video and let me know what you think... the family is understandably angered, upset and distraught. The local embassy does give the impression of not lending a hand, but I am not sure what course of action they can take considering that it falls outside of their simple little norms of what to do in an emergency. It's left me feeling sad for that family, outraged that more isn't being done (particularly by the insurance company that has already taken this man's money), and a little interested in making more sure that my own situation is more secure.

Global News

Monday, November 15, 2010

Marine Balls

Every year the United States Marine Corps has a huge celebration for their birthday. This year was the 235th birthday. Marines all over the world throw a party for this day. When I lived in Korea, these parties were pretty exclusively military personnel and their wives or girlfriends, or dignitaries from the US Embassy, other embassies and the local people. So I never got to go to one. However, here in Ankara, there is such a small detachment, that they open the invitation to the international community and a large group from my school went. We listened to speeches (one of the speakers was really good), watched videos (one of which turned me into a sappy, teary-eyed person) and we ate a gorgeous meal and then danced the night away. It was a blast and I'm glad I got to go and have that experience. So, happy birthday Marines (sorry I am posting this about a week late) and thanks for the great party!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Remembrance Day

Last year at this time I wrote a simple post about November 11. It really didn't say a lot. It gave the simplest of explanations about what the day means to me and to most Canadians that I know. But this year, it's different. Remembrance Day is more than just wearing a poppy and taking a moment of silence. It should be a day of celebrating the people who served and continue to serve, those who protected and continue to protect, those that take the biggest of risks and continue to do so. Canada may not have a large military, but it is a proud one that has a rich history of stepping up when others won't. I am proud to be a Canadian and I am prouder still of my own military history (no, I didn't serve, but I have relatives that did and one lost his life and a famous and tragic plane crash) and I am most proud of my friends who are serving right now. Without these people (whether you agree with war or not) we simply couldn't have the freedom that we have or enjoy the lifestyles that we do. So this past Remembrance Day I wore the red poppy that the Canadian Embassy donated to Canadians and other Commonwealth members at my school and I taught my students that it's not just a flower; it is a history, a sacrifice and a reminder. One of my little girls piped up saying that she knew why the poppy was red, when I asked her what she meant, she said it was red because all those people died and their blood left their bodies and coloured the flowers so that we would remember. I don't know if I could have understood it so well at 6 years old.
So, thank you Canadian service members and service members around the world for what you did in the past and what you continue to do.

This is the original site of the plane crash that took my great-grandfather's life in war time. His marker is there.
This is my great-grandfather who served and lost his life tragically in service. I am proud of him and his contribution.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

What's a Canadian?!

As Remembrance Day draws nearer, I begin to feel more and more Canadian. I've always been and felt proud to be Canadian but when you live and work in the global arena, sometimes where you are from becomes less important than where you are and who you are. Canadian is a HUGE part of who I am but sometimes the labels ceases to be important. Okay, I hope that makes sense, because I am not sure to be honest. Anyway, this time of year always brings it home and reinforces where I am from and why it's such a great place to be from. So I want to share a little video with you so that you can see what makes Canadians who we are and why it's such a great place:

Enjoy and remember to be proud of who you are and where you are from no matter where you are in the world. A new November 11 post will surface during the week sometime, of this I am sure... be on the lookout for it. ;)


So, one of the benefits of being in a foreign country is learning about their culture and about their popular culture. In Korea I really got into the popular music scene and I still play the music whenever I can, I just love it. I've only been in Turkey for a few months but last night I got to go to a concert here. It was really fun and the singer is the most popular one and is popular all over Europe and the Middle East too. Here is one of his most popular songs at the moment:

And here are a couple of shots from the concert last night:

The man puts on a great show... and just for those of you who want to hear him in English, here you go: