Thursday, October 4, 2012


We've been in our new house for a couple of months now and already it feels like home.  Summer is over, my brother has started school - which he loves, Autumn is here with brown crisp leaves hanging loosely on the trees and whopping great conkers which keep falling out of the sky and landing on cars, even my pram hood!  Findlay has been collecting conkers, which Mum has put in a basket outside our front door.  My brother is now famous in our neighbourhood.  On the school walk in the morning he's greeted by the guards at the entrance to our complex....then he's greeted by the hairdressers who are taking breakfast outside their shop.  We toddle on a bit and Findlay says "Gunaydin" to the man who is selling artichoke from his car.  Artichoke man smiles, says good morning back before offering Findlay a collection of shiny conkers.  Before hitting school Findlay is greeted by the man on the corner who sells simit and then by the guards at his school.
Playing in the Garden after School
Mum is amazed by what we are all learning. At the corner of our street is a big tree which is heavy with ripening Olives.  She was showing Findlay them this morning and he asked "Does that mean its nearly Olive season?"  Mum smiled.  This is our life now.  Peach and Fig season is almost over and we are moving on to Fish, Orange.....and soon Olive season.

Our lovely routine consists of trips to the local gurme market for meat where Mum has been learning how to say half a kilo, minced and sliced, Monday at the market where we've discovered a lovely stall with men who offer us cay (tea) and then, for a small fee, will keep our fruit and veg and deliver it to our house later in the afternoon.  We are enjoying traditional Turkish breakfasts with mother's of Findlay's school friends and weekends are spent in the park with Daddy and taking strolls down Bagdat Caddesi.  We are sharing pick ups from school with our new friends.

It is so funny that what was unusual for us before has become very normal.  We phone, and pay for huge bottles of water, we eat cheese, tomato and cucumber for breakfast, we order takeout food A LOT, we walk to school, we don't always have a bath every night, Findlay talks of his friends Doruk and Erai.....

Being an expat is not like being a citizen of that country.  We will always be "different."  For example, I don't think I will ever be able to wear sock when it is 25 deg outside, Findlay and I won't ever manage to stay up until 9 or 10pm as it seems a lot of the Turkish kids do and nor will Mummy be thinking of hiring a live in Nanny and full time cleaner not because she doesn't want to or that she doesn't agree with it, its just not how we do it "back home."


It takes time to find that equilibrium of bringing your own culture into a country which has a very different (yet wonderful) outlook on life but we are getting there and learning to enjoy the best of both worlds.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Eating by Season

We're back!  After a few weeks back in the UK to pack up our belongings, we are back and have moved into our new home.  A lovely 4 bed apartment close to my Big Brother's new school.  Its got an indoor and outdoor pool, gym, playpark and a lovely community of expats.  We are going to be happy here, that is, once our furniture arrives.

After a 2 week absence we noticed a definite change to the season when we arrived back.  We were in real summer now.  It was hot and the city was much quieter.  Everyone, it seems has gone on holiday.  And most interestingly was the change in food.  Where were the lovely juicy cherries on the fruit stalls?  How come there were no more strawberries to be found?  Or Apricots?

On our first morning out Mummy needed fruit.  We stopped at the little man with a cart on a side road just along from our apartment.  This man would come to be known as The Visne Man.  Feeling a little alien again after getting comfortable with our previous local supermarket and what to buy there, Mummy was happy when she found Cherries.  We'll take a small amount of the Kiraz, she told the Visne Man.  He shook his head and, in broken English mixed with Turkish, he told us "Not cherries, dead. Visne" and made squashing movements with his hands.  Mummy was rather flustered by now, in the heat and my brother going on and on that she said ok.  In the panic we walked away with a kilo of Visne costing us 8TL.  Back home and into the apartment, Mummy clicked the laptop on and googled "Visne".

Turns out Visne stands for "sour cherry" in Turkish (and in a few other languages). Although being similar to cherries, visnes have slightly smaller leaves and the branches of a visne tree are more spread apart. Ripe visnes are quite juicy and are close to deep red in color. Since it is quite diffucult to find visne throughout the year, visnes are often consumed as fruit juice, jam, marmalade, compotes and in cakes and desserts.

So here Mummy was with a kilo of visnes and a kitchen full of empty drawers (all our stuff being on the ship remember).  We sampled a few of them as a compot and now, a few weeks later they have all but disappeared from the fruit stalls.

In the few weeks we've been back all of a sudden there is a much bigger selection of fruit and veg available.  Stalls are packed with huge apples, enormous peaches (4 make up a kilo), figs, walnuts, plums and yes, Mummy even secured broccoli and leeks the other day.
Fresh juicy peaches!
When we first moved to Istanbul, Mummy was annoyed that she couldn't get the fruit and veg she wanted but now is learning to be patient and make use of what is ready, available, fresh and most importantly not likely to have been "brought on" or "artificial."

Annabelle enjoying a plum (she is small but that plum is also rather huge!)

She's bought huge tubs for our big freezer and has filled them with blanched brocoli, cooked plums and peaches, and punnets of blueberries.  We've never tried Figs but this weekend, too tempted by these velvety purple fruits, we are going to have them baked with honey and yogurt. Afiyet Olsun!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

So near...but still quite far.

Written by Annabelle's Mummy.

Modern Technology amazes me.  As I write this on my netbook I am listening to Radio 2.  I've checked my emails and sent one to The Big man at work via his UK email address.  I've been on Facebook to upload a status and have a quick game of song pop with my Dad, and I've been Tweeting a friend who was at Glasgow airport about to head off on a business trip.  Last night I ordered flowers to be delivered to a friend back home, while watching an episode of a favourite TV programme on You Tube which we had hooked up to the TV.  So you see, we are thousands of miles away but really with all this technology I don't feel that far away at all.

When I was little and we went on holiday you phoned your Gran and Nana once while you were away and it usually was from a phone box which had a queue and was outside the restaurant you'd just eaten in.  It took a good few attempts to get through and the call lasted minutes as you spent the credit from your phone card. I have communicated with my parents every day since we've left the UK.  We text, we email, we Facebook and we Skype.  My children take this technology for granted.  My 4 year old logs on to our laptop and is video calling his Papa at a minutes notice.  He thinks nothing of this.  He also sits on the Cbeebies website playing his favourite games, although can't understand why we can't get i-Player.  If something fun happens I've taken a photo, uploaded it and the folks back home are enjoying it before my coffee gets cold.

Technology is also allowing me to keep up with what is going on back home.  I've got BBC Breaking tweets coming through for news, as well as a variety of celeb tweets which keep me up to speed with what is going on (my husband loves that I can tell him which football manager has been sacked, who is through to the next round of Wimbledon and which celebrity couple are to divorce.) I've got the radio online for news, weather and up to date songs, and I've got my blogs and online papers which I catch up with most days.

When I was interviewed for my job as Modern Languages teacher I was asked why I thought Modern Languages are important.  I gave some long winded answer detailing of technology making the world smaller and how we now live in a global society, where other countries and cultures are in our lives everyday, and that Modern Languages helps us understand other cultures and enables us to be global citizens.

Moving out here has allowed my children to become global citizens.  They use Skype to video call friends and family.  My son has emailed his nursery and his little friend and has attached photos for them to see.  They are experiencing a different culture and learning new ways to live, while staying very firmly connected with where they have come from.  I want my children to grow up knowing that distance doesn't mean they are far from home (wherever that may be) and I want them to know that different doesn't mean scary.    People have remarked that moving out here with a young family must be scary and what a brave thing it is to have done.  When you have technology (email, skype, facebook....even the relative ease of long distance travel) you realise that whether you are 75 miles from home or a whole lot further, as long as you have technology and an ability to be understood, the world isn't so big or scary.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Which Direction?

Driving in Istanbul is not for the faint hearted.....being a passenger in Istanbul is not for the faint hearted.  Mummy is finding sitting in what should be the driver's seat but is in fact the passenger seat, while Daddy darts in and out the horrendous traffic, while idiots do the same, rather nerve-wracking.  Our new car is great and Mummy and Daddy are a good team (most of the time) when it comes to getting us anywhere.  Mummy plans the journey and navigates, while Daddy listens, does as he's told and drives.
When we first arrived my Parents were relying of Daddy's blackberry to direct us anywhere.  For my Girl Guide, Duke of Edinburgh Award recipient Mummy, this wasn't working.  "I'm a kinesthetic learner!" I heard her bark at my Daddy as we took yet another wrong turn, "I can't read directions, I need to follow a map!"  We very quickly realised that unlike in the UK, if you miss your exit or turning, you can't just go to the next, turn around and come back.  We discovered this as we missed our turning to Carrefour and after taking the next exit realised we were on our way to Ankara.  Not panicking, my parents stopped and tried to work out the routes using the Blackberry.  After our epic failure trying twice to get to Carrefour and twice getting lost and taking an hour and a half to get somewhere, which is only 5km from home, Mum set out to buy a map!  Last Saturday, with map on lap, we set off.  It was all going good.  Mum and Dad were discussing the route and were now able to recall landmarks (this was our 3rd attempt remember).  We were nearly there and merged onto the "big road", which if you are not careful takes you to the Bridge and onto the European side.....or as we'd seen last week, on to Ankara.  Suddenly, from the front, Findlay and I heard the familiar discussion get up. "I think we should have veered right," "No no, I think we are fine," "No look there is Carrefour there, we should have been in that lane," "Oh I think you're right, damn, we've done it again."  We zipped past Carrefour and our chance to exit was gone.  Destination European side.  But no, this time Mummy and Daddy knew what to do.  "Its ok," Mummy said, "We'll head to Ikea and start again from there,"  Which is what we did.  Ikea was another 10 minutes away.  So near but so far.  It didn't take long and eventually we were in Carrefour carpark with our parents muttering "Next time, next time we'll have it in the bag!"

Next time was today.  Today we were going to Palladium.  A new shopping mall just on the other side of Carrefour.  I heard my parent's discuss the route, and how they couldn't go wrong this time, they knew the had to "bear right" when going on to the "big road."  Today we did it, we sailed passed the Carrefour entrance waving as we went, and headed straight on to Palladium.  On our way home I didn't even see the map come out, my parents follow the signs for Sahilyolu (Beach Road) and we get home with no problems.  As Mummy said, we are sorted now.  We can get to the supermarket, shopping mall and home again.  A little victory for us, which makes settling in here that little bit easier.

Sunday Brunch

Today Daddy decided to take us all out to Brunch.  We headed out along our street to a restaurant called Saloon.  It was a 5 minute walk.  We took a lovely table out on the terrace under a canopy with comfy big red sofas.  Thankfully we were given the menu in English, which helped us to choose.  Findlay knew what he wanted straight away - scrambled eggs.  On the menu it said they were served with sweet green peppers, which Findlay asked to be left off.  Not a problem, the waiter said.  We've found that there aren't really "children's menus" but that you can ask for any dish to be altered or made smaller to suit little mouths.  Daddy had been here before and ordered the Omelette with cheese and veal ham.  Mummy decided to be adventurous and ordered the Turkish Breakfast for one.  This would come with 3 cups of Turkish Cay, which Mum isn't keen on so it was decided Daddy would have this and Mummy ordered a regular Latte.  On reading the menu it said that the chef baked fresh bread 3 times a day....and upon closer inspection, it would appear that fresh bread batch one would be just about ready.  We were right, out came a basket full of little bread rolls, all different, all warm - yum.  Findlay and Daddy ordered Apple juice and just after the bread arrived we heard a great whizzing noise.  Inside at the bar, the barista was pulping their Apple juice.  Fresh fresh Apple juice, which when it arrived, was bright green and by the end of the meal had turned slightly brown.  So delicious and sweet.

It didn't take long for the food to arrive and when it did, Mummy decided that the jar she'd brought for me was staying in the changing bag....I was going to tuck in to what the big people were having.  The scrambled eggs were a dish called Menemen, scrambled eggs cooked with tomatoes and green peppers .  Mummy had made a version of this the other week but it was nothing like this.  It was delicious and I scoffed away happily.  My big brother was not so convinced but munched on bread, tried the scrambled eggs and stole a few bits of Daddy's omelette.  Mummy's platter was very Turkish indeed.  A handful of skinned juicy tomatoes, which I helped her eat, slices of cucumber, a poached egg on a slice of lightly toasted bread, some different wedges of cheese, a bowl of olives and some butter and honey. It was the perfect mix of carbs and protein, savoury and sweet.

Mummy's Turkish Breakfast

What a relaxing way to spend Sunday morning and we left with full tummies, which stayed that way well into the afternoon.  Mummy and Daddy have decided to make this a regular thing to do while we are living here, and I have to say, that's fine by me!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Time for Nursery

My big brother Findlay is rather intense.  Mum, and indeed anyone who is looking after him, really doesn't get a minute.  He's full of questions and is constantly seeking out new information.  His mind is very active and Mum likes to describe him as "spirited."  Back home Nursery was great for Findlay.  It was time out for Mummy and gave Findlay the chance for "information overload."  Now we are in Istanbul and the schools are already on holiday, Mummy was a little panicked at how she would entertain Findlay, especially as she was trying to get me to have a good 2 hour lunchtime nap.  It was decided that Mummy would do some sort of "homeschooling" with my big bro bro.

Mum sat down with Findlay and explained that during my nap time Findlay and her would do nursery things; nothing too taxing, some numbers on a Monday, puzzles on a Thursday, crafting on a Friday etc.  Findlay, ever the expert in imaginative play, has taken to this like a duck to water.  Every lunch time he will ask, "is it nursery time yet?" and then get his books and new pencil out and proceed to call my Mummy "Mrs Thorburn" for the entire afternoon.  So far he's had Turkish lessons and can now count to 10 and say basic greetings - interestingly enough, Mummy can't believe how easy a 4 year old seems to find learning new languages and is reveling in teaching him as much as she can (more on that later) - he's had PE lessons (sit ups and stretching with Mummy!), he's crafted Father's Day cards and written a letter to his Boy Cousins after practising his letters and names.

Friday is Craft Day

Findlay is enjoying having an hour or so's focus on him, while getting practise at concentrating on tasks and doing as he's told.  Mummy laughs as he's not always willing to participate and will often tell her he's had enough.  She won't push him but it does make her think of the challenges that lie ahead for any poor soul who will have my Big Bro Bro in their class.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Du pain?

There is something so delicious about going out and buying fresh bread to eat that day.  We all still need loaves of bread in the cupboard that are our staple toast in the morning but Mum, Findlay and me have discovered the delights of buying fresh bread.  Each morning we head out in search of the squishiest, warmest loaf.  Yesterday Findlay picked one which was a series of little buns all attached, which made the loaf look like a flower.  There were stacks of them in our local deli, all piled up in a basket paper bags next to them inviting you to help yourself.  Findlay chose a perfect loaf and we tore into it at lunchtime with cold meat, cheese and vegetable crudites.

Bakeries here are very inviting.  In the morning you will see a variety of fresh loaves and simit (a turkish bagel covered in sesame seeds and another of our favourite morning purchases to be enjoyed still warm as we head up the street) the afternoon simit and loaves have been replaced with cakes, pastries and sweet delights which are a perfect accompaniment to cay (turkish tea which is served in a glass).

Today we decided to wander up off Bagdat Cad. and away from the waterfront.  The heat was intense in the  back streets but still there was a quieter hustle and bustle.  We stumbled upon a Börek cafe.  These are little tea shops serving all manner of pastries (sweet and savoury).  Börek is a family of baked or fried filled pastries made of a thin flaky pastry dough. It can be filled with cheese, often feta, minced meat, or vegetables.  For the sweeter tooth there is an array of Baklava.  It is this that Mum, Findlay and I enjoyed.  Mum ordered Tea and Findlay had peach juice from a can!!  Baklava is a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey.  The ones we ordered were with Pistachio and boy were they good.  Findlay even enjoyed them while playing in the children's play area.  Mum had taken her book along and would have gotten 5 minutes to enjoy it were it not for the over zealous staff who insisted on touching me and bringing Findlay colouring books while speaking Turkish and the odd English word to her.  "Beautiful childrens" they kept saying.  We left making note to take Daddy back to try the walnut Baklava, and perhaps have a couple of Borek while we are there.