Tara from Cengelköy
Thanks to Tara Abbey for sharing her experience in Turkey with us.
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Tara Abbey and I am from the United States. I was a horticulturist back home, but cannot find work here in this field due to the language barrier. I am thirty one years old and an avid world traveler. This is the first time I have ever lived abroad and I am finding it to be uniquely challenging, but deeply satisfying. I am documenting my daily trials and experiences in a weblog called Secretly Turkish. I have received a lot of mail from people in similar situations and have even made a friend, who moved here to Istanbul, from Denmark, for love, as well. You can find it at www.blogigo.com/taraabbey
What made you come to Turkey?
I met my fiancé, Serkan, a Turk, when he was abroad for grad school. We fell in love and he proposed to me before he came back to Turkey. I visited Turkey for the first time last summer and fell in love with his city, also. I moved here to join him this past May. I was ready for a major change in my life and this cultural shift was just the thing I was after!
What do you do in your daily life?
I live in a lovely little neighborhood where I can walk and find whatever I need. I especially love going to the bazaar on Wednesdays for all my fresh veggies and fruits. I take loads of pictures to send home to loved ones and stay connected. As I mentioned before, I keep a daily weblog and spend an embarrassing portion of my day emailing those I left behind. It keeps me afloat. I am giving English tutoring lessons now so that I have something to do with my time. I am finding it very enjoyable, although I still miss my work with plants. I am busy exploring now in preparation for a visit from two friends from the States next month. I am excited to be able to show off this city to my friends.
Oh, my family! I miss them terribly! They are all back in the States and I won't be seeing them until next summer (2006), so I am trying to hold it together. In addition to my mother and father, I have two brothers and a sister. My sister has two kids, so I have a niece and a nephew. I did get to see my nephew walk for the first time before I came here and I am looking forward to hearing him talk next summer!
Can you compare your first days here with today?
Actually, I am just starting to feel like the vacation is over. The first few months felt like a holiday. Reality has set in now and I am getting my feet on the ground. When I first got here, everyone made such a fuss over me, of course, and now, I am feeling like one of the gang. The niceties are falling away and I am starting to see my future family-in-law for the people they really are. They are wonderful, but they have their eccentricities like anyone, I guess. I made the comment recently to Serkan that every day, I feel a little less foreign. I can ride the bus like anyone. I am getting a little more independent all the time.
Has living in Turkey influenced your approach to life?
I should say so! I was very busy back in the States, between my career and my social calendar. I am learning to take things a little slower. Patience has never been my strongest virtue and I am finding that you need LOTS of that here in Turkey. I am finding that by taking things slower, I notice the everyday beauty so much more. I have Turkey to thank for that.
I am getting there, slowly but surely. I have always been rather good with languages and I seem to be absorbing Turkish at a good rate, according to my fiancé. I can't afford to take lessons just now, so I just ask a lot of questions and study on my own when I can. I know that learning Turkish is key to getting the most out of life here, so I am taking it as seriously as I can.
Let's talk about the region you are living in?
I live in a place called Cengelkoy. It is on the Asian side of Istanbul. We are in the same neighborhood as Serkan's parents, so it is quite convenient for free meals. (wink) We live in a really beautiful, safe neighborhood with lots of little parks and playgrounds. They just put in these waterfalls all over this summer and we like to go for walks at night. We also have a tennis court, so we are trying to take advantage of that. It is quite a 360 turn from my life in the States where I lived in an artist warehouse loft in the middle of the city. I couldn't even go anywhere without getting into my car there, so I am enjoying all the walking I do here.
Have you traveled in Turkey? Tell us your discoveries
Yes, I have a bit. When I visited last summer, we spent a week in Bodrum. A friend of Serkan's from college just got his boat captain's license, so we spent a week on a sailboat, drifting on the Aegean. Pure heaven! This summer, we spent a lot of time at his parent's beach house in Saros Bay, about five hours drive from Istanbul, also on the Aegean. We visited Troy, which was only an hour away. We also went to Bursa to see a friend and ended up spending the day in a little village tucked into the back of Uludag called Cumalikizik. It is an old Ottoman village and you feel like you were transported back in time walking through it. A mountain stream runs through the streets, cold and crisp. It was one of the most amazing places I have ever been in my life. In October, we are going to Kayseri for a wedding. I am very excited about this because this is the village that Serkan's parents are from. It is famous for its pastirma and manti, so I can't wait to try those!
What is your preferred characteristic trait of Turks?
Everyone says the same thing about the Turks, and I hate to be redundant, but their hospitable nature is really unique and nearly overwhelming. They really do go out of their way to make you feel at home in their country. I have not experienced anything like it anywhere in the world. I knew after visiting last summer that I could live here in a heartbeat. And I got the opportunity to do so!
What was the annoying one?
This might sound strange, but I really hate how Turkish people cannot just wait in line and be civil. They are always cutting in front of each other as though their time were more important than anyone else's. I have actually been pushed out of the way getting onto the bus. Another thing I am having a really hard time with is the lack of personal space. Turkish people seem to have no concept such as this. It makes me very edgy when I am in a public place and I can feel someone's breath on my neck or someone is practically sitting in my lap. I wouldn't say that I am an uptight person, either, but this is very different from the States, I can assure you.
Mmmmmm....I love, love, love Turkish food. I especially go crazy for my fiancé's mother's homemade manti. I also had iskender at a little place in Uludag that was probably the best thing I have ever tasted in my life. I still dream about it. Although, I will admit to the occasional mad dash to Burger King. Some days, I just get tired of borek, kofte, and doner and only a Whopper will do!
Any suggestion to new comers to Turkey?
Make friends as soon as possible. You will anchor yourself so much quicker and the city will really open up with other people to explore it with. There are a lot of people out there that are doing the same thing you are doing; starting over here. Go out there and meet some! I recently met a gal from the UK who moved here and is teaching yoga. I ended up at a women's meeting at her apartment on Sunday where I met two women from Sweden, another from the UK, and one from France!
Any suggestion to people planning to visit your region?
See it with a real Turk! Traveling with natives is always the best way to go, of course, but I find Istanbulites are unusually proud of their city. (It is not hard to see why!) Find the real Istanbul. It is hidden beneath the tourist traps. Do go to the Grand Bazaar and the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia, but get out of Sultanahmet and spend an afternoon in Ortakoy or even my own Cengelkoy. See what really goes on here on a daily basis.
Latest comments about this article
By okantor 1.12.2007
Hi Tara, I am 8 years experienced Turkish teacher.My students Americans,New Zealenders,Canadians.I can help your Turkish.My charge 35Ytl per hour+if requried transportation fee..I have an offise in Kadıköy or we can arrage to meet at a place which is convenient for you. My cell 0536 8859824 E-mail. email@example.com
By koangirl 12.9.2006
I couldnt get the link to your blog to work- it kept redirecting me to the blog servers main page, demanding I register... I am curious to read your blog though, as I keep one too, after almost 5 years in turkey (http://yaramaz.livejournal.com/). Is there any other way to access it?
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