Wednesday, July 28, 2010


A few faithful readers have gently reminded me that I haven't written for a while; since July 7th, to be exact (thank you, Lorraine!). So here's a quick and haphazard list of what I've been up to with some thoughts interspersed.
  • We moved house. It literally took weeks to pack. Movers came and took away 34 boxes; 6hurç, or fabric bag-boxes, 3 suitcases, and my cauldron, full of stuff. It's all in storage now and will be delivered to our new place in Istanbul mid-August. Tons more is at my mother-in-law's in Adana.
  • We flew to Toronto, where we are now. It was a long journey; Adana-Istanbul-Paris-Toronto. Knowing there's a direct Istanbul-Toronto flight made it all the more painful. Eventful only because it was Baby's first flight.
  • In Toronto, I haven't called anyone; I haven't made dates to see anyone; I've just been enjoying being here. We wake up in the morning and decide what to do that day. We've been taking lots of walks out here in the Beaches.
  • Am enjoying all the fresh Ontario produce that's in season. Makes me think about how lucky we are in Tarsus with all the farmer's markets and local produce year round.
  • My lovely friend Lisa, who's now officially the family photographer, did another photo shoot of us. She's way ahead of me and has already posted about the shoot; you can see some of the photos here.
  • We spent the day at Ward's Island yesterday. If we ever move back to Toronto, where will I want to live? The Beaches? The Island? Every part of Toronto has its own charm!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Luggage Limits

luggage-airport seriesImage by j.cliss via Flickr

I'm going to make a comparison I never thought I'd make: the millions of Turkish people who travel between Germany and Turkey each year and myself, preparing to travel to Toronto this summer. And the particular focus of my comparison centers on luggage.

For the trip to Toronto, I not only need to bring clothes for all types of weather, but I'm packing all the paraphernalia that comes with babies -- diapers, changes of clothes, toys to occupy during the flight, food mill for making fruit and vegetable purees, bottles ... In my defense, there is a lot I'm not bringing; I've made arrangements to borrow a stroller, car seat, crib, high chair, and toys in Toronto. But still, I was dismayed to learn that Air France's baggage allowance is pretty meagre: 1 bag per person; and that my son's allowed baggage weight is half of mine.

You see, there are also all the Turkish delights I want to bring to Toronto. Several litres of pomegranate syrup, for one thing; and of course freshly ground Turkish coffee and baklava; plus a few trinkets to give as gifts -- some copper ware, a small woven rug.

And returning to Turkey, I'm going to want to bring back all kinds of things, mostly foodstuffs. Cilantro, yellow tomato and sweet potato seeds (I'm determined to grow some veggies this year), celery salt and all-spice, quinoa, spelt, kamut and teff, and maple syrup. Oh, and hard honey. And so much more; I just know that as soon as I start roaming the isles at Loblaws, that I'll buy a suitcase's worth!

I suppose the bane of expat life is that you're forever straddling two worlds, always painfully aware of the one or two things that you can't have in one place or the other, unable to take the best of each culture and create your own utopia.

Turks travelling to Germany bring a season's worth of homemade salça and cheese, or else a favourite cookie; those travelling in the opposite direction bring uniquely German candies or herbal remedies, or else a brilliantly engineered piece of household equipment that one just can't find in Turkey.

Which brings me back to luggage. A few years ago, I was outraged at the audacity of three separate women in two different airports who asked me to check in some of their luggage under my name. I was travelling between Adana and Dusseldorf, Berlin and Adana, and I had painstakingly reduced my luggage to just one small carry-on bag. I was an instant target. Caught off guard, and unable to just say no, my stomach twisted into knots and my weak knees threatened to buckle under me as I waited in line at the check-in desk. Each woman had given me perfectly sound explanations for her need to travel with excess baggage; one was pregnant and had brought with her everything she'd need after the birth. But I hate breaking rules, and I knew airline luggage policies were strict for good reason. What if one of the bags contained a bomb?!! Or, more realistically, citrus or meat or some other banned food item?

In each case I told the woman at the check-in counter that the people behind me were welcome to piggyback on my unused luggage allowance; grabbed my boarding pass and ran through customs. I didn't see any of those people again.

Now I look back at those incidents with an ironic smile; how much I've changed, how much I've grown to be quite similar to those travelers who offended me so much a few years ago. Of course I will never, not in even the most desperate of circumstances, ask anyone to check in my luggage for them. But I wouldn't take offense to their request.

Too bad I'm no longer a target, though.
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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Nar Recipes

For all the things I stock up on and bring back to Turkey with me each time I travel, nar ekşisi is the one thing I always pack to bring with me on trips back home. I've written before about this thick, syrupy pomegranate syrup that is sweet and sour at the same time and has the power to transform a dish from ordinary into extraordinary; but my friends keep asking me what they should do with it. Here are two simple ways to incorporate nar ekşisi into your diet.

Arugula Salad:
  • Wash and dry fresh arugula (roka) leaves; chop leaves into one-inch lengths and discard stems.
  • Chop heirloom (yerli) tomatoes and crush garlic (crush, do not chop!).
  • Toss the vegetables with olive oil, nar ekşisi, salt, black pepper and isot (a dark sun dried pepper) and serve.

Turkish Tabouleh:
  • Measure and pour fine bulgur into a pot or other sealable container; a good rule of thumb is one Turkish tea glass of dry bulgur per person. You want to use köftelik bulgur as opposed to one of the coarser grinds.
  • Pour boiling water over it just to cover, and immediately drain off excess water; cover and let stand.
  • Finely chop parsley, fresh mint, and any or all of the following: green onion, tomato, cucumber, green pepper, bulb onion, red cabbage, carrot. The key is that everything should be chopped extremely finely. If for the same volume of veggies as you have bulgur. Set aside the veggies.
  • Uncover your bulgur; it should be soft and plump. Add a tablespoon or two of salça, or red pepper paste (or, if you can't find it, tomato paste) and begin to work it into the bulgur with your fingertips. Add black pepper, salt and cumin to taste; add the juice of at least one lemon and some olive oil and drizzle nar ekşisi all over. Add the reserved vegetables and stir it all together.
  • Can be served with whole leaves of Romaine lettuce, which you fill with tabbouleh and bite into!

"Kısır" is a couscous salad from Tur...Image via Wikipedia

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

An Ocean Upart - Mid-Project Update

Today is day 21 of our 30-day project, taking one photo each morning. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, you can read about the project here or on Lisa's blog.) We've had a few difficulties (my camera broke; Lisa's laptop power cord fizzled) and I'm surprised to find the project challenging in all kinds of ways. But we're both enjoying it tremendously, and would like to do it again in a few months.

We've changed the rules along the way; we are no longer limiting ourselves to mornings, and we've added the occasional list. But I don't see these deviations from our original mandate as 'breaking the rules,' but rather as examples of how the project is evolving. After all, we never planned on including captions with each picture, but I realized on the very first day of the project that my picture seemed incomplete without one. And now I can't imagine the project without daily blurbs! I'd like to do this again sometime with evening pictures, or no time restrictions at all; and I'd even love to try it with three people!

I was thrilled to hear that just as we were inspired by someone else's project, my friend Carole has been inspired by ours and is going to try a similar one this fall with her twin sister, Kathy -- from Tarsus to Tokyo!

And now a few of my favourite side-by-sides to date:

Day 9:
Lisa: Morning coffee. In the background, our paper-covered floor criss-crossed with green painter's tape.

Day 10:
Cecile: "Letting Daddy Sleep in on Father's Day."
Lisa: "Daddy opening his gift. He wasn't sure about the light blue shirt."

Day 13:
Cecile: "Our morning walk in the park; a forest on a mount underneath which is an ancient city."
Lisa: "Me (and Lily's head) in the rearview mirror of the Zoo Mobile, parked in front of the giraffes."