Monday, December 27, 2010

Lost in Translation 2

Except for the absence of snow, there have been thankfully few reminders that I’ll be “missing” Christmas in Canada with my parents, brothers, nieces and nephews. Especially in Istanbul Christmas trees, Santas, reindeer and carols are everywhere; I even saw panettone for sale at the supermarket.

Except it’s all for New Year’s. It seems the Turkish have appropriated several Christmas traditions for celebrating New Year’s Eve, where children receive gifts and sit around a decorated “New Year’s tree.”

And in that context, I’d like you to consider three dissatisfyingly strange conversations I had with a dinner guest last night.

Puzzling Conversation #1:

Dinner Guest: Seeing as you have a New Year’s tree all set up and decorated, I assume you’re staying in town for New Year’s Eve?

Me: Actually, that’s our Christams tree. We celebrated Christmas yesterday. We’re going to Adana for New Year’s.

Dinner Guest: Huh?!

Puzzling Conversation #2:

Dinner Guest: Aren’t Christmas and New Year’s on the same day?

Me: No, Christmas is on December 25th.

Dinner Guest: Isn’t Christmas when Jesus was born?

Me: Yes.

Dinner Guest: ??!!

Puzzling Conversation #3:

Dinner Guest: Why are Christmas and New Year’s so close together, like a week apart?

Me: Huh??!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Not to worry, this isn't a rant; the hypocrisy I'm going to talk about is all mine.

After four years of "surviving" in Tarsus, imagine my surprise and delight at discovering Istanbul's Macro Center, an upscale affiliate of the Migros supermarket chain. As I strolled its aisles, I couldn't help asking myself whether I was still in the same country. Sweet potatoes and limes in the produce section, bacon in the deli, and nachos and salsa in the snacks aisle. Not to mention the things I hadn't even really missed -- Ben and Jerry's ice cream, Pepperidge Farm cookies, and Weetabix!

Nachos y salsaImage via WikipediaBut at prices more than three times what I'd pay in Canada, I left without buying anything, and didn't go back. The valet-parked Porsches and luxury SUVs out front were a further turnoff, as the whole place began to represent the opposite of what I'd come to love about life in Tarsus.

Well, that self-righteousness of mine lasted about two months. And while I still buy 99% of my groceries from more "Turkish" markets and have adapted my family's cuisine to work with what's available at the pazar (farmer's market) and in the aisles of my local supermarket, I have started to indulge in what Macro Center has to offer every once in a while. This weekend I spent the equivalent of almost $15 on a bag of nachos and a jar of salsa, but it was worth every kuruş.

However, I should add that while I'll buy nachos again, I'm determined to start making my own salsa. I'm going to try an adaptation of the Pioneer Woman's recipe, substituting the canned tomatoes and peppers for fresh.
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Monday, December 13, 2010

Take Out

Other big cities likely have a similar service, but Istanbul is where I first came across this brilliant business idea. (which translates as my food basket) is a website allowing you to order in from hundreds of fast food chains and restaurants. No phone numbers to store, no take-out menus to save, no having to explain how to get to your difficult-to-find home. In fact, you don't have to speak to anyone -- no waiting on hold, no miscommunication.

You can narrow down your options by cuisine and location. Restaurants are rated on speed, service and taste, and you can even choose to be environmentally friendly and tick a box so that plastic cutlery, napkins and other such items aren't brought. The website remembers you, so ordering is quick and easy. And all deliveries are made on mopeds, so traffic is never a concern!

Since I love to cook and am considerably health conscious, we rarely eat out; hence my being so slow to discover this great service. But I'll still go ahead and recommend it to others, making sure to tell expats there's an English version!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Turkish Dozen

I've decided the Turkish equivalent to a dozen is one kilogram. Not only does one usually buy a kilogram of baklava, börek (Turkish blintz) or poğaça at the bakery, where a North American would probably buy a dozen, eggs come in cartons of ten.

No Turk I've ever asked, including my husband, has been able to give me a Turkish word for dozen, although my dictionary tells me there is one. It's just clearly never used!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

GPS Navigation System

I'd always written off GPS navigation systems as cool toys for people who love to play with technology, and had certainly never thought of buying one. But a friend lent me one recently, and I don't want to give it back! I would not be overstating things if I told you this tiny little black device has changed my life.

You see, moving to Istanbul has in many ways been like moving to a new country; except for the language, there is almost nothing else to connect it to Adana/Tarsus, where I'd been living for the past four years. And whereas four years ago I was afraid to venture out into the city because I didn't speak the language, I now find myself apprehensive about leaving the safety of our campus because I will get lost.

And I must clarify -- there is getting lost, and then there is getting lost in Istanbul, where one wrong turn can take you half an hour to correct. I have gotten lost half a dozen times since moving here, and each occasion has had me almost in tears. Indeed, navigating my way around this new city of ours is an emotional rollercoaster; I've enjoyed absolute euphoria, as I did when I drove across the Bosphorus Bridge for the first time and when I made it to the Ataturk Airport in under half an hour; and utter despair, as I did when it took me over two hours to get back, baby crying in the backseat. And that two hours was not because I was stuck in traffic; it was because I backtracked and criss-crossed my way across the city three or four times trying to find my way home.

I've been known to be indecisive when it comes to purchases, but I knew in an instant I had to buy a GPS navigator; although my friend and I had both thought I'd use his for a week or so and get to learn my way around so I wouldn't need it anymore, I now can't imagine life without one. It's even shown me better routes than the ones I already thought I knew!

I love you, TomTom!

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