Five Things… Turkey style

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with listening to itunes podcasts. The sorting and decluttering process has begun in earnest in preparation for our move to Germany, and I’ve determined that listening to other people talk about fun and interesting things greatly improves my motivation to revamp our filing system and clean the junk out of desk drawers. One podcast that has caught my attention is the Joy the Baker podcast–two successful food bloggers discussing the most “totally important unimportant things.” It very rarely has to do with either food or with blogging, but, lately, Joy and Tracy have begun to assign “homework” to any listener looking for a bit of blogging structure or inspiration. Their assignment from a couple of weeks ago was to share five things that you’re loving right now. In the grand tradition of my own little corner of the internets, I’m a bit late to get on this bandwagon, but, now that I can see the end of our time in Turkey drawing tangibly closer, I’ve decided to use this little task to share a few of the things that I will miss when we leave.

So, without further ado… Five Things I Love… Turkey Style:

1. A profusion of produce. Vegetables accompany most every meal–including breakfast. Handfuls of parsley get tucked into doner kebaps served from street carts, plates of varied salads arrive at tables before any ordering of main courses even takes place, and lines form at the salad bars of mall fast food joints while customers wait to order their hot dishes. And these salads are not the sad baby greens-from-a-plastic-box paired with flashy garnishes that one might find and many U.S. establishments. Rarely is there a wilty leaf or pale tomato in sight, and instead of dressing each table is equipped with bottles of olive oil, lemon juice, and nar (a pomegranate molasses). Eat that with some cacik (thick yogurt mixed cucumber and parsley), mashed roasted eggplant, salty white cheese, some of the bread (if you can…), and chunks of grilled chicken or lamb shish and try to tell me that you’re still jonesin’ for Chick-fil-a.

A sample of one of my early farmer's market hauls. Probably cost less than 20TL total, making it no more than around $12. Turkey is one of the few countries that is entirely agriculturally self-sufficient. Just imagine what our country could do with more small and medium-sized farms?

2. My assertive driving skills. Lanes? What lanes? Forget crowded freeways, bumper-to-bumper traffic, or even driving on the left side of the road. When you regularly get blasted with multiple horns because you’ve stopped at a red light, then we’ll talk.

3. “My” parking guy. A particular parking attendant mans the block where I teach yoga twice a week downtown. We regularly have conversations where I talk to him in English and he talks to me in Turkish. We don’t understand each other (beyond the basic number of hours parked and lira owed, of course), and yet we continue to smile and nod and chat as though we do. And why is he a favorite? Allow me to set the stage: 6:30pm on Thursday nights in downtown Adana is a crazy time for parking. Crazy. The streets are clogged with drivers and pedestrians leaving work while the available spaces simultaneously fill with shoppers and diners for the evening hours. Cars zip in and out of the diagonal street parking as well as clog the already-narrow the road lanes as they double park like sardines. The parking attendants, in their florescent yellow vests, oversee this mayhem as best they can.

J and I leave the house early Thursday nights on the way to my 7pm class to give ourselves plenty of time to make multiple passes up and down the street searching for a legitimate parking space that doesn’t require either a mini cooper or cojones the size of Alaska. This past Thursday, on our second pass down the street we caught a glimpse of a spot partially blocked by a giant trash bag as well as my parking guy waving enthusiastically as he recognized our car. He flagged us down a little way off and gestured that we wait there as he ran back to the spot. J was incredulous, watching in the review mirror, as keys got tossed from person to person, traffic stopped, cars moved up on sidewalks. He then had us back up down the street–quite far–to find the spot he created for us, and we were also asked to pull up on the sidewalk (a hair’s breadth from a pristine cream Mercedes, mind you). And after all that–two lira to park for the evening. I’m definitely bringing him cookies before we leave.

4. Carpets. I have learned quite a lot about Turkish and Middle Eastern carpets during our time here. Whether or not we’re actually shopping, going to dinners at the carpet shops or even just popping in on the weekends, visiting these carpet shops is such a fun thing to do. It’s like going to a gallery opening except that the art gets unrolled on the floor rather than hung on the walls. I also love that I’ve learned so much about a craft that I’ve never truly taken the time to appreciate in the past. Now, when I see carpets in photographs, whether they’re machine made or not, I challenge myself to see if I can identify the design and remember the region and materials typically associated with it.

5. Yoga.  My yoga practice and my teaching have evolved and deepened during my time here. Living and teaching on a military base as well as working at a Turkish studio and attending trainings and workshops with alongside the Turkish yoga community has given me a very unique perspective on yoga as both a practice and an industry. Essentially, I have jumped into the water as a yoga teacher in not one but two unusual settings, and I think that I just might like yoga more through these unexpected angles than I might have had I begun my teaching career in a more conventionally yoga-ish setting. I’m curious to see where this perspective takes me.

Namaste, Turkey. The light in me sees the light in you.


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