My last post kicked off an ongoing series called On the Menu. I shared a bit about my first experience with Tost. A key desire for our family in moving to Turkey is learning to live in a foreign culture and learning the foreign culture. Turkey is so intriguing to us, but we are discovering that engaging a totally new culture is a massive endeavor. I realize that it isn’t something to do over a weekend, or even in the month that we have lived here.
The way I have seen it, there are two key entry points for engaging with the culture, especially as an expat who has just moved here. One is language and the other is food. A culture isn’t contained in language and food, but so much of the culture is displayed by and woven into these things. Needless to say, I am eagerly engaging both.
Today, I want to share about a tiny intersection between these two things. I am enrolled in a language class 20 hours per week. There is nothing easy about learning Turkish, but the class is fun and it is helping me climb the mountain of learning to speak and understand Turkish. Every hour, we take a 10 minute break. Right across the street from my class is a little Börek shop.
The way I figured it, I am spending half a day each day learning the language. I might as well take the opportunity to start exploring the local cafes and shops around my class during my breaks and commute time. My favorite little spot is the Börek shop.
There are 4 main kinds of Börek. “Ispanaklı,” “peynirli,” “patatesli,” and “etli.” Those are “spinach,” “cheesey,” “potato,” and “meat.” Essentially, it is a long croissant, with one of those fillings, chopped up and served warm. It is light, flaky, and delicious. I prefer it for breakfast, but I have had one for a snack mid-day, as well as for lunch. It never really felt out of place. So far, I have only tried the meat version. I’ll be trying other kinds too.
Börek – 15 TL ($1.00)
Çay – 3 TL ($0.22)
It is absolutely worth it. Starting with Tost was a very simple, familiar start into Turkish food. Börek is a small step forward. One of my favorite parts about the food and drink at this little shop is actually the opportunity to say hello and begin speaking some basic Turkish with the owners. They are very kind and friendly people and they are patient with my elementary language abilities. They wave at me when I walk by their shop too.
Like I said at the outset, this is one example of food being a gateway to culture. It is offering me taste, environment, language opportunity, and new relationships. These are the things I’m here for (in reverse order!).
“Strange” and “normal” are often in the eye of the beholder. This is especially true when it comes to food and drink. I have often heard from people who have lived in Turkey or visited here that the food is excellent. In some countries or regions of the world, there are, let’s say, interesting foods and drinks. I have tasted a few of those things over the years. I never heard of any seemingly strange foods in Turkey. To my sensibility, there is a much lower learning curve here than in many places in the world when it comes to local cuisine.
On the Menu
I have been excited to share some of my discoveries, but truth be told, I wasn’t sure how best to share them. So what I think I’ll do is share little bits at a time, as I discover it myself. I’ll make this an ongoing series called On the Menu. In this series, I’ll share about the food and/or drink item, the cost and current conversion rate, and what I think of the menu item(s).
Today, I’ll start with something very simple, affordable, and familiar. It is called “Tost.” That’s not a type – it is a Turkish word. In this case, it is a grilled cheese sandwich. It came with a small side of fries and a couple of slices of cucumber and tomato.
Sandwich, fries, veggies – 15 TL / $1.08
Tea, bottle of water, fresh squeezed juice – 29 TL / $2.09
Yes. My goodness. The food and drink is fresh and good quality. As an American who has been living here for only one month, this dish is quite similar to something I would find at home, so it is that much more comforting. If I need a simple, quick, inexpensive, but tasty meal, this is one thing I can definitely choose.
We have heard that question more than a few times since we decided to move here, and especially since we got here. It’s a fair question, I suppose.
There are lots of reasons why we want to live here. At the top of the list is giving our family an opportunity live in and learn a new culture and language. For the longest time, I have always wanted to live in a foreign culture and I have always wanted the opportunity to raise my family in a foreign culture. Stepping out of our normal to find a “new normal” is appealing. We enjoyed and appreciated our life in America, but we knew it would broaden our worldview and grow us as individuals and as a family if we lived in a new culture.
Turkey is a place with great historical and cultural significance. That much is evident from its architecture and even a cursory knowledge of world history. Byzantium, Constantinople, Istanbul. These names bring ancient and modern history with them. I’m fascinated by this and deeply intrigued by this place.
These photos are another aspect of our desire to live internationally as a family. Our kids have lived in a small town and in a big city. Their experience in a big city was nothing compared to life in a city like Istanbul. We have only just arrived, but it feels like we have arrived at the edge of many beautiful discoveries – discoveries of history, culture, and language. There is much we don’t know, but one thing is clear: we will never be the same.
The Duffel Bag Saga Comes comes to an end. These bags have loomed large in our family’s life for the last 6 months. They have been a sort of bookmark in our life. It was quite the journey getting them from America to Turkey, but we are here.
We had been looking at apartments on Sahibinden (which is sort of like a mix between Zillow and CraigsList) for weeks leading up to our move. We couldn’t take any action on a place until we were in-country, but it was good to know what we might expect. Once we were in-country, it took us 2 days to find our apartment and sign the rental agreement.
We found a new-build place in a good area with an easy walk to the Metro. It was a great find and we are so excited to have our home!
It was a true joy to see the movers pull up with a load of home furnishings we had bought ahead of time. The only stuff we brought in-country from America was in the aforementioned duffel bags. This truck was loaded down with a “household,” which included everything from furniture, to furnishings, to toys, etc.
Now that we are finally in our new home, we are starting to get adjusted to life in a new culture. We are so excited to be here. We have so much to learn, but it will be good process.
I don’t remember exactly when I discovered minimalism. I remember growing more and more interested in the idea through books like The 100 Thing Challenge by Dave Bruno and blogs like Zen Habits by Leo Babauta, among others.
I also came across a number of blogs by “ultra minimalist” people. Many of these people took the 100 Thing Challenge to the next level, living only with the possessions that could fit in one backpack, or something like that. People who do extreme things (ultra minimalists, ultra endurance athletes, etc.) have always fascinated me. They demonstrate in various ways that we can do more than we think we can. On the minimalism front, I was always intrigued by the idea of living with less stuff and focusing on keeping only the things that mattered to me the most.
Moving is a Great Opportunity
As we’ve moved around the country, and now as we are preparing to move overseas, we keep paring down the things we own. We have always fill up the space we have. Moving creates a perfect opportunity to cut back.
In preparing to move across the country, we decided to fly the family home to avoid a week-long road trip with 3 small kids. My dad and I would fly back the next day and pick up a moving truck to load up with all our remaining stuff to bring back across the country again. That was exhausting just typing it.
We got all of our flights booked. Then, a few weeks ahead of our flights I went online to reserve a moving truck. I was shocked to find out that it was going to cost us between $7,000-10,000 just for the truck, for a one-way trip. Then we would need to factor in fuel, food for the trip, and hotel stays. All this for a bunch of stuff that we weren’t even planning on taking with us overseas. We researched every conceivable option. We ended up deciding just to get rid of everything that wouldn’t fit in duffel bags and we would just check the bags on the plane when we flew to NC.
Kelly did some research on duffel bags we could use and we settled on the Samsonite Tote-A-Ton 32.5” duffels. We settled on SEVENTEEN of them.
As we were buying and loading these duffels, we found out from a friend that UPS or FedEx may let us ship these for around $1/pound. It was going to cost us over $2,000 to check all the bags through the airline. We ended up shipping each of the bags (did I mention that there were 17 of them?) via FedEx. It ended up being a really simple process. Kelly found ShipWinner.com which let us put in measurements for each bag along with weight to calculate cost. Then we paid online and printed our shipping labels. I would load these monster bags in the car 2-4 at a time and drop them off at a local shipping store. A week or so later, the bags would show up at our destination.
The Hardest Things to Get Rid Of
It was amazing to see that we could realistically load our lives into bags like this. Obviously, it took a ton of work to actually get things loaded. Then it was really difficult to let go of some things. For me personally, I had a library of multiple thousands of books, 13 years worth of journals, and a cabinet full of fountain pen ink in small glass bottles. As. You can imagine, each of those things. Took up lots of space and were very heavy. It was clear those things weren’t coming with me. If we had be able to rent a truck, I would have loaded them all up and brought them back to NC. I would be in the same position now, though. No one here has the room for this stuff and I wouldn’t be taking it with me overseas.
Little by little I got rid of my books. I donated a ton of them. I kept one large shelf in the front room where I could load up my favorite books and offer any friends who visited a chance to look at them and take anything they wanted. Lots of my favorite books are now on the shelves of some of my favorite people. Over the last few years, I started buying more of my books on Kindle anyway. Many of those on that shelf were already on my Kindle.
I didn’t think much about my journals. I loaded them into a box and set them aside. Once the moving truck plan was out of the picture, I hauled out the box and started going through the journals. It was sweet to have all of those journals in one place. Occasionally I would open one up to look through it. I found some encouraging entries as I looked through them. The value of the journals was more in the process of writing them than in keeping them to look back at. I dumped the entire box in the trash. It was bittersweet, but it was the right choice for me.
The fountain pen ink was a little less sentimental but felt like a waste. I packed up my favorites to ship home (most of which arrived in one piece – a few others broke or leaked). I offered to give the remaining supplies to a local friend who enjoyed stationery but we couldn’t arrange a meetup in time for our move.
How it Feels Now
We are light and mobile and we are now living comfortably in a much smaller space with family while we prepare to make our big move. I miss having our own place and having a house full of books, but I know we made the right decisions. It is wonderful not having to keep up with so much stuff. And it will be all the sweeter when we finally get overseas into a new home of our own.
Now, we are back at it, packing up our bags. This time, we just have a lot less stuff to deal with. Those same duffel bags are piling up ready to be checked at the airport. The challenge now is seeing how many (or better, how few) bags we can pack for when we move, while not leaving out important things.
This was quite the process and quite the story. I hope pulling back the curtain a bit is helpful in some way to you, whether you are just interested in our story or moving or considering downsizing for yourself.
It is fun and really helpful to come across resources like this video. One particularly helpful takeaway for me was the bullet point list of requirements for a residence permit (“ikamet”). I hope over time to be able to share such helpful information for others who aren’t just traveling but are also moving.
We booked our flights and now the countdown begins! We have about a month and a half until we move our family to Turkey. In the process of preparing to move overseas, our family has essentially become minimalists. It’s nice. We are constantly reassessing what brings value to us and what we truly want to have in our lives. There is less to stress about and we are feeling more content with what we have.
That’s not something I expected we would experience at this point, but I’m glad it is happening. It makes me all the more excited to discover what else we will discover as we travel along the Silk Road.
For now, I am sharing beautiful photos I have found on Unsplash of our future home. As the title for this post suggests, we are dealing heavily in “what ifs” and “can’t wait untils” and “I wonders” right now. We have always wanted to raise our family in a new culture and language. Even from our current distance to life abroad, there is so much excitement and a little apprehension. Comfort is comfortable and moving to a new culture will be uncomfortable. But as we learn about Turkey and the rest of the region, we are blown away by the history and cultural significance from one end of the Silk Road to the other.
For now, we dream and plan. Before long, we will be packing our things and taking our family to a new land. We will share what we can in the meantime, and once we get there, we’ll be able to share even more as we our feet underneath us.
Thanks for following along with us. It is a joy to get to share this journey with you.
Hi there! We’re the Pucketts. We love to travel, and we are excited to take our family (us and our 3 kids – not pictured) on the road to see and experience parts of the world we have never been to before. We love learning about cultures other than our own and we want our children to grow up with an appreciation of languages and cultures. I will be sharing about our journey and life along the Silk Road. I hope it will be encouraging and helpful!