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Archive for July, 2011

When I awoke in the wee hours  my first morning back in Istanbul, feeling awfully jet lagged and sweaty, my mind wandered to the past month and how our time in the states was much like a Thanksgiving dinner. There were copious amounts of prep and planning only for it to be consumed voraciously in a short amount of time leaving everybody tired and a couple of pounds heavier.

Our trip to the states was epic, it truly was.  We covered a lot of ground, saw a good number of people and made some fun memories.  Every minute was great from the lake house south of Seattle, to the dunes of the Oregon coast, to the giant redwoods on the coast, to the curvy roads high above the crashing surf in Big Sur, to the bear boxes and grand vistas of Yosemite, to the glorious mountainous backdrop of the Serra Nevada and lake Tahoe, to the high green peeks of Ashland, to the rolling farm land of southern Oregon, to the arid desert of the Yakima valley, to the grand snowy summit of Mt. Rainer back to the quaint and uber cool neighborhoods of Seattle.  Simply amazing.  The landscape of the west is awe inspiring and truly magnificent and was definitely a major player in our month long vacation.  But another great thing that comes with being in the US is the access to some great and tasty food–and boy did we indulge.

While we ate a number of things, and have some favorite meals, the unintentional theme of this year’s trip was the search for the tastiest American hamburger.  For those of you who have never lived outside of north America, you may have no idea as to how the hamburger becomes an iconic meal to many an expat.  I would even go as far to say that a tasty hamburger surpasses the delight in crispy bacon.  Yep, bacon, it is true.  Here in Istanbul, the American style burger has become kind of yuppie food.   Trendy and expensive burger spots are popping up all over and while they do hit the spot in a pinch, they just do not have the je nais se quoi of the true American burger. Sure, McD’s and Burger Kind are plentiful, but I am talking about the burger of the roadside restaurant that will also serve up a hand made shake and usually their own burger sauce.

So our quest for the quintessential burger was on and boy did we have fun trying to find the best one. We tried burgers in Washington, Oregon, California and Nevada. It is really hard to say which burger won; they were all so very, very tasty in their own right. The Walker variety of Nevada was phenomenal, and probably beat the rest.  However, Red Mill burgers of Seattle were tasty morsels made even better when shared with my brother and sister-in-law and baby niece, but really not in the same category as the Walker burger.  The classic Yakima Lariat burger, with yet another special sauce was not only tasty but nostalgic.  My dad had started going there when he was a kid and continued to take us there each summer as kids. But then you have Dick’s of Seattle, a hamburger so famous Sir Mix A lot sang about it in one of their rap songs from the nineties.  This place is a particularly cool one because as you sit in your car gorging on burgers and hand cut fries -there is no indoor seating- you see all types of people from many walks of life lining up to get a Dick’s burger.  My favorite juxtaposition was the small dog toting-bouffant hair sporting-BMW driving grandma parked next to the dudes in a dusty blue beat up pick-up truck.  Dick’s also has a program that sends their employees to college and gives full benefits and paid vacation for it workers, something I really respect in a burger joint. We also had some good back yard burgers and burgers at other stops along the road, and each of them had their own reason for being tasty and memorable.  But the reason we kept going back to the burger is because Americans know how to make a damn tasty burger, even if the recipe changes up  from burger joint to burger joint.

It wasn’t all burgers though as we had all kids of great food and drink from Sonoma Valley white wine and Basque home brew to Seattle brewed IPA, from Thai to Mexican, from seafood to tenderloin, from ice cream to pie , from quesadillas to sandwiches.   In fact, we ate and made so many sandwiches on this trip, “the sandwich” deserves a post all to itself. Sandwiches are another food that America does well and are hard to replicate here in Turkey.

So we are back, reveling in the memories of the people who we shared all of the tasty meals with, a couple pounds heavier but happy and getting ready to get back to work and lose some of the burger fat  that we picked up along the way.

California

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T.S. Eliot was apt when he coined that April is the cruelest month, but for those of us around here in Koc land, June can be the cruelest month.  Working at a school with an expat population is always interesting because many wonderful people come into your life. Along with this though comes the end of the year when people move on.  Some Junes are easier than  others. The June of 2002 was a tough one; all of the friends I made when I first arrived, bright eyed and bushy tailed, left en masse. Each year after that, a colleague or friend would leave, which usually meant teary good byes.

This June is no different; people I have come to know, respect and love, both colleagues and friends, will be leaving.  This is the hardest June since 2008, when two of our favorite people in the world  headed back to the land of lobster and Superstore.  It is a bittersweet experience to know people in such an intense way because the expat lifestyle draws all sorts of people together into circumstances that are quite unique. But it is the expat lifestyle that serves as a siren who draws people away to other adventures.  This June, not only will we feel the sting of departure, our boys will too; their cherished play mate and her cherubic sister will move with their parents, who have come to be our friends from respected colleagues, back to their homeland.

I will also miss other colleagues who will no longer grace and embellish the landscape of my life, and look forward to hearing of their new adventures and continued happiness in this world we share together.

Today, when the house was quiet, my eyes fixated on something that summed up and represented what a certain  family of individuals means to me and the loss that their absence represents. It has been a good run.

It began, two lojmans side by side–green, green grass.
As time wore on, friendships blossomed, children grew,
the green grass flourished into a brown hue.

First noticeable in fall, the worn earthy patch that represented the connection;
in spring, the grass struggled to grow under the trampling of feet, to and fro.

Back and forth between the blossoming flowers, the children ran and skipped,
played and argued, making their mark on the  green grass.

Summer arrives, neighbors turned into friends depart, and the brown mark amongst the green, green grass stays
as an homage to the time that was–and will forever be–in their hearts and memories.

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