Archive for September, 2012

Sweet Freedom

I have always loved the name my friends gave to their choice ride , a dirty-white older model Renault.  Sweet Freedom was aptly named as it was their chariot that carried them off a  then campus that was quite isolated with not much to do.

I now claim the name for myself and use it to describe the feeling I felt  upon arriving home at 4:20, tired and wanting to plop down on the couch like a big lazy slug.  Finding myself alone in the house after school for the first time in six years I realized that I actually could plop down on the couch like a bug lazy slug if I wanted to.  In fact, I could pretty much do whatever I wanted.

I wish I could say I have been doing amazing things with my time, but alas, I have not.  I have filled it with walks and reading books.  I still can’t believe that I have this glorious time to myself.  I am sure the novelty will wear off soon enough and it will seem like I have always had this hour and a half to myself, but for now, I will revel in its glory.


Read Full Post »


I have re-worked this post a number of times.  It has transformed from a post about missing Nova Scotia, to loving Seattle, to loving both, to a “hey, here is what we did this summer” post, all the while life carries on here in Istanbul, my home of 11 years.  It dawned on me that  while this post reads like a re-cap of our summer, its spirit is about roots, and how being an international teacher allows me to have roots in more than one place, which can be a good, but also unsettling feeling.  I have posted about being an expat before, about how you never really fit in completely and compactly anywhere anymore.  At a recent wine night out with other expats, some of whom were Turks who grew up in the US and have now found themselves here in Turkey, the discussion eventually found its way to the rootlessness you sometimes feel as an expat. While we were all from different walks of life, this was the one thing we all shared.   People often ask me if I would ever move back to North America and if I miss it.  My answer of late is that we have a good life here and that while I do miss North America, if I were to move back there, I would then pine for things that are here, like I do now for things that are there; once you enter the world of expatriation, you are forever changed and home is never in one place anymore.

So I will just get on with this post, it is sort of here an there, the transitions are abrupt, the ideas disjointed, but that was kind of how my mind was this summer anyway. I was lucky enough to spend it in two of the three places I consider myself to be rooted. While this reality can sometimes feel lonely it can also be pretty amazing because you get to enjoy the best of what each destination has to offer before you jaunt off to the other one. *****

So, we hit Seattle again  this year.  This lush, green oasis has lots to do, and we did it.  Not only is Seattle a respite from the heat of summer in Istanbul, Seattle is uber cool in its coffee shops and small neighborhood restaurants with tons of locally brewed beer and tasty food.  I finally got the chance to dine at Delancey’s, a pizza joint in Ballard that is run by one of my favorite bloggers.  We feasted on crisp, thin crust pizza topped with fresh local ingredients after downing a roasted fennel and goat cheese starter, and washed it all down with a chocolatey, earthy glass of red wine. Heaven.  Over the span of our time there we dined on fresh and smoked salmon from the fish mongers at Pike Street Market, scarfed down mussels and clams, sipped drinks on the veranda of a fancy Victoria hotel, savored squares of handmade salted caramels,  fried up plenty of bacon, sipped gallons of coffee, gobbled down copious amounts of Red Mill and Dick’s burgers, nibbled on taco truck tacos that will make you swoon with happiness, and scarfed down wood smoked beef  tenderloin at Uncle Dave’s.  It was a festival for the taste buds.

However, the best culinary experience happened just shortly after dropping the boys at summer camp.  We tracked down a Cuban sandwich joint that promised to deliver the tastiest sandwich ever, which also meant long lines.  So we got there as early as possible and already there was a line of 6 people spilling out of  this tiny establishment.  But it was the BBQ pork-laden smoke wafting  out that  convinced us that we had made the right choice for lunch that day. Being a small joint, there was no where to sit so we took our order to the car where we delivered ourselves into culinary magic.  After minutes of breathless eating, Koray stopped and said, “I think this is the best f-ing sandwich I have ever eaten.”  Mouth brimming with pulled pork and cilantro sauce, I giggled and nodded in agreement; it was a damn good sandwich.

The most memorable eating experience was at an ice cream shop called The Fainting Goat.  Owned by two Turks from Izmir, I couldn’t resist popping into this neighborhood establishment situated just up the road from us.  The ice cream was creamy in flavors like pistachio, rose vanilla and mastik.  Not only was the ice cream good, but it seemed to have an added ingredient that caused  giggling/hysterical laughter  on the car ride home on more than one hilarious, scar-your-child occasion  (one of those “you had to be there stories”). And there is such a thing as a fainting goat, just youtube it.

But it wasn’t all about food.  Visiting friends and family as well as just living like pseudo-Seattleites was also high on the priority list. We hiked to a beautiful alpine lake that still had snow around it, kayaked on the cusp of the straight of Juan de Fuca, and combed the beach overlooking the Sound.  There were many great moments and one of the best things I loved to do was to get up at the break of day and head into a yoga class, afterwards picking up a coffee at the local coffee house. I was tickled one morning when the barista eyed me in the line of regulars and said, “12 ounce filter coffee, room for cream, right?”  My plan of becoming a pseudo- local for the summer had come to fruition.

Three weeks and a bit might seem like a lot of time to get everything done and see everybody, but in fact it isn’t and we missed a couple of people. One person we did see was my childhood friend Tracy who, as expected, has brought herself back.  She looked as she did last year, she just sounded like she had a cold and walked as if she had sprained her ankle.  Truly amazing she is.

Through all of this wonderful, hectic business, my mind continuously wandered back up and over to Nova Scotia where good friends situated in grey green Atlantic landscape carried on with their lives.  Where sweet, red lobster with salted butter and Pino Grigio and fish chowder and sunsets and good chats live.  On the airplane over and back, when the flight map showed us the east coast my eyes focused often on that lobster claw that claimed my heart and I sent down as many good vibes as I could from way up in the sky.  We felt the absence of Nova Scotia in our spirit and bones this summer. The boys too miss it. They annotated our time in Seattle with comments of missing NS, and those that live there.

I remember the first time Nova Scotia entered my radar.  It was a St. Patrick’s Day party at a neighbors and our friend R. had brought fish cakes to share.  “L. brought salt cod from Halifax” he said and I thought to myself, “now that sounds like a place I want to go.”  So when the aforementioned friend invited us to his home in Nova Scotia my response was, “hell ya.”  Flights were booked and off we went. We spent six wonderful summers in a row there, five with the boys.  Dad’s death yanked me back to the west coast of the US, reacquainting me with all that is there. This coupled with the birth of my adorable little niece has made us Seattle bound for these past two summers and on this last trip we struggled with what to do next summer.  But hey,  having to pick between Seattle and Halifax for a summer locale, well, let’s just say it could be a heck of a lot worse.

And this weekend on my way back from a yoga class, I drove over the Bosphorous bridge just early enough that traffic was flowing,but late enough to see the much sought after skyline of old Istanbul bathed in golden light perched atop the glittery waters coursing rapidly down the Bosphorous. With iced coffee in hand, I thought to myself, “well, this sure ain’t bad.”

Today driving home from school thinking about a Skype conversation I had had earlier in  the day, I was stopped by twin 1 so he could quickly  jump in the car.  As I looked back at him nervously sitting there, surmising why he wanted a ride home instead of playing with his friends  he said to me, “just drive the car.”  Feeling very cloak and dagger, I hit the gas and  listened as he confessed to an incident involving a Nerf gun. Kids have a way of rooting us to the here and now, moving us along this twisty turny path of life, which sometimes goes on just a little too quickly.

School starts tomorrow, my 12th new year at Koc and a new crop of students will pass the threshold of my classroom, new lessons will begin, for them and me, and life will indeed, go on.

Read Full Post »