Tag Archives: Expat

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Dearest Readers,

2013 has proven to be a year of exciting transitions and new beginnings. Istanbul was my home, my stomping grounds and adventure-base for almost 4 years. The city’s dynamic energy was thrilling and overwhelming, inspiring and exhausting. It is certainly one of my favorite places in the world and will always be somewhere I call ‘home’.

I miss the accordion man that walked through our street every Sunday morning. I miss the lemon cart and the old grandmothers who  yelled, chatted, smiled and strolled as they passed through the web of city streets. I miss the cats at every turn. I miss passing four grocery stores on my way home. I miss knowing I can jump on the bus or metro in a matter of minutes and get almost anywhere in the city. I miss the music pouring out of the Taksim bars. I miss when the streets are so full you can hardly walk. I miss the sparkling Bosphorus, where boats of all sizes travel in all directions. I miss constantly being exposed to new words, flavors, music and experiences. And, of course I miss my Istanbul friends and family.

Where am I now?! I am currently on Bainbridge Island, outside of Seattle, back on American soil. It is a place where you can hear the birds chirping, walk along the beach without seeing another soul and occasionally, if you are really lucky, you will see beautiful Mount Rainier. It is a place where everyone wants to know your story (and most people already do). Everyone makes eye contact with one another and it is expected for you to say hello (with a smile) to every stranger you pass. Small town life is charming in its quirks and serenity.

There has been significant culture shock. It  took me 3 weeks to muster the courage to enter a grocery store. It boggles my mind that there can be entire aisles of salad dressing and cereal. I still stand on the right side of an escalator. I am learning to tip 20 percent after every meal. I cannot hear (or see) my neighbors. The streets of Seattle seem so empty, even at the height of commuter hours.

In some ways life seems to have slowed down. We sleep in every day. The stress of work is absent from my life. I am surrounded by the comfort, love and support of family. However, I am constantly reminded that time never stops. Everyone I know has big, busy and full lives that have changed so much since my original departure. It is fun to get to know my closest friends in new ways and see how everyone has grown-up and started their own unique path towards the life they want to live.

What am I doing?! Exploring my options, networking, dreaming big and daydreaming about my next adventures (and blog). I am toying with the idea of careers in international education, public relations, public affairs, higher education and even writing. I am currently working on a book to ensure my adventures and experiences outlive the blur of my memories. I am considering my options for a blog about the social, economic, cultural realities of the Millennial generation I find myself to be a member of. I am trying to tame my wanderlust to imagine myself staying in one place long enough to establish real roots. I miss Istanbul and the exciting world I left behind, but I am also thrilled to imagine all the possibilities that await me.

Stay tuned for future posts and updates!

From Seattle with love…

Adrian

From Istanbul to Seattle

My Date with the US Consular General (and his fabulous wife)

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As I walked through the gates of the Consular General’s residence, I knew I was in for a treat. The home is perched on the steep hillside in one of my favorite neighborhoods of Istanbul. The grounds are green, the staff is friendly and the Consular General and his wife proved to be the most gracious hosts.

We gathered for the monthly meeting of Professional American Women of Istanbul. We sipped coffee and tea out of porcelain cups and used napkins with the seal of the United States printed on them. We snacked on the comprehensive breakfast buffet. Eventually, we gathered in the main sitting room to listen to introductions from the Consular General, the head of US Security forces in Istanbul, 2 Marine officers and a liaison from the Citizen services office. Here are some of the highlights of the meeting and the lively discussion:

1.) The Istanbul Consulate is busy! There are more than 14,000 Turkish students travelling to the United States each year and more Turkish people are applying for Tourist visas than ever before. As many of you know, Turks are required to complete a long and comprehensive visa application process before they travel to the US and many other countries. Thus, the Consulate is very busy filing these applications and conducting interviews to complete the visa process.

2.)Istanbul is a very popular destination among high ranking officials. During our visit, Secretary Janet Napolitano was in town. Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and President Obama have also been to Istanbul in recent years. The Istanbul Consulate receives more high-ranked officials than most US consulates around the globe. The city’s geopolitical significance rivals its touristic appeal…

3.) American companies are looking to Istanbul as a center for business in the region. 3M is planning to establish a super-hub in the upcoming year. It is predicted that with the weakness in the Euro zone and the instability in the Middle East, Istanbul will continue to be a desirable location for investors and American business interests. Read the rest of this entry

I Voted: How I Became an Overseas Voter

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This is one of my favorite times of year! Halloween, Election Day and Thanksgiving all in one perfect Fall package. Somehow, I was able to incorporate elements of each of these important days into my life in Istanbul. (Thanksgiving planning began last month as we brainstormed all of the special pumpkin products we craved before my friend returned to the US in October)

To be honest, voting abroad does not  provide the same excitement and ease as voting at home on Election Day. However, I will be the first to admit that I am lucky in some ways. I have been free from horrible and antagonistic campaign advertisements, and I only seek out election news when I desire it. 

To account for mailing time and ensure my vote was counted, my voting efforts began in October. I discovered a fantastic website for American military personnel and citizens living abroad called the Federal Voting Assistance Program. If you enter your zip code, it will confirm you are registered for the election and connect you directly with the election division of your respective count. To my sheer delight, Kitsap County allows voters to vote online and print their final ballot as a PDF. With the ballot in front of me, and a handy Progressive Voters Guide one tab away, I voted and saved my finished ballot. I sent my ballot to be printed. That night, my wonderful hubby came home with the printed version (we do not have a printer, so things like this require an extra step). I signed it, and prepared for it to be scanned and emailed to the Kitsap County Auditor the following day. Read the rest of this entry

Copenhagen, here I come!

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In just 5 days, I depart for Copenhagen. This city is full of buzz and color. It is constantly ranked at the top of any list that assesses urban quality of life. It is constantly gaining recognition for huge strides in eco-friendly living. It is famous for its design, bicycle-filled streets and the numerous Michelin starred restaurants. The city is full of museums, colorful cafes and the oldest amusement park in the world. It is also home to an autonomous counter-culture community housed in a former military  base. This city seems to charm each and every one of its visitors with its captivating and global art scene, innovative culinary accomplishments and colorful streets… Additionally, I have learned that Copenhagen is crazy about Halloween! Read more here. A flash light tour of the palace?! Yes, please.

I have also used this trip as an excuse to explore some new blogs and websites. My favorites?

VisitCopenhagen.com: A wonderful list of all the best foods, shops, restaurants, streets and attractions in Copenhagen! You can make a list of your favorites and compile your own guide. You can find a link to my guide here!

Stay.com: This website serves as an interactive trip planner and guide. You can read profiles about each of the city’s trademark tourist attractions and it will help you build a list of places to see, while also helping you to plan each day of your trip. I cannot wait to try it!

My Sweet Copenhagen: This website is full of wonderful photographs. The writer presents the mystique and charms of Copenhagen for the whole world to see. I will certainly write down some of the restaurant recommendations before I go!

Classic Copenhagen: This blog is written by locals determined to share their city, their world and their daily observations with their readers. There are numerous posts about Copenhagen’s eccentric, wonderful and surprising street art. Take a look!

Eat Copenhagen: This wonderful blog highlights the numerous culinary options in Copenhagen. This established foodie has photos, lists and ideas for every person and budget!

10 Essential Istanbul Experiences

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Ok, savvy travellers. If you are coming to experience the rich and dynamic cultural offerings of Istanbul you absolutely must experience the following:

1.)  A Full Turkish Breakfast at Cafe Kale

Situated along the Bosporus, the breakfast at Cafe Kale thrills and delights absolutely everyone. Within a few minutes of placing your order, your table will be covered by numerous small plates: hot and cold, sweet and savory, there is absolutely something for everyone.  It is the perfect way to spend a morning and experience the city.

2.) The Istanbul Modern

In recent years, Istanbul’s modern art scene has exploded.  The Istanbul Modern is the heart and soul of the art world and has initiated the transformation of the surrounding area. New shops and cafes are popping up around it and interesting exhibits ensure I keep coming back. Situated in an old warehouse along the Bosporus  the space alone is worth seeing. It has a fabulous view of the old city and the buzz of activity on the water. The museum’s permanent collection offers a  uniquely Turkish palate,  landscape and overview of modern Turkish art history. It is the perfect lens to gain additional understanding of modern Turkey. There is a lovely cafe and a great gift shop (perfect for those of you searching for souvenirs).

3.) Watch the Sunset from a Terrace Bar

The city comes alive at night and its treasures are hidden above the chaotic streets. As you wander through Beyoglu, look up and find a terrace to watch the sunset. Many old apartment buildings along the backstreets of Istiklal Caddessi host hidden cafes and restaurants with extraordinary views of the city. My favorite is Balkon, near Tunel. For dancing, try the wonderful top floor bar Araf for Balkan beats and a fabulous view of the city…

4.) A Day on the Islands

The perfect escape from the chaos of city life. In 80 minutes you are transferred to a summertime paradise complete with beach clubs, ice cream stands, bicycle rentals and horse-drawn carriages. The Princes Islands were once where the city’s Greek, Armenian and Jewish intellectual elite spent their summers. The beautiful homes around the city center are a perfect testament to the Ottoman charms that once defined Istanbul as the center of the Ottoman Empire. If you only have one day, go to Buyukada. Be sure to have some ice cream, hike the steep hill to the monastery and drink a beer at the top to enjoy the fantastic view.

Read the rest of this entry

Expat Life: Glamorous or Exhausting?

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I am here to demystify the glamour and intrigue of expat life. Yes, it is awesome. Yes, every day is different. However, nothing in life is perfect. Here are some of the setbacks:

1.) We experience water cuts 2-3 times a month

2.) A trip to the grocery store is an adventure that often results in longing for recognizable ingredients, bottled sauces and familiar products from home. I once spent an hour in the grocery store in search of bleach.

3.) You cannot talk in shared or public spaces without stares, warnings and disapproval.

4.) There are no clear rules or procedures for any activity. Consistency is a foreign concept. It always depends on who you talk to and what they are feeling at the time.

Read the rest of this entry

The Saga of Obtaining my Residency Visa

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Where to begin?! Well, as October 4th approached I knew there would be complications. My Residency visa would expire and required some updates. Not only did I have to update my marital status, I also had to update my address, while also renewing my Residency visa. Turkish bureaucracy is a wild and  unique beast. It is far from the 9 pages of directions provided by the US government for each document you must complete for any US visa. Instead, the policies change rapidly and there is not one source for consistent and up-to-date information. On top of that, everyone is an expert and you will be told three different answers from three different experts. Additionally, the bureau is underfunded and overworked. So, imagine the fun. We completed my visa application after two unsuccessful attempts. First, we went to the wrong office. The second time, we did not have the correct official documents. 

On top of that, there was a lovely little surprise. Remember, there is no clear set of information available about this application. So, we arrive to visit number two, only to learn that I have been illegally in the country for two months. Apparently, when my old employer cancelled my work visa, they also cancelled my residency visa. This minor detail was never mentioned to me. Now, this sounds much worse to American ears. Of course, this is Turkey, and if you talk to the right person and pay the right fee, there is a solution for everything. Thus, we talked to several people and paid the fee of 120 dollars to move forward with the process.

In the end, after obtaining bank information to prove that I had the funds to support myself, visiting two different police stations, talking to more than 4 different police officers,  a 20 minute walk in search of the tax office where I had to pay several different and independent fees  and a 15 minute conversation entirely in Turkish with the officer responsible for laminating my visa with a machine that was older than him, I picked up my visa on Friday.