Answering Questions About Turkey – Part 1

We get a lot of questions about Turkey – I’ll use this post to answer some of them. Better yet, come visit sometime and experience it for yourself!

turkish flag
Turkish Flag

How did you decide on Turkey?  Answered in an earlier, separate post here 🙂

Are you allowed to buy property in Turkey?  Yes, we can and we have. It’s not very common to finance property purchases. Most people buy their homes with cash. We hired a Turkish lawyer, named Cihat (pronounced Jihad – same meaning!) who helped us navigate the legalities and questions of property ownership. Unfortunately, we can only stay for 90 days at a time on a tourist visa for a total of 180 days/year (90 days in, at least 90 days out). So far, this works great for us as we dodge the hurricane season in Mexico. It’s quite onerous to get a residence permit to live in Turkey full-time. Like in the US, if you are foreign-born, there are many hurdles and requirements for us to stay longer. Also, similarly to the US, you can buy property, but it doesn’t qualify you to stay longer. Also, like in the US, we could come and stay “illegally” (beyond our 90 days), but when we left and tried to return, we would likely get hassled and maybe not allowed back in the country (not a chance we want to take). Although we can buy a house here, you are not allowed to buy a car unless you have a residence permit, so we rent a car (for about $8/day) while we are here.

How does the current economy and Lira free fall impact you?  The currency here is called the Lira. Currently, the lira falling is a good thing for us. We have a local, Turkish bank account, but mostly we transact in dollars, so it’s actually better for us. When we arrived, the lira was about 3.5 lira: 1 dollar and now it’s almost 7. We try to keep dollars as long as possible and exchange when we need them. Interestingly, even though Turkey takes MasterCard and Visa, many businesses reject our US cards as their chip readers won’t accept our cards. It’s extremely frustrating, and it prevents us from leveraging the exchange rate but also requires us to use our Turkish account or liras. Also, most places, unless you’re in a posh hotel, won’t take American Express, and many stores don’t even know what it is. In the long run, a stable Turkish economy will be better for us as we own a home here and want to see the community thrive and appreciate in value. We use TransferWise to move money from our US account to our Turkish account. The transfer fees are reasonable, and it’s fast and easy with an app on our phones.

lira
Turkish Lira

What about the politics and president of Turkey?  It’s best not to discuss them.

What’s the language and are you learning it?  The language is Turkish – it’s a beautiful language that has more in common with romance languages, like French, and none of the harsh or guttural sounds of Arabic. My Turkish is very rusty; I understand a lot of it, and I can shop and get along pretty well at a high level, but I still can’t speak conversationally. I can follow along, but I lack the ability to say too much in response, which is frustrating! It’s definitely improved with time here. Many people here don’t speak English, so we blunder along, try as we can, and use Google Translate when we get stuck! I think for our trip next year, we’ll spend time using Babbel or taking an intensive language course to jumpstart our learning. There is nothing more humbling and makes you more empathetic to people living or traveling in the USA, trying to speak English, than when the shoe is on the other foot!

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Panoramic of our neighbors – as seen from our back balcony

What’s your neighborhood like?  Our total community is ~30 buildings with ~70 separate homes built as townhouses. Most people own 1 building, but we split ours with our friend who lives next door. The busiest we have ever seen it was during a national holiday a couple of weeks ago, but even still, our neighborhood was only about 30% full. We are in a separate little area with only 7 homes, and we call it the G7 as we are a fairly international group. All but one house was full during the holiday – it was great fun hanging out with everyone, sharing meals, and working together to make improvements.

Who are your neighbors?  Most everyone is Turkish, but they either live abroad or work abroad. Two of our neighbors are Americans (living in Turkey & in the UK), one family lives in Brussels (an engineer & an anesthesiologist), one family lives in Ankara (retired ministry of tourism & a librarian), one family lives in Istanbul (a gynecologist & an engineer), one family lives in Istanbul (professor & Turkish think tank)…all professionals, and all of them speak *some* English. (They are very patient with us!) There are quite few kids here, too, which is really fun to see the energy and diversity of our community; watching them grow up year after year will be really fun. We have a beautiful swimming pool, and the beach is about a 2 minute walk away – complete with electricity (when it works), lounge chairs, a fresh water shower and palapas.

Who takes care of everything there?  There is a guy, Mustafa, who lives here full-time, in a little house with a bunch of chickens. He is our on site guardian, does odd jobs, keeps the pool clean and does general maintenance. We also have a building site manager, who is accountable to a board of directors and who is supposed to run the bigger systems like solar and water (which don’t work great….). But, we are really on our own for repairs and landscaping. Part of this is because we are still a new development that hasn’t received all the rights of a city property – this will likely come in time.

Can you find everything in Turkey, like in the US?  Yes and no. Generally, there are specific stores for each category of goods. If you need electric, you have to visit the electric store. If you need plumbing, you have to visit the plumbing store….and so on.  There are big chain stores ala Home Depot and IKEA in larger cities but not near where we live. There are two grocery chains here (Migros & Carrefour) that are starting to carry more than just food, but in general, when running errands, we have to plan all day for a minimum of 6 stops!

Pharmacies – are prescriptions hard to refill?  Pharmacies are plentiful here, but limited to generic drugs or alternatives. For example, we can’t find Benadryl here, but they have an antihistamine equivalent, and my branded contact lens solution is readily available. I take a migraine pill that costs me about $20/pill in the USA with insurance, but here, I pay the equivalent of $1/pill – no prescription required! Natural treatments like Arnica are easy to find, and tampons are nearly impossible to find. It is related to a holdover custom from the muslim culture of revering virgins (seriously). I remember this being the case when I lived here 30 years ago, but I expected it would have changed by now (it hasn’t).

Are you in a safe area?  Despite what you read on the news, which is largely sensational and focused on small areas, most of Turkey is very safe, and yes, we are also in a safe area. There is and has been violence in Turkey, but we stay vigilant and try to blend in and not put ourselves in uber-tourist places with a lot of people. We have a full-time caretaker who lives here year round, and he watches the place. There are also a few dogs that live here, and they are quite protective of the neighborhood and people roaming around at night. The only thing we have to watch out for are scorpions and wild boar! 🙂 There are immigration patrols that we meet on the highway from time to time, and recently, we have seen military helicopters flying over our beach, presumably looking for refugees since we are so close to Greece (the closest entry point to the EU). The immigration road blockades generally wave us through once they see we are foreigners or Americans. For this reason, you must always carry your passport when traveling around the country.

What’s your 3-6 month plan?  We will be in Turkey for just under 90 days until the first of October when our visa expires, and then we will island hop around the Greek islands for a few weeks, landing back in the states in time for the midterm elections in early November. We plan to be back in Mexico at the end of November, visiting the Copper Canyon with friends. We’ll spend December seeing family and friends (Arizona, Sun Valley, Portland) and then back to Mexico where our sailing season will start again in earnest. We’re tentatively planning to sail south to La Paz or Puerto Vallarta from January thru early March to avoid the heavy “Northers” before sailing back up into the Sea of Cortez for a few months before the next hurricane season. We both are likely to travel back and forth to the US during this time for work, and Jodi may come back to Turkey for a month in Spring to check on the house and do some weeding and spring planting.

When will you be back in the US?  Sometime in late October/early November, 2018. We hope to come back to Turkey for another extended visit in 2019 – again, during hurricane season in Mexico.

What’s the food like in Turkey?  In a word, amazing. Some of the best cuisine in the world. Not heavy like Greek food but fresh, whole foods grown in volcanic soil and rich in color and nutrients. Lots of fresh fruit (melons, peaches, nectarines, plums, figs, apricots) and vegetables (tomatoes – okay, a fruit, squash, beans, cucumbers, lettuces), 100s of varieties of olives and cheese (I counted more than 40 types of “white cheese” at the grocery store the other day), legumes (chickpeas, lentils, white beans) meat and fish/seafood (although we don’t really eat these anymore), and the government subsidized recipe for white bread is divine (and costs no more than about 50 cents). My favorite is breakfast, which is generally cheese, tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, honey, bread, and jam. Alcohol is easier to buy than it used to be (albeit very expensive for out of country brands – a small bottle of Absolut Vodka is $20), and Turkey’s wine industry is growing fast (high-end bottles costing between $5-15). Efes Beer is Turkey’s national pilsner; it’s cheap & delicious ($2/bottle).

breakfast

Which do you prefer – the Aegean or Mediterranean?  Turkey is one of only three countries in the world that straddles more than one continent (Russia and Azerbaijan are the others). Turkey is on the European and Asian continents. We live on the Aegean, but both seas are beautiful. If you look on Google Earth, you can see that the Aegean is a bit more green and mountainous than the Med, but both have crystal clear blue waters, and most of the beaches are small pebbles vs. sand. We are closer to a few Greek islands than we are to mainland Turkey.

map

What’s your typical day like?  See next post – Part 2! 🙂

Kurban Bayram – An Important Holiday in Turkey

This week is the Kurban Bayram holiday – a 5 day holiday in Turkey where most businesses, all government offices and banks are closed. It also marks the first official day of travel to Mecca and can clog travel in and around the country. It’s an important holiday in Turkey as it follows the Islamic calendar (and therefore is a different date every year).

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Hanging at the beach before the big celebration

This year, it falls on 8/21-25 and is also known as the Feast of the Sacrifice. In biblical terms, it commemorates Abraham’s dedication to God when he was asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac, and at the last-minute, God (or an angel of God) spared his son and gave him a ram instead to sacrifice. In Islam, it’s the same story (as most religious stories are…): it commemorates Ibrahim’s (Abraham) willingness to sacrifice his son, Ishmael (Isaac), to show his faithfulness to Allah (God).

During the holiday, rams/sheep/goats are sacrificed and used as a large feast and family celebration where gifts are exchanged. As part of the holiday, a portion of the meat is donated to the poor. In more modern times, it’s also acceptable to donate money to the poor and skip the animal sacrifice part altogether. Like Thanksgiving in the USA, it’s an important charitable time of year where family and friends get together to celebrate and give thanks. And, like Christmas, it might be one of the few times a year that a non-practicing Muslim will go to a mosque to attend the morning prayer.

There are government dedicated areas where it’s allowed to conduct the sacrifices. We passed one of these yesterday in rural Datca where many animals were in a corral awaiting their grisly fate. Thankfully, we weren’t there long enough to see any action.

If you travel to Turkey or any Islamic country, you should always check their religious calendars and holidays as travel can be disrupted. However, it’s interesting to be here during these times as you learn something culturally relevant, too.

We attended a large neighborhood potluck last night celebrating as a community. Everyone brought something to share, and the wood fired oven on our property was fired up all day yesterday (for the first time!) to slowly roast the sheep and make fresh bread. Everyone wore white, and there was music, wine, some dancing and much discussion of the state of the neighborhood’s infrastructure. A fun night and great way to make new friends.

 

 

LIFE ABOARD LODOS: “a day in the life”

While we have been reporting on our whereabouts, I thought it would be good to post a “day in the life” of the Lodos crew (aka Jodi & Kirby).

Generally, our day starts when the sun rises. It’s hard to stay in bed when the sun comes streaming through a porthole window or overhead hatch; you only have to turn over in our bed to look outside to see the bright blue sky mirrored in the turquoise waters that surround us everyday.

In several towns or marinas, they also have a cruiser’s net, which is usually broadcast on VHF channel 22 around 8am. It’s a helpful and hilarious summary of the goings on of the area and almost always includes: emergencies and urgent issues, weather, wind, tides, a peso report, advice, swaps & trades, local news, and the occasional joke. I found a great endodontist and a (free) aluminum pole for my chamois mop on such a broadcast. It’s a fascinating peak inside the cruiser lifestyle.

working

 

We have been trying to stay in/near places that have wifi or Telcel service, so that I can do some work part-time. Kirby has another project in the works as well, so he spends a few hours a week on this, too. I have a few perches where I like to work – out in the cockpit under the bimini where it’s shady, or inside at our salon table. In a marina, I may use a conference room in a marina or sit in a common space where the wifi signals are stronger.

 

Breakfast consists of cereal, fruit, smoothies in the Vitamix or oatmeal. There are always boat projects to complete, some more urgent than others, but it’s likely we’ll complete something everyday to ensure the boat is working properly.

We have been cooking on the boat a lot, and with the heat, we eat less and usually vegan/plant-based meals. Kirby has mastered the art of breadmaking in this Japanese machine (Zojirushi) that makes a small loaf perfect for two people over a few days. We need to ensure our boat batteries are charged up because it takes a lot of energy to run this thing – usually the solar and wind power can keep up, or we will make bread when we have the engine running or are making water. My favorite piece of kitchen equipment is my small Lodge cast iron pan, which we use almost everyday! This is honestly the best $15 I have ever spent.

For making water, we have a reverse osmosis water maker onboard that makes about 36 gallons of water/hour. So, we try to run this every few days to keep our tanks topped off.  Do you know how much water you use a day? We do! 🙂 I challenge you to track it for a few days and figure out how you could shave off a couple of gallons. It’s pretty interesting, and there is nothing like limited resources to make you acutely aware of how much you use, so you don’t run out!

Afternoons are usually spent cleaning, cooking, reading, working, writing, swimming or napping. If we are in a harbor or bay where we know people, we might also spend time having an afternoon cocktail or catching up on sailing news and weather. We have a bathtub and two showers on board the boat, but usually, we shower off the back of the boat, after a swim. One of my favorite things on the boat is our outdoor shower nozzle which gives us hot and cold water. Showering outside is a luxury that few people get to experience, but it’s oh so much better than showering inside – give it a try sometime!

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WindyTY screengrab

 

We check the weather multiple times a day. Actually, we are kind of obsessive about it as it changes frequently (well, not in terms of rain or sun but in terms of wind and direction). If we don’t have access to internet, we can download a quick weather file using our satellite phone (we have an Iridium Go) or our SSB Radio. I like to triangulate the sources by checking WindyTY, PredictWind, Windfinder and tide charts.

 

 

 

playinggames

As the evening rolls forward, we might play a game, shower, do some laundry or prep for dinner. If we are staying in a marina, we might go out or take a stroll after dinner. While on anchor, we almost always cook, and we can go for days without touching our feet on land, which gives us a bouncy, rolling feeling when we finally do step on land.

And, for years, Kirby has been after me to watch Game of Thrones, but I have resisted,…until now! We have all 7 seasons on a hard drive, and we’ve been watching in the evenings. We are just starting Season 5, and I’m finally hooked. Spoiler Alert: everyone dies! 

 

 

Cooking on a boat

A few of our favorites!

by Jodi

Little did I know just how much my experience aboard the Sea Shepherd would inform just about everything I do on Lodos on a daily basis, and the most valuable skill I learned was full time cooking on a ship. On Sea Shepherd, I was the cook/chef for 12-18 hungry workers, 3 meals/day; our ships are all vegan, out of respect for the very wildlife we are trying to protect.

Other than the environmental and health benefits of an all plant-based diet, it’s easier on the ships’ systems, including refrigeration and waste. While underway, Kirby and I eat vegan/all plant based. It’s been really fun and healthful. With a small exception (I recently found some fresh brown eggs in Turtle Bay that I couldn’t resist), we have been eating this way for a couple of weeks now. When we get off the ship or grab food on land, I still pretty much eat vegan, but this is Kirby’s chance to grab a taco or other local meat-inspired specialty.

Coconut curry with kale – yum!

While underway, we haven’t been eating a lot – you just don’t get that hungry while being out at sea for days on end – but we do try to cook some things in advance that can be eaten cold or heated quickly. And, the simpler, the better – if it can be made in 1 pot, even better!

For inspiration, I love the following cookbooks: Minimalist Baker, Thug Kitchen,  Oh She Glows, The Boat Galley, and the official Sea Shepherd cookbook. I also bought a small 10 1/2 inch Lodge Cast Iron skillet that we use almost everyday. Not only is it durable and tough on a boat, it also gives us some extra iron in our food. Another must have item for the boat are silpats or silicone baking sheets. They are flat, easy to store and provide a great non-skid padding for things I’m storing in the oven while underway.

Here’s a list of some of our menu items so far:

  • Coconut curry sweet potato & kale over rice
  • Wild mushroom risotto with cashew parmesan cheese
  • Potato salad w/ red onions & relish
  • Spicy Black beans over rice
  • Quesadillas with spicy veggies & 2 types of soy cheese
  • Tostado salad with hummus, tomatoes, kale & cilantro
  • Pain perdu – a version of french toast
  • Sandwiches – ranging from PB&J/AB&J to deli/veggie sandwiches
  • Hummus & veggies