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!

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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.

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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.

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

Living in Turkey During Hurricane Season

We’ve taken a break from blogging since we aren’t on Lodos right now, but we have received a lot of questions about where we are, what we are doing and when we’ll be back on the boat, or in the states, so I decided to take each question as a separate blog post – watch this space!

We sailed to San Carlos, Mexico in early/mid June and spent a couple of weeks getting the boat ready to be taken out of the water. We left Lodos in a ship yard there, “on the hard” (out of the water) because we needed to finish some work on the boat that we never got around to before leaving San Diego. We also had to redo work that was done improperly in San Diego – hopefully the last of the projects that all have had to be redone in the past 6 months+.

It’s hurricane season in Mexico. It officially starts in June and ends in November, but truly, the most dangerous time is August-September (when the water warms above 80+ degrees), so we knew we wanted to be out of there this season. We took the time to do some traveling this summer and see friends. We went to our cousin’s wedding in Dallas (beautiful!), and we stopped to see friends in London, Oxford, Paris and Amsterdam.

4 years ago, we bought a house in Turkey. It’s a tiny house (1 bed + 1 bath with a loft), in an “off the grid” community, in a remote new village on the Aegean Sea along the Datça peninsula. It has all the challenges of new (cheap) construction, plus layer in remote access, very little internet, spotty electricity (100% solar), and very rocky soil that we are trying to completely transform (sometimes through sheer will & grit alone).

All that said, the houses and community aren’t the reason we bought a place here. It’s the landscape and beauty that surrounds us. We are butted against mountains to the East that look something like Halfdome in Yosemite or Lake Tahoe in California and to the West, the shimmering blue of the Aegean – with the Greek Island of Kos facing directly in front of us. We are ~1 hour from the nearest city (However, there is a small village 20+ minutes from us.), and probably the only thing that keeps this place from major development is the winding, dirt-pitted road you must take through the olive and almond trees planted into the mountainsides. The food is amazing, and the cost of living is cheap – cheaper everyday as the Lira continues to fall…

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View from the beach – aka: “the office”

It’s the kind of place people want to go to write a book, paint, read, and escape.

The flora isn’t diverse, but it is lush. We are frequented by goats who local shepherds still graze and let roam freely. We have seen owls and wild boar, bats, grouse and deer. The night is pitch black, the stars bright, and the beach is pebbly (not sand), which I much prefer. It’s safe and quiet, and all of the neighbors know each other – we look after one another, share tea and treats and stories – the way it should be in a community.

Our languid days are filled with equal parts work (professional work: Jodi is consulting & Kirby is starting a new business), work on the house and yard as well as swimming, hiking, reading, cooking and sleeping. There is nothing to buy, nothing to schedule and not much to do.

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Sunsets from the back porch

Living in a developing country has its drawbacks of course, and we find it quite manic some days, but its lesson is to be open to what may come, be open to changing your plans, and realize that you have very little control over the outcomes of many things here – it’s a country and place that forces the zen out of you.

 

Leaving Lodos…& Mexico

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Lodos in Santa Rosalia Marina

As we get ready to leave Mexico and leave Lodos for the summer and hurricane season, it’s a bittersweet feeling. We are excited about the next months of adventures that await, but I know we’ll miss our daily life on the water.  In fact, we already do. It’s been great to leave from San Carlos, as it’s not a place we particularly like, so we aren’t sad to leave.

We once thought we’d spend one season in the Sea of Cortez and keep heading head south, but now, I’m really happy that we’ll be here for another year! I haven’t gotten enough of its beauty and rich rich wildlife.

I will especially miss:

  • Being at anchor reading, thinking and relaxing.
  • Seeing dolphins, whales, turtles and mobula rays almost daily.
  • Guacamole and churros.
  • The routine of living and working on the boat.
  • Sleeping 8 hours at a stretch – maybe for the first time in my life.
  • Playing games and splashing around in the clear blue sea.
  • The Mexican people & their generous, kind hospitality.

This ~5 months has raced by. We’ve learned so much, had so much fun, didn’t sink the boat, and we didn’t die. So, yeah, I guess it was a successful season. 😉

This week, we’re off to Dallas to celebrate a wedding, then onto London, Paris, Amsterdam and Turkey – adventures abound! Join us somewhere or consider joining us on Lodos when we get her back into the water in Mexico!

 

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J & K at Playa Algodones in the Sea of Cortez

 

Santa Rosalia: A French town in a Mexican Village

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IMG_2819 2Santa Rosalia was copper mining city for many years, and today, it’s also a jumping off point to cross the Sea of Cortez. With the shortest distance between two points (74nm), we will leave this town Thursday for San Carlos, on the mainland of Mexico – ending our Baja sailing season for 2018 and getting ready for hurricane season. The copper mining has left its mark with trains and mining equipment which was used to bring timber here from the Pacific NW – nearly all of the town and houses here are made from wood, which is highly unusual for the Baja.

 

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Leaving north for Santa Rosalia

 

This is our first marina since La Paz, over 3 weeks ago. We love being “on the hook” (at anchor), but it’s nice to pop into a marina every now and then to have a proper shower, do laundry, have endless supplies of electricity and explore a town.

 

 

There is a large French influence here, and it’s reflected in the architecture, the church and the bakery. The church was designed and built by Gustave Eiffel (yes, that Eiffel) for the Paris world fair in the late 1800s, then disassembled and shipped across the ocean to land here in this little town. It’s hard to see in the pictures, but it’s 100% steel and the internal ceiling looks like a boat with its trusses and support structures.

The bakery has delicious breads and baguettes – Mexican sweet bread cooked in 100+ year old wood ovens in a French style. Outstanding and delicious. (I had a churro here that was divine, too).

 

The bird life in the marina is outstanding – herons, pelicans, osprey, cormorants, terns and egrets are everywhere. I saw my first yellow-crowned night heron here – a lovely little heron with amber eyes and plumey feathers.

Next stop: San Carlos/Nuevo Guaymas 

Puerto Ballandra, Caleta San Juanico, Bahia Concepcion & Mulege

Sailing further north, we made a few stops and enjoyed seeing friends we have made along the way.

Puerto Ballandra is just 9 miles east from Loreto, so it’s an easy stop closest to a “big” town. We stopped here and found a great protected anchorage on Isla Carmen known for the repopulation of Big Horn Sheep (which we didn’t see, unfortunately). It’s part of the protected marine parks around Loreto, so the wildlife is abundant, and there is room in this anchorage for more than 10 boats. When the tide is low, the water table changes pretty dramatically (more than 4 feet); we were anchored in about 20 feet of water, and we woke up one morning to find ourselves in about 9 feet (the draft of our boat is 7!). We heard that there is wifi here from Loreto, but our booster didn’t pick it up. While there were no bees here, the mosquitoes here were fierce! This was the first and only place so far where we have seen mosquitoes (other than a few here or there in town). We were thinking of staying here longer, but we just couldn’t deal with these guys, so we left.

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Broad reach headed north

 

On our way to Caleta San Juanico, we had one of our best sails since being down here; a broad reach with ~15 knot winds, and we were doing about 6 knots in a comfortable heel. Quiet and peaceful. San Juanico is a wide bay that was supposed to be well protected from north winds, but our anchorage here was a bit rough and rolly. We held very well, but we decided to keep moving north (also, no wifi or cell signals). The bonus was no bees and no mosquitoes!

 

 

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The turquoise waters of Playa Santispac

The long 45 miles from San Juanico to Conception Bay takes all day, but it was a pleasant trip, mostly motor sailing as the wind was coming directly at us for most of the day. Getting into the bay is tricky as it’s very shallow on both sides of the bay; even 1/2 mile from the shore, we were still in only 10 feet of water, surrounding by submerged rocks and islands; it’s not a place you want to enter at night. The navigation markers on land are good but not plentiful, and being able to see the color of the water was one of the few ways we could tell if we were safely traveling or not. The charts were very inaccurate on the water depth. Places that were supposed to be 30 feet and deeper were less than 10 feet. We found a lovely little bay to tuck into called Santispac Beach with wifi at a couple of restaurants but no cell service.

Bahia Concepcion (or Conception Bay) is a long narrow bay that is supposed to be home to whale sharks, although we didn’t see any, we heard that they had just left a couple of weeks prior – next year, we definitely want to come back during this season! The anchorage and water here is exceptional and clean. We swam each day, snorkeled and enjoyed the lovely northwest wind that kept us cool and comfortable; with water temps in the low 80s, there was no shock when diving into the water. We were here during a very quiet period near the end of the season, but we have heard that during the busy season, the beaches are loaded with RVs and campers. With the proximity of Highway 1 just next to the bay, you do get some big rig noise pollution when they brake, coming down the hills, so although beautiful, it’s not the quietest of anchorages. No pesky mosquitoes or bees here, but we did encounter some nasty sand fleas which chewed up our ankles and shins one night at a local beach restaurant – best to stay on the boat!

It’s only 13 miles from a small town called, Mulege. You can’t really safely anchor in Mulege as it’s open to the sea and there is a river that winds up 2+ miles into town, so one day, we got up early and were going to hitchhike into town along Mexico Highway 1. We landed the dingy on the beach* and started walking to the highway, when a woman stopped us and asked us if we were headed into town. She was there to pick up someone who hadn’t shown up, so we were the fortunate recipients of a ride! She had errands to run, so we met her back in the main plaza several hours later where she gave us a ride back to the beach and our boat. Wonderful!

As it turns out, she was in Mexico (living) writing a biography on her late husband, Tap Tapley, who we learned was quite a character. They were married over 30 years, and she was a treasure and delight to talk to – after doing a little research, we understand her husband was the real deal – founded Outward Bound and lived quite a rich life. His wife, Anita, was pretty modest about it all – we hope to keep in touch with her! Characters abound in Mexico – you never know who you will meet by just saying “yes” to whatever comes your way.

Mulege is a lovely town (with 4G Telcel service!). Anita dropped us off at the top of the hill where the mission was built and has survived several hundred years of hurricanes and storms. The caretaker there opened the bell tower for us, and we climbed to the roof along narrow and steep stairs where we were afforded lovely views of the valley below. After visiting the mission, we had breakfast at a beautiful old hotel in town once inhabited by beloved Mexican poet, Alán Gorosave. The interesting thing about Mulege is how lush the landscape is; it’s an oasis in the desert, mainly due to the river running through the middle, with migrating birds and forests of date palms, coconut palms, mango and avocado trees.

As we left the bay in glassy conditions, a small pod of dolphins escorted us back out into the Sea  🙂

Next stop: Punto Chivato & Santa Rosalia

*We’ve never had any problems or heard of problems of theft here (other than in Cabo San Lucas), but we always take our key and lock the engine on the dinghy, so if someone were to be tempted, they would have to procure some very large boltcutters to get the lock off the engine to make the dinghy usable.