Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Murray Turkey Christmas

This was our best Christmas in Turkey. Cam worked Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day last year (first time in 27 years of marriage)so it was lovely to have him home this year. Christmas Day we had a visit from the electricians. A fuse had died on the 23rd, but because of our overnight trip to Tekirdag we had to delay their visit. They came when they promised to come, diagnosed the problem quickly and were back with a part in no time. We rely on electricity for heat, so Nicole's room and the living room were very chilly after two days without power.
Finally! Mom let us put presents under the tree!

December 23 we went to Tekirdag and the next day to the theatre for:

The Desolation

of Smaug

in 3D! 
We were the only people at this showing which was in English with Turkish subtitles.  Oddly, all the Orc speak was translated into Turkish but not into English. Tickets for the movie were about CAD$4.00 per person.

We actually have a fireplace. It's in Nicole's bedroom and serves as the headboard for her bed so stockings were hung elsewhere!

We have coal too - but Santa didn't fill anyone's stocking with it!

Dad's stocking was filled with the good stuff! (Candy!!)

We had a roaring fire, and Christmas music courtesy of YouTube and a Lego Frosty (Thanks Sam!)

Each of the kids played "Santa" delivering the presents.

Dad's birthday fez from Selcuk made a great Santa hat.

Lots of goodies!

Nicole and Sam experimenting with their sticky throwing ball thingys.

I cooked a leg of lamb for supper.  After doing it twice before, I got cocky and tried a new recipe.  The marinade turned the outside black and didn't really add anything to the flavour. Next time I'll stick to basics.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Directions to the bathroom

We went to a big restaurant today for breakfast. I told Mom, Dad and Nicole how to get to the bathroom because I had been there before with Dad. 

To get to the bathroom you have to go through a door, down some stairs right after, then you come to a platform, turn right, turn right again, go down the stairs, walk a little ways into the basement, turn left, out the door and the bathroom is outside!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Decorating for Christmas

 Well, it's that time of year again, and we've done some decorating for Christmas:

 Christmas wreath 

 Some lights

 Our 'Art clothesline'

 Our tiny little tree

Sock snowman!!

 And you know, a Bionicle hanging from the ceiling with a present.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Ask a question and . . .

Recently, on one of our almost weekly trips to the local Pazar for the fruit and vegetables portion of our grocery shopping, Sam pointed to a large pile of what looked like overgrown green onions and asked “what are those Dad?”.  “Leeks” I replied. In all innocence he then asked “What are they used for?”  “People eat them.  In soups and salads, mostly” I replied.  What do I know? I am an engineer not a chef.  Then came the inevitable question...  “What do they taste like?”  So how do you answer that?  I mean really? 
If you’re me, you invest a whole dollar and come home with enough leeks to make a couple batches of soup that feed our family of 5 3 hearty lunch meals.  After a little Google research, I came up with a recipe I can fake my way through.  Personally, I like leek and potato soup...
The ingredients hunted and gathered:

3 Leeks, 2 potatoes, half a bud of garlic, 1tsp chicken stock, 1 tbsp flour, ½ l water, 1 l milk, salt and pepper to taste.
A few minutes at the chopping board and the prep is done.

Fry/saute the leeks in the pot till almost clear. Add garlic.  Add the flour and cook for a couple minutes, stirring constantly.  When the flour is cooked, add the potatoes, chicken stock, and milk. Bring to a gentle simmer stirring occasionally.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer until the potatoes are done or until the troops are ready for lunch.  

 Poof!  Lunch is ready.

Must be OK.  Lunch conversation is a bit shy until a bowl or two is empty.....

Sam doesn’t ask many questions in the Pazar anymore though.  Hmmmmm.

JW Another Feral Dog

One of the local feral dogs has decided our yard is his yard. Cam named him "J.W." after a dog in "The Teacher's Funeral". When I go for a walk he goes with me.  This isn't as endearing as it sounds, because it means that he crosses the mini territories of other neighbourhood dogs and causing some loud unfriendly doggy disagreements. On one occasion, he even chased down and killed a chicken on one of our walks. I hoped he'd choose a new home when we were away last weekend, but he's still here.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I should have been a travel agent

I've reviewed hundreds of hotels on line in the past month.  I should have been a travel agent! Here are some things to consider if you're booking a room in Turkey.

It's often possible to book online through the hotel's website.  If you want to speak to someone at the hotel plan to call between 9 am and 5 pm.  Ask for " reservations" in English.  Speak slowly and ask short questions.  Not every Turk who speaks English will understand your dialect, accent or colloquialisms. I don't recommend having used it exactly once. I'd rather ask questions of a live person than be mislead by reviews and info on the internet.

Location:  It's nice to be in the heart of the action except when that means street noise around the clock and poorly fitting windows. A free shuttle can save you the price of cab fare.

Price: Our family of five needs two rooms.  Hotels don't usually have family suites. Two rooms = more $ Hotel rooms come in all price points and you get what you pay for.  We prefer hotels which cater to business travelers.  The staff speak good quality English and can help us figure out where to go and how to get there. The bellman at our last hotel helped me figure out the difference between the Istanbul aquariums I had heard about.  If you choose an American chain or an airport hotel expect the level of security to be extra ordinary. Not only are people and their bags x-rayed, but cars pulling up to the hotel are inspected as well.

Swimming pools: Many hotels have outdoor pools but they are unheated and closed between October and April.  Some have indoor pools. Some have hot tubs.  Some Turkish hotels also have hot springs water either in their spa facility or even piped into the rooms. Extra charges may apply. Bring a swim cap if you plan to swim. If your hotel requires a cap you won't have to buy their pricey uncomfortable plastic one.

Bathtubs are not standard equipment in Turkish hotel bathrooms. Some hotels have both, but most have a shower only.

Smoke free rooms: I forgot to request this at the last hotel.  Turks love to smoke!

Included breakfast: This is a time and money saver for us.  Breakfast is a meal I can happily skip but it's important to get food into the kids because who knows when, where and what lunch might be. Although now that they're acclimatized to Turkish food, this is less of a problem.

Free wifi: Sometimes there is a surcharge be sure to check.

Free Parking: Space is at a premium. Make sure you understand before booking if there is a cost for parking and where parking is located. Free parking is often any place you can find on the street near your hotel.

My number one hotel pet peeve is the noise housekeeping and other guests make in the hallways. Just because you're up and at'em at the crack of dawn doesn't mean I have to be awake too.  I've taken to hanging the do not disturb sign on our door as a friendly reminder and I also nag my children to be quiet in the halls.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Living and Working in Turkey: Visas, e-Visas and Permits

It's taken me most of two years to figure out the "deal" with visas in Turkey.  I think I've got it now.

When you enter Turkey from Canada you must purchase a 90 day Visitor's Visa with U.S. cash or a credit card (about $60.00 last time we entered).  Then you go through Passport Control where a young man with a gun reviews your documents and in our case, so far, waves us through.  Then it's on to baggage claim and through the exit doors into the main concourse.  There's a big sign that says "Do you have anything to declare?" before you go through those doors. Nobody seems to stop.

Just a note about vistor's visas.  After April 10, 2014 visas will no longer be available at the airport.  Instead you will have to apply on line for an e-Visa in advance of your journey through this website:

Before the 90 day Visitor's Visa expires you must a) leave the country b) apply for a work or residence permit.

a) If you fail to leave on time I understand that there are fines and hassles at the airport/border crossing and you may or may not get back in. Thankfully we have no experience with this.

b) If you get a job, then your employer applies for a work visa on your behalf.  In Cam's case, the local company was required to provide evidence of his education.  Because of his title and university degree, the Turkish government wanted not only a copy of his degree and university transcript but also scope and sequence information for all the courses he took in university.  Since this did not seem feasible, Cam's employer changed his job title on the application and provided his high school transcript instead. I understand they were also required to show proof that they had at least 5 Turks hired to offset Cam's employment.

c)People living or retiring in Turkey can apply for a residence visa.  Applicants must get a tax number and then a local bank account.  They must demonstrate that they have money to live on while in Turkey. They can apply at the local police station where they live.

Our case is different because our residence visas are contingent on Cam's work permit and expire when his work permit expires.

The good news in all of this is that the company's lawyer walks us through the application process.  Last week we flew to Ankara, where the local company office is located. We went to the lawyer's office with photocopies of our expired residence permits, our Canadian passports and our photos. We filled out an application form for each of the children and I and then went to the police station. The lawyer took all the documents and stood in line at the counter to make the application, paid the fee and we were finished.  In the past we've received our residence permits in 3 days or a week.  This time it will be three weeks before our residence permits are available.  In the mean time we can't leave the country because our Visitor's Visas have expired (the same day we applied for the Residence Visas). So we wait.

Monday, November 25, 2013

November 23 - 25 Ankara to Istanbul

We had to go to Ankara to apply for residence permits.  We left Wednesday, November 20, drove to Istanbul and flew to Ankara. Friday morning we flew back to Istanbul and then checked into the Gonen Hotel** near the airport for Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. We returned to the Saros Monday via the dealership where we picked up our car which they had to repair the accident damage.

Ankara, Turkey's capital.

In the chauffeur driven van, pretending to be famous.

In the chauffeur driven van.

Thor The DarkWorld 3D at Panora Mall, Ankara: pre-assigned seating, prepaid popcorn (we opted out), Turkish subtitles, and a ten minute intermission. There was a National Film Board of Canada short film before the feature!

At the Istanbul Akvaryum - the largest aquarium in Europe depending on who you ask.  We were careful to have lunch before we paid our admission, but there were cafes and restaurant around every bend inside the aquarium.
This ray was showing off for Sam.

Poseidon's Pool

Nicole and Poseidon

Sam at the South Pole

Johanna and Nicole with a really big ice cube.

Nicole and Hercules.

Johanna and fish

Sam found a hiding place.

Sam and Nicole in the rainforest

Big trees and big fish tanks.

Cam and Johanna

Little neon green frogs. They also had other frogs and big big spiders.


Johanna enjoying the view from the mall attached to the aquarium.

Cam checking messages at the mall attached to the aquarium.
At the Rahmi M. Koc Museum - Istanbul A museum dedicated to transportation, communication and industry. They have a "sister" museum in Ankara. It is very small compared to this one.  If you're going, plan to spend the day! I particularly liked seeing the model ships and the submarine tour.           

The cab ride from our hotel was very exciting because neither cab driver really knew where the museum was located.  The girls and I were in one cab. Cam and Sam were in the other cab.  Our driver was a "professional driver" attached to our hotel.  The other driver also in a yellow cab was "no good" according to our driver. Our driver began to swear at him loudly in Turkish about half way to the museum.

Nicole and a Beetle

This one looks like it might be fun to drive.

Too many steering wheels ... make art!

After the tour of the submarine. See we got certificates!


If subs and boats don't interest you - you can always tour an airplane or

look at earth moving equipment.
Or read about people who sail around the world in little boats! We even took a short train ride.

Sam with the fish beside the Golden Horn.

Outside the building that houses the models.

It's not the Tardis but still pretty cool.

Heidelberg Printing Press. This printing press made me homesick for my childhood.

Johanna at the helm.  In this ship display there were charts for the Newfoundland and Labrador.

**Gonen Hotel - treated us very well. They gave us a free upgraded room. Food was excellent. Their North American "cuisine" was very tasty.  Lots of choices at the breakfast buffet. On the weekends there is someone standing by to make omletes! Staff went out of their way to be kind and helpful. Good pool, free shuttle to and from the airport, free wifi. We took the kids to the "pub" on the last night we were there.  We had supper, played pool and hung out. This was a great weekend away from the Saros!