Adjusting.  This is the life of the expat.

There are a million things you must adjust to, all thrown at you at once.  To survive, you’ve got to roll with them, embrace them, and adjust your expectations accordingly.  Some of the adjustments are easy, like buying lovely fresh bread for one lira.  Or having amazing sea views.  Some of them are more difficult, and take a huge amount of patience.  There’s been books, dissertations, essays, etc., written about culture shock, the signs and symptoms, and how to survive it.

Overall, I feel like I’m adjusting pretty well.  I’ve now been here two months, and feel more comfortable every day.  And I feel such support and love from you all, that keeps me moving forward.  However, there is one thing – one BIG thing – I cannot get used to.  Think you know what it is?  Close your eyes, think for a second, and take your guess.  Now read on, and see how you did.

Is is the noise?

While challenging, nope.  I’m now sleeping through the honking of the taxis and the seagulls, and the screaming of the feral street cats.  I barely pay attention to the street vendors calling out selling melons, simit (sesame pastry), mops and brooms, or the guys that collect your discarded metal.

It’s the shopping, right?

While occasionally challenging, no.  Yes, I miss Target, but for the most part, I know where to buy things, and I discover new shops all the time – some like Zara (great clothes!) Mavi (fantastic jeans!) and Carrefour (Wal-Mart-ish) that I love. The sizing system has taken some getting used to –  my feet seem to have grown exponentially from a 7 1/2 to a 38!  🙂

I know, it’s not having a car!

It’s crazy, but I don’t miss my car in the least.  This city embraces mass transportation, and while it’s admittedly not always easy figuring out what combo of ferries, trams, buses, and taxis to take, it’s great not having to worry about rising gas prices, parking spaces,  flat tires, and car payments.  I thought that not having a car would represent a loss of freedom, but I’m finding freedom is in the getting rid of possessions.

It’s got to be not having a schedule!

Yes, it’s weird.  After years of having a full-time job and other regular commitments, it’s a little strange to wake up and think, what am I going to do today?  Some days it is a little disconcerting, and others it contributes to loneliness.  But overall, I’ve gotten used to this much faster than expected, although I will look forward to having a bit more predictability.  I’m really looking forward to this week, as I have all sorts of activities/meetings/goals planned.

Duh. The language difference.

Well, this has obviously been a huge challenge, as I’ve talked about previously.  The good news?  I’ve started Turkish lessons, and I’m learning, fast.  I have so far to go, but I’m already improving, and having what you could almost call “conversations” with my neighbors. Everyone is so patient, and wants to help me learn.  I think they are half amused/half really excited that I’m taking the time to learn their language.  I’m picking up more words, so at least I’m starting to – slowly – understand context.  It’s starting to be a fun challenge, as opposed to a constant source of frustration.  But is it the one thing that plagues me?  No.

Aha!  There’s no Diet Coke in Turkey!

You are so very close.  Technically, there is Diet Coke.  It sure looks like it, but does not taste like my lovely manna from heaven.  The American Diet Coke recipe is very different from the one used in the rest of the world.  On my vacation here a few years ago, I remember Kim and I drinking 3 or 4 American Diet Cokes on the plane home.  We were so excited to get back this comfort (read: addiction) from home.  The closest thing I’ve found to it here is Pepsi Maxx.  But it’s not the same.  And it is amazing how much – after two months –  I still yearn for the D.C.

There’s no air conditioning.

Winner, winner, chicken dinner!!  As silly as this sounds, compared to language barriers, transportation issues, etc., it’s the truth.  This week is in the high 80’s.  That sounds pretty decent, right?  Well, when there’s no A/C, it’s incredibly hot.  I’m so used to our lovely Texas summers, where our homes, offices, cars, and stores are chilled so dramatically that we wear jackets indoors.  The hot times are the getting-to periods.  You know, the getting-to the car from the house; the getting-to the mall from the car.  Here, there is no relief.  Except for the shower and the ferry, when the breeze cools you.  If you’re in the shade.

I’ve always said to people who complain about cold that it’s an easy fix.  Put on another layer.  Get a jacket, a hat.  But when it’s hot?  There’s only so many clothes you can take off without getting arrested.  And the #1 goal of mine?  Do not get arrested in a foreign country.

I find myself moving around the house to get to the coolest place possible.  In the early morning, it’s my dining room.  In mid-day, I’m kinda screwed.  It’s all sizzling.  At night, my bedroom.  And even then, it’s not cool – it just happens to be where the sun is not.  I sleep with my fan on high, aimed directly at me.

Like home, August is the hottest month in Turkey.  This scares me as I’m already dying in July.

So, I would greatly appreciate hints for staying cool.  Other than taking 5 showers a day.  I learned to say cold water (soğuk su) very quickly.  I’m buying clothes made of light material.  I keep cold watermelon in the fridge.  What else?

Help! Please??!!

Oh.  And if you hear me complaining when it starts snowing, remind me of this post, OK?


11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jennifer Mathis
    Jul 17, 2011 @ 05:01:16

    Eep. Hopefully you can become a little more acclimated as time goes by. If not, come visit us if it becomes too unbearable! 😀

    I was really concerned about the lack of A/C in Germany, but so far it’s not so bad- only because we aren’t as far south as you (not bragging, I swear!). When Chris and I went walking in the park this morning, I even saw my breath. 0_0

    As for suggestions? The best I can do is “place a baking pan of water in front of the fan for it to blow over,” and “use an umbrella as portable shade.”


  2. Chris Mathis
    Jul 17, 2011 @ 05:24:54

    I checked weather statistics in Istanbul and they show July and August to be almost exactly the same on average, except August has a higher record temperature.
    My friend here in Germany told me that during last year’s heat wave he was sitting at his computer desk with his feet in a tray of water. Like Jen said, come visit if it gets too unbearable. We’d love to show you around.


  3. nonsequiteuse
    Jul 17, 2011 @ 07:02:53

    Maybe you could rotate two pans of water – freeze them into solid blocks of ice, break out one each night when you go to sleep, and let the fan blow over it toward you. If you can cool down to fall asleep, that will help. Then, let it freeze for 2 days, using the other pan the next night.

    I’m sure you are drinking tons of water, which will definitely help. You will acclimate, eventually, and your skin will probably be more beautiful than it already is.

    If you can use this trip to break the DC habit, go for it. That stuff is as hard as heroin to quit, and there are all kinds of studies about how bad it is for you. It can actually cause weight gain–the artificial/no-cal sweetener triggers salty & sweet cravings. (I say all this 1 week into going cold turkey, and let me tell you, I would pretty much push a small child back into a burning building to get a DC from a soda fountain right now.)

    It has been brutal here, weather-wise. Our little ACs are chugging away, barely able to keep things cool by 3 in the afternoon. You’re not missing much!


    • houstonchick
      Jul 18, 2011 @ 05:43:42

      Yes…I absolutely should break the DC habit. It’s just so hard, they’re so good! Unfortunately, I’ve been drinking more Fanta. Not as many chemicals, but a heck of a lot more calories. When it’s hot out, the orange soda is completely refreshing!


  4. Melanie
    Jul 17, 2011 @ 08:34:40

    Solutions for lack of air conditioning.
    1-Find out if there is anyplace with air conditioning-ie, shopping malls, office buildings. Use any excuse to spend time there.
    2-Walk and do everything more slowly.
    3-Wear an icepack on your neck.
    4-Cut your hair short and wet your head frequently.
    5-Drink ice water non-stop.
    6-Think about Alaska and the Antarctic.
    7-Sit on the floor, instead of your desk.
    8-Put the fan in the window and blow the hot air OUT of the apartment.
    9-Go swimming.
    10-Do all your reading in the bathtub. Read about snow.


    • houstonchick
      Jul 18, 2011 @ 05:42:18

      Cracking up at your comments like “read about snow” – Ha! You know, it’s funny, the malls have A/C, but it’s nothing like the lovely chilled air at home. You sweat trying on clothes, it’s terrible. And of course, being at malls means I want to spend money, and I’m trying to save…sigh. But the other stuff is good! The good news is that come September, the temperature drops off pretty quick. At least that is what everyone swears to me!


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  6. Erin
    Jul 17, 2011 @ 12:02:56

    I love the idea of an ice tray by the fan. If you get really overheated, rub an ice cube behind your ears & on the backs of your knees. Or use one of those gel ice packs on the back of your nexk. Also, from what I’ve read lately, eating lots of spicy food will also help you deal with heat easier. Good luck! At least in Istanbul, summer doesn’t go on through October like it does here. You’ll be cooling off in no time. 🙂


  7. Kim
    Jul 20, 2011 @ 08:57:29

    Oh, puh-lease! Buck up, cowgirl! No more of this “waaaa, it’s hot.” And no more of these, “awww, poor little glistening Jessie” posts. You could be freezing your ass off in a cramped, uncomfortably refrigerated office in the concrete jungle of Houston, where your teeth are chattering and you’re too cold to get up and walk to the printer. But then you step outside and it’s like a dog breathing in your face and you want to melt into the sidewalk. You can handle a little A/C-less living because you’re a Texan and you’re tough! Rick Perry tough. And Rick Perry wouldn’t whine about being hot. He would pray for God to bring him a cold front! And then he check his hair in the mirror. On your knees, sister! (Miss you, love you – hope you’re having a terrific week!).
    PS – I’m drinking a Diet Coke right now. Mmmmmmm!


    • houstonchick
      Jul 20, 2011 @ 13:37:51

      Somebody’s on a roll today! I laughed out loud reading this. Until I got to the point where you taunted me with the Diet Coke. That’s just wrong. Especially since we shared those special DC’s together. Hrmpf.
      (Yeah, yeah, love you, too.)


  8. ovgu
    Sep 22, 2011 @ 09:44:09

    This is amazing. So happy to come across your blog, as a Turkish girl living in Houston it is so strange -in a good way- to read your experiences. How different everything is for you… would love to meet one day; i feel like we are different versions of ourselves.: )


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