Banana Chickpea Pancakes

Chickpea Pancakes

A few years ago, chickpea or gram flour was all the rave in the vegan community and rightfully so!  A gluten-free, protein-packed, affordable, versatile flour is a game-changer.  A flood of recipes unrolled for pancakes, omelets, desserts, and breads galore, all starring the famed chickpea flour.  But, I had one hang up–that chickpea flour taste.  No matter how good it all smells and looks, there’s a taste that’s hard to mask.  It’s not offensive, but it is unique and instead of trying to flavor it away, I’m learning to embrace it and use syrup and sauces when needed.

This is my most tolerable pancake recipe.  It’s nutritious enough to make for a weekday breakfast but tasty enough to be enjoyed with little to no syrup.

Ingredients

1 cup of chickpea (or gram) flour

2 small, ripe bananas

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1 tsp. vanilla powder

1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1 cup of non-dairy milk

virgin coconut oil to grease pan

Directions

Blend all ingredients except chickpea flour and coconut oil in a blender.

Add blended mixture to chickpea flour.

Cook on lightly greased skillet or frying pan.

Top with your favorite vegan butter, date or maple syrup, or fruit spread. Best eaten while hot!

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Cultivating Community for Homeschooling and Life

OmanA constant theme in our life abroad is the search for community. We were very blessed to experience true bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood once upon a time, but eventually those ties frayed as individuals followed their hearts and purposes elsewhere. Before coming to Muscat, the question crept up again and I’m pleased to report that the pursuit has been promising.

Oman

Sunday night, the eve before a national holiday commemorating the birth of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him and his family), three families gathered to remember his life and legacy. We had a vegan-friendly and mostly gluten-free spread while we shared stories, poems, and crafts. Children played, parents chatted and reflected, and it feels like we have a community again—a space where we can share a common aim and respect and be respected for who we are.

Oman

Ultimately, we’re more driven to build a community for our children than our own selves. Urbndervish and I have found contentment in each other’s company, but for Lil’ Z and Moulay, we are intentional about seeking out friendships and connections that are enriching, affirming, and nurturing for them. When living abroad, some communities are formed around nationality or faith. For us as a Muslim, Black, Jamaican/American, and homeschooling/unschooling family we intersect a number of expat communities. Most American expatriate families are connected to diplomatic relations, military work, or church. Even within the homeschooling communities, it’s not unusual to find groups exclusively representing one faith, nationality, or language.

Oman

Here in Muscat, the gateway to meeting our new friends has been the modest but diverse homeschooling community. Some say we’re only a dozen actively homeschooling families, but regardless of the numbers on Whatsapp groups and Facebook pages, I’m discovering that statistics mean little in this regard. At the end of the day, this elusive concept of community comes down to the people: individuals who participate, connect, and commit to one another again and again. Sometimes I’m nervous. I worry if our children see each other too often, but then again I consider that most children go to school with more or less the same cohort day after day and sometimes year after year.

Oman

Right now, the chemistry is good and I’m praying this honeymoon stage won’t end. I’m excited about the friendships we all are developing. We plan gatherings, field trips, classes, co-ops and camping excursions together. I’m filled with so much hope but, also fear that it may fall apart with only the slightest friction. However, like any community, we can only exist by putting one foot before the other by forgiving when we falter, stretching when we grow, and committing to what we’ve created. While few of us are historically rooted in Oman, I believe there are enough of us who want to build a future here and hold space for more families to join our unorthodox path of home education and life abroad.

Oman

A Long Way Home

Black Traveling Family

It has been a long hiatus. I have written little for the past three months for three reasons: we were in the US visiting our families, Urbndervish left to start a new job and he had to take our laptop with him. Even if I had the laptop, it’s not likely much writing would’ve gotten done without my partner. I’ve been pouring all of my energy into the children- keeping them calm, engaged, and nourished since exiting Turkey, hopping between homes, and adjusting to life without Baba. However, much has changed in the last three weeks. The said Baba has returned and flew us to our new home—a home we never really wanted to leave in the first place and that took two years to return to–Oman. However, instead of returning to the traditional, provincial Nizwa, we disembarked in Muscat, al hamdu lillah (thanks be to God!).

We slipped out of the Sultanate’s embrace two years ago. Knowing that we had to leave Nizwa to expand Lil’ Z’s homeschooling experience, we tried moving to Muscat. Our top choice employer promised an offer that we didn’t receive until days before our scheduled departure. And with no room for negotiation, we turned down the paltry offer on principle and pushed on. While visiting our family that summer, we received word about a position in Morocco and spent the next eight months there awaiting the arrival of our son. We returned to the US for a pre- and post-birth stay of almost six months until taking up the next job offer in Ankara. Ankara was having a particularly rough year which we decided to wrap up on the night of the coup attempt. The very next morning we started the job search once again, and Urbndervish was offered an interview for the very same job he turned down two years prior. However, the offer was much more reasonable, so he accepted it.

Hanging in Brooklyn

In those two years away, it became clear to us that Muscat is the best destination for us. The safety of the country, the character of the people, and the emerging homeschooling community gave us confidence that we could make a home here for a while. Even though we were disappointed about our temporary separation, we knew it was worth it and made the most of it. I lingered behind with the kids in New York until our family visas were ready nearly two months later. It was a challenge being apart so long, but the children and I had a lot of fun ending the summer and entering fall in New York. We hung out with family, had play dates in Brooklyn, took trips to DC and New Jersey, attended my best friend’s wedding and watched the fall foliage change around us. Thankfully, we snuck out before Election Day and the pending winter.

Fresh Flowers

Urbndervish made a crazy overnight trip just to pick us up and fly us over to Oman on the same night of his arrival. We were finally together again and ready to settle into the nest he had been preparing for us. As we traveled, I felt a stir of emotions–sad to leave family, happy to be reunited, and anxious to see if Oman had changed or wasn’t as great as I remembered. Were my rosy memories omitting the challenges, difficulties, and frustrations we faced? Was I forgetting just how odd we were (and are) as an unschooling, vegan, American Muslim family with “crunchy” tendencies? Did Oman still have the charm that won us over years prior? In only a few days, the anxieties evaporated. Finding peace in the shopping mall’s prayer room, hearing Maher Zain belt “Yaa Nabi, salaam alayka” in the supermarket, and sitting on the beach for our first homeschooling meetup with beautiful moms and children from France, America, Kenya, South Africa, and Sri Lanka have all affirmed for me that we are where we’re supposed to be. Additionally, old friends have extended themselves by helping us find our apartment, selling and giving us great furniture and houseware, lending us our old car “Suzi”, and generally being helpful for our inquiries.

Some of the not-so-rosy moments have also surfaced. Plumbing problems, internet issues, and perpetual dust arose, but they are all manageable. Our children still go to bed with full tummies in one of the safest countries in the world and for this, we are abundantly grateful. There are bumps to be smoothed out and some that may never go away, but in the wise words of Mr. Kendrick Lamar, “We gon’ be alright” and I believe so. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him and his family) said it more eloquently in the following translated statement:

Amazing is the affair of the believer; verily his entire affair is good and this is not for one except the believer. When something of good befalls him, he is grateful and that is good for him. When something of harm befalls him, he is patient and that is good for him.

So, it’s really all good, al hamdu lillah.

What We Will and Won’t Miss About Ankara

In the city

I’m not the type to look for signs, but I don’t ignore them either. The recent coup attempt in Turkey may or may not have been a sign, but it certainly caught our attention. As a lone incident, it was an unfortunate shock, but as a climax following series of attacks and incidents in Istanbul and Ankara, it was our cue to exit stage right. Coming here was written for us without a doubt, but staying here doesn’t seem to be. In spite of the hiccups and challenges, our year in Turkey has been an enriching experience. We’ve befriended wonderful people, saw breathtaking vistas and experienced a refined culture of genuine hospitality. We are a bit disappointed about our early departure but definitely not sad. We’ve been traveling long enough to know that some souls never really part and reunions happen in the most unforeseen ways. As nomads, you never know where we’ll turn up or return to, so this is definitely not a goodbye but moreso a “see you later”. While prepping to depart, we’ve been reflecting on the sum total of our stay and came up with the following.

Coast

WHAT WE WILL MISS:

The people: Generally speaking, Turkish people have been refreshingly hospitable to us. Their interest and curiosity about us has always seemed sincere and polite. They are endearing to children, respectful to elders, and welcoming to strangers. Other than being incredible hosts, our Turkish friends have taken cleanliness to a whole other level. At times we felt like they caught crumbs and dust before they even touched the floor and maintained impeccable homes in spite of having young children. This standard might be unattainable for us but it was pretty impressive to witness.

The country: Turkey is a really beautiful country with a variety of landscapes and geographic features. Endless mountain ranges, dense green forests, and the brilliant blue of the Mediterranean Sea are all etched in our minds vividly. Sights of interest are abundant and have been well-maintained and accessible to us. Our only regret is that we didn’t have a chance to see more and that some very religiously significant regions are challenged by instability.

The food: Oh, the food. The simplicity of fresh herbs, cold-pressed olive oil, fresh lemon juice and salt have forever changed our approach to salads. Though we generally don’t love cold foods, we’ve become smitten with a genre of dishes that are slow cooked in olive oil and served cold. Eating seasonally has introduced us to new foods like fresh figs, quinces, celery root, and a variety of vegetables grown locally. Some of our favorite food finds here were black rice, pomegranate syrup, fresh dill, dried organic apricots, and leblebi (dry roasted chickpeas).

Aegean Food

The mosques: I’ve yet to see an unkempt mosque or a substandard women’s prayer hall in Ankara. From large congregational mosques to the tiny prayer rooms in shopping centers, I’ve consistently seen efforts to maintain the beauty, cleanliness, and awe that a place of worship merits.

The fashion: While I can’t describe a traditional, Turkish style of dress, the sisters here definitely have their own flavor and unique expression of modesty. A few years ago, I made a decision to no longer buy clothes that were not designed with my customer profile in mind. So, online shopping in Turkey has been a wonderland for me. I can easily find a wide variety of suitable clothing articles that are fashionable, modest, and affordable.

Domestic production: When shopping, I prefer to buy items from as close to my locality as possible. From toothpaste to clothing to sugar-free jams, I love the plentiful opportunities to support the local economy and region.

Village Pride: Almost everyone I’ve met in Ankara mentions a “back home” where grandparents live, where parents grew up, and where they visit elders for Eid holidays. Even in the supermarkets, there’s an emphasis on foods sourced from a köy, or village, and I’ve grown to equate them with traditional, homemade goodness.

Fethiye

WHAT WE WON’T MISS:

The politics: We’re totally over the politics, the tension, and the drama. It was frustrating at times to be misunderstood when our everyday choices about diet, faith practice, and dress were seen as political statements or stances. We are on the side of piety, integrity, and humanity, wherever it is represented.

Learning Turkish: Learning the language hasn’t been easy but was essential for our day-to-day survival in Ankara. Yes, there are many words from Arabic, even French and English, but Turkish grammar was burying us alive. We absolutely loved our Turkish teacher, but we’re glad to not go any deeper down that rabbit hole for now.

The social culture: Being a fairly liberal capital, smoking and drinking are quite common in Ankara. We especially hated seeing people smoke so liberally around children or drunk in public. Similarly, the very secularized expression of Islam that we regularly encountered here lacked the soul of the faith that captured our hearts over a decade ago. The religious community here seemingly functions here as a minority, though being in a Muslim-majority country. Again, Twilight Zone experiences were common for us.

Time to go

Review: Detox Market in Ankara

Detox Market 2

Healthy eating options are popping up all over Ankara. New restaurants, businesses, and kiosks are catering to the gluten-free, dairy-free, and healthy eating crowd like never before. Our latest discovery was found while running errands at Bilkent Center. In both Turkish and English, I recognized the words “healthy”, “cold-pressed juices”, and “flourless”. When I stopped to inquire about the then ten-day old business, I met Selin, the lovely owner from Konya, who decided to bring the L.A. health trend she witnessed in America over to Turkey. Wasting no time, she bought high-quality, cold-press juicers, hired staff for a production facility, and set up shop just outside of a popular hypermarket chain called REAL.

Detox Market 3

Aptly named Detox Market, Selin’s business focuses on prepared cold-pressed juices that keep the body alkaline and energized. Juicing is a part of her personal lifestyle and she recommends that others exclusively consume raw juices at least two days a week. Her juices have catchy names like “Ctrl Alt Delete”, “Skinny Jeans”, and “Green Gold”. Each of the green juices have spinach, with some adding parsley, cucumbers, ginger, or carrots. I personally love how Ctrl Alt Delete pairs tropical pineapple with fennel and cilantro. Green Gold is definitely the greenest option, while Green Beauty adds cucumber pulp to the mix.

Detox Market 5

Other juices include a beet-based Skinny Jeans, a pleasant Fruity Blast that novice juice-drinkers and children would love, and a coconut water and cinnamon combination called Feel Better. Additionally, there are a number of creative snacks like gluten-free bread with spinach and beets, sesame and chia seed crackers, and, my personal favorite, chia cocoa cookies. Vegans should note that some of the other products contain organic eggs and/or honey, so be sure to inquire before making your purchase.

Detox Market 4

With many thanks to Detox Market for sharing samples for this review. All opinions are our own.

Reflecting on Our First Ramadan in Ankara

Made at our pre-Ramadan party with friends.

This Ramadan has been challenging and it has nothing to do with hunger, thirst, or heat. There is something intangible missing—namely that collective common spirit that I’m accustomed to feeling in either the wider consciousness of a Muslim country or the intentional consciousness of a dedicated minority. Still trying to figure out how to comprehend life in secular Muslim Turkey, being here feels like its own dimension. I see signs of Ramadan—donation requests, iftar buffets, Ramazan pide breads for sale—but I can’t feel it. Seemingly more the exception than the default, fasting feels like a secret only shared with an unknown few. Obviously, fasting is a very personal act of devotion that need not be publicized, but when you’re invited for lunch or offered food and drink in the middle of the day, it starts to feel a bit like the Twilight Zone.

A first attempt and a new addition to our Ramadan home decorations.

Lil’ Z is taking gymnastics lessons at a great academy that happens to be housed in a large shopping mall. If she wasn’t enjoying and progressing well in the class, I would find a way out of frequenting my least favorite destination four times a week. I thought the usual shopping mall annoyances might be turned down a notch for Ramadan, but it was business as usual. Diners, coffee drinkers, and smokers were doing what they always do, but one particular young lady really made me pause. While waiting at a bus stop, she came supported by two young women at her side. Because she put no weight on her bent legs, I immediately thought she sprained her ankle or was injured. But when her friends attempted to sit her up, I realized that she was passing in and out of consciousness. Her head dropped and eyes rolled back. Drool ran from her lips quicker than her friends could open their moist towelette packets to clean it. Though her entourage seemed calm and collected, I had to intervene, fearful that her condition was worse than they perceived. I thought that perhaps her blood sugar was low from fasting or she was severely dehydrated but, to my shock, one of the young men told me in unmistakable English, “She is drunk.” Having lived in a college town for eight years, I’ve seen drunk before—loud drunk, belligerent drunk, staggering drunk. But on the verge of black out drunk in daylight–I’ve never seen. Again my mind goes back to Ramadan.

Ramadan Calendar 2016

Many of the irreligious Turkish friends I’ve met here have made reference to a grandparent who prays. I can understand that a person may consciously reject a choice for themselves, but there seems to be this total unawareness and disconnect from the lives their forefathers lived only two generations prior. Yes, there are many religious Turks as well, but I’m disappointed by how seemingly clueless young people are about Islam. Almost as if a cloud of amnesia descended a few decades ago that reduced Islam to not eating pork and calling God “Allah”, which I hear often. “Ma sha’ Allah” when seeing a cute child, “in sha’ Allah” when speaking of future happenings, or, my favorite, “Allah Allah” for any reason ranging from a spill to a near car accident. I see beautiful mosques all over the city, amazing modest clothing lines, prayer beads for sale in the streets, but I can’t seem to access what Islam means here in Turkey, or at least in Ankara. It’s a discussion I’d like to have, but being religious seems to be tied with supporting a particular political party, so those conversations are muted for fear that an innocent inquiry will turn into a partisan debate.

Mama makes a Ramadan sign too!

As with any reality in the outer world, I’m forced to look inward. Whether fasting as one in a small crowd or one in a million, I need to peer through the fog of my confusion to see the lesson awaiting me, the Teacher beckoning me, and the service demanding me. Ramadan is not something happening to me but rather within me. For more than a decade, even with its challenges, Ramadan is the internal housecleaning that I look forward to every year. Both in and outside of Ramadan, fasting heightens my awareness of God, refines my inner vision, and tempers my connection to the temporal world. As with Islam in general, it’s such a treasure that I hate to see people forfeit or belittle. Our little family is doing what we can to keep our own Ramadan fire aflame because I can’t rely on others here to fan it. With about half of the month left, I have to seek out some virtual love to pull through this month of mercy, so I can end with the cleansing and spiritual recommitment that I always find awaiting me in its last days.

Review: Vegan İşleri in Ankara

Though we’re not foodies, we know good food when we eat it. On most days, we’re content with simple, plant-based meals but every once in a while, we go out to eat for some variety. Now, instead of going out, we have another option for delicious vegan dining that we can enjoy right at home. Vegan İşleri is a catering service in Ankara that delivers healthy, plant-based meals with an international flare. The owners, Pınar and Gülen, are cultured, professional women. Their cosmopolitan and global exposure is evident in a menu which draws influence from Greek, Arab, Indian, and Far Eastern flavors while staying true to their Turkish roots.

Summer Spinach Salad

Pınar and Gülen handpicked a special menu for our little family and though the foods sounded familiar, the tastes were exceptionally refreshing. Our spinach salad was accented with sliced strawberries, tropical mango chunks, and fresh avocado. The black bean patties were full of surprises—sweet potatoes, walnuts, black rice, and just enough spice to invoke thoughts of Latin and Central America.

Black bean and sweet potato burgers

We’ve tasted tabbouleh a ton of times, but this time the taste was smooth like Moroccan couscous and enriched by a sprinkle of ground walnuts. A new food for us was skordalia, a Greek dish of pureed potatoes with tahini and garlic. We were puzzled by this pasty dish, wondering what it was, but it soon became our favorite.

Skordalia

I would have never thought of combining these dishes into a singular menu, but the flavors blended well and complimented each other to become one of the most creative and innovative meals I’ve had in a long time. I will keep watching their Instagram page for inspiring new foods and look forward to enjoying their next masterpiece meal.

With many thanks to Vegan İşleri for providing samples for this review. All opinions are our own.

 

Review: Padam Coffee Shop in Ankara

Padam Coffee Shop1

Vegans in Ankara need a hangout spot. Not a pub or a living room but an inviting, neutral space where you can meet friends for tea, have stimulating conversations, and take a break from the city hustle. I recently found such an oasis at the newly opened Padam Coffee Shop near Kuğulu Park, right next to Dost Bookstore.  Entering downtown Ankara has been completely eliminated from my weekly routine, but now I have a reason to return. The nexus of nature, books, and vegan treats is enough to lure me to a side of Atatürk Boulevard I’ve never seen– away from the congested transportation hubs of Kızılay and Güvenpark. I’m glad to finally have a place to bring friends and congregate after playdates.

Padam Coffee Shop2

Padam’s owner, Hande, is a sweet soul with a love for java. Having trained under Sam Çeviköz, owner and founder of Istanbul’s Federal Coffee Company and founder of Ministry of Coffee-Istanbul, Hande has rallied her family around the business she’s always dreamed of. From her homemade desserts, her mother’s homemade jams and her brother and sister-in-law’s helping hands behind the counter, I feel like an extended member of the family when I visit. Fresh orchids greet me as I climb the winding staircase to a cozy upper lounge with cushioned seats, curated art, and a wooden antique record player and radio that has been in her family for almost 100 years. I can feel Hande’s heartbeat—padam, padam—pulsing around me.

For non-coffee lovers, like myself, there are herbal fruit and flower teas to choose from. Paired with a tasty selection of savory, stuffed börek pastries and vegan cakes made by Ev Yapımı Vegan Lezzetler, I can enjoy a satisfying afternoon snack that is both sweet and savory, then tackle the rest of my day’s tasks. Stocked with almond milk, I look forward to chilled smoothies in the summer and hot cocoa in the winter, because I’m confident that Padam will be around to brave all of Ankara’s seasons.

Padam Coffee Shop4

With special thanks to Padam Coffee Shop for hosting my visit. All opinions are my own.

Review: Ev Yapımı Vegan Lezzetler in Ankara

Vegan Food in Ankara

Since coming to Turkey, we’ve been inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit here. You want to start a business? Come up with a name, open a Facebook or Instagram account, and get to work. We aspire to be self-employed one day and meeting small business owners here in Ankara is teaching us a lot about the grit and dedication that it takes way before registering your company, building a website, or obtaining a business license. The most recent entrepreneur we had the pleasure of meeting is Çisem Çolak, sole chef and owner of Ev Yapımı Vegan Lezzetler, a home-based vegan cooking service.

Vegan Mantı in Ankara

For the last five years, Çisem has taken the task of vegan cooking into her own hands. Many traditional foods she grew up enjoying no longer suited her animal-free diet, so she began to adapt them. Her most popular dish, mantı, is tiny dumplings that are usually stuffed with spiced meat. Çisem, like many other vegans, missed this homemade comfort food but unlike her peers, she fashioned a vegan version for herself and made a business out of it for the last nine months. I’m amazed at how each piece is cut, folded, and stuffed with flavorful fillings like sweet potatoes, lentils, spinach and potatoes. Topped with a robust tomato sauce and oil dressing with ground herbs and sumac, we devour each bite in an instant, guiltily knowing that the painstaking process of preparing it is exponentially longer.

Vegan, Turkish sausage

Çisem’s other specialty is sucuk, a seitan version of Turkish spiced sausage. Like her mantı, she freezes and ships it to eager customers from Istanbul to Izmir and even as far as Antalya. Fortunate for Ankara’s residents, Ev Yapımı offers a broader menu for pick-up and home delivery. Cooked daily meals, desserts, and stuffed breads like börek and gözleme can all be enjoyed in the comfort of your home but, one day, I look forward to visiting Ev Yapımı when it becomes more than a home-based business but a café and restaurant all on its own.

VeganTortellini in Ankara

Complimentary samples were offered for this review.  All opinions are our own.

Adjusting to Ankara: Myths and Realities

Ankara

Turkey is our fifth country of residence since living abroad.  As with our past moves, there’s something fascinating to me about that very first ride from the airport to the place you will call home. From the time those sliding doors open from the safety of the airport lobby to the mystery of the world beyond it, there’s an initial impression, energy, and vibe. I watch it all—the landscapes, the people, the signs—as closely as my jetlagged eyes will allow, seeking something familiar or a point of reference to orient myself around. With time, all of those initial mental snapshots start to become landmarks in a maze and then later an organized grid. The streets I walk and places I know so well now were once disorienting, but now they are my home.

It’s hard to say if our adjustment went quickly or slowly, but all I know is that right now the weeks seem to be flying. We are settled in our apartment and neighborhood, we’ve picked up some Turkish along the way, and we have a good sense about what the city has to offer. By no means are we expert expats but we know where we are, what we’ve experienced, and what we expect for the duration of our stay. We’ve had some interesting surprises since coming—some based on our own expectations and others based on the experiences of others or what we’ve read online. However, there are a few things we’ve learned for ourselves and we hope it will help the next family in transit.

Prayer Space

Myth: Turkey is similar to other parts of the Middle East. 

Reality: Not all of Turkey. Yes, the mosques are present and the call to prayer is heard, but none of that means you won’t see what would be considered very taboo in other parts of the Muslim world. For example, open homosexuality, public displays of affection, tattoos, drinking, smoking, etc.

Myth: Finding vegan food will be easy.

Reality: We were heartbroken when we discovered that a common vegetarian dish, lentil soup, may be prepared with animal stock. Hummus and baba ghanoush are not as common as Turkish restaurants abroad led us to believe. So, we have to be a bit more focused in our pursuit by seeking out Ege (Aegean), ev yemekleri (homecooked foods), vegan 0r veg-friendly eateries.

Aegean Food

Myth: If you have a residency permit, you can leave your passport at home.

Reality: Some transactions at the bank, post office, or a notary will still require your passport or a copy. Getting an ikamet residency can be arduous but it is necessary and will make sure you’re lawfully abiding in the land.

Myth: It will be great to receive care packages from abroad.

Reality: Receiving packages has been mostly a nightmare for us because of customs rules, fees, etc. We recently had to opt for a package to be destroyed because the paperwork to retrieve it from customs was worth more than the package itself. We’ve learned the hard way and now know not to request any cosmetics or food products. Books from Amazon UK, on the other hand, arrive easily as long as they’re not worth more than 75 – 100 Euros.

Myth: Mail order makes life convenient.

Reality: Not always. In the winter, mail order produce was a dream come true. I sat home, cozy and warm with the kids, while farm fresh produce came to my front door. It’s hard to predict when deliveries will come and you don’t always receive a SMS message in advance, so you can be left waiting all day long. If for whatever reason you miss a delivery, retrieving it can be a pain without a car.

Myth: Turkish people love children.

Reality: Turkish people really, really love children. Almost like good luck charms, it’s hard for most of them to pass a child without a smile, rub on the face, or kiss on the cheek. And, if your children look anything like our chocolate bunnies, beware! They may well want to eat your kids or at least take their picture.

Myth: In Ankara, Turkey’s capital city, English should be easy to come by.

Reality: Oh no! Even in official offices, you may not find a single English speaker, so get started on your Turkish as soon as possible or make friends who can help by translating.

Myth: You can receive money transfers easily.

Reality: Make sure the sender uses Western Union and uses your complete name (inclusive of your middle name), so it perfectly matches your passport ID.

Myth: All you need is a SIM card to use your phone from abroad.

Reality: You must register your phone by paying a fee at the bank, receiving an e-password from the post office, and then completing your registration on a Turkish website within a couple of months. Our first attempt was unsuccessful, so we have to start the process all over again or buy a Turkish phone.

Myth: You can buy train tickets at the post office or a travel agent, according to the internet.

Reality: Nope. The website says you can but…nope. If you don’t succeed in buying tickets online, go to the train station.  My friend teased me saying that Turks never trust what the internet says.  Lesson learned.