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Turkey and Me Part 2

Updated: Mar 21, 2023

In Part 1 I wrote that my Turkish mother asked me to extend my planned 3 month stay to a 6 month stay. Writing this I am in month 6 and reminiscing about how this experience changed me. Lifehouse is blaring in my ears “… and how can I stand here with you and not be moved by you?”. That is exactly what this has been.

I have learned of Cappadocia from a friend when World Voyage introduced the Au Pair in Turkey program. The pictures mesmerized me, hot air balloons painted the skies in rainbows. A moment that captivated me with one thought that raged through my head – I will probably never get to see that in my life. Little did I know that life is going to have a few surprises for me. I barely touched ground in Turkey and my Turkish adoptive mom decided to send me on a trip to Kapadokya (Cappadocia).

My trip ended with me on one of those balloons. It is then when you realize why you sometimes voluntarily put yourself through hardships, because the rush of doing something that you probably never would have done, makes it worth it. I have walked where our religious forefathers hid, I have climbed heights that I almost instantly regretted, I drank the wine and gazed at sunrises over the magical peaks.

Back in Istanbul my days were spent on slowly learning kitchen Turkish, piano lessons, work, English lessons and French homework. I grew particularly fond of dolma which is a family of stuffed dishes associated with Ottoman cuisine. Some types of dolma are made with whole vegetables, fruit, offal or seafood, while others are made by wrapping grape, cabbage, or other leaves around the filling. Wrapped dolma are known as sarma (which is also a favourite in our house). Anneanne (my Turkish grandmother) has taken it upon herself to make every traditional dish in her cookbook, I just have to eat along and judge.

Weekends are normally spent on exploring new parts of the city, catching up with friends and enjoying life at an excruciating fast and slow pace at the same time. We have sparked a lot of debate amongst ourselves about the best burger in Istanbul and plausibly in the world. It is easy to guess what we do when we are hungry – compare the original best burger to the sad second choices that we are left with. Though it may sound like it, we don’t always eat burgers, sometimes we munch on Döner kebab which can easily be the best experience of your life, or the worst. In between the search for the perfect burger, I have confidently mastered the public transport system which gives me the ability to go anywhere in the city where my heart desires. Istanbul is the fifth largest city in the world, as magnificent as it is – if you can’t utilize the public transport you are going to overpay for taxi’s… unless you can haggle.

Talking about haggling, Istanbul has taught me to haggle. It is known that if you don’t speak Turkish, then you are rich rich because you have dollars (even if it is not the truth). Being a walking dollar sign is never a good thing and shopkeepers and taxi drivers will try to milk as much money out of you as possible. It was here where a shopkeeper said I negotiated like a Mafia boss. My answer was simple – “I learned from the best”.

The summer has slowly approached and as the days became warmer and longer our back garden has opened up and was inaugurated with a garden party. More particularly a Henna Party which is a pre-wedding event for the bride and her closest family members (a bachelorettes if you will). There was a whole traditional band in our garden while the wine glasses were overflowing from deep bottles. The week following the henna party was the wedding. A double celebration day which included the husband who came to get his wife from her family home. As always there was a man with a drum which led to some dancing in the streets. He then took his bride to deliver her to his family. Afterwards everyone met up at the afterparty where there was more (you guessed it) drums and dancing. The bride and groom were sent off with sashes pinned with gold coins and envelopes stuffed full of cash. A little something to start their life together with.

Our next adventure included a plane trip to the beautiful Bodrum – home for the next month and a story for Part 3!

Cheney Collins


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