Görüşürüz, Türkiye.

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As I type this, I am sitting in my grandmother’s air conditioned house on a hot Kansas afternoon, trying to find the right words.  To be honest, I still haven’t processed it all yet.  Leaving Turkey felt like stepping through a portal from one universe to another.  There is a piece of me that still thinks it will all be there waiting for me exactly as I left it, even though my head knows I won’t be going back for quite some time.

I didn’t sleep the night before I left.  The day was filled with tearful goodbyes to students, colleagues, and dear friends, followed by an epic Turkish party at night.  We were packing until the very last second.  I wouldn’t have left any other way.

I am so tremendously thankful for the memories, the people, and the life-changing experiences.

Her şey için teşekkürler, Türkiye.  Sizi özleyeceğim.

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Where We’ve Been

As we near the end of this first expat journey, I want to recap all the places we have been so far so we can look back on this moment for years to come.  When we started down this path over four years ago, we did so with the goal of visiting 30 countries before we turned 30 – a goal that we exceeded with 3 years to spare.  Some of these places we have visited more than once, but I will only list the year of the first visit.  Here is where we’ve been so far:

  1. USA – 1991IMG_0044
  2. France – 20095116_107584356659_504141659_2833515_4519609_n
  3. Spain – 2009DSC_0063
  4. Paraguay – 2013 (Sadly, no photos)
  5. Iceland – 201410347547_1504545873093609_8899424320537876548_n
  6. Turkey – 201512074588_1667618120119716_36044510800056699_n (1)
  7. The Netherlands – 201512274306_1676022422612619_3590003824024621316_n
  8. Hungary – 2016BudapestLift3
  9. Slovakia – 2016DSCF3990
  10. Czechia – 2016DSCF4059 (1)
  11. Austria  – 2016 (Bad experience. Didn’t keep the photos)
  12. Greece – 2016DSC_0452[1]
  13. Sweden – 201613096107_1724698541078340_7433953853444923562_n
  14. Bosnia & Herzegovina – 2016DSC_0083 (2)
  15. Italy – 2016dsc_0168
  16. Norway – 2016dsc_0169
  17. Scotland – 2016dsc_0173
  18. Georgia – 2016dsc_0159
  19. The Maldives – 2017dsc_0095
  20. Sri Lanka – 2017dsc_0247
  21. Switzerland – 2017DSC_0065
  22. Slovenia – 2017DSC_0035
  23. Albania – 2017IMG_1188
  24. Belgium – 201720171120_144155
  25. Israel – 201820180121_154233
  26. Jordan – 2018IMG_3158.jpg
  27. N. Cyprus – 201820180403_163706.jpg
  28. Germany – 201820180422_161503.jpg
  29. Kosovo – 201820180526_131557
  30. England – 2018IMG-20180823-WA0005
  31. Ukraine – 2018img_4919
  32. Egypt – 2018IMG_20190126_202502_195

33. Denmark – 2019

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I’m anxious to see where life takes us on our next adventure.

Reflections

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Super duper jet-lagged baby expats!

Here I am, down to less than a month in this place that has been my home for four years.  Four years goes by fast.

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4 years later, learning to blend in

I have already started packing and downsizing.  My upstairs neighbors (a.k.a the dorm girls) gleefully took several bags of clothes off of my hands.  I am done planning lessons for the year.  My exams are printed and ready.  Not much is left to do here but prepare to say goodbye.

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I know I haven’t written much this year.  I haven’t felt very inspired. The last year and a half or so in Turkey has been a little rough – ever since the economic downturn and resultant chaos at our school took its toll.  We are leaving a little burnt out, but I don’t want what has happened at the end to tarnish four years of amazing memories.

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I’ve been taking all the photos off of our computers and hard drives and organizing them to prepare for the next big move.  Looking through them, I can see how much we have grown.  We haven’t aged much (we both look young for our age), but there is a difference in our eyes.  I came here as a fresh new teacher, naive and ready for adventure; I am leaving this place a wiser, savvier, stronger, braver, more worldly and more confident person than I ever believed I could be when I first stepped off of that plane.

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When I really reflect, all I can feel is gratitude.  I am ten times the teacher I was when I first came thanks to the experiences I had here.  I know I can step into my next position with confidence.  I got to work with incredible students that I love dearly and will keep in touch with for years to come.  I made amazing friends – who are really more like family at this point- without whom I never would have survived as an expat.   I learned how to operate with a new set of rules in a new culture and learned a new language to boot.  I traveled to over 30 countries on three different continents with the love of my life.

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Yes, I am happy to be leaving.  I am ready to move on.  But I will always be grateful we said yes to Turkey, even when many people thought we were crazy.  I could not have asked for a more beautiful country, full of countless treasures and wonders, with amazing food, and more importantly, amazing people to begin this journey I have always dreamed of.

11218870_1660003807547814_8920917322430442324_nThese last few weeks are going to be emotional, if you couldn’t tell.

 

I Will Miss You

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As of today, I have approximately 55 days left in Turkey.  Holy crap.

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The countdown is starting to feel real.  Like, really real.  As excited as I am to start a new life in China, leaving Turkey is going to leave a bit of a simit-shaped hole in my heart.  I have made so many wonderful friends here who have really become like my family and have been by my side through everything from economic crisis and culture shock to Turkish miracles and breathtaking travel moments.  Saying goodbye won’t be easy.

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I have been a bit of a hermit this year.  Our trips have been a little lackluster compared to previous years and more than that, I think we have just gotten a little tired.  Living on a little rock by the sea in the middle of nowhere can make you feel a little burnt out and lethargic after four years, I suppose.  I’ve been venturing into Istanbul less and less, but one of my dearest friends managed to pull me out of my cave this weekend.

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I couldn’t restrain myself from taking a bite before taking a picture.

First up was a delicious Mexican dinner, which is a big deal in Turkey because it is hard to find Mexican food here – especially good Mexican food.  These enchiladas were the real deal.

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This was her first time trying margaritas.  She approved.

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The next day, we ventured all the way out to Beykoz to go to a super hipster BYOB old shoe factory-turned-movie-theatre that plays cool old films and cult classics.  To get there, you have to take a special golf cart with security because the road is lined with active movie sets for Turkish series and films.

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Here is the oh-so-comfy movie theatre.  Not pictured: mulled wine in a coffee cup.  We watched Tokyo Godfathers, which was amazing.

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After our movie and some lunch, we headed over to Beşiktaş to see Luke Jerram’s Museum of the Moon exhibit, as well as a few other pieces at the Ferriye museum.

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I really liked this CGI interpretation of the Last Supper

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The sunset over Ortaköy was otherworldly.

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The next morning, after brunch, my friend convinced me that it would be awesome if we both got our ears pierced on a whim.  So that happened.

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As I hopped on the bus to head back to my rock by the sea, the thought that kept running through my head was I’ll miss you.  Istanbul, my friends, the seaside, my village home, all of it.

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Springtime in Bodrum

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After a very hectic winter filled with work, grad school, and attempting to wrap my head around my upcoming move, I finally managed to catch up just enough to take a weekend to myself. I had pondered using the time to get ahead on some of my work, but upon further reflection decided that that would only leave me more burnt out and exhausted. So, I took advantage of the beautiful weather and some frequent flyer miles and scored a free ticket and cheap hotel in Bodrum.

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I was instantly greeted with fresh sea air, the scent of blossoming flowers, endless sunshine, and abundant cafes along the pebbled beach. As an added bonus, it is currently off-season, so I didn’t have to deal with any crowds as I wound my way through all the nooks and crannies.

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Today Bodrum is a rather small, unassuming city, but it was once home to one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World – the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. The ruins can still be visited today for a small fee (or free with a Muzekart). I was surprised at how much of it still remains. We tend to talk about all of the Ancient Wonders (besides the pyramids) as if they have completely vanished, so I was glad to still be able to get a sense of what Halicarnassus once was.

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Aside from my visit to Halicarnassus, my main agenda was to drink wine in the sunshine. There was no shortage of lovely beachside cafe/bars and I spent much of my day Saturday helping from one to the next. Some highlights included fabulous wine and burger bar and a Spanish tapas place which served excellent sangria.

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My time alone in Bodrum was restorative, but also emotional. The arrival of spring has made me viscerally aware that this will be my last season in Turkey, which has been my home for four years. I have come so far in terms of understanding the language and the culture and have gained an independence here that I will have to work to earn once we move to China. Sitting by the water, sipping on wine and türk khavesi, and listening to the waves crash beside me allowed me to be reflective, but also present, and appreciate things as they are in this time of transition.

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We are moving…

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Photo from Wikimedia

…to Chongqing, China!

After a few months of intense job hunting, we found a school that seems like a great fit for us for next year and were offered the jobs a few days before Christmas.  It still feels pretty surreal.

I am already daydreaming about misty green mountains, spicy hot pot, breathtaking temples, and cuddly pandas.

We are super excited to explore Asia, take another step in our careers, and immerse ourselves in a brand new culture.  We are also soaking up our last six months here in Turkey before taking off on this next crazy adventure.

Bring it on, 2019!