Category Archives: Culture

Ellie’s big day

I rarely sit down and blog because when I have free time I pick up the books and study Turkish. Even though I get tons of practice speaking daily with moms at the park or clerks at stores, and I can get by quite well, I want to continue to actually get better and to use more sophisticated language structures. I also want to be able to speak about more complex, or just plain different, subjects. So, that doesn’t leave a ton of time for social media, but as fellow busy humans, I’m sure you understand.

At any rate, we had a fun week last week. A couple of months back Ellie was one of those rare humans who gets spotted out in public and invited to be a model. The manager of a baby clothing company here in Turkey saw her and asked if we’d be interested in letting her be in their summer catalog. Now, as a side note, it’s no secret she’s cute, but Turks cannot get enough of blue eyes and blonde hair, so in their book she’s ten times more beautiful because she has such rare features. So she’s basically the token asian kid you find in kid’s brochures in the States. It doesn’t hurt that she’s cheeky, has the world’s cutest dimples, and is not camera shy. The photographer hasn’t sent me any of the great photos yet, the ones that will make me cry, you know. But here are some of the bloopers (at least that’s what I call them).

 

First of all, I demand to know who taught her this???? Does she think she's a Victoria's Secret diaper model?  Second of all, is this dress not the cutest?

First of all, I demand to know who taught her this???? Does she think she’s a Victoria’s Secret diaper model? Second of all, is this dress not the cutest?

Secondly, it's positively shocking that no one has ever stopped me on the street and asked me to be a model for their catalog.... Or maybe not so shocking? And, again, isn't this dress so cute?
Thirdly, it’s positively shocking that no one has ever stopped me on the street and asked me to be a model for their catalog…. Or maybe not so shocking? Although I could be THE look for goofy maternity moms all around the world with an expression like this! More importantly, isn’t this dress so cute?

This outfit is way too big. Is that going to be the new style for 2014? I guess we all have to wait to find out.

This outfit is way too big. Is that going to be the new style for 2014? I guess we all have to wait to find out.

Here I am buttoning up her dress. She's beautiful.

Here I am buttoning up her dress. She’s beautiful.

Here we are for a little mid-session snuggle. She made it the whole time without whining or crying, but she needed a little mama hug for reassurance. I guess that's excusable for a child that's not yet 2.

Here we are for a little mid-session snuggle. She made it the whole time without whining or crying, but she needed a little mama hug for reassurance. I guess that’s excusable for a child that’s not yet 2. And look at Baby Rank #2 cooking away!

 

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Summa, Summa, Summatime

Oh my word this summer has been delightful! There’s something magical about spending your days at the local parks, soaking up vitamin D, sipping tea late into the night with neighbors, and taking lovely family walks along the sea. I’ve never loved summer like I’ve loved this summer. Perhaps it’s also because spending time with an 18 now 19 month old is magical. Her thirst for adventure and learning all about the world around her is contagious. I get to be her tour guide to the world, and it’s so much fun!

This summer I turned 29. I’m not as excited about 29 as 28. 28 seemed to me to be the sophisticated number in the 20s, not too old, not too young, just right. Really the Goldilocks of the decade. We had a fun day of celebration nonetheless. I’m not one to argue when my husband gets up early to make me breakfast, lets me go to the cafe alone for a bit, and takes me out for Mexican food. And, he bought me Season 2 of Call the Midwife! Here I am with my favorite senor and senorita.

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This summer Ellie passed the 17 month, 18 month and 19 month mark. I can’t believe how much she’s learning daily and how excited she is about learning about the world around her. She wants to know the word for every item on the planet and will shout, “that, that, that!” until I tell her what it’s called. Then it’s, “plane, plane, plane” or “water, water, water”. She won’t move on until I acknowledge what she’s saying.

She’s starting to the get the hang of speaking in sentences. She combines words on her own for example she said, “pine cone tree” or “Mommy bag”. But this week she also said, “Mama, I want help please.” Life is so much easier now that I have a child who can communicate all of her needs. She also can walk up and down our 4 flights of stairs if I hold her hand. My back is saying, “Amen!” to that. She loves praying, giving cheers with her cup, having her daddy throw her in the air, and playing with other children. She’s the most delightful little thing I’ve ever laid eyes on, and she was such a fun little friend to spend my summer with. We had tons of fun and now are full of plenty of vitamin D to get us through the winter.

Scott was awarded an academic grant that will start this fall. Since we hadn’t done a proper vacation since coming to Turkey one year ago, we thought it time. The end of August seemed ideal because that’s when Istanbul is the hottest. We found a great deal for a cheap place to stay, so decided to go for two weeks. Boy am I glad we did! Both Scott and I slept, and slept and slept. We had a lot of catching up to do. We didn’t have internet at the place we stayed, so both of us read tons of new books. A dream come true for the Rank family. We also delighted at taking Ellie to the beach almost everyday and see her mixture of fear and adventure as she chased the waves. Scott taught her how to build sand castles which we dubbed Ft. Rank, Ft. Rank and Ft. Rank, of course. Here are more photos than you bargained for to give you a glimpse.

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Getting our feet wet

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Ellie singing “row, row, row your boat” to the Black Sea.

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Our Turkish girl. I caught her with this loaf of bread!

Entry way to our apartment

Entry way to our apartment

We bought E glasses for $1. She loved them and wanted to wear them all the time, even indoors.

We bought E glasses for $1. She loved them and wanted to wear them all the time, even indoors.

Working on Ft. Rank

Working on Ft. Rank

She had a blast!

She had a blast!

Running with daddy

Running with daddy

Trying to catch up

Trying to catch up

Simit seller walks around selling simit. What a perfect snack! We ate several daily.

Simit seller walks around selling simit. What a perfect snack! We ate several daily.

Me and my sweetie

Me and my sweetie

Ellie puts on the charm to make friends and to get their food.

Ellie puts on the charm to make friends and to get their food.

Her first hot chocolate. As  you can imagine, she liked it.

Her first hot chocolate. As you can imagine, she liked it.

We took a trip through a pond on a paddle boat. Here is Scott being a typical dad guide..."now Ellie, if you look of yonder in the East you'll spot...."

We took a trip through a pond on a paddle boat. Here is Scott being a typical dad guide…”now Ellie, if you look of yonder in the East you’ll spot….”

Scott is teaching Ellie about a proper duck face so she'll be ready for facebook someday.

Scott is teaching Ellie about a proper duck face so she’ll be ready for facebook someday.

She's showing me what she learned.

She’s showing me what she learned.

And, you never know when you'll see some cows out in the country. Ellie loved them.

And, you never know when you’ll see some cows out in the country. Ellie loved them.

She didn't like the water at first, but slowly she did and by the end was begging her dad to take her out into it.

She didn’t like the water at first, but slowly she did and by the end was begging her dad to take her out into it.

My summer buddy

My summer buddy

This is Ellie's smile when you tell her to smile for the camera. I found her in this basket. She helps with laundry.

This is Ellie’s smile when you tell her to smile for the camera. I found her in this basket. She helps with laundry.

And, cheese anyone?

And, cheese anyone?

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Life these days

As I write this, Scott is at Toast Masters. It’s all in Turkish. My husband is giving professional speeches, or at least working at it, in Turkish. I have some catching up to do, which explains what I’ve been up to.

I’ve laid down the full throttle assault on Turkish. These days I’m devoting every spare minute to study, and I’m deciding to go at it as many ways as I can. So, I’m meeting with a private language teacher to go over grammar. I was in a course, but it fell through, so the private teacher works well for me and for our family’s schedule. I have a book I do on my own at home in addition to the homework I receive from my teacher. If I’m not doing homework or working on said books during Ellie’s nap, then I’m listening to podcasts. There is a new website for Turkish language learning, Turkish Tea Time, and it’s really great. It helps with listening, grammar, vocabulary, and everyday language. In addition to these methods, I also watch a Turkish television program online for about 5 hours per week. I do this in the evenings after the munchkin is in bed. This helps me to hear authentic Turkish, and to learn a lot of idiomatic expressions. Recently, I learned “gotcha!” and have had a lot of fun using it. And, yes, using it is the key to any language learning. I’m inspired by Ellie as I hear her practice different words. It’s usually not perfect the first time, but that doesn’t stop her! I’m pretty much the same in Turkish. In the streets, in the stores, at the parks… If I can find someone who will chat with me, I’m game. (Well, I do have some boundaries, and I bet you can guess what they are.) But, there are plenty of friendly neighborhood folks who know our family and are happy to see how we are doing.

Yay for learning!

Yay for learning!

Besides that, I’ve been reading a lot in the evenings. I just finished Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, Bossypants by Tina Fey, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and a simple biography on Mark Twain. I recommend all of them! Currently I’m reading Elsie Dinsmore, another sweet classic that I was prompted to read after enjoying Little Women, Heidi and Anne of Green Gables in the past few months. My days are filled with happiness and Ellie. We attend a bible study on Friday mornings with sweet ladies from my church. On Thursday we go to a fun kid’s club that’s held in English but attracts lots of people from around the world. I meet interesting expats from Russia, England and many other places! Ellie has been singing lots of songs that she’s learned there, so one big reason I go is because she so enjoys being with other people and hearing the songs. Other days we do our shopping, cleaning, hosting, park exploring and more.

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Ellie mostly speaks English, but also says about 8 Turkish words. I joke that here she is working on her Turkish vowels.

Life is full, and happy. It’s peaceful but filled with interesting challenges.

If Ellie marries a Turk, I want her to marry this very sweet little boy. He already adores her, can you tell?

If Ellie marries a Turk, I want her to marry this very sweet little boy. He already adores her, can you tell?

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Living the Dream

Okay, maybe we’re not living the dream, but we’re living our dream, and it’s such a sweet season for us. I’m so thankful that 8 months ago we moved to Istanbul. I feel like our family belongs here. I adore the challenge of living life in a place where I have to learn a new language, culture and way of living. I like making discoveries such as finding the freshest eggs in town, learning to use local ingredients in cooking, and figuring out how to manage conversations in a tongue that is foreign to me but enchanting nonetheless. Have you heard Turkish? It’s a harmonic language, so it sounds lovely to the ear.

scottbookWe’ve been keeping busy as usual. Scott is currently writing a dissertation that requires him to research material in several foreign languages. Imagine that?! Not only does the poor guy have to write a book, but he only can write it after reading tomes and tomes of material, old material, mind you, in Turkish, Ottoman Turkish, Persian and Arabic, with a side of French to boot! In addition to this, he teaches English to Japanese people on the internet, is involved in translation projects for a local university, and has written several e-books that have been released in the past fews months. My personal favorite is his book on Insane Rulers which you should definitely check-out!

He is also a great husband and father, and is quite involved in our local church. He helps lead a weekly small group and once a month translates the sermon for guests that don’t understand Turkish. Did I mention he’s really a great husband and father?

I should have started with an update about me because it’s hard to come after that! At any rate, I’m also doing well. My big life endeavors continue to be raising Ellie and learning Turkish. I’ve been trying my hand at several Montesorri ideas with Ellie, and it’s been fun to see how well she responds. For example, I decided to see what would happen if I let her run around naked and point her to the potty when she goes. As it turns out, at her own will, she’s gone in the potty 4 times and told me, I’ll spare you the specific details on this one, but has told me that she has gone #2 twice.

In addition, she’s speaking a lot. She even likes to sing “Row, row, row your boat”- row, row, row, boat…so sweet. Also, E, I, E, I, O  is a big hit around here! Some of her favorite things to say are “apple, no, brown bear, book,  mama, daddy, bye bye, olive, bible, doggy, and gel (Turkish for come). Yesterday she conquered the stairs and the slide at the park on her own. Prior to that I’d help her, but yesterday she was ready to show me how independent she can be. However, I suppose she’s still not ready to leave the nest just yet as she’s nursing several times a day and doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Women here aim to nurse for 2 years, so no one is rolling their eyes at me just yet.

Learning Turkish is so much fun! So far, I’ve only been able to actually take one course with lack of childcare available to us, but I’ve done a lot of self-study and study with a friend. Scott helps me untangle a lot of the grammar, and I practice everyday while I’m out and about. In fact, I’ll speak with anyone who will let me! Ellie adores going to the grocery store because she ends up getting several free bananas and pickles, but I like to go because I get in good practice! Also, I continue to watch a Turkish drama as many times a week as I can. Each episode is about an hour and a half, and I try to get in at least 3 a week. I learn a lot of vocabulary and situational Turkish. It’s really great! Also, truth be told, I’m totally addicted to the program and secretly (well, not anymore) hope to bump into the actors on the street. I’m sure if they stumbled upon Ellie’s big blue eyes and dimples they’d insist for her to be in their next show!

Ellie and Scott and two peas in a pod

Ellie and Scott are two peas in a pod

What? You don't read books while out on a walk with your mom?

What? You don’t read books while out on a walk with your mom?

Ellie's favorite cashier.

Ellie’s favorite cashier.

One of my favorite study on your own Turkish books.

One of my favorite study on your own Turkish books.

Our park on 9am Monday morning. We had it all to ourselves!

Our park on 9am Monday morning. We had it all to ourselves!

There are some really fun parks around here. Ellie approved!

There are some really fun parks around here. Ellie approved!

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Life is Never Dull

Living life in Istanbul is many things, but dull is not one of them. Everyday it seems that something seemingly out of the ordinary happens, and I thought it time I document some of these things before they become so normal I forget there was a time they weren’t.

The other day I was walking to the seaside with my friend, Zeynep. I was pushing Ellie in the stroller and we walked along enjoying the beautiful day and conversation circling around topics with a depth that only friends of 9 years can share. Out of nowhere a woman approached and asked while looking at Ellie, “Eleanor, isn’t it?” My friend was amazed. “You are famous in this neighborhood?!” The truth is no one gives a lick about me, but Eleanor with her big blue eyes, darling dimples and charm that would sweep the queen off her feet definitely is a star in our neighborhood.

Two days ago I was buying milk at a grocery store. Unfortunately, their card machine wasn’t working. So, they told me to just come back later to pay. Could you imagine this happening at your local store? Another local store I know keeps a list of the people who owe him. It’s like pioneer days. I love it!

Another time I was walking down the street minding my own business. (I realize all of these sentences sound like I’m about to tell a joke) A woman ran out of the local print shop with a roll of tape. A few days before this incident Eleanor and I were strolling down the street and one of the front wheels came off her stroller, unfortunately, not for the first time. I popped into the print shop, bought some tape, and taped that bad boy with all the gusto I could muster. In my joy at solving our problem I left the tape in the shop, thus the reason for the woman running with the roll of tape. I employed one of my new language learning strategies on her. In these early days, instead of learning verbs and nouns for opposite things, I just remember one and then negate it when necessary. So, in this situation instead of saying to her, “Oh, I forgot it!” I simply said, “Oh, I didn’t remember it.” Genius? Why thank you.

Today new adventures await me. I wonder what shenanigans this happy girl and I will get in to.

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Home in our home

We are in our home and growing to love our neighborhood. One big highlight is a refrigerator magnet that I have from a local grocery store. It’s magical. I call the number on it, inform the guy that I really, really would like him to bring me some milk, yogurt, cheese and cucumbers, and then he does! Right to my door!

I wrote a little bit more about our new neighborhood on Istanbulmoms. If you are interested, head on over to check it out!

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In 2012…

I gave birth to the sweetest little girl in the worldhomebirth

Took that sweet little girl on many planes, across several continents including two trips to America

Wrote on Budapest Moms for a time with my very own column

Moved from Budapest, Hungary to Istanbul, Turkey

Made some very sweet friends while learning to call this place home

Started IstanbulMoms

Moved into a sub-let for several months

Drank approximately 2337 toffee nut lattesstabuckschristmas

 

 

 

 

 

Sold earrings that I hand-made at a Christmas Fair in December

christmasfair

Moved into a more permanent rental

Bought brand new appliances for the first time in my life! Not to mention (used) furniture

Finally painted the walls in one of our homes- it really feels like ours now!

Learned Turkish fluently- not! But, hopefully I’ll make good headway on that pursuit in 2013.

Here’s to, hopefully, no big changes in 2013. Please God. Please, please!

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