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COVID19 Turkey expat

COVID-19 + Turkey + Expat (Update 1)

Back from the depth of newish motherhood, language learning (yet again) and what life looks like for our expat family living in Turkey during the COVID-19 pandemic

If you are new here, welcome, and if you are surprised to see a new post, THANK YOU for sticking around. You see, motherhood is full-time work… motherhood and living in another country can feel like double time… FIRST TIME motherhood VIA adoption AND living in another country means a lot has just been neglected when it comes to our website. I think my last post was just over a year ago, but we did do some fun videos mid-year!

There are so many things to write and say but the most pressing one I felt should be shared (and maybe the last one you want to read about!) is COVID-19. While it may be interesting to our non-Turkey followers, I thought this may be of more interest to our English speaking expats living in Turkey.

First, let’s catch up on the COVID-19’s arrival to Turkey. For this timeline, I found the DailySabah and Wikipedia (oh the irony here) were helpful resources. I actually started this post a week ago and have be updating it as I come back to it. We are now 2 week into the ‘stay home’ and ‘self-isolation’ period. In this time, Turkey has jumped from 89 confirmed cases to 7402. This is not to scare anyone but it is to be expected that once you can actually start testing for the virus then the numbers will increase.  (If you want a timeline from China to the present day, I found this article to be a good start.)

The timeline in Turkey:

  • February 3: Ankara stopped all flights to and from China. 
  • February 23: It closed all air, land and railway crossings from Iran.
  • February 27: Turkey established field hospitals at its border gates with Iran, Iraq and Georgia. 
  • February 29: All passenger traffic between Italy and Turkey was stopped.
  • March 10: The first case tests positive. (From what I understand, this is when Turkey actually started testing for COVID-19.)
  • March 12: Turkey closes all schools starting on the 14th, the postponement of public officials’ travels abroad and the playing of sports matches without fans. Turkey temporarily suspended the activities of entertainment venues such as bars, casinos, night clubs, museums and libraries where many people come together. They also banned public gatherings and pilgrimages, implements health checks at the borders.
  • March 13: All arts and culture events were postponed until the end of April. The number of COVID-19 cases rose to five in Turkey.
  • March 15: The number of COVID-19 patients in Turkey reached 18. 
  • March 16th: Religious authorities announced that community prayers, including Friday prayers, would not meet. Turkey closes coffee shops, cafes, cinemas, theaters, concert halls, wedding halls, baths, sports halls, indoor children’s playgrounds and more. The Minister of Health announced that the number of people diagnosed with COVID-19 increased to 98 and Turkey lost its first patient, an 89-year-old citizen.
  • March 20: The government encourages everyone to “stay home” and “self-isolate”.
  • March 22: Those who are 65 years and older are told to stay home… maybe a little hard to implement when the old ladies hit you with a walking stick… BUT it has also brought back one of my favorite things here – basket deliveries!
  • March 23: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Level 3 COVID-19 Health Notice for Turkey and warned travelers to avoid all nonessential travel to Turkey. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced that 3,672 tests have been carried out over the last 24 hours and 293 new [COVID-19] cases were identified. He also wrote that despite our best efforts, 7 more succumbed to the disease. AND we finally got anti-virus test kits sent over from China.
  • March 24: The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Turkey has increased by 293, making a total of 1,529. The number of deaths has risen to 37.
  • March 26: Turkey has 2,433 diagnosed cases and 59 dead. Schools and universities closures have been extended to possibly April 30.
  • March 28: All international flights have been shut down(besides a few exceptions) and restrictions placed on inter-city travel . 7402 cases of COVID-19 and 108 related deaths in Turkey

HOW DOES IT AFFECT TURKS? 

Turks pride themselves on their cleanliness. Their homes are immaculate, shoes come off outside the door, and they have a deep love of their lemon “cologne” given to guests upon entering their homes. The main difference between perfume and kolonya is its ratio of oils to alcohol. Some kolonya can be up to 80% alcohol. Experts say this serves as an excellent preventative measure in spreading viruses and bacteria. Just don’t actually DRINK pure alcohol to ward off the virus

Turkey has also been taking extreme measures to disinfectant public areas which has been applauded by WHO (World Health Organization).

I am not Turkish and neither is my husband. But just like everywhere else, COVID is taking a toll on people. There is fear, concern, and the struggle between needing to work and trying to self-isolate. Lots of places have closed by government mandate, but even more that have temporarily closed because they just can’t stay open. While we didn’t run out of toilet paper, there was no flour or pasta to be found one day I went to the market. Here are a couple of pictures from my local store back on March 14th ish.

COVID19 Turkey expat

COVID19 Turkey expat

 

When it comes to self-isolation… some (I would even dare say the majority) are doing well. But people have to work, get food… survive.  However, there are some things that are still happening I don’t understand… Weekly markets are still happening. Restricted hours vs. closing. As well, there are still a good number of people out when I have to finally get out to run an errand.

The government has announced a TL 100 billion ($15.3 billion) economic package intended to protect Turkey from the financial effects. The package includes the postponement of tax duties, loans and social insurance payments as well as many incentives for Turkish businesses and citizens.

Even phone companies are pitching in by changing their names to support the “Stay Home” requests with “Evde Kal” or like below “Hayat Eve Sığar

COVID19 Turkey expat

 

HOW DOES IT AFFECT US AS EXPATS?

This article sums it up well for expats that are supposedly “stuck” in Turkey. We have lived here 3.5 years now and have no plans to leave during this time. Most other expats we know are here to ride it out too. Everything has shut down so quickly that it would be difficult to get out and probably not the wisest at this time either. Plus, we actually can not leave the country because of our adoption with Sofia. 

If you are a foreigner living in Izmir, Turkey, here are some action steps our embassy recommended:

U.S. citizens who are considering returning to the United States are urged to work with their airlines to make travel arrangements while flights are still available.  

Otherwise, the US Embassy sent out these action steps to citizens living in Turkey. I found this information and links could be helpful to any foreigner living in Turkey right now.

What this means for Jason: 

Since Jason has always worked online via his USA based business, not much has changed for us. We are thankful that his job is still in full swing and that he got a few new jobs to work on before things have gotten bad.

What this means for a Catie (me):

I finished my Turkish classes (which were every day) back at the end of January. We do have a house helper that comes to help during the week but isn’t coming this week. I have mostly stayed homed and took some measures to work on being prepared for a potential lockdown.  My role looks more like caring for Sofia and less time working on my side projects.

What this means for Sofia: 

We are blessed that our 16-month-old daughter Sofia is at an age that she doesn’t fully beg to go out to the park. But it’s hard because she is still active and loves seeing people and new things. Our apartment has a large terrace and we have rearranged Jason’s office so that we have full access to it. Thankfully the weather has warm up a little bit and we can enjoy it more.  She has been confined to our apartment and while we did take her our for a few walks before, we are a little warier of it now.  

Our daily life right now:

We have stocked up a good bit of groceries and other necessities, as well as prepared for April’s rent and bills, and have cash on hand for emergencies. We usually have help during the week to watching Sofia, but Jason and I are adjusting our “stay home” routine.

There are still beautiful moments of joy and laughter as we look around (virtually) and see who is still here in Turkey, and how we can help and support each other. It’s hard. But seeing God at work in the center of it is beautiful.

Here are some recent joys:

  • SO MANY COMPANIES have opened up free services and subscriptions during this time. I have a list below.
  • Seeing our daughter grow and learn new things every day. The other day she said the word guitar (crazy).
  • We have a balcony area that is great for Sofia to play outside on good weather days!
  • My favorite and we haven’t missed a night yet! Every night at 9 pm, everyone gathers on their balconies to applaud the healthcare professionals. It is so great to see Turkey rally together in this way!!!
  • The local churches are keeping in touch and meeting online now. Thank you technology!
  • Right now I’m thankful not to have been in quarantine for 2 months already
  • And I don’t have to worry about having enough TP in Turkey
  • Praying through this time using a sweet little prayer guide! (Thanks Lifeway!)COVID19 Turkey expat

What you can do from your home:  

COVID19 Turkey DevletOpera

Just a couple of pictures of our self-isolation time below!

COVID19 Turkey expat

COVID19 Turkey expat

COVID19 Turkey expat

 

Finally, stay home and stay safe! We have a long way to go until we are back to normal.

Please let me know how you are doing and if you have updates or more resources I can share here!

 

Asansor Izmir Turkey

IZMIR: Exploring Izmir’s Asansor or Elevator

Izmir has more going for it than meets the eye.  Most sites are affordable or FREE. So, after you have spent all your money in Istanbul, pop on down to Izmir and enjoy the cheaper side of traveling in Turkey!

One of the best FREE tourist outings is Izmir’s first asansör or elevator! The Historical “Asansor” is a Turkish word taken from the French word “ascenseur.”

Built in 1907 by Nesim Levi Bayraklıoğlu, the historical building was crafted in order to make a connection from the lower level of Karatas to the upper hillside. Nesim built this elevator for the elderly, pregnant, and disabled people to get up to the top street without difficulty.

Years later, it was given to the Izmir Municipality to Izmir citizens.

Asansor Izmir Turkey

Asansor Izmir Turkey

 

What is there to do: 

The elevator is not only functional but beautifully architected as well. From the top, visitors can see panoramic views of Izmir. Large metal standing binocular provide a closer view of buildings and sites for only one Turkish Lira.

At the top, there is a wonderful cafe-restaurant where you can enjoy a meal or just a drink. Along the upper streets, one can see historical houses and decorated stairs.

 

Asansor Izmir Turkey

Asansor Izmir Turkey

Asansor Izmir Turkey

Asansor Izmir Turkey

Asansor Izmir Turkey

Asansor Izmir Turkey

Asansor Izmir Turkey

 

How much does it cost:

Actually, it’s free! There are two cabins each for 13 people and through the small windows seeing outside is possible. You may just have to wait in line on a busy day.

How to get there:

The elevator is located in İzmir’s Karataş quarter, within the boundaries of the metropolitan district of Konak. You can access by boat, tram, bus, or taxi depending on where you are coming from. I like using the İzmir Büyükşehir Belediyesi free App for figuring out transportation.

From Karşıyaka area, take any boat towards Konak Ferry Port and then you can take the tramway or walk. On a nice day, definitely take the 20ish minute walk to the elevator! The closer you get to the elevator is surrounded by narrow old streets lined with cafes primed to sit and enjoy. If walking is not an option, hop on the tramway at the Konak Iskele stop and take it one stop to the Karataş tramway – map here.

From Alsancak, take the tramway to the Karataş stop and walk from there.

Asansor Izmir Turkey

screenshot from Google Maps

Asansor Izmir Turkey

Screenshot from the Tramway website.

Asansor Izmir Turkey

Asansor Izmir Turkey

Asansor Izmir Turkey

Make sure to stop by the rainbow-colored stairs for a photo shoot. You will definitely look like a local if you do!

Asansor Izmir Turkey

 

Is it worth the trip:

Well, we think so! On a good, clear day, visitors can see all of Izmir. Another area to visit for views of Izmir is Kadifekale just up from the Agora. (Both I plan to write about soon!)

This was one of the highlights of our beautiful city of Izmir and great for seeing the views. We highly recommend it!

Asansor Izmir Turkey

Asansor Izmir Turkey

 

Now to you:

Have you been here before?

Would you consider this worth visiting in Izmir?

Any other tips for people who want to visit? Comment below and share them with us!

REVIEW: 2018 – Unexpected changes to say the least

2018 finished out in a blur and all of a sudden it’s February 2019. While we have not been overly present here on social media in the last few months, it does not mean that we’ve been lazy! We have so many good things to share (especially one monumental one, that we CAN’T share fully yet).

One of our favorite traditions is to grab sushi and go through my list of year-end questions. There’s always WAtooto many questions, but it’s good for conversation.

You can grab a more simplified worksheet for your next year-end review by emailing me here! I’ll send it your way ASAP!

Several words come to mind as we think back to our year: re-direction, adoption, preparation, joyfulness, and hardship. Sometimes I get to the end of the year and can think about how we have missed documenting our journey here in Izmir, but every year, this recap shows me HOW MUCH WE HAVE!!!!

Here is our recap of 2018:

🔅Jason and his brother rewrote and relaunch bltn in January.

🔅Spent a week in Istanbul, the city we met in,  loving on our friends’ kiddos!

🔅February was rainy in Izmir, so we decided to skip town and head to our friends in the desert. Traveled to Dubai to visit our dear friends then onward to Abu Dhabi. 

FunkTravels Desert Safari Dubai UAE

🔅Jason ran his first race! I am SO VERY PROUD!

🔅Celebrated year 4 of marriage in Chios, one of the Greek island just a ferry ride off the coast of Turkey. (We chat about this trip in Episode050 of the podcast.)

🔅Made it to 2 more Greek islands, Lesvos and Rhodes (blog post series on this with 8 tips for traveling to the Greek Islands from Turkey!) 

🔅Explored the area of Marmaris, Turkey and a quick pop-over to Rhodes Island, Greece 

🔅Finished our podcast at episode 50 (here is the reason why) and moved over to starting some videos on YouTube to share our expat life in a more visual way!

🔅Celebrated adding a new nephew to our clan and rejoicing in 2 more coming in 2019!

🔅Made our annual visit to the states to visit our family and sneaked in a week trip to Nashville for touring and Catie’s work.

🔅Finished our 2nd year living in Turkey  (Update coming one day!)

🔅Spent some time visiting our friends in Adana and took a day trip to Gaziantep (which we hope to share about soon too!)

🔅Enjoyed a day off the coast of Foça with some friends!

🔅Surprised Jason for his birthday

🔅Celebrated Izmir’s Independence Day properly since moving here.

🔅Announced our adoption plans! (Adoption video #1 on our YouTube channel, but you can view the adoption playlist here.)

🔅Decided we had to move to America for said adoption plans….

🔅Bought a house (yep, didn’t really announce that one)

🔅Then decided not to move to America because….

🔅 Unexpected but exciting private adoption opportunity came up here in Turkey!

🔅Took a weekend to road trip to less-traveled historical sites near Izmir with some awesome people! (Can’t wait to share this road trip with you all!)

🔅Didn’t leave Turkey for 6 months which left us with some fun traveled around Izmir exploring a Car Museum, a Cable Car, and a couple of posts I FINALLY published about things to do IN IZMIR and day trips from here.

🔅Catie’s parents came to visit and celebrated Christmas with us!

🔅Catie has her first major Travel Writing Publication!

🔅On the side, Catie started advocating for cleaner, safer beauty products via @catiecleancollection and started a little travel shop @deartravels – both will help fund our adoption! 

🔅Jason and I both read 29 books each!

🔅Talked about all the modes of transportation we used in Izmir, and then (finally) bought a car at the end of the year!

DON’T FORGET:

You can grab a more simplified worksheet for your next year-end review by emailing me here! I’ll send it your way ASAP!

THANK YOU for sitting around when our posts have lulled and being part of our 2018. We can’t wait to share our big news with you soon! So, stick around!

Jason + Catie

 

Catie FunkTravels Dubai UAE

LIFE: Jason’s first ever race

Jason has to be the best husband ever (proud wife bragging rights). We for sure have our multiple disagreements about how to most everything – yep, we are complete opposites for the most part. BUT he is definitely the one who adapts and shifts his desires to suit us way more than I seem too.   Maybe because I like everything? 😉 jk.

Last fall Jason started running – for me. The last 4 years of our marriage, he has seriously and politely denied all my attempts to start running with me consistently. But he saw how happy it makes me to run with someone and decided that, with my other running buddy eventually moving away, he would fill the void.

Plus, running/exercising is good for him – the hard working, computer engineer that he is.

It was tough at first, but he pushed through. By December, he was able to do a 5k without stopping. Every other day we went out and did his exactly 5k route while listening to a podcast(mostly to distract him from the fact that he was actually running).

And Christmas 2017, he gifted me with a 10k race that we would run together in February 2018 Dubai Desert Road Run in the UAE! IT WAS THE BEST SURPRISE.

We started to train together and did a few longer runs to prepare for the 6.4 ish miles to come.

And in February, JASON RAN HIS FIRST RACE EVER.

Y’all, I was GIDDY with PRIDE! You see, I grew up running with my family. Heck in 2016, before we moved to Turkey, my family based our get-together around the Chicago Half-Marathon with my mom and sister. Jason by that point had learned how to find us multiple times on the route to take pictures of us and cheer us on, all happily from the sidelines.

But this time, we ran with me!

And the race was HOT and SWEATY and the course was NOT SO FUN. But we both finished it!

You can LISTEN to our experience via Episode047 of our podcast.

The following are pictures from a proud wife loving every minute of this first race with her hubby:

Catie FunkTravels Dubai UAE

Catie FunkTravels Dubai UAE

Catie FunkTravels Dubai UAE

Catie FunkTravels Dubai UAE

Catie FunkTravels Dubai UAE

Catie FunkTravels Dubai UAE

Catie FunkTravels Dubai UAE

Catie FunkTravels Dubai UAE

Catie FunkTravels Dubai UAE

Catie FunkTravels Dubai UAE

Catie FunkTravels Dubai UAE

So proud of you babe! (Jason, if he reads this! That would be creepy if I was talking to you the reader!)

Questions for you:

What is your favorite way to exercise?

Have you done something you didn’t like just because you knew it would bless you significant other?

IZMIR: 5 Day Trips from Izmir, Turkey

Note: This article was originally guest-posted for Yabangee.

Izmir offers plenty of local sites within the city of four million people, but it is also known for its access to easy day trips nearby. If you have time, plan a few excursions outside Izmir. A longer trip inland to Ankara, Cappadocia, or the Black Sea can be tempting but don’t miss the coastal towns along the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts.

Here are some of the best day trips you can take from Izmir:

FunkTravels Eski Foca

Şirince
Little exceeds a well-prepared Turkish breakfast. Şirince, once a Greek village of a mere 600 inhabitants situated north of Ephesus, is famous for its mesmerizing white houses and red-orange clay rooftops. If you are not there in time for breakfast, visit shops known for local fruit wine. Entry is free and you are treated to many free glasses of wine.

Ephesus (a.k.a. Efes)
Ephesus boasts of its 3000-year-old Greek city ruins. Most famous is one of the seven ancient wonders of the world, the Temple of Artemis. The area seduces history lovers with its flavorful tales. Entry is 40 Lira (and an extra 15 lira for the newly excavated covered hillside homes) but if you are interested in history, Ephesus is a must see.  If you have time, trek out to the home of Mary, mother of Jesus, renown and highly visited by Catholic tourists.

FunkTravels Eski Foca

Go North to Eski Foça
Northwest of Izmir along the Aegean coastline, Eski Foça is named for the now endangered Mediterranean monk seals which also are the town’s mascot.  Several local companies offer boat tours that will take passengers closer to the island of the seals for approximately 50 TL which includes lunch. Otherwise, enjoy a meal by the seaside lined with renovated historical, yet charming, Ottoman-Greek houses. While all Turkish food is delicious, the meze, or appetizers, and fish are the best options to get in Foça.

Visit a Greek Island
Lesvos, Chios, and Samos, the closest Greek islands from Izmir, ascend from the sea disrupting the majestic view of Aegean Sea from Turkey. With the right visa, start early for a day trip (or stay overnight) by catching a bus to the ferry port and hopping over to the island of your choice. Chios is the most popular among travelers and is easy to access via a visit to Çeşme. Alongside its rich history, including adventures with Saracen pirates, and the Turks during the Greek Revolution, Chios also claims to be the birthplace of the poet Homer. Enjoy local wine, explore the ruined Byzantine village of Anavatos, and relax in the shade of a cafe or park. (Rhodes is a little out of the way, but well worth a visit!)

Cool off at the Beach!
While it’s not possible to swim in the bay in Izmir, beaches line the coast both north and south of the city center. Çeşme comes in an easy first with its pure white sand and crystal clear water, but it also draws a crowd to the much-enjoyed shopping district and nightlight. Take one of the many private buses from your neighborhood or a dolmuş to Çeşme center from the Izmir Otogar.

I would love to hear from you! Comment below or on the video answering one of the following questions:

  1. Have you visited Izmir?
  2. Did you take any day trip? If so, where did you go?

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