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 Things to do in Izmir, Turkey

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

Having lived in Izmir for over a year, I can say that I truly love the expat life here. Many people ask what the city is like and if it is worth visiting. And my answer? YES!

Istanbul or Cappadocia fare better in terms of tourism, but Izmir has things to do that are true to Turkish culture without having to fight the crowds. Also, the people of this lovely city are known for their friendliness and open-mindedness towards foreigners. If visitors are looking for the culture and experience of meeting with locals to truly understand what makes Turkey so wonderful, Izmir is your go-to location.

Here are just a few of the things you can do in Izmir.

Izmir Chronicles: Izmir is Worth Visiting (Part I)

Visit Izmir Clock Tower
Konak is home to one of the most distinctive landmarks in the city, the Clock Tower. Built in 1901, the white marble tower and North African style patterns on the columns marks the 25th year of Ottoman sultan Abdulhamid II’s reign. Additionally, Konak’s established touristic center of Izmir offers historical mosques and many small streets with cafes, restaurants, and bars.

Shop ’til You Drop at Kemeraltı Market
Kemeraltı is the little ‘Grand’ Bazaar of Izmir. Anyone who has been to the noisy, maze of stalls in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul will prefer this one after a quiet, calm visit! Still a massive maze of stalls, find traditional Turkish gifts and more for a cost much less than Istanbul. Kemeraltı is also full of great, inexpensive restaurants. On a hot day, enjoy a fresh squeezed juice for around $1 in the nearby juice stalls.

Ride the Asansör
Asansör, which literally means elevator, was the first elevator built in 1907 to help people travel between the top of the cliff to the seaside. Just a 20 minutes stroll from Konak square, reserve a table for a sunset dinner at the top of the Asansör. The delightfully classy Italian cafe not only provides one of the best views in Izmir, but the prices are very reasonable as well.

Stroll the streets of Kadifekale
Kadifekale, or Velvet Castle, built by Alexander the Great into the Izmir hillside provides panoramic views across the city both towards the seaside and the land. Travel by taxi up the monstrous hill to the historic site to have more energy to explore the old walks and towers. Requiring less of the imagination than the ruins of Smyrna, visitors can see the layout of the castle while enjoying a bit of shopping in the shade of the tall trees. Walk back down the long hill or take a taxi again if you prefer.

Photo by Catie Funk

Be a Local and Drink a Beer by the Shore
Whether you are in Alsancak or Karşıyaka, this is Izmir! Gençler, or young people, can be found sitting along the seaside enjoying the breeze at the end of a hard work day. Friends and families picnic or drink a beer while others enjoy a walk or bike ride. Free concerts provide entertainment throughout the year.

Izmir’s gems are easily overlooked. However, once visitors engage in the history of this coastal city, visitors discover places and activities not offered anywhere else in Turkey. Its secrets lie with the locals and give visitors the best experience of Izmir. While exploring the areas of Izmir, don’t forget a mid-morning snack on a gevrek or two, a traditionally brewed coffee in a small cafe, and a peaceful stroll along the Kordon.

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

1. Have you been to Izmir?
2. What sites did you see?
3. What did you find interesting?

Like this post! Save it for later!

ADOPTION: The Funks are adopting!

We have some big news to share with everybody!

Are you ready?

We’re adopting!

That’s right!

So let’s start at the beginning where is the beginning…. oh, goodness, where’s the beginning?  

I’m gonna chat about 3 things:

    1. Why we want to adopt
    2. Why we want to adopt now
    3. What that process will look like for us

Why we want to adopt

Let’s start with why we want to adopt in the first place. Both of us, even before we knew each other – before we started dating or got married, we’ve both had a desire to adopt. If you ask my parents if you ask anybody who knows me well, it’s always been something that I have had a passion for and have desired to do in the future. A desire to add to your family, not from just biological kids but adding through adoption. Taking care of other children and have them in your home, to become part of your family, is something that I’ve always wanted to do. Also, we hope to be able to make a better, lifelong change for a child who, through no fault of their own, lost their family or their family couldn’t provide for them.  We hope to provide for a child like that and give them a hope in the future – a safe place to grow up.

This desire for adoption is also something that’s really important to us in our faith. We believe that God adopted us as His children, and likewise, we too are called to provide and adopt other people into like our lives and into our homes – one way to do that is through adoption

Why we want to adopt now

Currently, we don’t have any children of our own and it is something that we do desire and hope one day we will have. However,\ at the same time, we have wanted to have adopted children. Whichever one comes first for us is just as equally exciting. Since we’re of the age where we want to have children and we want to start a family, we know too that the adoption process can take a while. These factors lead us to decide that now is a good time to start the process.

We knew that the adoption could take awhile and we thought: Well, if we know we want to adopt sometime in the future and if it’s going to take a few years maybe to actually finish the adoption, we should just start the process now so that in a few years you know we’re further down the trail and we can keep going with it.

Last fall (2017) we started talking about it more seriously and I, in my usually excited nature, have a way of getting way ahead of Jason. To be fair though, I have been asking Jason if we can go ahead and adopt kids since we got married.  Basically, I’ve been fixated on it for quite some time, knowing now is the time for sure that we should move forward.  Regardless of my intuition, I had coasted really far down the road of researching all of these agencies and knowing everything about everything about adoption, and Jason had barely done any research. Jason had to tell me to stop and remind me that we need to make this decision TOGETHER.

From that discussion, we decided to read a book about adoption it’s called Adoptive For Life. The book was really helpful for us to learn about adoption and helped us talk through what type of adoption we should pursue. After reading it we decided, “okay, let’s let’s do this!”

Thankfully, we found some fellow expats who both live in Turkey and adopted. Per their agency recommended and our research, we applied to use them. Since we’re living overseas and this agency knows how to work with people overseas, it seems like a great fit so far.  

What that process will look like for us

The process of adoption looks different for everyone. While there are lots of reasons people go with domestic or international, we have chosen to go through an international adoption instead of a domestic adoption. From reading the book together and talking about adoption together, we felt that while we are living in Turkey, adopting from a nearby country would be absolutely great and easier for us.  

I’ll share a lot more specifics about the adoption as we go along, both via videos first then transcribe it to a post like this one. Right now we’re still pretty early in the process and so there’s a lot of things we just don’t know yet. Some of those being:

    1. we don’t know we don’t know how long it’s may take
    2. we don’t know who the kids are
    3. how many kids we’re going to adopt (yes, we get to decide!)

We are really excited about the adoption and there are going be ways that y’all can support us through this journey. We asked right now for your support and your encouragement.  

As well we hope to encourage other people too who want to adopt – especially those who live overseas. We hope you will consider. Just because you live in another country, doesn’t mean that you can’t adopt.

***Watch a video of our announcement HERE.

 

Questions for you folks out there! I want to hear from you!

Have you adopted before?

Do you hope to adopt in the future?

Any positive words or tips you have for us as we go through this process?

 

Note about adoptions in Turkey: Adopting from Turkey is basically impossible for us. That being said, we didn’t even try to adopt from the Turkish system, and we don’t actually know if it’s impossible for us. We’ve heard from many other people who have lived here as expats that adopting from Turkey that is extremely difficult, if not impossible. Some of the rules make it hard for even Turks to adopt.  However, it can be possible to have a private foreigner to foreigner adoption through the courts, but it is not easy to come by. It is something we hope to be considered for in the future.

Share our news via Pinterest for others to join in on our journey!

CatieFunkTravelsChristmasCard

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Funny how a digital Christmas card can be just as delayed to get to you as the real ones. 😉 In fact, you probably wonder what the excuse would be when I don’t actually have to order, address, nor stamp them! BUT we were traveling, and then we didn’t have internet for a few days… then it was Christmas. Yada, yada, yada… do I have any sympathy from you yet?

Anyways, Christmas cards are one of my favorite things. If I don’t get to see you or talk to you often, it’s the one time of year I can send a card and let you know I do care. Thanks to modern technology, free labels from Shutterfly, a Groupon for Zazzle, the cash app, and a very helpful sister, we are still able to uphold that tradition from afar! And I am already thinking next year how we can add our Turkey friends to the tradition and deliver a special set of cards just to them.

Part of our cards is having a small little update on the back side of the card. Unfortunately, I usually have to keep it very short due to space. But here I can embellish a little more, and I hope you enjoy!

Without further ado:

Izmir, Turkey, has been our home for more than a year now and are so thankful to report no repairs needed this year! Finally settled in our home, I, Catie, have even gone through a few ‘cluttered’ drawers and piles (so was stuff others had left or given us) and rid them of unnecessary stuff. I am trying to keep our home somewhat minimal with only the necessary items and decor. When it becomes no longer useful, it is given away or thrown out. But for the most part, our space is comfortable, light, and spacious.

Turkey itself has had an interesting year and continued to renew its state of emergency. There has also been a series of earthquakes over the last year, and that is entirely new for both of us. Lira was down (which is great for us) and is now slowing returning. However, we are thankful for normal lives and new two year visas.

Our church is a huge support to us here, and we have enjoyed serving there (yep! It’s in Turkish!). As well, we have wonderfully welcoming neighbors and a mix of foreign and Turkey friends. It is interesting to learn that misunderstandings happen in both Turkish and English (because words even in English don’t always have the same meaning!). God has been faithful to continually supply new friendships, a cozy home, support, and love every step of the way.

Our friends have been amazing. We attended our first Turkish wedding, learned about a (new-to-us) holiday, and attended the first-ever Izmir Chocolate Festival. As well, we made sure to celebrate our holidays with them as well!

Catie FunkTravels Izmir Turkey Urkmez

So how are we personally?

I am studying language and conquering the grammar and vocabulary little by little. Moving from full-time to no-time work had its struggles, but this fall I feel like I have found my stride. I have loved writing about our experiences with travel, living in Izmir, and expat lives. Photo editing is a beast, but have always loved photography, I am finally learning and enjoying to edit photos. In June, I decided to finally take the leap to pursue a new what I hope to be, a part-time career in travel writing. Needless to say, it has been a year of learning!

Jason continues to learn Turkish and has completed all lessons in the Duolingo App. Part of him language learning inspired him to make an app called Foreign Numbers! He is still working with his U.S. clients via his software consulting business, Tough Space. As well he has taken on a few extra projects here and there. He somehow makes it through more podcasts and books than I can in 3 years! We are thankful his work allows for remote work and flexibility.

We both had some health stuff come up this year (getting old sucks), but thankfully great health care here means we took care of it all without any complications!

2017CatieFunkTravels Inle Lake Myanmar

2017 was our year of travel. Being nearby to lots of interesting places, we decided to take advantage of the easy travel while we can. We started our year in Prague and are ending it with our travels to Germany. In Turkey, we covered Cappadocia in the snow, the popular beach town of Bodrum during the offseason, the hot Adana in cooler months, an annual trip to Ephesus, and the last minute surprise of exploring Antalya. Izmir and the surrounding areas are bursting with places to explore, and even though we don’t own a car, we ventured out to some nearby cities called Urla, Alaçatı, and Pammukale.

Even more fun is traveling with friends! Our biggest trip last summer included traveling SouthEast Asia for a month. With our friends Eric and Ashley (you may remember them from sailing and Prague), we toured the countries of Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Singapore. Ironically enough, we travel to Bangkok via Romania, where we met up with our other friends Kathryn and Brian and were able to meet their kiddos for the first time!

Since we were already heading to Asia, we decided to combine this travel with our trip back to the states to visit our families in both Louisiana and Iowa. Starting in New Orleans allowed us to not only meet up with friends along the way but also meet one of Jason’s clients in person for the first time as well! The coolest part of our travels was that we can now say we have literally flown around the world!

FunkTravels Eski Foca

We are hoping that next year will mark a few more countries off our list: Iceland, UK, Ireland, Norway, and the Greek Islands(there are some just off the coast of Turkey) just to name a few. Mostly just dreams, but we drop one country for meeting up with friends in other ones in a heartbeat! Then there are always a few surprise trips that come our way instead! Jason will continue his work, and I have a new side project that I am slowly developing to be used in Turkey. We both are still studying Turkish. Our first scheduled trip for next year is to Dubai for Jason and me to run our first race together, a 10k!

While we continue to miss family, we have found a rhythm of communication, and that makes it a lot easier. Our nieces and nephews are learning that Turkey is another country and Turkish is another language. They always impress us with their smarts, new vocabulary, and just general cuteness. 2017 was the first year we have not gained a new niece or nephew, but we do have a new nephew on the way in 2018!

201708 CatieFunk Birthday

And then there are some random things we miss; we always try to find good ‘American’ Chinese and (Tex)Mexican food wherever we travel. Most of the time it is a complete letdown, but our time in the states and Germany provide fixes to our craving every six months. Good pork is hard to come by and super expensive. I miss the freedom of owning a car, the freedom of spontaneity that comes with it, the ease of ordering packages from Amazon,and convenience of being able to find what I want when I want and not having to think several seasons ahead (Thanksgiving decor bought in August while in the states and cupcake decorations bought for Valentines Day while in Germany in December).

But we love the conveniences of restaurant (and grocery from what I hear) delivery. And if we need to buy groceries, we have three within a 200-meter radius! We eat the best eggplant dishes, and the sea view, while I run, is something that would definitely make you jealous. We are literally living on top of the ancient city of Smryna. Even though it takes a little planning, flights to pop in and out of Europe are cheaper than flying from our home state of Iowa to my roots of Louisiana. Not to mention, Jason and I can travel to Istanbul and back for under $50 each.

As we live in Turkey, travel, work, and learn Turkish, I have learned that we just can’t do it all. I want to save AND travel. I want to live in the states AND overseas. I want to work on every project AND only do one! Jason thankfully continues to love and encourage me (as well as keep me grounded)! As I already knew but still have trouble implementing, slow living is the best way to live, and slow travel is the best way to travel. Thankfully we live a lifestyle that allows that, and I hope I can just do a better job of appreciating it.

Special thanks to though of you who follow along on our journey!

I can’t wait to share more with you this year!

 

Jason & Catie

 

PS. – If you have extra Christmas cards, we would LOVE to have you send them our way! We LOVE getting mail. Plus, if you mail from the states, it’s just 3 stamps, stick it in the mailbox, and BOOM, it’s at our place!

P.P.S. – If you don’t already, we have a monthly newsletter that goes out every other podcast! Sign up here!

 

LIFE: Year One Visit to the USA 2017

Part of our vision, when we decided to become expats, was to visit the States once a year while we could. We felt like it was necessary for our sanity, to receive some refreshing cultural break, and most importantly the relationships with our families, especially the nieces and nephews.

I even wrote the EXPAT GOING HOME SERIES as a result of our stateside experiences in hopes that others could use it for their return visits as well. As I write about our experiences, I truly desire that it helps others to be intentional in their expat living. It’s not easy, but with some work, you can make it easier!

After our return to Turkey, the fall season took over and our work and language schedules pushed everything else to the side. While I know this is selfishly just a post for us to remember out travels to the states, I am glad to write about our visit finally! Hopefully, you will enjoy it too!

There were two parts of our visit; Louisiana (my home state) and Iowa (Jason’s home state and our ‘home base’). Since we had spent a month in Asia, we decided flying one way into Louisiana would be best. And thanks to our United Airlines miles, we also flew one way out of Iowa back to Turkey. After arriving in New Orleans, we picked up our pre-booked rental car with National (major points to them for not having a one way drop off!), and we were on our way.

LOUISIANA:

Almost two years had passed since I last visited Louisiana, it was nice to go back to my first ‘home.’ The place where I was born, raised and graduated college. There are parts of me that feel I have betrayed the town and people I grew up with because I live so far away now. But most of my close friends have moved on or back to their hometowns, but there are still a few folks that will always be there.

Louisiana wasn’t just a family visit, one of Jason’s clients is based out of South Louisiana. After working together for a year, we decided it was high time for us to meet them face to face and build a little bit of a personal relationship with them! The team there took us out the best Chinese restaurant in town and then to a nearby gator farm. A favorite moment of the visit was when Jason held a 50 pound alligator for the first time. I was super proud!

Here are just a few highlights:
– Spent some great time with my brother and sister-n-law. I even celebrated my brother’s birthday with breakfast just before we left for Iowa!
– Ate some famous Cafe du Monde beignets in New Orleans with one of my favorite ‘Katies’ and even made it by to see her mom and sister on our drive up to North Louisiana
– Had some of my favorite Johnny’s ‘Sweep the Kitchen’ Pizza with one of my other favorite ‘Katies’ and her hubby and their little girl
– Had OrangeLeaf frozen yogurt with my college roomie
– Sat by my old music teacher and friend at my old church

(Apparently, in Louisiana, I revert back to my old ways and never wear shoes…)

14 HOUR DRIVE UP TO IOWA:

Jason and I are no strangers to the long 14-hour drive between my hometown and ours in Iowa. And it was fitting that we drive this route again. Flying is ridiculously expensive, and one-way tickets are the same as roundtrips.

A couple of highlights:

– Stopped in Fayetteville, Arkansas to see some other college friends and their three kiddos! Before having kids, they traveled to Turkey the first time I lived there (Y’all will always be our perfect half-way stop between Iowa and Louisiana!)
– Met up with the Ranks (definitely, check out his history in 5 minutes podcast!) and another one of my bridesmaid, Jodi in Kansas City – both have lived in Turkey before!

IOWA:

Iowa is the states Jason and I fell in love. It’s where he proposed to me, told me he loved me, kissed me for the first time, and where we decided to get married so our spiritual support could be there to witness what they had so graciously mentored.

While I still do NOT like the winters, I love the summer. The beauty is different than the tall trees and winding roads of the south, but I have grown to love the vast fields of corn and blue skies that can be seen for miles.

Here are just a few highlights:
– Went to the zoo with some cute nieces and nephews on the Funk side!
– Spent some time explore a city in Iowa I had never been too with our friends Hitesh and Mannali’s family and my sister’s family
– Beat Jason’s mom and her husband in a grueling game of corn hole
– Went bowling and to the Farmer’s market in Cedar Rapids with Jason’s sister’s family and took some impromptu family pictures and 1-year pics of youngest niece
– Celebrated our niece’s first birthday with family
-Enjoy a Christmas dinner with Jason’s dad and his wife
– Finish a cross stitch for said one-year-old niece, Ayla (but not until after her birthday party)
– Lunched, dinner, surprise visited and coffeed with lots of people (thanks for the invites everyone! You know who you are! It is so much easier when you reach out to us!)
– Worshipped with our old church with a new name, Keystone Church of Ankeny
– Read three books! Go, read the Rising Red series RIGHT NOW.
-Spent many more morning with the nieces and nephews.
-Spent a few days resting and Jason for sure did a lot a working!

Special thanks to Tim and Darlene for the housing and the Funks for the car and for the Bradleys home to mail everything too! We did ask to take the nieces and nephews back with us but were told “no” by their parents… gesh.

RETURNING ‘HOME’ TO TURKEY:

After a long overdue silence and a very long 20-hour journey back, yes, we did make it back to Turkey with all our bags and very weary! Jason and I have very happily settled back into our lovely little apartment in Izmir, Turkey.

It can be hard to say we are ‘home’ here. At times I have a tinge of guilt for calling another country and culture home while we have left our other loved ones at our first ‘homes.’ At times I wonder if our families feel as if we have betrayed them as well…

But that is life right? Moving to another state on the other side of America would have the same effect.

I mention these issues as well in our first year abroad part 1 and part 2 and the 10 things I learned about living abroad.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

If you are a friend that lives near a place we visited, we are so sad that we didn’t get to see everyone we wanted and are sorry if we missed you! Of course, you are always welcome to the beautiful city of Izmir, and we would be happy to host you!

Also, even though we travel quite a bit, we still would love to see more of the states. We both talked about how we would like to spend a week exploring a new part of USA when we return home.

Overall, it was a fantastic trip back to the states to visit our family and friends. And thankfully, while we will miss them, Jason and I were happy to return to Izmir, Turkey!

Here is to year 2!