FunkTravels Expat Living Izmir Turkey

EXPAT LIVING: 5 steps to help you when the unexpected happened

Most people hate adulting.

However, I kinda like the challenge of it. I enjoy being independent, making decision, moving to another country, traveling…. My husband and I like coming together to figure out what dreams we want to pursue and how we can make those dreams happen together (even though it’s not always easy!). It is fair to say that my life has been somewhat easy and I believe that God has protected me from a lot. Even then, adulthood is not really about easy or hard… it just is part of life.

Recently, I had some health issues. It was one that actually required us to have surgery. In the states or your home country, a native has years of knowledge and context built up in order to make a good medical decision.

But as an expat in a foreign country ….with foreign language ….with foreign medical systems… We had a lot of questions floating around our heads for a month.

    1. Do we wait?
    2. Do we do the surgery?
    3. How bad is it really?
    4. What if we waited?
    5. What are other problems lurking around in there?
    6. Is the hospital we chose good?
    7. Is the health care sufficient?
    8. What will insurance cover?
    9. How much money does it cost here?
    10. etc, etc, etc???

Sometimes you have so many questions that you aren’t sure where to start. But since we had so many answers to seek out and we were able to, we waited. But instead of being idle, we waiting actively.

Here are 5 ways to help you  when you have to make decisions about the unexpected.

  1. Talk with your global insurance company – Like most other full-time expats, we have a global insurance. Our company already has an established relationship with the hospital near us. (Unfortunately, it took 3 visits to finally get it all sorted out.) Our company has been great to work with and has taken care of extra logistics/reports directly with the hospital.  We found out that our insurance provides extra services for expats to help them make the best decision.
  2. Ask for a second opinion – Unfortunately, we had heard here that a lot of doctors do unnecessary surgery just for the extra money.  We went to one of the best hospitals in our area, and felt it unnecessary to go to another hospital. However, our insurance provide a 2nd opinion via their services. Not just 1 doctor, but 3 doctors reviewed our case and helped talk through what could be done in our native language
  3. Research – I had heard about my cyst before, but I really was not overly familiar. As I didn’t have the normal systems, I didn’t know how important it would be to jump into surgery. (We were on a time crunch since we are leaving to travel for 2 months this summer.) So take some time and just google about your systems, the medicine, suggested protocols for how to deal with your diagnosis…. There are so many videos out there of medical experts that simply explain a problem and talk through solutions.
  4. Seek advice from other locals, expats, and friends back home – I am an experience information gatherer. I will buy products and change lifestyle choices because of how others. This was no different. Ask other expat about their local experiences with doctors and surgery. I have found that most people are happy to share and help others!
  5. Pray – Not religious? Neither am I. But I believe in a living and loving God who created me and wants good things for me. Because of that, I prayed a lot and we had a whole group of people praying as well! Maybe you don’t believe that, but do you know others who do? From my experience, those who do pray want to know how to prayer for others. And what could it hurt to have others praying for wisdom, health, and healing?

While these tips may not be new to you, they may help give you someplace to start if you are just paralyzed by how to make a decision. Expat living is challenging enough, but having to make medical decision in that environment as well can seem defeating. But be strong, push through fear, and figure out what will work for you!

 

 

Questions for our readers:

Are you an expat? Have you had surgery in a foreign country before?

If so, how did it go?

What story or tips can you share about your medical experience in a foreign country?

 

WRITING: 5 ways to document your expat adventures

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I LOVE talking about expat living. Not a traveling digital nomad, but a ‘we found a county and stayed put’ type of digital expat. Before I moved, I had this jumble mix of what I loved writing about and I had a hard time narrowing it down to one specific area. But over the last 8 months of living in Turkey, my 2nd time to move abroad, and writing this article about culture shock, I think I have found my niche!

Even more than chatting about expat living, I love sharing the ways I have documented our expat adventures. *Spoiler* The most interesting way is through our FunkTravels Podcast! I recently wrote an article for Expat Magazine at Expat.com titled “5 Ways to Document Your Expat Adventures.” In the midst of moving, traveling, and adjusting to another culture, documenting our memories can be the one thing that is thrown to the way side. It also becomes one of the biggest regrets by those when they journey onward to the next phase of life.

Here is the start of the article:

You know how a deep, sound sleep can disorient you? I woke up one morning and asked myself: Where am I? Something in the room made me think I was living in Turkey on a chilly fall morning — maybe it was the sunlight streaming in through the windows just so, or the smell of the crisp morning air coming in through the open window. Reality quickly set in — I was no longer living in Turkey, but instead I was in my bed in the States. It’s funny to remember that now because my husband and I now live in Turkey once again. The smells and sounds of the neighbourhoods are ingrained into my memory, and I know this is our lovely Turkey.

I’ve spent five of the past ten years as an expat — both single and married — and I love to keep hold of the memories of the journey and adventures that come with every expat experience. I know that when my husband and I are back to the States, I will enjoy retrieving the different ways I used to document our time abroad and reminiscing and sharing the stories.

Continue reading…

 

 

I would love to hear how you document your expat adventures!

WRITING: Summer Activities in Iowa

While we do live in Turkey, this Louisiana+Iowa couple still calls Iowa their home. (So sorry to all my Louisiana family and readers out there!) This is where Jason and I fell in love, got engaged, got married, and learned how to do married life together in our first little 90 meter duplex together in a small town of 3,000 people.

Fast forward 2.5 years, last summer in that same little duplex we were in the process of packing up our first home and determined to make the international move to Turkey together. It was stressful, sad, exciting, and all the rest of the feelings that come with transition! In the process (because we didn’t have enough to do!), I was also determined to see a few more sites in this beautiful state that I had come to love. Over at the The Coastie Couple I wrote a short post titled Summer Activities in Iowa

Here is the start of the article:

Being a Southern gal, I didn’t think there could be anything better than a windy road through a tall pine tree forest. But… after marrying my sweet Iowan man, I have found beauty in the square grid of roads lined with golden corn fields and blue skies that span for miles. I had a lot to learn about giving directions using N,S, E, and W, driving in the snowy winters, familiarizing myself with names of all the small towns, and discovering what to explore. 

Over the last 3 years we have definitely had our share of adventures including the World Food and Music Festival, Corks & Caps, Boone Scenic Railroad, the famous Iowa State Fair, and most recently the Pella Tulip Festival. But there is still a lot to see! Here are the 3 places I want to go this summer: Continue reading…

 

I actually only made it to 1 of the 3 activities mentioned. But I hope other America readers will take advantage of some of the fun summer activities Iowa has to offer. Click over here to read all the activities I wrote about on the blog post.

I would love to hear what activities you like to do in the summer month- no matter where you are located!

HOLIDAY: Children’s Day “Çocuk Bayramı” in Turkey

National Cupcake Day, National Pancake Day, National Caramel Day, National Be Kind to a Stranger Day…

Jason and I recently listened to a podcast episode about holidays in America. It seems like all of these “National Holidays” came out of nowhere and we have no idea how they got there. But this episode explained how they all came to be. The short story is that Congress passed a lot of commemorative days back in the ’80s, but now a holidays are submitted to a calendar company for unofficial approval for just about any holiday you can think of.

But moving on…

because, you know, we now live in Turkey…

and there are a couple things you should know…

1. There are a few unique national holidays here that we don’t usually celebrate in the states. (or at least, I didn’t)
2. Turkey is serious about their National holidays.

Which leads us to Turkey’s national holiday in April known as Çocuk Bayramı.

Çocuk Bayramı, also know as “Children’s Day”, is a BIG HUGE deal. There is also a “Gençler Bayramı”, Youth Holiday, here in May, and all the school shut down for it… (P.s. – you just learned like 3 new Turkish words there! Çocuk – child, Genç – youth/young person, and Bayram – holiday)

Children Day Celebrations. Picture credit to TRT.

So what is Çocuk Bayramı?

The official name of this holiday is “National Sovereignty and Children’s Day“. In Turkey, it is held on the anniversary of the founding of the parliament in 1920, the holiday is viewed by Turks as a gift from Ataturk not just to Turkish children, but to children of the world (Told you, MAJOR bigtime).

Children Day Celebrations. Picture credit to TRT

So what happens?

Schools have special ceremonies to celebrate the day. Children all over Turkey dress up in special outfits or the national costume for Çocuk Bayrami. Boys who dress in the national costume typically wear baggy silk pants, a colorful vest, a white shirt and a sequined hat, called a tepelik. Girls wear a long colorful gown called a kaftan and an ornate veil. Many children perform in plays or musicals. We actually saw a large group of about 500 kids practicing for a ceremony.

Since 1979 the centrepiece of the holiday, TRT (Turkish Radio and Television Cooperation) and the state TV company sponsors a worldwide children’s festival in Ankara.  Children from many nations are invited to Turkey to take part in the creative and beautiful events. You can read more about it here.

Children Day Celebrations. Picture credit to TRT.

In the past, over 150 different countries have participated with about 30,000 children. While it is usually celebrated in Ankara, in 2000 other big cities of Turkey such as İstanbul, Antalya, İzmir, Bursa, Konya, Gaziantep, started their own celebrations. This year, Children Festival will be held April 18-26 in a city called Nevşehir which is in the central region of Turkey . About 30 countries are expected to participate to this festival. I encourage you to check out more pictures here.

Children Day Celebrations. Picture credit to TRT.

 

Children Day Celebrations. Picture credit to TRT

 

Children Day Celebrations. Picture credit to TRT

The celebrations do not stop there. Hotels, shopping malls, restaurants, and practically everyone else celebrates by having festivals or shopping sales! It is a huge celebration for families here which is a central part to the culture.

So if you are in Turkey, be on the lookout for children’s events near you! A few events I found in Izmir:
List of events via sehrincocukhali.com
Folk Art Towers
Mavi Bahçe
Swiss Otel

Questions for the readers:

Turkish readers:
How did you celebrate Cocuk Bayramı this year?

Non-Turkish readers:
Do you have a National Children’s Day in your country?
What is a cool holiday you celebrate near you?

 

Children Day Celebrations. Picture credit to TRT

TRAVEL: 4 Day Itinerary for Cyprus

2017 started off with my desire to travel more frequently but for shorter lengths of time. While Jason can work from anywhere, I have a schedule for language learning and tend to be the one that keeps us closer to home. And honestly, Jason works better with a home base, and it tends to be less stressful for us both. That being said, 3- 4 day weekend trips have started to play a larger role in my travel planning.

It’s not my ideal way to travel. Short and quick trips don’t allow for you to really learn and embrace the culture. And you just don’t have time to see everything!  That being said, for our Thursday to Monday trip to Cyprus, we decided to dedicate our time just to the western area of the country knowing that we can easier travel there from Turkey again in the future.

Cyprus is not only beautiful but also has an interesting history. Learn more about our 4-day itinerary including our tips and tricks for exploring the South side of Cyprus near Paphos and Nicosia.

I hope to provide you with mini itineraries and resources as I work through writing about our travels. If you would like to listen to our time in Cyprus, check out Episode030! You will also find all links to places we traveled below via the Episode030 show notes.

Spoiler* If you want to know the truth behind traveling, make sure to read the very LAST paragraph!

Day 1: Travel Day – Istanbul to Cyprus

We are fortunate to live in one of the larger cities in Turkey, Izmir. And while it doesn’t have as many options as Istanbul, there are quite a few options for cheaper international flights. Pegasus is an easy 1 hour and 15-minute flight to North Cyprus from Izmir. Since Cyprus was once part of the Commonwealth, it is still a large tourist destination for Brits and other Europeans as well. There are tons of flights from Europe straight into the Greek side of Cyprus if you are coming from there.

Since we were already in Istanbul visiting some friends, we took a direct flight on Turkish Airlines from the Ataturk Airport. Our flight was at 8 in the morning and while I thought it could take us a while to get through security, it was pretty quick. I would always suggest coming earlier than later for the Ataturk airport though! Since my first time living in Turkey 8 years ago, the airport has really added some snazzy shopping, restaurants, and coffee shops. You should have no problem being entertained.

Cyprus has an interesting history between Turkey and Greece. There is a lot to say about it, but I will write the short story. Basically, in 1974, Turkey invaded Cyprus twice and after the 2nd invasion, both parties established the ceasefire which is known as the Green Line. Both Turkish and Greek people were moved hastily to their matching nationality’s side and until 2008, the border remained closed due to the Turkish occupation(as acknowledged by everyone but Turkey-think Russia and Ukraine) of the north side of the island. Interestingly enough, Turkey recognizes this territory as it’s own independent nation called the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. You can see what Google maps you use as to who believes what. Above is the English Google maps and below is the Turkish Google maps.

Originally we had planned to stay in the northern part of Cyprus, but the south has cheaper wine and pork… the draw was just too much to pass up. After arriving to North Cyprus we grabbed a special taxi that is allowed on both sides and headed over the border. One hour later, we had grabbed our rental car and started the 2.5-hour journey from Nicosia to Paphos.

Along the mini road trip route, we stopped at Petra tou Romiou, also known as Aphrodite’s Rock. We almost missed it because the road doesn’t actually have an exit for the site. The cafe nearby had a parking lot with an underpass walkway to the water.  The day was a bit rainy and cloudy and created this mystical mood over the beautiful area that is known in mythology as the birthplace of Aphrodite. The ground is just layers of water polished stones and the sound the ocean made as it ebbed and flowed was enchanting.

After our brief 40 minute stop, we headed on to Paphos, checked into our hotel, and relaxed a bit. The evening was chill and we enjoyed dinner and a movie at the local mall.

Tip – GPS vs. Sim Card: Rental car companies usually have a GPS option for the car. We have found the in last few countries, if possible, that getting a sim card with data is much easier, more convenient, and about the same price. The GPS was 6 Euros a day (30 Euros for 5 days) and we were able to get an MTN sim card with 1.5 GB of data for 22 Euros.

Day 2: Local Tour – Paphos

Sleeping in is always on Jason’s ‘requirements’ for our vacations. Off-season makes this possible. So we relaxed. Jason slept in. I went for a quick run. Then we grabbed a late breakfast around 10:15.  While at breakfast we made a plan for the day. Tombs of the Kings, Archeological Park, and a walk around the city center. I would definitely wear good walking shoes because you will walk (and climb) a lot!


We took a break at the local Starbucks. If you know me, then I had to get my country mug! Walked back to our car and chilled at our hotel for a while before heading out to dinner in the evening. Being Saint Patty’s Day, we hit up a local Irish Pub, enjoyed a beer, grabbed some nachos and Shepherd’s Pie. We waited forever for the live music to start but it didn’t seem to be coming anytime soon. So we peaced-out and headed on back for an early evening.

 

Day 3: Day Trip – Outside Paphos Tour

The next morning followed suit. After our brunch, we headed to a local winery, Fikardos. There is actually a wine route that tourists can spend the day doing. Cyprus has a long-standing history of wine (think…. Greek gods and goddesses) and it is the perfect location for it! We made it to 3 of the 5 in between our stop at the Saint Neophytos Monastery. Ironic huh? Well, in Prague, the monastery there made wine and beer. So maybe it isn’t so ironic. Fikardos winery was the closest to Paphos and the most interactive when it came to showing us their production area and wine sampling. The other 2, Sterna Winery & Museum and Vasilikon Winery Cyprus, were further north towards the monastery and while the views were nice to enjoy, the interaction was somewhat lacking. If you are looking to sit and enjoy a wine though, Sterna Winery is what I would suggest. It’s a small cozy little winery store with a little menu option and a nice view.

  


The Saint Neophytos Monastery which was founded in 1159 is situated in up into the mountains and is only a 30 minutes drive from Paphos. It is one of the best-known monasteries in all of Cyprus. There is painted rooms built into the walls of the mountain that you can, with a ticket go in. The ticket also gives you access to the monastery’s small museum which is filled with books, scepters, and a lot of other Greek orthodox antiquities. At one point the monastery had peice of wood from Jesus’s cross as a relic, though it is no longer there. The monastery also has a small church that is open to the public.

In the afternoon, we explored the Avankas Gorge. Definitely, wear sporty clothes… and sneakers for this little hike. It is not the easiest to get to, but we found it to exceeded our expectations. The walk from the parking area to the Gorge takes about 10 minutes, and then another 10-15 minutes to actually get to the depths of the Gorge. It is a great option for hikers and nature lovers, and it is family friendly (but not stroller friendly).

Tip – Roads:

  1. Roads are British style. The driver is on the right side of the car and you drive on the left side of the road. Be careful! There are lots of tourists out there and you will know them because all the rentals have a red license plate.
  2. NOT all roads are equal. And taking a shortcut road from one of the wineries to the Gorge is NOT a good idea (personal experience). Google maps may tell you it’s a road, but we had a run for our money. The landscape is mountainous and the roads are gravel and dirt. We will suggest to always use the longer route and main roads when traveling between locations! Our little rental car got a little beating from the ‘roads’ we used, and it was not so fun.

 

Day 4: Nicosia

Our last morning at the hotel was lazy. After a breakfast, we took a long walk along the coast going north of our resort. The coast is lined with resorts, boutique hotels, and apartments. But there is a nice walking path that everyone takes advantage of in the mornings and evenings. We enjoyed the sunny warm morning and the breeze coming from the sea. There is also an old shipwreck still captured in the rocks just off the coast.

After checking out of our hotel, we headed back the way we came to the capital city, Nicosia, for our last evening in Cyprus. After popping by our Airbnb, we walked to the city center and toured around both the Greek and Turkish sides. Nicosia is the last divided capital cities in the world (think Berlin, but nicer). If your passport allows it, you can cross between the 2 checkpoints in the middle of the city. There is a Greek passport control that you walk past, then for about 100 meters, you literally are in a neutral zone of unoccupied buildings before having your passport checked at the Turkish checkpoint.

Unfortunately, we did not allow enough time for any free walking tours this time around, and because we visited on Sunday, most museums and markets were closed on both side. But we did sufficiently walk almost every block available to us on both sides of the city. Our evening finished by splitting a delicious meat meal for two at Piasta Gourounaki and stopped by the market to stock up on some pork and cheese products.

Day 5: Flight Home

The last morning was spent at our Airbnb. Since it was a private room in a bed and breakfast place, we enjoyed breakfast with other guests and learned more about the history of Cyprus first hand via the Airbnb hosts. The Airbnb host even offered to meet us at the car rental and drop us off at one of the Ledra Palace walking checkpoint to cross over to the Turkish side where we would meet our taxi.

And ironically enough, walking the Ledra Palace checkpoint was one of the more interesting sites in Nicosia due to the history it holds(no pics allowed). The Ledra Palace was formerly one of the most glamorous hotels in the capital. Now it acts as a UN neutral meeting point for not only governmental meetings for conflict resolution but also a place Turks and Greeks can come to meet for business. It was eerie to walk through this ‘no-mans’ land and stop for a quick coffee at the meeting place while remembering the harsh history that brought them to this point.

After hopping in the taxi, it was a quick airplane ride back to Izmir and home sweet home!

Don’t be fooled:

While it sounds like everything was dazzling perfection and it can seem like life is perfect, I want to write a short note to remind readers that it, of course, is not! Our first night, Jason slept so poorly worrying about crossing the border illegally (which we didn’t). There was also the time we clipped someone side mirror because we were just two close to them on the road… which in turn, Jason felt compelled to call the car rental company and tell them about (and I didn’t). We fought over what to do, eat, and how to drive to our destinations. In fast the last night in Nicosia, I was so grumpy at him for not actively trying to help me figure out what to see in Nicosia since out time was so short. Then later I got mad over a bathroom. Because he wouldn’t use the bathroom at a place that required a purchase in order to get the bathroom pin code… Can you tell that it’s most me, Catie, getting mad about his integrity to do what is RIGHT and GOOD???

We argued, got short with one another, asked for forgiveness, gave forgiveness, shared sweet moments, and fell in love all over again. But you know, isn’t that marriage? It is, and it is worth every bit of it!

Now it’s your turn:

Have you been you Cyprus?

How do you celebrate your wedding anniversary?

Would you want to travel here one day?

What suggestions do you have for our next trip one day?

 

Read more about Cyprus via my guide at Nomadasauras.

 

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Read more information about other islands we have visited: