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.
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.
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 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.
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!
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.
Culture shock can happen and will happen to everyone. And yes, I will argue against well-seasoned travelers and long time expats that it can happened to them as well! Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it below.
Culture shock affects everyone differently: some people withdraw from others, other may become sad or depressed (homesickness can hit hard during this time- even if you don’t have a home!), some become angry at all the little differences, and others struggle to find meaning in their world and the relationships around them.
Spring is gorgeous here in Izmir, Turkey. The sun shines and the weather is just the right temperature. Recently, I went out for a few errands and just basked in the rays of sunlight peeking through as I weaved in and out of the shadows made from my neighborhood buildings and trees. In a split second, I went from gloriously praising MY lovely city to cursing the stinky rules of THEIR culture. Because, for the almost 1 millionth time, I barely missed stepping on fresh dog poop in the middle of the sidewalk….
This wasn’t my first Christmas overseas, but it was OUR first Christmas overseas. Within 4 months, we moved to Turkey, rented an apartment, and furnished it(mostly). So this year, our Christmas decor was a little meek. Ikea pretty much has everything you could ever need, including some Christmas decor. SO, while I would have loved to keep with holiday tradition of buying a real tree, we settled for a cute little fake one!
In anticipation of our 2016 move, Christmas 2015 ended with one big packed Christmas box for storage and one small box labeled ‘Christmas stuff 4 Turkey move.’ Thankfully, we didn’t have to open it again until we had our Christmas in Turkey! Below is one of my old turkish ornament I bought from my old single days in Turkey. It has made it many places with me!
And this is our new turkish ornament we bought during our sailing trip along the Aegean coastline.
Some traditions aren’t hard to keep, here is our annual Christmas tree decorating time lapse!
Right before we left town, we did see ‘New Year’ trees – REAL ones – at a local grocery store! Next year we may have a real tree!
We may not of had a real tree, but we did do our 2nd annual advent calendar! 2015 was long year for my job, and Jason was a champ through all of it. By December, I was finally was coming out of the work fog, and I wanted to do something special for him to look forward to Christmas. Jason loved it. Every morning he woke up, check the back of the card and had something to look forward to for the day. This year was no different. And – since we had planned our #funkchristmas2016 tour, it made some of our advent activities really interesting!
Our advent calendar is nothing fancy, I printed a card template and wrote the dates on the front with activities on the back. Ikea once again came to the rescue with Christmas theme washi tape!
Along with our advent calendar, we had a few other decorations around our living/dining area. Ikea also had some fake garlands, and I grabbed one knowing it would look fabulous over our fireplace. Every year, I usually find a few free Christmas prints online. A couple I put in frames, others I just taped up with washi tape. Those few new items, plus our small box of treasures we brought from the states, made up our decor this year. And you know what? It was perfect! Simple and perfect.
One of our advent calendar events was baking Christmas cookies. This was three-fold.
1. Decorating (my favorite)
2. Eating of course (Jason’s favorite)
3. Gifts for our neighbor goodie bag!
By December, we had met most of our apartment building neighbors. Since Turkey is a majority muslim country, Christmas is not a celebrated holiday, but it is somewhat present. You can see Christmas trees, decor, lights and sometimes snowmen. ‘Christmas’ is more of a new year celebration and sometimes Santa even makes it by. 😉
For us, Christmas is our whole reason for life, and we are so happy to celebrate it. Part of our Christmas traditions is giving gifts to one another – family and friends alike. As a little gift for our Christmas celebrations, we shared little goodie bags with them! Along with the homemade Christmas cookies, we filled the bag with all the Christmasy foods – gingerbread cookies, chocolates, and a homemade hot chocolate mixture with a bag of marshmallows.
The goodie bags were a huge hit! (Plus, they were super fun to make.) Christmas touring in Europe was a blast. And I spent most of our December, and January mornings enjoying this view….