Thursday, January 20, 2011

Every woman has a different story to tell.

More than 30 years ago, several American women met Turkish men, fell in love, got married and moved with them to Istanbul.

“Oh girls, you should have seen what it was like that back then when we first came here,” they often exclaim. They spin stories of a much-changed city with very few amenities such as toilet paper or even road signs in the beginning. Today, these women are still married or have since divorced.

Last year, several new American women moved to Istanbul because their American husbands’ company sent them here to explore for natural gas and oil deposits in the countryside of Turkey.

My story is that I married an American man whom works for an American company that had a position open in Istanbul. Our plan is to live here the next two+ years and then move on to the next assignment within the company. It’s hard to believe we have lived here seven months already!

There are more details to these stories. This is just some of the fabric that makes up the larger quilt knitted together by friendship.

These ladies have become my friends – ranging in age from mid-20s to 70 years old. They have helped me learn the Turkish language and new recipes, buy a washer and dryer, shop for groceries and take me to the doctor. If I have a problem, I know I can call one of them.

Often, on Wednesdays, a group of American women gather at a small seaside café in Yenikoy for what we call Game Day. (More information about this group can be found online at American Women of Istanbul and the International Women of Istanbul.) We have a beautiful view of the Bosphorus here.
We drink Turkish çay, eat simit and homemade treats (often made by yours truly), laugh, gossip, share in any recent language problems, talk about upcoming travels and later we eat lunch together. Then, of course, we play games. I hadn’t even heard of these games until I met these ladies.
Here you can see some of the ladies and the Turkish men playing games in the cafe'.
Okey is a dominoes-like number game. You match same colored dominoes together in numerical order, or you can connect the same number together with three or four tiles in different colors. (A group of Turkish men also play this popular game on Wednesdays.)
Each player draws 14 tiles to start the game.
This is what a finished game may look like. The objective is to get rid of all your tiles.
Mahjong  is a Chinese dominoes-like game. The Mahjong tiles are pictured with bamboo, Asian characters and honors such as winds and dragons. This game is one that I understand the least. Sorry, I didn’t take photos of this one.

Yesterday, two friends introduced a new game called Pente. This strategy board game involves moving colored, glass beads around the board to connect five vertically, horizontally or diagonally in a row. While trying to do so, your beads can get captured, or you need to block your opponents to prevent them from scoring.
Playing games is one way to spend the day together. I always can count on Wednesdays to be a full day for me. Since I’m technically not allowed to work here because of my husband’s visa regulations, I need something to do. Other expat women fall into same boat as me. Yet others are old enough they don’t have to work anymore.

Living abroad means you form friendships quicker than you do in the states. You instantly can form a bond based on the very fact that you speak English. It’s a bond that says you are in this together. We help each other out.

I’ve also found living abroad means having a wide variety of friendships – ranging in ages, nationalities and backgrounds. I have met other ladies from Denmark, Mexico, Italy, Germany, France, Russia, Spain, Sweden, South Africa and of course, Turkey. Other expats just like me.

So far, living abroad has opened my eyes to so many new things, new possibilities and new cuisines. Some days are overwhelming – the language barrier is frustrating sometimes. But other days, I just want to take it all in and savor every moment.

Some day, I may be sharing these stories with my children. I wonder where we will be living then.

Tagged: , , ,


Norwegiantage said...

I love reading about your experiences abroad. I'm sort of in opposite situations - European in the US.