Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Life is Life

A very wise friend of mine named Kelley once gave me a very good piece of advice..."life is life, no matter where you live it."

That piece of advice has been a comfort over these 2 years, and I was reminded of it again today.  I have been spending a lot of time focusing on being back home.  The shopping, restaurants, freedoms, entertainment.  It is easy to fall into a trap of thinking that by moving to America, my life will automatically be flawless.

I have been emailing my friend Sarahbee a lot.  We talk in the emails like we are sitting at a park together, watching our boys play.  She has been in the States for right around a month, and things aren't perfect. Her son is having issues with this transition just like W is.  They haven't found a house yet.  There are stressors.  Sure, it is nice to be home, but life isn't perfect.

Good to remember.  Life is life, huh?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Turkey Tensions

I have gotten several inquiries regarding the news about the shooting down of a Turkish jet by Syria.  First of all, thank you for your concern and prayers for our safety.  They are always appreciated, regardless of the situation.  As of right now, we don't believe we will be affected by this at all, but things of course could change rapidly.  If things should change, I will update this blog appropriately.

Again, thank you for all the inquiries and concern.  We feel blessed to have so many out there that are concerned about us. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

In 18 Days..........

........this Turkish adventure will come to an end.  It got me thinking about all the things that are commonplace here, that in 18 days, I may never experience again. 
  • The ever popular Call to Prayer
  • Stopping on the way home from the gym for a tank convoy
  • Being greeted by a car search and armed guards upon entrance to my neighborhood
  • Meat and milk shortages
  • Literally knowing more than half of the people in your neighborhood well
  • Shooing chickens from store entrances
  • Saying "Merhaba, nasisin?" at least once a day
  • AFN
  • The Rotator
  • Ryan riding his bike nearly everywhere
  • NO cell phones, text messages, etc.
  • NO traffic or stop lights
  • 114 degree heat (hopefully not!!)
  • taking a "quick trip" to Germany
  • Doners, borek, and kebabs

Would I?

I got asked the following question recently...

"Now that you are almost done with your first overseas assignment, do you want to do it again?"

The answer?  At this moment, no.  Like I said in an earlier post, I am perfectly content at this point to let my passport expire and never leave home again.  But that is now.

One thing that I am pretty much sure of?  I would absolutely not want to be stationed in Turkey again.  No offense, but 2 years is just about all I can handle.  It hasn't been a bad assignment by any means, but I am done.

I can totally see Germany, Italy, or Britain changing my mind though.  After being home for a bit, will I get restless?  Will I be ready for this adventure again?  One thing is for sure, nothing will ever be as shocking or life-changing as this assignment was.  There is a certain comfort in that.  If I can do Turkey, I can do anything!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pearls of Wisdom, Part 2

Here is the second installment of things I have learned on this journey.  I have never lived in a huge city, but have never lived in a very small town either.  All of my homes have fallen somewhere in between.  Boy, have I learned a lot about surviving in a small town!

Living on a Tiny Base or in a Tiny Town
  • There is always a need or a volunteer opportunity.  There will never be enough people to fill every slot.  Choose one or two areas to really plug into, and don't feel guilty about saying "no" to the rest of it.  Burn-out is very real and very common in places like this.
  • Don't be a gossip.  I guess this is applicable to everyone no matter where you live, but it is especially detrimental in a small town.  You will get caught.  It will come back to you.  And you will lose friends.  End of story.
  • If there isn't a program or club or organization that fulfills your needs, start one.  This is the beauty of small town living....the sky is the limit.  Don't sit back and complain about the lack of activity.  Get out there and do something about it!  My friend Angelica noticed that there wasn't a good activity to plug new moms into base life here, so she started a playgroup that continues to this day, even though she is gone.
  • Walk the Walk.  Especially in tiny towns, people notice you.  They know who you are and what you stand for.  It is even more important here to remember who you are and what you represent.  Someone is always watching.
  • Enjoy the simple things.  In small places, options are scarce.  That isn't always a bad thing.  Not many restaurants?  Potlucks with friends are so much better.  Not much to do on a Saturday afternoon?  Round up some folks and a ball for a kickball game.  There is a beauty in simplicity.  Learn to see it and appreciate it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Say what you will about Turkey, but the place has some awesome shopping opportunities. Right off base in the Alley, there are many merchants who are all to eager to sell. And if you feel adventurous and go further into Old Adana, you can get even better deals. If you ever find yourself in Istanbul, the Grand Bazaar is a shoppers paradise-literally miles and miles of storefronts offering lamps, rugs, clothing, jewelry, accessories...really anything you can imagine. It was quite overwhelming to a non-shopper like myself.

 We waited a very long time to make any purchases, but once the ball got rolling, it was hard to stop! What are we coming home with? See below......

I really don't know anyone who doesn't buy at least one while here.  Most people buy several.  You would be crazy not too, really.  If you attend a carpet party off base at one of the shops, they will feed you dinner and give you an education about the different types of rugs, how they differ by region and even village to village, and the different materials and dyes used.

  Of course, the machine made rugs are cheaper and most like what you would find in the States, only much cheaper.  My mother in law and her friend each got a good sized machine made rug for under $400....a steal!!  By contrast, we went to a carpet store in Cappadocia with my mom where they had a handmade rug available for...wait for it........$62,000!!!!!  So, there is a lot of variety out there.  

  After 2 years here and much research and shopping, we were finally ready to buy.  We ended up with 3 rugs, all handmade.  One runner, one 5x7 and one 6x9.  I am extremely happy.  They are beautiful.  All of them are handmade using silk and wool with natural vegetable dyes.  Because of the dye and materials used, they actually change color depending on the light and the angle from which they are viewed!

Below is an image of a handmade Oushak (our rug type) that has similar colors to one of ours.  I can't wait to display them in our new home!!  To check out more pictures, search "Uzbek Carpets" on facebook.  Esref has pictures of his carpet selection that are a good example of what you might find here.

I just recently discovered these Turkish mosaic lamps.  Several of my friends had them in their homes here, and I always noticed how beautiful and unique they looked.  Apparently, they are a pretty famous Turkish export, that again, we can get very cheaply here.  I ended up with 2 smaller table lamps that i think will look awesome in our house in DC.

Oh ladies!!  Let me tell you, the pashminas are wonderful!!! A man in the Alley sells them for $10 here.  He also exports the same thing to be sold at Neiman Marcus for over $100!!!  Again, you would be crazy to live here for any amount of time and not purchase at least a couple.  I think my grand total was 4, but I have many friends with whole closets full of them.  Wonderful!!

Other than the rugs, this was the thing that I heard about the most before coming here.  The furniture stores in the Alley will make you just about anything for a fraction of what it would cost you Stateside.  I know I sound like a broken record, but you would be crazy not to take advantage.  I don't know anyone who didn't get at least one thing made.  Most folks I know got completely new furniture sets in every room while here. You can simply take them a picture of what you like, and they will make you something identical (or very similar).  I took them pictures from Pottery Barn and got a TV console, bookcases, a bar (for Ryan...don't get me started), a chair recovered, an ottoman/coffee table and a computer desk.  All of this for around $1500.  Crazy cheap.  If you are curious, look up "Aydin's Furniture" on facebook.  He posts pictures frequently of what he's created.

Our leather ottoman that can be converted to a coffee table that is hollow inside for extra storage!

Our computer desk...before knobs were added.
This one was completely Ryan, and was actually done within the first year of our time here.  Turkey is apparently famous for something called Huglu Shotguns.  So Ryan got one.  As did my dad.  They make the gun to your specifications and Ryan was pleased.  It is waiting for us in Alabama.

I'd say we have done pretty well for ourselves!!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Pearls of Wisdom

I've done a lot of things over the past 2 years that I never imagined I could or would do.  And, I've done them all at least fairly well.  So, I think that qualifies me to dole out a least a little of what I've learned so that it could be of some help or service to others who happen to find themselves in similar circumstances

Living Abroad
  • Don't spend your time wondering why this or that isn't done like it is at home.  You are not home. Try to embrace, or at the very least accept, the differences.
  • Realize that homesickness is inevitable at some point.  It does not mean that you are weak or not cut out for living abroad.  It is just part of the experience.
  • Learn from the culture of the country you live in.  Don't be so set in your American ways that you can't see that some things are just done better elsewhere.  Allow the experience to change you, even if it is just a little.
  • Cultivate international friendships. 
  • When you return home, accept that you will be different. You will view your home differently and the world differently.  It changes you from the inside out.  And accept that others may or may not understand. But regardless, don't spend all your time talking about your experience.  It is annoying to people 99% of the time.
  • If you are hesitant to live abroad and the opportunity presents itself, DO IT.  It is easier than you think.  You are stronger than you think.  If Sarah Thompson from Montgomery Alabama can do it, trust me, you can too.
  • Make the most of your time overseas.  Travel, travel, travel.  See as much as you can.  This wide world is so full of amazing things to see and do and learn.  Get out there!!
  • Try to learn at least a little of the language of your new home.  I wish I had done more of this.  It makes you feel so much more confident when out and about.  After 2 years, I finally feel like I have learned enough conversational phrases to get my point across in most of the more common situations.  I am FAR from even a little fluent, but I can tell that with each phrase I master, I feel less nervous going out.
  • Keep a blog or journal of your experiences and emotions.
  • Be respectful of the culture.  This is especially important in the Middle East.  You are a visitor.  You are also a representative of the United States, whether you realize it or not.  This is the thing that foreigners resent about Americans the most, or at least in my experience it is.  You don't have to agree with something to be respectful.  We would expect the same of visitors to our country.
  • Encourage people to visit you.  When they see you in your new home, it increases their understanding of your new life, and they can relate to you on a much deeper level.
Enough for now.  More to come.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

About the Blog.....

Several people have asked me what's to become of this little blog when the Stebbins are no longer "Incirlikin Good".  I have to admit, I enjoy blogging much more than I thought I would.  It has been a great way to capture this piece of our lives. 

But as we get ready to go home, I just don't know if I see the point anymore.  This blog was very much a topical one about living life in Turkey.  It will, obviously, not be about that anymore.  I will have lost my "angle", so to speak.  Would it be worth it?

I am considering continuing, although in a much more abridged and different way.  This blog would cease to be public, and could only be accessed with a password.  It would transform into, let's face it, a way for the grandparents to keep up with W. 

We will see.  Right now, we are still here.  So posting will continue.  I will probably even post a few times when we  stateside to document our "re-entry" into American culture.  After that, who knows?  Stay tuned.......

Accentuating the Positives

In no particular order, here are some of the little blessings that are making our time in transition a little easier. Better to focus on the positives, right?
  •  1. The current renters of our house in DC have been fabulous to us. Jenn has been emailing me the most helpful info on the area and our neighborhood. I already feel plugged in, and we haven't even gotten there yet!
  •  2. My friend Kimberly has opened her home to us so W can play with her 3 boys. Her twins are W's age, and her other son is a year older. The kids have a blast, I enjoy some adult conversation, and the time passes quickly. It has been great, and I am so thankful for her. 
  •  3. So far, the heat has been bearable. There is a cool breeze in the shade with makes being outside tolerable. It is supposed to be 107 over the weekend, but I will cross that bridge when we get to it. 
  •  4 I have been emailing with a friend as she and her family have made the decision to move overseas as well. It isn't Turkey, but it is cool to see how God is already using my experience to help others. I see so much of my pre-Turkey self in my friend, and I can't wait to follow their adventure in Guam!
  •  5. It looks like our car and household goods will arrive at the about the same time we will. If so, that will be a HUGE help!

Monday, June 11, 2012

My Pep Talk to....Myself.

(Begin rant)

Put a fork in me.


Done with international living.  Done with Turkey.  And certainly done with this tiny hotel room that has become our home until July 10.

I am trying, I really am.  I am trying to stay in the present and enjoy our last few weeks in Small Town America.  I am really trying to stay busy so we don't just sit here in this cave.  But we can only do so much here.  Our options are very limited.  And our friend group is becoming more limited with each airplane departure.  It is just hard.

(End rant)

Thankfully, last night's sermon helped.  The preacher reminded me that in the military we have 2 sets of assignments.  One from the government, and a higher one from God.  God ordained and planned my time here.  And I have to believe that there is a reason I am leaving on July 10.  I am meant to be here and meant to be used by Him until the very moment I walk in that plane.

I have done so well here.  I have exceeded my own expectations.  For 2 years, I have been strong, positive, and downright joyful at times when I might earlier have crumbled.  I have taken a hard assignment and, as my mom says, "bloomed where I was planted."  I can't quit now with the finish line in sight. 

Finish strong, Sarah.  Finish strong.

**In possibly related news, I think I am going to let my passport expire.  Thanks for the idea, Laura Beene!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


What does this acronym mean?  Could be a variety of things.....all probably more pleasant than the actual meaning: Temporary Living Facility.  Basically, it is an extended stay hotel.  And it is our home until we board a plane on July 10.  There is no bathtub, no dishwasher and very limited space.  We are on top of each other, and we are a small family. 

In a way, it is the best thing for me right now.  It is erasing ANY desire that might be left in me to stay here in Turkey.  By the time our departure rolls around, I think I might jump on the plane.  TLF is just another step in my gradual withdrawal from this base and all the activities within it.

Another round of friends leaves this weekend....I think it will be my 4,000th goodbye.  With each plane that departs, it becomes a little easier, and the day of our departure gets a little closer.  Things are definitely winding down here!!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Congrats, Major Stebbins!

Ryan pinned on the new rank of Major this week. We had a wonderful time celebrating with close friends and work colleagues.  As one friend put it, I know he will do great things with that Oak Leaf!

For Wendi

Forgive my lack of presence on this blog lately. Life has gotten crazy. Really crazy. Packing, moving, transitioning, adjusting. But I am back with yet another goodbye post for one of my dearest friends here-Wendi. I "met" Wendi over the internet about 3 months or so before we moved here. Someone I barely knew at my Texas MOPS group heard I was moving to Turkey and told me that she had an online friend moving to the same place. From the moment I got in touch with her, this Turkey thing seemed more and more doable. I would have a friend. And she had 2 boys, right around W's age. Maybe, with any luck, they would like each other. Fast forward 2 years: W truly thinks that Wendi's boys are his brothers. We have spent countless hours riding big wheels, playing in parks, watching movies, and just being together. And Wendi has become as close as a sister, sharing the ups, downs, highs, and lows of this place.

 To Wendi: I can't say this about many people in my life, but your friendship was and is a direct answer to prayer. God knew that I needed someone like you, and sent you to me. I will always remember our driveway talks and crazy adventures (Cyprus, Greece, and Istanbul just to name a few). I have loved watching our children grow and change together and it breaks my heart that they will soon be separated. W feels so safe, comfortable, and loved when he is with your family. I know that can't be duplicated by anyone else.

 We have talked before about the fact that we have a friendship where we can just both sit and be quiet, no words need to said. So, I will leave this post at that. There are so many other things I could say right now-but you already know them all, because you know my heart so well. And that is the thing I will remember the most.

My Apology to Darcy Johnson

I wasn't the coolest kid I high school. You want evidence? I was on the literary magazine staff. We weren't cool enough for the yearbook staff, so we collected creative writing pieces from students to publish in an annual we called "Cento". I remember days and days of combing through submissions to choose the pieces we would eventually use. I particularly remember one poem, written by my good friend (to this day) Darcy. She is the daughter of an Air Force pilot. They were stationed in Montgomery from our 8th grade year until we graduated. I don't remember the whole poem, but I can vividly remember that it was about the smell of cardboard boxes, and the feelings that that smell evoked for her. I thought the poem was pretty dumb. A whole poem about a cardboard smell?


 Now, as we finish pack out #3 in our Air Force adventure, I'd like to take this opportunity to publicly apologize to Darcy Johnson. The poem wasn't dumb at all. It was brilliant. And I totally get now how one singular smell of cardboard can make your emotions go crazy. The smell signals the beginning of a long process that has become all too familiar. Goodbyes, packing, living out of suitcases, traveling, unpacking, starting over. I get it Darcy. I get it now.

 Here we go again.......