Journeying to the States: I-130 Stage

 

The first step in coming the US is proving your relationship. Start gathering evidence as soon as you can. Don’t throw away tickets with your names on them. Go back into your hotel reservations, etc. Take as many pictures as you can. Document everything. Save old chats and Skype history.

Form I-130 is filling out basic information about you and your spouse. You’ll need your Social Security number or your A number (in order to bring your spouse to the United States you must be a U.S. citizen or green card holder), your address history for the last five years, your employment history and addresses etc, as well as your spouse’s, and so on. The updated I-130 now has biographic information on it as well (hair color / race / eye color. When I filled out the forms and submitted them I had to fill out forms G 325A for my spouse and myself, but now you fill out for I-130A instead.

Also, try to get your name/ your spouse’s name changed as soon as possible so that you can provide the updated ID, passport, and Social Security.

Here are the updated links to the current forms that you’ll need to fill out:

I-130 Form and Instructions: Petition for Alien Relative
I-130A: Supplemental Spouse Information used instead of G 325A

If you’re having trouble filling out the forms, do not neglect the instructions that are given with them. I know that it’s extra reading, but what’s ten extra minutes of reading compared to a few extra months of waiting because of a silly mistake?

When submitting evidence, be sure to include a cover page detailing everything that you’ve included in the packet.  See the following images. I’ve added some notes on the side.

Cover letter pic 1

Cover letter pic 2

Cover letter pic 3

My summary of our story included how and where we met, places we’ve been to, important dates, our jobs and education, etc. Everyone’s story is unique. Try to keep it to one typed page. I also stated that I moved back to the states and have already secured a job etc even though that information isn’t necessary until NVC gets involved. You want USCIS to know that there is a steady income over a certain amount so that they know the immigrant will not be a burden on the US. This information usually isn’t required until the NVC stage which typically won’t be until at least six months later (earlier if you’re super lucky or had an expedite approved) or much later (like in our case – nearly ten months and we didn’t even have any missing documents). Unless specifically stated, do not include originals of documents. Copies are fine.

When I was including pictures in my Word document (later saved as a PDF and then printed in color, one sided), I made sure to add the date that they were taken (digital copies usually have the date encrypted in them), where they were taken, and who was in the picture. Pictures of your wedding and engagement are very good evidence. Especially if you have photos of you signing your marriage certificate / book. Pictures with your spouse and their family / your family etc are great. I probably went a bit overboard, but I included about thirty pages worth of pictures and explanations. I also included the link and screenshots of our wedding website, Facebook events that I had made for the wedding and bachelorette party etc. I included copies of airline tickets going to see him and even our university transcripts to prove that we were there at the same time. Anything that has both of your names on it especially a rental agreement or something of the sort is wonderful evidence. Do not include CDs or USBs etc. They will not look at them.

Photo evidence 1

Once I triple and quadruple checked all of the documents and signed the I-130 and other forms (make sure your documents are signed or your application will be rejected), it was finally ready to be sent off to the USCIS. Don’t forget the money order for the I-130 fee which is currently $535.
Here are the addresses to send your I-130.

Once you submit everything, you should get your first notice NOA1 which will be the receipt that they received your package and are reviewing it. Don’t lose this receipt number. You can use it to check the status of the application.

There are a few sites that are great for help and questions as well.

VisaJourney.com  is great for creating your timeline and tracking other timelines of those who may have similar cases to yours.

The Facebook group (you’ll need approval to join) “I-130 filers Immigration Visa Group.” is also great for asking and answering questions.

Search around on Facebook as well for groups that pertain to the country that your spouse is from because the information may be more beneficial to you.

Keep doing your research while you’re waiting for you approval. Start getting your documents ready for the NVC stage. I’ll write more about that later. The wait time is probably the most frustrating and painful time. We got our first receipt from USCIS September 8th, 2016 and didn’t get our approval until June 29th, 2017 – that was 295 days or 9 months 22 days.

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Journeying to the States: Intro

 

My husband and I met nearly six years ago at college in New York. He was an exchange student and I was a junior trying to figure out if and how I could study abroad. When we started dating, we were both trying to figure out how it would work, I mean I didn’t even have my passport yet! What an ordeal it was for me to get that (that’s another story).

In short, he was just the push I needed to help me pursue my studies abroad. If you’ve been following me for the past few years now, you’ll know that I went to Pisciotta, Italy for a summer semester then visited Istanbul for the first time in the summer of 2012 to stay with my husband (then boyfriend) and his family. After my fall semester in Urbino, Italy we both met up again at our university in New York and graduated together that spring. We were stuck on how to continue seeing each other though. After all, transatlantic relationships and plane trips aren’t exactly cheap and easy.

Then I figured it out. While working a waitressing gig, I also took a TEFL course and powered through it in order to go back to Turkey with him that fall. I started teaching English to kindergartners and preschoolers in August of 2013 in Istanbul. My second year there, I moved to a different school and my husband and I moved in together in our own apartment. We adopted some kitties, got engaged, and then got married. It all just seems peachy-keen, right?

Wrong.

Here comes the hard part. We decided it’d be best for him to get his U.S. citizenship. Now, for anyone currently doing this or who has been through this process, you know this is no walk in the park. It’s a long and grueling, expensive, lonely, stressful, and damn near cruel process. The U.S. does not make it easy for people to immigrate here. In order for him to immigrate here legally, I have to prove domicile (a place to live), a steady job with a certain income, and our relationship. Seems easy enough you say? Just wait. Even once all the items are gathered and double, triple, and quadruple checked, it then takes months  and sometimes and years for everything to be checked over by the government and when you try to call to ask for a status update, no one has any sympathy. I will write about the process in steps to try and help others who are going through the same thing.

My heart is heavy…

I’m sick of this. I’m sick of living in fear every day. I’m sick of the growing panic. I’m sick of my fears coming to life every passing day as something else happens. I’m sick of the media here keeping everything hushed. I’m sick of the media in the rest of the world not saying enough. I’m sick of the lack of compassion or care for this country…. in this country. I’m sick of being restricted. I’m sick of being told what I can or cannot wear, where I can or cannot go, when I should or should not go. I’m sick of being told that I should not speak English in public for fear of being attacked simply because I’m American (thanks Trump for making that even worse and for making the situation even more dangerous for Americans abroad!)

Turkey is not getting the recognition that it needs because it is a country stuck in the middle. It is in between progressive Europe and the conservative Middle East yet most of the world just throws it into the Middle Eastern category. Why? Because the majority of the country follows Islam? Because most people couldn’t point out Turkey on a map? Because most people think Turks still wear fezzes and ride around on camels in the desert because that is how it’s been represented in the past in cartoons and the like? Nobody knows much about Turkey except for the fact that its name is the same as the bird that they eat or just maybe if they stayed awake for that one week in history class the Ottomans kind of ring a bell. So why should they care? It’s just another one of those desert countries over there that is always fighting, right? The world isn’t properly educated on these matters. But these matters matter. A car bomb here, a suicide bomb there, another here, another there, just another day… the more it happens the more jaded people become. They think it’s just a normal occurrence. The world media covers it less and less, and the fact that the government is controlling (censoring) the media makes it even harder for news to get out. People fail to realize though that cities like Ankara and Istanbul are not just some desert  cities in the middle of nowhere. They are constantly busy, overpopulated, traffic burdened, work driven, family oriented cities just like NYC, Paris, London, San Francisco, Miami, and the like. People get up every morning, brush their teeth, kiss their families goodbye, rush out to work, sit in traffic, slouch in their desks at work, grumble through their days, live on coffee and tea, have a quick lunch break, get back to work, try not to fall asleep, finish the work day, and try their best to make it home. But Sunday, that didn’t happen for everyone. Sunday, near a bus station filled with hundreds people, men, women, children, teens, the elderly, a car bomb exploded ending the lives of at least 37 individuals and injuring over 100. Countless families’ lives were destroyed on Sunday and the world hardly flinched.The night went on, the morning came, people went to work, children went to school, and aside from a brief moment of silence held in some schools, it was as if nothing had happened the night before. If this had happened in any of the aforementioned cities, the world would have come to a halt, changed their profile pictures to mach the country’s flag, and sworn solidarity with that city. Even if it happened time and time again. But here? Apparently, it was just another day…and that’s all it ever will be until the world wakes up. I know that I’m just another blog post in the wind, yet another voice and cry for help that will go mostly unheard, but if I can educate at least one person out there, then I’ve been at least somewhat successful.

On a side note, I must say though that I am privileged. I am American, and I can leave at any time. I’ve got my passport, and if I feel unsafe, I can hope on a plane and go home to a land that has rarely felt the pain that this country goes through constantly (and when we have, we unite with the utmost passion). My fiance, my students (my children), and millions of other do not have that privilege. They are stuck here. They cannot just hope on planes. They need to go through a long and costly visa process, and that’s just for the tourist visa!  We Americans do not realize how spoiled and privileged we are.

Who wants to fill up my coffee?

Well, the first month is done. It’s been a whirlwind of a month. Getting to know the students and teachers and constantly changing schedules takes a lot out of you. I’m tired, I need a lot more coffee, but I enjoy the classroom teacher position. It’s nice to just focus on just one class and on just fourteen students as opposed to six classes and over a hundred students like I had last year at the same school. It’s also been a bit of a make-shift beginning of the year, because as per usual here the books came very late and some did not come at all. So, I’ve had to make do with the resources that I have at the school and online resources. For English resources, I have an endless supply because the office has to have thousands of books. I photocopy what I need for the day or week and that’s that. For the other subjects though such as social sciences and math, I’ve had to work a bit harder. Pinterest is a teacher’s best friend for sure; it not only offers crafting ideas, but there are also lesson plans, worksheets, and pretty much anything I could ever need. Teachers are very creative people are love to share with one another. Another great resource that I’m utilizing more is education.com which has some amazing workbooks that go over exactly what we’re doing in our classes. Learning about place value? There’s a workbook for that. Learning about the world, maps, and directions? There’s a workbook for that. Trying to teach about rhymes and sentence structure? There are books for that as well. Absolutely wonderful resource. There are also some games and videos on the site that I need to look through that could be very useful. I’ve found some interactive math sites which are also amazing for my children because they can’t understand everything that I am saying so having something that they can touch and visualize helps immensely.

Behaviorally, of course, there are a few problems, but there will always be problems especially in a school and culture where any sort of discipline / consequence is frowned upon. Even setting up simple routines can be hard to do because of this. Take for example morning reading hour, when the students are supposed to come into the room, put their stuff away, pick out a book, and read silently until breakfast time. Every day we go over the routine, we ask and we tell the children to please get a book, stop fooling around, stop talking, and please read. It doesn’t matter which language it is said in, they have yet to once be able to do this successfully. Then, when all the children actually are quiet and reading, another student comes into the room and the talking starts again. It’s not like we don’t give the children time to talk. We give them plenty of time to talk. Breakfast time is free reign and they can talk as much as they’d like. Their break times between each lesson they are allowed to talk, play, run around, dance, and do pretty much whatever their little hearts want to do.It is something that my co-teacher and I will have to talk about again because I think reading hour is actually very important building both their Turkish skills and their English comprehension. Parent-Teacher meeting is next Sunday I believe, and if the parents ask, I will tell. I do not and have never sugarcoated things and lied to the parents. Ask and you shall receive 🙂 Some may get angry, but the truth is the truth. If the child does not respect his or her friends or teachers, how do you think that they will act when they grow up? I do as much as I can to teach manners and respect in the classroom, but there is only so much a teacher can do. The rest is up to the parents at home because they are their children’s first and forever teachers. I’m not saying all of my children are disrespectful, I’m just saying this as a general statement.

For the most part, the children pay attention and love to participate, though, I do have to encourage some more than others to participate or pay attention. I involve them all and try to be fair to all. I try to liven things up a bit and do some activities because I understand that 2nd grade isn’t easy for them. Now that they finally know how to read and write, the workload is harder and more intense. English especially is hard right now too because it’s time to focus on proper pronunciations and spelling. They get away easy in Turkish because Turkish is a very phonetic language and what they hear is how it is spelled. As we all know, English is not like that at all. So, yes, there is a lot of writing this year in English which I know the children tire of after some time. This is when I try to liven things up a bit with activities or songs or dances or even simple fill in the blanks where they don’t realize that they’re practicing their spelling or sentence structuring. On the subject of gateway activities, my students love to dance. I’m surprised because my class is made of mostly boys, but when the music comes on or the dance video come up the boys are actually in the front row and the first to dance. They’ve certainly got some moves (and a huge surplus of energy that I wish they’d transfer to me)!

All in all, though, I got lucky this year. I have the smallest class in the school, I have students whose English comprehension is pretty decent, I have a wonderful co-teacher who I love, and I have parents who are very involved. I could be in the position of others at the school which would not be fun.There has been a lot of chaos this year in the English department and, well, everywhere else. I won’t go into detail here though. Perhaps at a later date. I just have to think positive thoughts for now.

This upcoming week should be a fun week because even though Halloween was this past weekend, we will be having our Halloween party on Thursday. I, of course, will be doing a few activities and songs throughout the week. If I can, I’ll try to set up a few extra special activities, but that depends if I have the time and can find the resources. The children have been asking me about the Halloween party since the first day of school! They are super excited for it. I think it’s because it’s something unfamiliar to them because it’s not normally celebrated in their culture. It’s fun and the kids get to get dressed up and play games. Who wouldn’t find that fun? It’s the one day a year where you can be anyone or anything that you want. Plus, getting free candy is always awesome as well. I cannot wait until the next big holiday… 😉

My (not nearly long enough) Getaway to Kaş

Last week, my boyfriend and I, finally were able to take our vacation. We didn’t even know if we were going to be able to go. This mostly had to do with him being able to get time off. You see, unlike back in America where most big person jobs allow you advanced notice of vacation time, here we don’t know until literally the last minute. So we were sitting in our apartment that we had just recently moved into and using up all the data on our phones to look for last minute hotel deals and buses to a vacation spot for the following Monday. It wasn’t easy, but we found a nice hotel and splurged a little more than we should have. The next problem was finding bus tickets as most seemed to all be sold out. Awhile later we were able to find some tickets (though more than likely we were overcharged as it was last minute). We were excited for our trip to Kaş, but not so much for our twelve or so hour upcoming bus ride. 

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The view from our hotel room window. Greek island of Meis in the distance

After we packed up our vacation bags and dropped off our kitten with his sister, we headed to the bus station. As usual, we were early and check-in was easy enough. We waited upstairs for a bit using up all the free internet that we could get. We went downstairs to board our bus, but, after frantically looking all around the terminal, we could not find it. We soon found out that like nearly every other bus at this company’s terminal, the bus was delayed because it could not get in. Two hours of waiting later, we were finally able to board and were on our way. We kept stopping every fifteen minutes or so for about ten minutes at what I can only guess were mini bus stops. When we made our first actual pit stop on the road for the bathroom and food we realized that we were way behind schedule. Not only had the bus been late, but now it was going slower than it should have. To make matters worse, toward the last leg of the trip, the bus started to overheat, so instead of stopping for a few hours to let it cool down the bus driver just kept stopping at every gas station along the way to soak it. The last two hours of hour trip were hot, long, and smelly. Finally, we arrived in Fetihye and to rush to catch a minibus to Kaş. We ended up getting the last two seats on the bus (my seat wasn’t even a real seat! I had to sit in the hostess seat), and reached Kaş about two hours later. The next step was finding our hotel. It should have been easy enough, but we were hot, sweaty, exhausted…you get the picture. The bus station is only about ten minutes or so from the location we needed to walk to…but we walked up a giant hill, got told to go another way, walked back down, were called back and told to walk back up and keep going just a little further. Eventually, we reached our hotel, Sea View Otel. It was amazing. The service was wonderful. Everyone there was beyond nice and I would go back there in a heartbeat. They were so helpful and nice from he time that we booked the hotel to when we got there to when we left. A bit pricey for my age group but if you’re looking for a nice place to stay in Kaş that has a beautiful view of the sea (and the Greek island of Meis), very friendly and accommodating service, comfortable rooms, etc. this is your place!

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Jumped from here a few times

After we showered and changed, we went back into town to stock up on a few items. Even though it was already at least six it was still scorching hot, so when we returned again we sat in the beautifully air-conditioned room a few more minutes. We decided to try out the hotel’s dinner since it had really good reviews all around. We were not let down. We had a stuffed calamari appetizer (not fried) that was delicious, crabbed stuffed chicken, and a shrimp risotto. Their food was wonderful as was the view. It was night time and the restaurant part of the hotel is situated on a deck overlooking the sea. Even at night we could see how clear the sea water was. My boyfriend was very eager for the next day to come so he could jump in. We went back to the room, had a few drinks that we had previously bought (because we all know how expensive it is to have even one drink when going out especially in a vacation area), and then passed out from sheer exhaustion.

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Çarkıfelek Margarita (Passion Fruit)

The next morning, we had the hotel’s included breakfast. Let me tell you, if you like breakfast, Turkey is the place for you. The amount of food that Turks consume for breakfast is insane. The hotel had everything. I’ve never been to another hotel in Turkey, but I assume that hotels here are not allowed to have a weak breakfast considering how much they normally eat in the morning. This hotel’s food was just as great as the night before. When we finished, we went down to where we had eaten dinner the night before, except now it was an area for lounging in the sun with a sea view and sea access. We sat for awhile, roasting in the 90+ degree weather, and soon decided it was time for a swim. When we finally got into the water we were not expecting the random cold patches. The water was freezing when we first went in, warmer as we swam out, and random cold patches of water all over. Apparently, somewhere around the area there is a spring that empties into the sea. It was refreshing to say the least. The water was clear as glass and we could see straight down to the bottom (which I recently found out was anywhere from 10 – 25 meters; a fact which I am very glad I did not know at the time). We swam for a bit, sun bathed a bit more, ordered two delicious drinks (a watermelon mojito and a passion fruit margarita…my margarita was out of this world!), swam some more, sat some more, repeat, then showered and went into town in the sweltering heat.

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The Lion Tomb

For lunch we went to Meydan Pizza & Kebap and had some pide, hummus, and calamari pizza. It was all pretty decent. Not too amazing, but I wouldn’t mind eating there again. We then explored the town, trying to walk in the shade as much as possible. There must be hundreds of little shops lining the streets, all of them selling interesting souvenirs, rugs, nazars (the eye), mosaic / tiles, etc. Many of the stores were copy-cats of one another, but it didn’t make them any less interesting. I picked up a nazar keychain and magnet because we didn’t have any in the new apartment yet and here that’s bad luck. After we got a feel of the town and picked up some more things from Migros (one of the main chains of grocery stores in Turkey), we headed back to the hotel so Burak could swim a little bit more. A bit later we headed out again, this time for dinner. 

Before going to dinner, I had decided to check out reviews and ratings of the restaurants in the area on Tripadvisor and I’m glad that I did. We ended up going to Turkuaz Meyhane which was rated number one and we weren’t let down. We arrived just in time because there was live music (some traditional Turkish music) and we ended up getting one of the last tables. For an appetizer, we had some fried mussels and some little dip to go along with it that was great. Then we had a shrimp casserole / stew/ soup thing that tasted very yummy though it was a bit small. Then came the swordfish (kılıç). I have never had a fish cooked so perfectly before. It was absolutely amazing. Grilled on the outside, juicy on the inside, amazing flavor. Wow. And, of course, we accompanied our meals with a little bottle of rakı. 

After freshening up and changing, we went back out after dinner to see how the night light was. Again, we were not disappointed. The first stop was Red Point Bar (it reminded me a bit of a mix between Murphy’s and P&G’s bars back in New Paltz). It seemed empty at first but quickly filled up with twenty-somethings and a few random older people. We didn’t stay too long there simply because we wanted to see some other places. The next stop was Hi-Jazz Bar. We loved it. The drinks were great (though expensive, but that’s to be expected) and there was a live band. This bar reminded me very much of Oasis Cafe plus a little bit of Snugg’s thrown in there back in New Paltz. We ended up staying here the rest of the night because of the atmosphere.

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More of the half sunken city…
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View from the top the Kaleköy (ancient Simena) castle

The next morning we somehow ended up getting up early (probably because we had to since we booked a boat trip). We packed up our sunscreens, but on our bathing suits, and headed to breakfast before heading into to town for the boat trip. We decided to take the longer boat trip so that we could see more of the coast which meant we had to be driven to a certain area (Üçağız Village) and then get on the boat from there. Once we boarded the boat, the journey around Kekova Island started. About ten or fifteen minutes into the ride, we made our first stop at what I think was the Aquarium Bay. The water was, again, blue blue blue and crystal clear, but this time it was warm and so salty I barely had to do anything to stay above the water. We made a few stops like this visiting different gorgeous bays around the area, seeing a sunken city in the water and above, we saw an old castle on top of a giant hill that we ended up hiking up…the view was breathtaking, having some homemade ice cream, enjoying a BBQ on the boat, swimming a lot, being caked in salt because of how much of it was in the seawater, seeing two sea turtles, and just enjoying the sun, sea, and beautiful sights around us. When we finally returned to the hotel around six that evening we were exhausted and ended up taking a quick nap before going back out into town to find some dinner. 

When we did find dinner though at Zeytin Restaurant, we weren’t all the impressed. I’m sure it didn’t help that the power went out for awhile before we received our food (apparently the first power outage of the summer…lucky us), but the food just didn’t have the amazing taste that we had experienced at the other restaurant. Burak made the mistake of ordering swordfish again (I had told him not to since there was never going to be anything like the one we had eaten the night before) and I had a steak in an apple cream sauce. My steak and sauce wasn’t actually all that bad, but there was just something a bit off about it. The potatoes that came with the meals though were very nice though, so at least there was that. We didn’t end up going out that night because we were so tired from the day’s activities, so we stayed in and relaxed.

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View from a window in the Kaleköy castle

The next day we decided should be a relaxing day. We woke up, had another lovely breakfast, and went down to the beach area. We sat and swam until the early afternoon sipping on another peach margarita, yummy but not quite as delicious as the previous passion fruit one. We took a break from the sitting and swimming to go get lunch in town. We found a place called Sarpedon’s Burger (Sarpedon was a Lycian Prince and son of Zeus, hero during the Trojan war until he was slain by Patroclus…just a little bit of extra information for y’all) and sat down to look at their interesting selection of burgers. All the burgers looked tempting, but I settled on the Speedy Gonzalez Burger and Burak got the Hangover Buger. Both were cooked really well and had great tastes. We had also order cheddar fries and were a bit confused when they first came out as they weren’t what we were expecting. Instead of cheese on the fries as we had thought, they were regular fries but with a delicious cheddar dip (made from real cheese I think!) We then order some frozen yogurt to try and beat the heat and headed back to the beach for a little longer.

The next dinner we ate was at another restaurant that I had seen on Tripadvisor: Natur-el. We were seated near the fan which was great. I had wanted to try a certain dish that I read about but was torn between it and another dish that I ended up getting instead. I got the home made stuffed ravioli, filled with goat cheese and a tomato cream sauce. Burak got the homemade stuffed ravioli filled with sauteed lamb and mushroom and a mushroom cream sauce. Both dishes were amazing and we both agreed that this place and Turkuaz were the best restaurants in Kaş. This restaurant even served us bread and dips with our meal (common place in America but not in Turkey), so it was a nice added gesture. 

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One of the famous Kaş cats… too bad her size can’t be understood from this picture

The next morning was out last in Kaş. We packed up all of our stuff and checked-out. The hotel was nice enough to let us leave our stuff there throughout the day though since our bus trip back home wasn’t until 730 that evening. We sunscreened up and walked all through the town that day, exploring as many shops as I could. There were so many things that I wanted to get but obviously couldn’t. For one, I wanted one of the Kaş cats. They’re huge, practically dogs and have amazing patterns on their coats. My favorite cat looked like a cow. Obviously I couldn’t bring home one of the famous Kaş cats, so I settled on a dark turquoise cute kitten statue. I added a nice Kaş spoon rest and turtle nazar magnet to my collection of things. We had some nice pide for lunch and then a little later we stopped at the Kaş Bio Tea House and some frozen drinks. We stayed there for a bit, out of the sun before continuing to venture around the town. Again, trying to avoid the sun, we sat in an area shaded by trees and ordered some tea. A bit later we tried go to Turkuaz one last time for the amazing swordfish. Sadly, they weren’t open yet, but they told us to come back in an hour and they’d have the stuff ready for us. So, we went back to the hotel, got our stuff, and went back to the restaurant. To our surprise (and the bartender’s) there was no one there when we returned. We were annoyed to say the least but didn’t let this disappointment spoil our day. We ended up going back to Natur-el since we had such a nice time there the night before. This time I got the pomegranate walnut chicken that I had wanted to get the previous night and Burak got some sort of fresh fish (sea-bass I think) which they de-boned in front of us.  We accompanied our last meal with a last drink of Efes (Turkish beer) each. 

We then made our way to the bus station. On the way to the bus station I somehow made a friend in a stray dog (looked like a black lab) who wouldn’t stop following us and kept barking at people to get out of our way. It was quite interesting and a bit funny. We were not expecting that. The bus ride back to Istanbul was much smoother than the one to Kaş especially since there were no transfers. The bus did not overheat and we made it back just in time for Burak to catch his class that he’s taking. 

The whole trip happened so fast and we want to be back there now. It was amazing and definitely a place to revisit. The only things that make me believe that the trip actually happened are my pictures and my bank account plus my little trinkets that I picked up. If you want to visit Turkey, but huge crowds and city life is not for you, go to Kaş. I loved it and cannot wait to return.IMG_3233

People Love to Turn a Blind Eye…

What will you see on the streets when you come to Istanbul? Well, there will be the usual guy on every other corner selling simit (a kind of Turkish bagel), sometimes a guy selling rice, and you’ll also see vendors wherever there is a spare patch of space selling all sorts of knick-knacks such as toys, pens, socks, scarves, black market DVDs. But what else will you see? You’ll see things that may startle you at first, but eventually, just like the rest of the people in this city, you’ll ignore them. You will see the beggars, the cripples, the Romani (gypsies), and, most recently, the Syrians.

When I first came here, I noticed the Romani and I really didn’t think much of them. I had gotten used to them when I was in Italy and, to me, the ones here didn’t seem to be badgering me as much. Yes, they would go and sit on the street constantly saying something about money, food, and God; the usual. In Italy, they’d follow you around and wouldn’t leave you alone. One woman even almost stole my camera out of my buttoned up pocket as I was walking into a church.  One thing that was the same though was the fact that in both countries and probably elsewhere, they always use their children to try and the get the most out of you. But, this is their way of life. This is what they know and the only thing that they have known for generations upon generations. Not to say that it’s the life that they’ve always wanted; these are people who have been persecuted for centuries. The Romani don’t bother me much, though I wish I could take all the children and send them to get proper education and live the lives that children should be living.

Aside from them, the Syrians are becoming more and more unable to be ignored. It started out that you’d see a few here and there, but now? Every time you leave the apartment you can’t go a block or two without seeing at least one whole family of Syrians. Most Turks I know, get angry at the sight of them, curse them out, and want them to go back to their own country. At this point I have to bite my tongue, and sometimes I don’t. They say that it’s the Turkish government’s fault that they are here. Well, these people are not here by choice. These people, these families are here because of war. Because the only home that they have ever known is being destroyed. Their families and their neighbors are being killed. Their houses, markets, and streets, are being blown up. They’ve had no choice. Leave or be killed. But then people like to say, “They have refugee camps. They should stay there. They don’t belong here. They don’t belong on our city, on our streets.” Sure, some of them do stay at these camps. Take a minute here and think. There are probably a little under a million Syrian refugees in Turkey (maybe more now), and there is only room for a about a little over 200,000 of those refugees in the camps that are provided in Turkey. Think about the homelessness problem in America. People often say, why don’t they just go to a shelter? Well, many of those shelters are so bad (theft, deplorable conditions, insane rules, abuse, rape, etc.) that people would rather stay on the streets at night. Now think of it here. These refugees camps are probably even worse. Not enough food or water, not enough space, not enough anything. And it is highly unlikely that they’re safe. Some people say that when they see the Syrians on the streets they give them looks of hatred and disgust to let them know that they are not welcome here. They are probably more than aware of that fact and would much rather be back in their pre-war homes with their pre-war families, friends, and lives. Yes, I am sure that there are plenty of refugees who are taking advantage of the system (there are always those who reinforce the stereotypes), but there are also plenty who are just trying to live. This is not the kind of life that they want for themselves or for their families. It’s not something you wake up one day and think, “Oh, hey. Yeah, you know what will be great? I’m going to go beg on the streets, in a foreign city with a language I barely know, where the people hate me, and  I’ll take my baby too. Let’s sit in this 90 (32C) degree weather all day, rain, shine, dirt, spit… It’ll great! People will glare at us, spit at us, humiliate us, treat us like we’re dirt.. yes, that’s what I want to do.” No, people do not wake up like this. This is something that these people are doing out of desperation. A last resort. Maybe they saw Turkey as a get away from everything. Maybe they saw Istanbul as the the city of dreams (many Turks do as well which is why so many people move here). Maybe they thought how could it get any worse than the hell they’re living in their war torn country? Well, they came, they’re here, and they’re living a whole new kind of hell.

I always say to try and put yourself in someone else’s shoes and don’t judge. Just imagine being at the very end of you rope. You have nothing except maybe your family if you’re lucky. Other than that? Nothing. But you need to eat. You need to sleep. You are a human being and you have basic needs and you should have basic human rights. And your family too, your babies. Maybe your family is your driving force. But others around you don’t seem to think you should have those rights. Imagine how desperate and finished you would have to be to give in and beg. Some say it’s a matter of pride, but when you’re left with absolutely no other choices and your child is starving in your arms, I don’t think you’d really care about your pride. It could be worse. They could be violent. But they’re not. They sit there, and they ask for money or food, anything that you could spare. They say words in their broken Turkish that can make you feel bad such as, “How can you just walk by? Look at my children!” It makes you feel uncomfortable?  It should! And that angers you? Why does that anger you? Because deep down you actually feel bad, but you don’t want to feel bad. You’re mad at them for being in your city, for wanting your money that you earned; you’re mad at them for making you feel bad. But yet this country talks so highly about its religion and its loving god. Would your god be happy with you for walking by dirty, starving children? You don’t think so? Aren’t they mostly of the same religion as you all are as well? All of these contradictions in this city frustrate me to no end. They are people just trying to live, the same as you and me. Except they seem to have it harder than we do at the moment. Why can’t people see that? It’s not their fault. They didn’t ask to be put in these positions. Stop blaming them and maybe aim your anger at the actual source of the problem. The government. Their government. This country’s government. The surrounding countries’ governments. None of them truly want to deal with the problem, so what do they do? They set up a few camps here and there to make it look like they’re doing something when they’re really doing next to nothing. Some of them may even use them as a ploy to win elections or to start a war. I’m not saying I know what to do or how to handle this, I wasn’t a PoliSci major or anything of the sort, but, please, just treat these people as if they’re actual people and do what you can to help. Don’t be part of the problem.