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Michelle from Göztepe

 Untitled Document

Interview with Michelle Kalpakçı

Tell us about yourself
I am a small town girl from South Carolina. I have lived in the South all of my life. I had traveled around Europe after finishing high school but I never imagined I would live here. I worked several odd jobs while I was in college and after but I never found the right one. I wandered around aimlessly until I met my future husband.

What made you come to Turkey?
Simply put, I came here for my husband. We met in the US where he was completing his masters. For me, it was love at first site. I couldn't imagine being without him. The original plan was that he would come here for his Army time, and then return to the US. The more we talked while he was gone, the more we realized it was better for him to stay here and work after the Army. So, when he got out, I came here. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. I have a 3 year old son that I left in the US while I got settled here.

What do you do in your daily life?
I am teaching English and right now I am taking a course to teach ESL (English as a second language). I am hoping to work in a preschool for international children. I worked with children at home and it is the most rewarding job in the world.

Family?
Here I have a great family. My husband's family works very hard to make me feel comfortable. His father never stops trying to feed me. His mother is always trying to make me a "fashionable yabanci (foreigner)" and his sister is great. We also have tons of friends that make me feel welcome.

At home my family is still worried. They didn't like the fact that I came here. I think Turkey gets a bad rep in the US and it is hard to get over the stereotypes. I try to send pictures and reassure them, but I am not sure it is working. I really think they thought I was coming to a place where camels roamed and women were second class. I wish they could really know how strong women are here! Maybe one day.

Can you compare your first days here with today?
At first, it was great. I think in my mind I felt like I was on a long vacation. After a couple weeks I was left on my own. I came here knowing very little Turkish and very little about the culture. I had ideas about life here but until you come, you can never really know. I had such a time trying to go to stores alone. I knew how to say "anlamadim" (I don't understand) and believe me, I used that phrase a lot. After the newness wore off, I started the depression phase. I felt dumb, useless, and really alone. My husband works a lot and so do our friends. Also, my husband's family doesn't speak English so I had no communication with them. I started stressing about every little thing. Then, one day, I realized that the only way to feel better was to get out and do things. I had to stop feeling sorry for myself and get over it. Now I am busy and a lot more relaxed here. I no longer feel like a visitor, now I feel like I belong. I am proud of my "home" and I wish everyone I know in the US could come and see the beauty that I see everyday.

Has living in Turkey influenced your approach to life?
I am learning to stop worrying. I see people here just doing what needs to be done and not complaining. I am learning to go with the flow. For me that is the biggest influence. People here have an air around them. An excitement for everything. I have been to a few football games and the air there is so exciting. These people work so hard for what they have, but they really know how to let go at the end of the day.

Turkish language?
I am ashamed to say I am not fluent yet. I have been here 9 months and I spent a lot of time alone in the beginning. I really got lazy about learning the language. I am learning more everyday though. I can now go wherever I want and do pretty much whatever I want. I have relied on my husband and friends for translation too much. I really recommend learning the language above all. Nothing can make you feel worse than sitting in a crowd for hours and not knowing what is going on, unless someone translates.

Let's talk about the region you are living in?
I live in Istanbul. It has to be one of the greatest cities in the world. There is energy and life and culture all right here. You can see some of the oldest structures in the world right beside very modern malls and food chains. It is a wonderful combination. The traffic is not perfect but you can't have it all. At first I was amazed by all the things going on here. Where I come from we don't have anything at all. Here you can sit and have çay (tea) while you are watching the boats go by. You can go to plays, ballets, and operas any night of the week. The restaurants are fabulous. There is every kind of food you can imagine. The section I live in is Goztepe. I love this area. We are right at Kadikoy and we can be on the other side in less than 30 minutes. Our apartment is in a perfect place. We are behind Ozgurluk park and it is a quiet area. All of the store and market owners around here are very helpful. I have gotten to know them all and they make life a lot easier.

Have you traveled in Turkey? Tell us your discoveries
I have only traveled a little around here. My favorite places have been the Big Island (Büyükada) and Şile. We will go this summer to Antalya and I can't wait. I have heard so many great things about the area.

What is your preferred characteristic trait of Turks?
The people I have met are very giving. They will give you anything they have without thinking twice. They are also some of the nicest, most honest people you could ever meet. Everyone is helpful and understanding. They are genuinely interested in learning about you.

What was the annoying one?
I have to say the driving. I don't know if that is a characteristic but it annoys me. Not only does everyone drive fast but they also drive recklessly. It seems like chaos most of the time. I don't know if most of the people that drive here, could last in the US. I am honestly shocked by how recklessly everyone drives. One note though, I don't see nearly as many wrecks as I would imagine there to be……….

Turkish Cuisine?
Turkish food is wonderful. I come from a very picky family in terms of what they eat and what they don't. At first I was thinking I would lose a lot of weight here. Everything was so different. Once I started just trying things, I fell in love with some of the foods. Everything is still growing on me, but I can say that I have gained weight instead of losing!

Any suggestion to new comers to Turkey?
My only suggestions are these: Learn the language and try everything. You can't learn anything new unless you try it.




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Filiz from Beyoğlu
Fred from Adana
Frederic from Ankara
Hana from Istanbul
Harry from Antalya
Iben from Alanya
Ingrid from Tesvikiye
Isa from Istanbul
Jan from Kuşadası
Jane from Manavgat
Janine from Izmir
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Jennifer from Sultanahmet
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Kathy from Izmit
Kayla from Bostancı
Kenya from Beyoğlu
Leela from Nisantasi
Lisa from Sydney
Marc from Kosuyolu
Maria from Moda
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Michelle from Göztepe
Molly from Galata
Nilgün from Suadiye
Omar from Ankara
Omar from Umraniye
Paolo from Beşiktaş
Pat from Göreme
Pat from Yaniklar
Patricia from Kartal
Patrick from Bodrum
Paul from Antalya
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Latest comments about this article

 By okantor  29.11.2007

Hi,Michelle Turkish is not very hard language.I have been teaching Turkish to foreigners for 8 years.Most of my students Americans(especially Southern people: North Carolina ,Arkansas,Oklahoma) If you need to learn Turkish ,I can help you.My charge 35 Ytl for 2 hours. Cell 0536 8859824

 By usenerta  30.4.2007

I left the USA CA 2 years ago. I hope you can find what u looking [email protected]

 By Fceviksenol  18.4.2006

Hi, I live in Selamiçeşme (very close to Goztepe). I have a 3 years old, if you need any friend pls contact me [email protected]

 By KateRN1  20.9.2005

Hello, Michelle! I am also a good ol´ Southern Gal, originally from Jacksonville, Florida (which is really just waaaay south Georgia!). I´ll be moving to Istanbul with my husband October 2005 and would love to meet up with a fellow Southerner. I´ll bring the gravy if you bring the biscuits! Kate [email protected]

 By Levent  12.5.2005

By Levent hi michelle !i am from sf bay area,ca living in istanbul.I´d like to get in touch with you email me [email protected]

 By tweety  25.4.2005

By the way, my email is [email protected] Take care Berna

 By tweety  25.4.2005

Hi Michelle, I also live in Goztepe. I have just moved back to Istanbul from the UK. I lived there for 2 years. Goztepe is a great place, very close to Bagdat street. Lots of shopping, lots of entartainment as well. If you need accompaniment for shopping in Bagdat street, drop me a line :)

 By Gamze  3.3.2005

Hello Michelle! I´m Turkish-American (a Jersey girl) and I can relate to everything you´ve said. Sounds like you´re adjusting well. Beginnings are always a challenge! You´re not alone. Take care.

 By Summer  31.10.2004

Hi Michelle, welcome to Istanbul. My story is almost similar to yours and I´ve been here for four years now. I´m also working with preschoolers and there´s a position open at my school(Quite near to Goztepe) for a native English speaker so when you are ready, contact me! I´d love to chat.

 By anna  27.8.2004

Hi Michelle, I am really happy everything worked out for yo. I can understand how hard it can be to be in a foreign land. But rest assured you are in good hands. The Turks will look after you. I want to vist Antalya myself, hopefully next year. I live in Australia, so I am still saving for my holiday. Regards A.

 By Aydin  24.8.2004

My aunt lives in Goztepe on Tepegoz sok. I have lived there as well. It´s walking distance from most places, but walking is relative to me. I live in the Canadian Rockies with my wife and daughter. We do come out to Turkey ever so often to visit and we usually spend time with my aunt and my cousin who lives in Suadiye. Wishing you all the best. Aydin Odyakmaz www.Aydin.ca

 By debbiekefeli  12.8.2004

I also live across from Ozgurluk park. It´s a great area, though those plays they had all summer kept my husband from being able to sleep at a decent hour :)

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Lisa from Kadıköy
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