Thursday, September 28, 2017

Bi' Çay İçermisiniz?

For my first year in Ankara, I am a Transatlantic Diplomacy Fellow - that is, I am part of a diplomatic exchange program with the Government of Turkey.  I'm working at the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs for a year before I move to the Embassy in 2018.  I just started at the MFA this week, so I'm getting my feet underneath me and trying to learn my way around a new set of acronyms with my rusty Turkish.

(If you're curious about the program, here's a piece written by a Turkish diplomat who served in Washington a few years ago.  We do this type of exchange with several European countries, so it's not just Turkey.)  

With all of three days under my belt, it's hard to generalize about the differences and the similarities between our respective agencies, but there's one thing that I absolutely adore:  the tea service.  It's a well-known fact that Turks are constitutionally incapable of functioning without tea and, to a lesser extent, coffee; it's one of the many reasons I love it here, since the nation is as caffeine-addicted as I am.  At the Ministry, all you have to do is call the floor tea station and put in your request - tea, coffee, water, whatever.  Five to ten minutes later, someone shows up and delivers caffeine to your desk, then comes back a bit later to pick up your empty glass.  At the end of the work day, the tea attendant comes by to settle up with everyone.  Brilliant.  You can order for yourself, for your office, for your guests, whatever.

It's always struck me as strange that the Department of State (in most cases) doesn't pay for coffee, tea, or water to be used in official meetings.  Most people I know spring for refreshments out of their personal pockets instead.  I get that it could seem like a waste of taxpayer money, but I wish I could quantify the returns we get by showing basic politeness and hospitality to our guests to set against the cost of providing coffee.  The system at the MFA here seems just right - yes, we pay for our caffeine, but someone is there to provide the service expeditiously if we need it for official purposes.  And, as far as I'm concerned, keeping my veins humming with strong Turkish tea is crucial to my official duties.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Arrival in Ankara

Didn't have much to say when I was in DC for the last few years.  The TL;DR: version is Eric and I had a kid, Charlie, and we got assigned to Ankara for three years.  Onwards we go!

Charlie, the cats, and I arrived in Ankara a week ago, at the start of ten days of official holidays.  The confluence of several local and U.S. holidays at the end of August/beginning of September means that I've had lots of time to adjust to the new house and time zone.  Eric has some mandatory training to complete for his job, so he won't join us for at least another month.  In the meantime, we've got child care lined up for when I start work on 5 September, and I've borrowed a friend's car while she travels so that I can stock the house at IKEA, the commissary, and the grocery store.  

Charlie has always been a chill little dude, not minding being booped or held by strangers.  That's a good thing, given how Turks love babies.  We had legally been in Turkey for all of thirty seconds after exiting passport control when one of the airport employees practically ran over to jiggle his cheeks and play with his toes.  Even after a twenty-hour journey in which he didn't get much sleep, Charlie was all smiles for the guy.  Everywhere we've gone, he's attracted cuddles, boops, and copious maşallahs from the people around him.  When we were at IKEA, one little girl (maybe seven?) came up to him, got right in his face, and immediately turned to her mother in concern, saying "Mama, he doesn't have any teeth!!  Why doesn't he have any teeth?"  Everyone got a laugh out of that.

This was in many ways the most difficult PCS I've ever done, but it was simultaneously the easiest at times.  It was the first time I had a full house of furniture to sort out, after having lived a single person's life with limited furniture and possessions prior to our purchasing a house in 2013.  I also had to negotiate getting Eric's training on my orders, passports/visas for all three of us, and travel with an infant, which suuuuucked.  On the other hand, I took off the entire month of July and the first half of August to be able to plan this move, since for a number of reasons we weren't sure we would be able to come to Turkey this summer until mid-June.  Since Eric couldn't come yet, we paid for a friend of ours to fly with me and Charlie so that I would have another adult on hand to help negotiate the kid, two cats, and a substantial amount of checked bags.  (I highly recommend doing this at all times, whether or not your spouse can travel with you!)  Also, this is the first time I've ever PCS'd to a post where I knew so many people already here or scheduled to arrive in the coming months - one close friend from college is coincidentally here, plus several close friends from State and DOD are here.  I guess that's the benefit of nearly ten years of service in the Department and in this AOR - now I know a lot more people than I did even five years ago.

I'm looking forward to starting my job next week.  It'll be a new adventure.  Now to keep polishing my Turkish, which has gotten quite rusty since we left Istanbul in 2012...

Friday, August 25, 2017

Testing, Testing

Is this thing still on?