Tuesday, January 12, 2010

In Case of Emergency, My Husband Has the Same Blood Type

I'd venture to guess that 90% of Americans don't know their blood type. In the past, I used to giggle and snort at the fact that it was listed (alongside your religion, no less) on Turkish ID cards. Come to find out, not only is this info kinda important if, God forbid, you find yourself in an emergency situation, but also if you want to join a gym.

My birthday resolution (I like to give myself 10 more days to eat, drink and be merry AFTER the new year), was to take better care of myself by going to the gym. A friend of mine suggested that I go to the sports club run by the municipality, called the Hanimlar Lokali (The Ankara Women's Club). This place is kind of a women's center where you can acquire just about any skill set under the sun from step aerobics, to theatre, guitar and swimming...you can get your hair and make up done, check out a book from the library and play table tennis...all for $68/year. Compare that to a high-end gym around here, which will set you back about $3000/year and this seems like highway robbery. I've decided to carry out that crime and join the Ankara Hanimlar Lokali.

When I started to look at the list of requirements to join, though, I realized that there's another price I have to pay...getting myself stuck with a needle. At every single doctor's appointment in the past (this is NOT an exaggeration), I passed out. It goes exactly in this order: I sweat, turn as white as the nurse's jacket, I unconsciously hold my breath, and then comes the "helmet"--the invisible enclosure that starts to come over my head and block out all sound and eventually sight, followed by the kind nurse (that has been forewarned) resting me gently on the bench and giving me some form of sugar. Needless to say, I had a small anxiety attack when I walked into Guven Hastanesi today to have the requisite blood drawn and resolve my "kan grubu" mystery. I warned the nurse, who must have been half my age, of my trypanophobia, and she told me to look away and don't forget to breathe (a pretty good reminder for someone like me). She asked which arm was better, and I laughed, explaining that I have abnormally narrow veins and it doesn't matter which arm--she'd probably have to end up circling around attempting to poke something that would serve up the appropriate cc of blood in both arms in the end, as per usual. I inhaled, felt a small poke, and kept on breathing...soon enough, it was over! I didn't even break a sweat, nor were there the usual purple and blue works on my inner elbow! Cheers to the Guven Hastanesi nurse--you accomplished something no other nurse in the history of mankind has done! I decided then and there, in case of emergency, I choose Guven Hastanesi and if I need blood, ask my hubby...we adorably belong to the same "kan grubu".

I wasn't so hopeful when I went to the Saglik Ocagi (polyclinic-type thing). I will spare the gory details, but I was thankful I only had to go there to get a note from a doctor who simply had to look at me and sign a piece of paper saying I looked physically ok to participate in sports. I was kind of surprised at the operation of that clinic, and I'm not so secretly glad that I didn't have my blood drawn there. I know most people only go to such places for simple procedures...but I think I'll stick to having all procedures, simple or not, at Guven Hastanesi.

Lamb Kofte...SEASON'S EATINGS! :)

While I was making this recipe tonight, I couldn't stop repeating the lines from my favorite Saturday Night Live skit of all-time: http://www.ebaumsworld.com/video/watch/80460110/


  • 1/4 kilo ground lamb (about 1/2 a pound...if you can't find lamb, beef is ok, but lamb is uber delish)
  • 1/4 grated white onion (keep the juice)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 C dried bread crumbs 
  • 2 heaping T of cumin
  • 1 1/2 T hot red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 T Salt
  • Generous dash of nutmeg
Prepare for Schweddy Lamb Balls! (Yes, I'm five years old...)
  • Grate the onion over the meat so you can use the juice in the mixture as well
  • Mix all the other ingredients in, and really get in there and massage the mixture with your hands
  • Form into golfball size shapes and allow to sit in the fridge for about an hour
  • Pre-heat your skillet to medium and use the back of a spatula to press the balls into flatter disk shapes (bye, bye, schweddy balls...)
  • It usually only takes a couple of minutes on each side

You can top them with this delish yogurt dressing if your heart desires (and yes, my heart desires...):
  • 2 c strained plain yogurt
  • 2 chopped garlic cloves
  • 2 1/2 T dill
  • 1 1/2 T mint
  • Generous dash of salt
Stir it all up, and again, let this set for at least an hour in the fridge so the garlic and other spices can really disperse.

Afiyet olsun!

Kemal Kofteci

I have a new neighborhood friend. I feel comfortable saying "friend" because, like saying, "I love you," you never want to be the first one to say it for fear of non-reciprocity.

However, Kemal Bey said it first, so we are officially friends. Yesterday was my big birthday (wheee), and I decided to treat myself to my favorite neighborhood dish: cig kofte. Mind you, this isn't the "true" cig kofte with raw meat, rather the veggie kind, which is equally delish. First, I must explain the joy of cig kofte. When ordering a "full order" (which costs the equivalent of $7 and feeds two people), you receive a generous amount of cig kofte (my guess would be about a kilo), a full head of iceberg lettuce, a full quartered lemon, some nar eksisi (pomegranate vinegar), and if you like (which I do like) a side of burn-off-all-tastbuds pepper paste. To consume this delicacy, tear off a leaf of lettuce, place one or two koftes inside, pour on some pepper paste, lemon juice and nar ekisi, wrap it up like you swaddle a baby and get that baby in your belly!

So on my birthday, instead of cake, I wanted cig kofte. I walked in to the tiny tiny tiny store that Kemal Bey runs, called Meshur Adiyaman Koftecisi (The Famous Koftemaker from Adiyaman). He knows my hubby and I well already, seeing as we frequent the place far too often for our own good. He also already knows that when either of us go alone, it's usually for a half-order, so he asks, "You'd like the usual?" I said, "Absolutely--this is my birthday treat to myself," to which Kemal Kofteci responds, "Then I will give you an abundance of kofte today and you won't pay--it's my birthday treat." Somehow the excitement of birthdayness and the prospect of eating cig kofte clouded my judgement. I should have known better than to mention my birthday. A guy like Kemal Bey (and many many other Turkish people in similar situations) would not even consider letting you pay on a special day like a birthday. I merely mentioned my birthday in hopes of complimenting Kemal Bey that I chose his place for my birthday treat for myself, not in hopes of getting free cig kofte.  I insisted, in a futile attempt to explain the reason I mentioned by birthday, that I should pay like any other customer, but was given the response, "If you set one coin on my counter, I don't want to see your face again." Pretty severe threat. Enjoying conversation with Kemal Bey and his cig kofte as much as I do, I humbly put my wallet back in my bag.

I wish more people were like Kemal Bey--sincere, generous and life-loving. Sometimes, his rapidfire Turkish comes at me faster than I can comprehend, and on the occasion that I do, I can barely get a word in to respond edgewise. But the gist of the majority of our conversation consists of how he hopes that God will never wipe the smile off my face; that he wishes for my health, my husband's health, my family's health, his family's health, and the grocer across the street's health; that people who abuse animals are just as likely to abuse people; that we should all step back from our religious beliefs for a second and see that what unites us is much greater than what divides us...that in the end, we all have one thing in common: we're human.

Thirty minutes had passed without my even looking at the clock once. He insisted that I should come back to drink coffee or tea with him sometime soon. I am confident that I will, because Kemal Bey is one reason that I know God keeps that smile on my face.

The Most "Shocking" Experience

So, I was about to sit down and write a really rad sequence for my yoga class tonight. I had gathered my books on the table, and was multi-tasking by fixing dinner at the same time. I removed the toaster plug (recipe for what I was making to follow) to plug in this very computer from which I'm writing. Suddenly: "SPAT!" with a bright flash of light and my heart in my throat. No fire (THANK EVERY LUCKY STAR...and spark), but of course I was suspicious. I immediately called the hubby, who remembered that there was an electrician down the street (gotta love our 'hood...), but first suggested I check with our kapici (doorman) who may have a good person to contact. Of course, the kapici wasn't home, but his daughter was, and she didn't know of one. I grabbed my bag and walked down the street to the very spot my hubby suggested to Mr. Elektrikci, and explained my problem (in my most awesome Turkish). He said he'd be there in 15 minutes. Unsure of whether that was a "Turkish 15 minutes" or a "real 15 minutes", I called the place I'm supposed to teach yoga tonight and we agreed to postpone the class. Less than 10 minutes later, the electrician was at my door with a flashlight, took one look at the outlet, flipped some switches, took apart the outlet, said there was no power, and soon enough, we were back in business. Sadly, they had already called my students to cancel the class (boooo), so no class tonight. On a happier note, all electrical outlets and appliances in the house are still working, and I had to pay only about $14 to rest assured of this fact. The sweetest thing was that just as the elektrici left, the daughter of the kapici knocked on my door to say she'd found the number of the electrician. I'm really lucky to live in the building I do...our neighbors are fantastic. I ran into my neighbor below us on my way back from finding the electrician, and he assured me that these electricians are good guys and they'd resolve the issue (check). I might also add that I am invited for tea on nearly a weekly basis just to socialize with my very sweet neighbors. Even more, to celebrate "Ashura" (which fell on the day after Christmas here this year), our kapici's wife delivered us a bowl of "Asure", in case I hadn't tried it before. I'm not a huge fan (I HAD in fact tried it), but the hubby enjoyed every last bite. I really am thankful for the awesome sense of "community" in Turkey. Too bad it's totally different when you're an anonymous pedestrian trying to cross the street...