Category Archives: Expat

Winter in Belgium…

A rare sunny day in Brugge....

With all the snow that has been falling in Turkey, and in Canada, I am really missing my white winters.

Our first winter in Belgium was a weird one, there was actually snow, and not just a little bit, but a lot of snow, it was wonderful.  It also happened over the Christmas break, so we had a white Christmas.

It is also the first Christmas that Alara really remembers, so now, she finds it so strange when there is no snow at Christmas (poor kid…)

Our landlord told us that it wasn’t normal, that in the past fifty years he could only remember one other winter like that one.

And for the past two years the winters we have been living the ‘real’ Belgian winter.

It’s cold, not freezing, but cold.

It’s damp, and often there is rain, and the rain is cold.

Worst of all, it is grey.  There is a real lack of sun.

Now sometimes, like this weekend, the call for snow.

And sometimes, that snow comes!

And then within a few hours it quickly turns to rain, and we are back to our typical Belgian winter.

Now, I’m not complaining about living here in Belgium, I actually really love it, but one does get tired of the rain.

So, while you are sitting in our house, with the snow falling outside, thinking about having to shovel your drive way, or dreaming of a snow day…

Think of me, getting out my rain boots and umbrella to walk to Alara’s school to pick her up.

She never has a snow day!

A grey day in Ghent....

A grey day in Ghent….

Expat Living- Friends


“Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold”

One of the most difficult things about being an expat is making and keeping friends. Expat living can be a very transient lifestyle, people are always coming and going. It can be very rare that you are in the same place, with the same people for very long.

Here is how it starts, when you first move to a country, you try to be friends with any one who speaks the same language as you. Maybe they work with you, maybe you meet them in a classroom, or maybe you over hear them speaking English in a Starbucks and you start up a conversation with them. Whatever the reason, the commonality of language is the key factor.

You realize that you are only friends with that person because of the language. That they are a person who, in your normal life, you never would have been friends with. Sometimes that is a good thing, and you’ve opened yourself to a whole new kind of person and friendship, and sometimes it isn’t.

Then, you start to become more picky, just speaking the same language is no longer enough, you start to look for friends who you actually have something in common with, or dare in say, like.

And then once you’ve settled into a routine with this friend, coffees, shopping, even play dates with the kids you both have, it is time for one of you to move on.

What do you do? How do you deal with this revolving door of friendships?

Keep in touch! You never lose a real friend. They are always with you, and these days it is even easier to keep them with you. Facebook, Skype, text, keeping in touch is not as difficult as it once was.

Keep making friends. You can never have too many friends. You don’t need to replace them, just make room for everyone.

Keep your options open, yes you are no longer going to be friends based solely on English, but give someone who you wouldn’t normally be friends with a chance, maybe she is ten years older than you, or not married, but perhaps there is something else that that you two have in common.

Since I started my life as an expat I have had some of the most amazing friends, people who have been through all of the major and minor moments in my life with me. I am truly lucky.

In the last few years I have had to say goodbye to so many of these amazing friends, and looking towards the summer, I am dreading saying goodbye to two more amazing people.

This is the life of an expat.

You can’t close yourself off, as my grandmother used to say, every stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet.

Expat Living- Breastfeeding in Public


Today I went to my local breastfeeding support group. There are two facilitators, Jane and Cindy, (who are so resourceful) and a bunch of new mothers, some first time, some second or third babies. We sit and chat about breastfeeding problems, mothering questions, new baby issues and try to bounce ideas off of each other to help each other out.

Breastfeeding is hard. It isn’t as easy as it looks in the beginning. I had some very painful problems in the beginning with both Alara and Ela, and with Ela, this group helped me out immensely, and I have since been able to go on and continue breastfeeding her.

What does this have to do with breastfeeding in public? A lot actually, because if you are not comfortable and relaxed while breastfeeding, there is no way that you are going to even attempt to breastfeed in public.

Seyfi and I always said that we were never going to let having children stop us from traveling and going out. However, we don’t want to leave our kids at home either.

So we take them everywhere.

With Alara she went to every restaurant, cafe, dinner party, you name it with us when she was a baby. Here’s the thing though, I would breastfeed her in a separate room. I would go to a different area, or one of those breastfeeding rooms in the shopping centre, and breastfeed her there.

Not with Ela.

With Ela I have a whole new outlook on breastfeeding in public.

I do it wherever I want.


I have breastfeed Ela, in airports, on airplanes, in restaurants while eating, at friend’s houses, at the library, at the park, the list goes on. I have even breastfed her on the top of a open double decker tour bus while touring around London!

I just make sure that I cover myself up.

There are a few reasons why I no longer hide myself…

1. I have a three year old, I am not going to lock Alara in a room with me while I am trying to feed Ela, and it is just the three of us.
2. If it is the four of us, or we are with friends, I don’t want to be left out. I don’t want to miss out on anything that is happening around me!
3. I love going out, and so does Ela. I don’t want to spend the next year of my life stuck at home. The best way for her to see how to behave in public, is for us to actually take her out in public.
4. We are only in this part of Europe for a short time. I don’t want to take a year out of being able to travel around and see great places.
5. And this one might be controversial, but I am just feeding my baby, and there is nothing wrong or shameful in that.

Ok, so those are my reasons, here are a few tips…

*bring something that can go over both you and the baby. Most people won’t even notice if you are covered up. I generally use an old pashmina or really big scarf. You can buy/make one of those cover ups.

*if you think you are going to have to breastfeed in public, plan your outfit accordingly. A dress that doesn’t allow access from the top may not be the best choice. But blouses, flowy shirts, wider sweaters all work well.

*find somewhere comfortable to sit down. This is so important, you do need to be comfortable, otherwise it will be difficult to get comfortable, and then you will have to adjust yourself more often, which I find stressful.

*this is a tip for restaurants, but try to put your baby on the side that allows your ‘good’ hand to work. This way, you can still eat without dropping food all over yourself!

You know, I’ve never had anyone say anything to me while I was breastfeeding in public, maybe I’ve been lucky, but I’ve done it in a few different countries, and it hasn’t been an issue…

I hope that if you choose to breastfeed, that you have all the support that I have had, and you can always email me if you need some more!

Location:Rue des Brasseurs,Mons,Belgium

Jamie’s Italian


Since Seyfi has been wanting to do more cooking, to get inspiration, he has started watching more cooking shows. One of his favourites is Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals.

So, when I suggested that we go to a Jamie Oliver restaurant while we were in the U.K. last weekend, he was totally up for it.

I’ve been a fan of Jamie Oliver’s for a super long time now, and ever since he started catering his cooking style to an accessible, easy, home cooked style, I have really gotten into it.

I also, really agree with his ideas on how we should be feeding our children, about introducing them to new tastes, and giving them healthy food. I loved his food revolution shows (both the ones in the U.K. and U.S.), and learned so much from watching them.

Anyway, onto his restaurant…

It was BRILLIANT!

Loved it! Loved the food, loved the atmosphere, loved the service! And it wasn’t too expensive either!

Firstly, let me start by saying this, they know how to take care of people with dietary challenges- and we are such a family! I’m deathly allergic to fish, Seyfi has celiac disease, so there is no gluten, and none of us eat pork! We are not easy people!

But, the server handled it all, listened to everything, helped us choose, and made appropriate substitutions where necessary. We left there feeling great!

So here is what we ate:


A shin of beef, braised over night in balsamic vinegar served over creamy polenta…

Amazing…


A whole spring chicken, split and grilled, served with artichokes…

Delicious!

This was Alara’s…


Two mini sliders, one turkey, one beef, served with polenta chips and a ‘shake it’ salad…

The polenta chips were to die for!!
(obviously Seyfi didn’t eat this one… Poor guy…)

Here is Alara enjoying hers…


I was so happy with everything about this restaurant! I can’t say enough about it! I only wish that we could have gone there for both lunch and dinner!

I hope that if you are ever in the U.K. that you will take the opportunity to try out one of Jamie’s Italians. Totally worth every pence!

Expat Living- The Girls’ names


So many people ask me about the girls’ names. How did we choose them? Why those names? What do they mean? So I thought I’d shed some light on the topic.

To start with, Seyfi and I had a deal, I would choose the names, but the need to be modern Turkish names. For Seyfi, it was important that we didn’t have older names that were out of fashion, or religious names.


For me, I wanted a name that sound good in English. It could be a bit different, or spelt differently, but it had to be easy for my family to pronounce. I also didn’t want a name that had any of the funny Turkish letters in it.

Together, we both decided that we didn’t want a middle name. In Turkey, often the middle name is the name that gets used, and that is the opposite in Canada, so we figured forget it, one name is more than enough.

As a teacher of young kids, it was easy to be exposed to lots of different names, some of the names I liked, but always seemed to have a crazy kid attached to them, or some names seemed to generally have a nice kid, or an interesting kid.

Alara was easy to find. I’ve taught a number of Alaras, and they have all been lovely, good girls and the name is easy to pronounce.

As for the meaning, this is where it gets more difficult. I asked two of my students named Alara what it means, and these are the answers I was given.

1- the water that angels wash with.

2- the colour of the rising sun.

Beautiful, just like her.

Ela, it wasn’t originally my first choice for my second daughter. I has originally wanted Lila (pronounced Leela), but I felt that the pronunciation was going to be a problem, we went to Ela, which Seyfi liked more anyway.

Ela means the colour hazel, as in the eye colour. Alara’s eyes are a hazelly green colour, so we thought that maybe Ela’s eyes would be the same, but as of right now she has got the biggest blue eyes, whoops!

It’s still a beautiful name, just like her.

Since we aren’t planning on having any more children I will let you in on what our boy name would have been, Kaan.

It is a very popular boys name, and I will say that although I have taught a lot of boys with this name, they were generally very interesting boys.

It is a very Turkish sounding name, but it is really one of the only boys names that I like.

So, that’s how our two beautiful girls, got their beautiful names. I love when people ask me questions like this!

While in Istanbul- Çengelköy


Today we did my absolute favourite thing in Istanbul. We packed a breakfast, bought some pastries, and went to a tea garden in Çengelköy on the Bosphorus and enjoyed the morning.

So many people go to Istanbul and never get to the Asian side. They see all the ‘big’ sites, and head home, but there is nothing like sitting in a tea garden, eating simits and borek (pastries), drinking tea and feeling the breeze of the Bosphorus on your face, especially if there are no other tourist about to ruin by raising the prices!

Now, I am not saying, don’t go to to the big sites, they are breath taking and worth seeing. However, if you have an extra day, take a ferry over to the Asian side, especially to Çengelköy or Beylerbeyi (there is actually a beautiful palace there to see), hangout with the locals, and (in my opinion) enjoy my favorite part of Istanbul.


We had such a lovely morning here with our friends (who are two of the most interesting and kind people I have ever met), it truly is my favorite thing to do in Istanbul, I wait for it every trip we take here.

I’ve always said that I would never want to live in Istanbul, but if every day could be like today was, I might be able to change my mind…

While in Istanbul- Van Gogh Alive


I love going to art galleries, and so does Seyfi. It is something that we really want to expose the girls to.

Istanbul is a great place to see different types of Art. They get a lot of the big artists in, and to be honest, I’ve loved all the exhibitions that I’ve been to here.

Today we went to a different type of exhibit, Van Gogh Alive. They have taken varies works of Van Gogh, a the project them, animated with music in the background.


It was so cool, to see the paintings really big, walking around while they were moving kept your attention, and made the whole experience more interesting.

Did you know that Van Gogh lived very close to our house in Belgium? I could walk there. I still haven’t been there… But after today, I think I’ll take a special trip over!

**I couldn’t use the flash on my camera, so my pictures weren’t the best, these pictures come from here.****

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