Friday, September 23, 2016

Moving to Bursa and Where to Live

So you’ve decided to make the move to Bursa, the fourth largest city in Turkey and you’re wondering where to live in this city of two million people. Whether you’re moving for work, love, school or you just love the city, check out my tips below on where to live in Bursa. 

First of all, it would be helpful to know where you’ll be going everyday. Are you a student and going to Gorukle every day? Are teaching in the old city center of Heykel? Bursa is narrowly spread out across the foothills of Mt. Uludag. You wouldn’t want to commute from an eastern neighborhood in Yildirim to Gorukle everyday, as the commute would take way too long. While traffic isn’t as bad as Istanbul, Bursa traffic is getting increasingly worse with construction and an ever-expanding city.  There is a pretty decent public transport system including a couple of trams, buses and two main metros, but during peak hours, you can feel like a sardine stuffed in a tin can.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the more popular areas in Bursa:
Nilufer: Nilifuer seems to be the most desirable area in Bursa due to its expat friendly neighborhoods, nightlife and its close to proximity to public transport and just about everything else in Bursa. Specific areas that are popular among both locals and expats for living quarters are areas around the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Boulevard (FSM), the Korupark Residence area and Besevler. Housing isn’t cheap in these areas although you can sometimes come across a good deal. Rents in the above areas typically range from 800-1800 TL per month.  You’ll love these areas because of the nightlife (both on FSM and Podyum Park), the Metros at either end of FSM for fairly quick public transportation and you will feel welcomed by the locals.

Osmangazi: Before the Nilufer area became popular, most people lived in the Osmangazi areas of Heykel, Kukurtlu and Cekirge. Rents are more affordable in these neighborhoods with rent ranging from 400-1500 TL per month. Kukurtlu is a beautiful neighborhood with parks, cafes and close public transport. Cekirge is similar although a bit further from the metro. Heykel is the old city center. Traffic can be kind of tight here during rush hour and the streets are usually quite narrow. I love going to Heykel to discover cool shops and to chat with the locals. All the way out near the Bus Garage (otogar) is a massive community called Bursa Modern. The homes and towers are beautiful but if you ever want to meet up with friends (most of them will probably live near FSM), you’ll have a bit of a commute on your hands.

If you’re a student studying at Uludag University, you’ll probably want to live in Gorukle. Gorukle offers some of the most affordable housing options in Bursa but is a bit far from FSM and Heykel. While they have their own little community of bars and restaurants, it’s still a bit far out for my taste. That being said, I know many people living in Gorukle and they do not mind the commute.  Ozluce is another option between Gorukle and FSM offering newer flats with semi-affordable rent.

Many expats live in Bademli. Bademli is a neighborhood that isn’t easily accessible without a car. There is public transport but it is sparse. This area offers many “villa” type homes often coming with swimming pools and 24 hour security. Rent in Bademli can range from 1500-3000 TL per month.

Before you decide where to live in Bursa, my advice to you would be to choose a place close to public transport. No matter where you choose to stay in Bursa, I am sure your experience will be an unforgettable one.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Thinking about coming to Turkey? Think again....and then come!

Traditional Turkish Tea
Hahaha...I got you! With all the hoopla in the media regarding Turkey in the last few months, I thought I would chime in and give my 2 cents.

While visiting Seattle for the month of July, there was an attempted coup in Turkey. It was the weirdest thing: I was on a boat heading to the San Juan Islands when I started receiving messages from friends and family both in Turkey and the US. To hear of the attempted coup in Turkey was heart breaking. It seemed like just when things were starting to quiet down, this happens. My family and friends were grateful that I wasn't in Turkey during the coup attempt. Many of them advised me to change my ticket and stay a few more weeks in the US so that things could "cool off" here. Well, We didn't change our ticket and came home to what was pretty much business as usual for Turkey. No, there weren't tanks roaming the streets; no, there weren't armed gunmen on every corner. People were just going about their daily lives as they always did.

Turkish Coffee
When people ask me about if I feel scared of living here, I just remind them of the recent attacks in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. In todays world, an attack, earthquake, Ebola and just about anything else you can think of can happen to anyone, anywhere. Your location doesn't matter. If it's your time, it's your time. I truly believe that mainstream media makes things worse than they really are. That being said, you should always be aware of your personal surroundings whether you're in London, New York or Istanbul and use due diligence.
Delicious Food From Antakya

So, should you come to Turkey for work, to live with your family or to simply visit? Absolutely. Turkey still has some of the beautiful, historic places I've ever seen. The people of Turkey are some of the most humble and friendly people around.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Living in Bursa, Teaching English & Handmade Scarves!

Hello Internet Browsers!

It's time for a little update on the Turkish Trekker blog. First of all, I'd like to say thank you for all the comments and and messages I've received from readers over the years. If my blog helps just one person, I consider it a success!

What have I been up to? Well, after a short leave from teaching English, I've returned to my 'roots' as an English teacher--you just can't beat the time off. Summer break is just around the corner and we're busy planning on yearly escape to--somewhere. I'm still living and working in Bursa, Turkey and still having a blast. And no, there is no war in this part of the country.

My wife, Duygu, has been busy with her online Etsy shop. Duygu and her mom are designing and making hand-made scarves and selling them online: If you'd like to support our family by purchasing a scarf or other hand-made item, we'd surely appreciate it!

In the mean time, if you have any other questions about Turkey or any city in the country, leave a comment and I will do my best to help you out! :D

Until next time.....

Saturday, January 18, 2014

It's Been A While....

I am a terrible blogger...I know. There's been many changes in my life since my last blog post, but a few things have remained the same:
  • I am still in Bursa, Turkey
  • I'm still married to a beautiful Turkish girl
  • My Turkish still sucks
  • I still spend too much money at Starbucks
  • IDO Bus has canceled their foot ferry service from Istanbul to Bursa
I could probably go on and on. 

On the other hand, there are many new things going on as well:
New house, old house, work in relation to nearest Sbux.
  • I am no longer teaching English
  • We're moving houses (see illustration)
  • I've learned how to cook noodles thanks to some Filipino friends
  • I've met some great new foreign friends this year
  • There is a new HeliTaxi that will ferry you to Istanbul in 25 minutes
  • Many of my married friends are making babies
All in all, things are going well. I still don't get to spend as much time in Istanbul as I would like to but I hope that will change soon.

I hope to continue blogging about different topics in the future so check back often.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Living and Working in Bursa

I’m often asked what it’s like living and working in Turkey, particularly what it’s like living in Bursa. Many people want to know about the cost of living in Bursa, how difficult is finding a job and what the quality of life is like in Bursa. I’ll try to cover as much as possible without boring you too much. After all, there are many blogs out there with many different views about living and working in Turkey, the following is my opinion.

First and foremost, I live in Turkey to be with my wife, Duygu. We came here to be near her family and friends and to travel. Working comes second. Since I am a foreigner and my Turkish skills are mediocre at best, I am limited with what I can do to earn money. Naturally, since English is my native language, I chose to teach. There may be some international companies out there that would hire me as is, but it’s all about who you know here and I don’t know many people—yet. I could work in the tourism sector but I am just getting to know the country. It really all boils down to the fact that I am not fluent in Turkish. Once my Turkish improves, I do believe that doors will open.

When it comes to teaching English, there are many private K-12 schools, as well as private language schools. Not all schools are created equally. Some offer housing, some do not. Some will employ you under the table (illegally), others will work with you to secure a legal residency and work permit while in Turkey. My advice to you is that you: stay far away from schools that are not willing to employ you legally. You do not want to face the consequences from the Turkish government if you get caught working illegally.

If you end up working for a private K-12 school, you will typically work a 9-5 schedule with occasional Saturdays—the number of Saturdays depends on your school. If you work for a language school, be prepared to work evenings and weekends, when most people are out of school or not working. The pay is similar between the two for starting teachers with more reputable private K-12 schools typically paying a bit more.  

Bursa is a nice city and is located 2 hours away from Istanbul by ferry. It claims to be the 4th largest city in Turkey after Izmir. The air is fresh, we are near the sea in Mudanya and Mt. Uludag is about 45 minutes from the city center for skiing and other outdoor activities. On the other hand, Bursa is a conservative city. When compared to Istanbul the nightlife here is pretty much non-existent. There are some bars and cafes that you can visit to have a drink and relax, but in the winter, be prepared to make a reservation to go to a Red Robin/Applebee’s style restaurant to eat and drink on Friday and Saturday nights.

Rent in Bursa can be as low as 450 lira per month in the older city center, all the way up to 1200 lira or more for newer places located in trendy new neighborhoods. On Average, expect to rent a 2 bedroom, decent and clean place for around 800 lira.

Like the rest of Turkey, Bursa is relatively inexpensive compared to the US and most of Europe. Meats, electronics, cars and gas tend to be more expensive as these items are considered luxury items by the Turkish Government and are usually taxed accordingly.

If you’re on the fence about coming to Bursa, I would say go for it! It truly is a lovely place to live and work.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Family Life

Moving to Turkey has been a massive life changing event. I couldn't have done it with out the help of a few very important people here in Turkey. I've talked about the value of friends in previous posts, but this time I will focus on family--specifically, Duygu's family.

Photo from my first visit to Turkey. Grandma, me, Ozgur, Ayse, Umran & Duygu
I met pretty much the whole family when I first came to Turkey almost 7 years ago. I was lucky as they liked me from the beginning. They did have some reservations about the idea of Duygu marrying a foreigner, but once they had the opportunity to meet me in person, I think that they knew that their daughter/niece/sister/cousin was in good hands.
When we first moved to Turkey, we stayed with Duygu's mom for about 11 months. She was extremely helpful! She loved having Duygu home again after a 5 year absence. Duygu's mom often made dinner for us after work, did our laundry and many other things to help adjust to life in Turkey. Umran surely made life easier on us for the first year we were here.

Duygu's mom, Umran & Duygu
Ayse and Duru
Duygu's brother, Ozgur, and his wife Ayse were helpful, too. Honestly, I am not sure how how we would have survived without the help of Ozgur and his family. He has taken me to doctor appointments, helped getting cell phones & internet up and running and many, many other things. Oh yeah, Ozgur and Ayse have the most beautiful 6 year old girl, Duru. See for yourself below.

Duru, Ozgur and me

There have been many other family members that have helped along the way, too. Whether they meet up with us for a coffee, join them for a fun night of karaoke, or give us a ride to an important appoint, they have contributed to our transition more than they could ever know. Below, I'll introduce you to a few other family members.

The photo on the left is of Duygu's grandma,  Aunt Nurdan, Umran, Cousin Gizem, Uncle Salih and Duygu. Nurdan, Gizem and Salih all speak English well. It's because of them that my Turkish sucks. :)

Last year we attended a family wedding where we met up with Duygu's cousins Esra, Fulya and Gizem. Duygu is on the right.

On the left is me, Gizem and Duygu. Duygu doesn't have a sister, but she has her cousin, Gizem. Duygu and Gizem grew up together very closely, with Gizem often finishing her own ice cream quickly, then stealing Duygu's.

On the right, Duygu is posing with her cousins Ozlem and Arzu. On the left is Inci and I. Inci, Ozlem and Arzu are sisters. They are very fun to hang out with!

I'll finish with the photo below of a dinner we had at Ozgur's house. In the photo below, you will find me, Ozgur, Ayse's mom, Ayse's sister Hulya, Ayse's brother, Ayse's brother's wife and of course, Duru.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Renewing an American Passport in Istanbul, Turkey 101

I recently paid a visit to the US Consulate in Istanbul. My passport will expire next March and I will not have much time before then to start the renewal, so I started early. This is the my second visit the the American Consulate in Istanbul. I visited the consulate six and a half years ago when I got married. The Turkish government required a form from the consulate stating I was eligible for marriage. Just like the first time I visited the consulate, the process for a passport renewal was a breeze.

The American Consulate has an in-depth process of the passport renewal process on their web page here. I'll take a moment to describe my experience
at the consulate. First of all, you must have an appointment. You can make an appointment online via the consulates website. I booked my appointment a week before coming to Istanbul and there were few openings available. If you are like me, and you have your valid, unaltered passport in hand, then you will only have to bring the following to your appointment: original passport, one passport photo, a photocopy of the bio page found in your passport and the completed DS-82 form.

The actual process for me only took 4 or 5 minutes as I had prepared everything before hand. Unfortunately, I waited about 30 minutes for the previous appointments to finish up. Since the office was air conditioned, I didn't mind.

After paying $110.00 on my American Visa card, then 15 Turkish Lira for UPS to ship the new passport to my school, I was finished. Super easy!

The American Consulate Istanbul
The American Consulate in Istanbul is massive! After you enter the first door, you must leave all electronics at the front desk, including cell phones. I found my way to the American services section quite easily. I was given a number and was asked to sit in the American Citizen waiting room. The area where non American Citizens wait is pretty large. I think I counted 8 or 9 windows where consulate staff were actively working with Turks and I assume many other people from all over the world.

I understand that the US does not make it easy for Turks to receive visas to visit the US. As a result, many of the people that I saw appeared as if they were going in for a job interview. Most everyone was very well dressed, well organized and I'm sure had butterflies in their tummy. The consulate doesn't do a very good job about putting people at ease. With the 3 inch thick bullet proof glass and the fact that there is ZERO privacy, I would feel a bit nervous about the whole experience, too.

In the end, I would say that the process of renewing your passport in person is very easy. I do know that one may renew their passport by mail, but since I didn't want to go through the process of getting a cashiers check from my Turkish bank and fumble with the mail, I figured an in-person visit would be easier. Plus, it was an excuse to visit Istanbul for a few days!