Visit to Russia, my home country, brought fresh perspective on my life here in Turkey. As I described my Istanbul and Sapanca living over and over again to my Russian friends and relatives I got to realize a few things. Like in that professor who explained a theory so well that he eventually understood it himself.
Before the trip to Russia things here seemed far from easy. My tiring shuttling between Istanbul and Sapanca. Long hours at the kitchen often resulting in a back pain and tears of helplessness. Mood swings of my mother-in-law fighting a disease doctors have been failing to identify and hence treat. My unfulfilled desire to spend more time with Özgür in Istanbul. Not spending enough time with him in Sapanca either. Not getting enough rest. For a few weeks before our trip to Russia I felt so exhausted that I withdrew myself from much of our Sapanca life altogether. I would either go to Istanbul or just stay in my room in Sapanca reading or browsing internet and constantly thinking about my perplexed life. We have even procured some lead as the women of the family thought is was high time to pour some and cure me from an evil eye possibly cast on me.
The perspective has changed as I was talking to my former colleagues and friends back home. Seeing them brought alive the memories of the lifestyle I had as a Moscow professional only a few years ago. Running like crazy the whole day helping someone else achieve their bottomlines, living on supermarket-bought food and mediocre lunches, being completely drained out of energy by the weekend and often times not even having the full weekend to rest. Enthusiastic and encouraged by the presence of Özgür who joined me on this trip I I was happily explaining how my life in Istanbul and Sapanca is a complete antitheses to the one I had in Moscow. And more than that – how we actually prefer the be on the countryside in Sapanca and in the long-term see ourselves living and working there.
More effective than pouring lead was a midnight conversation we had with Özgür just before the trip (night is the only time of the day we can converse uninterrupted). He asked me again if long-term I see us here in Sapanca and I again gave my definite yes. He said that it means we have to be present here already today. That things can’t be left to the hired staff as we cannot expect our great crew to care about the place the way we do. We can’t leave it to them now and come 5 years later to take over the control.
He was right, my logic-driven husband. And it was his rightness which scared me. I thought I would love to retire at a place like our farmhouse in my 40s but could not get excited about the prospect in 30s when I feel the whole world could be my playground, not a single countryside house.
Özgür’s family left Istanbul and moved to Sapanca with a achievements in their sleeves. My mother-in-law settled here when she was 47, a former accomplished national athlete and police officer. My father-in-law was 64 and by that time he had harnessed handsome returns of his venture, first in Turkey agency renting simulations translation equipment. Özgür was 37 when he moved to Sapanca after 15 years of running MICE business. They had some time to accomplish certain things in their lives before “retiring” to the countryside lifestyle.
I have come here at the age of 29 which really feels like high time to grow, achieve and be present in this world. And this is why I started my own venture – Istanbul cooking classes and food tours. And then ironically life has brought me a man who decided to trade the big city life for the countryside house on a hilltop and asked if it looks like a place I would like to settle in. Now.
My few friends back home said astonished by the change, “I can’t believe your the professional ambitions can fit a kitchen”. I said, “If you have professional ambitions you can carry them anywhere including a kitchen. They will spring off and branch out showing you the direction”. I want to believe it is true for me.
I want our countryside business to flourish. And I feel I was called for here. And I love the place. It is important to me we keep our guests coming for what initially brought them here – great food, that of my mother-in-law. And from the experience however good cooks were helping here they could not get her flavor right and consistently. I think I am close to that. And I think others here understand that too. Özgür’s cousin’s mother staying with us for a few months told me when we came from Russia, “You belong here, I should be here at this kitchen and stay on top of the things. Promise me that!” I can promise to help at the kitchen but I can’t promise that alone will satisfy me.
In time I want to move most of my cooking classes here to Sapanca. I also see here ample opportunities to create more extensive culinary programs with multiple cooking classes, visits to the local farms and markets. It will take time to set up such an opportunity, develop local relationships and set up proper facilities.
I thought it is time to stop being an ostrich. To stop ignoring the fact I have made the choice long time ago when said “yes” to my husband yet. And to accept the consequences I have been refusing to face. Being here in Sapanca going forward means being here already today. At the kitchen if required, implementing small improvements, socializing with my family, expanding the horizons of how we live and do business here at our countryside house.
Yesterday we hosted a journalist: we first toured the Kadıköy market in Istanbul and then came to Sapanca to cook and then enjoy the cooked delights on our terrace with a fantastic view. As we sat down for dinner she said, “I can’t believe this is your everyday lifestyle! And you are so lucky to have both – city life and countryside living”.
The kitchen was hot and I was slightly tired of the day’s preparations but I looked at the view lit up by the sunset colors and at my husband sitting nearby and said, “Yes, we are very lucky”. I promise soon I will create ways to share that luck with many of you.