Saturday, April 28, 2012

Saturday April 28, 2012
Our 5th Wedding Anniversary

  Today is our 5th wedding anniversary.  We already feel like we are on our second honeymoon since we are half way around the world and this has been such a relaxing experience.  Even though we have an agenda while we are over here it really is like a vacationI can't imagine having to go back and forth every couple days, driving an hour each way just for an appointment at the reproductive endocrinologist.  Being able to eat a nice breakfast and then walk to the hospital two minutes out our back door has been great.  
  Things can change while you are here depending on what the ultrasounds and results of egg collection are.  In our case my follicles were growing but not as fast as they would like so my medicine dosage was increased Thursday and thus my retrieval pushed out a little further.  Mine were growing at 1mm per day and they want 1 1/2 mm per day.  At my ultrasound today they showed a greater jump so the increase in medicine is working, but now we are crossing our fingers that the retrieval is at the latest Wednesday, even thought the doctor I saw today said maybe Thursday.  Once the eggs are retrieved and the sperm is injected they wait 3-5 days before the transfer.  I had to buy a couple more injections of my morning medicine that prevents the eggs from bursting, so keep that in mind when you budget money.  I only needed two more injections so far so it was $150TL or approximately $83.  You will also need medications after the retrieval and I have been told that is roughly another 300 TL or $167.  Each person is different and they can not tell you beforehand about what "else" you might need.  It is case by case and day by day.
  You might occasionally see Dr. Arici's partner, Dr. Ozturk, especially if it is on a Saturday.  She is nice and spoke to me in English after she did all of her counts during the ultrasound.  I will be glad to see Dr. Arici on Monday however since he knows my case and will be making the final decisions and doing the retrieval and transfer.  He is very warm and everyone makes you feel comfortable.  Privacy is important here and I was curious and maybe a little nervous about thatI have always felt comfortable and well respected.  

  After the appointment we hopped in taxi in front of the hospital and took a very expensive ride to the Pendik market which we went to last Saturday.  The guy obviously didn't understand where we wanted to go because it cost 50 TL and we ended up in town instead of the flea market.  We called Burcu who kindly spoke to him and got us at the right spot.  Considering it was only 25TL on the way home we definitely went out of our way.  If you have a phone call Burcu and ask her to tell the drivers where you want to go before you leave the hotel/hospital.  She gives you each a card when you first meet her so keep it safe.  I also recommended getting a taxi card from the Anadolu taxis so you can call from the Fatih train station. 

$14.00 for all this!
  Our goal at the market was to get some veggies and just relax for and hour or two.  I needed to stock up for dinners and also wanted some snacks like nuts and figs.  In the picture above we figured out we only spent 25 Tl or $14.00!  We got over 1 lb or walnuts, 1 lb of pistachios, 1 1/2 lbs of strawberries(we gave some to Jeff and Kim), and a kilo of mushrooms, which is 2.2 lbs.  We also got 1/2 kilo of figs(1.1lbs), six cucumbers, loads of tomatoes and six lemons.  I definitely recommend going to the markets that the locals go to, look around, check out prices and haggle if you need to.  The prices are much better at these type of markets than at the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar.  I know that I could have never gone to my farmer's market and purchased all of this stuff for $14.00.  The pistachios alone would have been $14.00!   

  At the Spice Bazaar the other day they had figs stuffed with walnuts for sale.  Apparently they eat this a lot for breakfast.  I meant to take a picture at the bazaar because it was labeled as Turkish Viagra!  Since we bought both figs and walnuts I thought I would take one here.

Turkish Viagra!

You never know gentleman, it just might be the ticket!

More to come on our journey tomorrow...

Friday April 27, 2012

  Today we rested, read books, and watched TV.  John was able to download some shows to keep us occupied on days like this.  We got bored after awhile and took a walk around the grounds ending at the hotel restaurant.  We sat outside and John ordered a beer called Efes.  I had a tiny sip and it was quite good.  Very light in color, clean with a crisp taste.  It was however very strong and after a few minutes he said he could feel it.  Beer is a lot stronger in Europe than back home as the alcohol content is much higher.  It was very relaxing to sit on the back deck overlooking the sea.  The weather was beautiful but it was quite windy and the sun umbrellas kept falling over so fearing we might get squashed we went back to the room and ate dinner. 

  On this night I made chicken kebabs with a cucumber yogurt tzatziki sauce for dipping and a marinated cucumber and tomato salad.  I also sauteed onions and mushrooms and added in a can of white beans, spinach and some chicken stock.  They weren't Bush's Great Northern Beans but it was pretty good for a quick healthy dinner. 

  At home I add spinach to everything from pasta to rice to smoothies so I bought a bag at the store.  It was so packed in there we will be eating it until we are gone, which is good because it is high in folic acid,  You need lots of folic acid before and during pregnancy to help with the baby's neural development. I have been taking it for two years but if you aren't on a supplement they will put you on one when you get your medications at your first appointment.  I am not sure of the cost but it might be worth it to ask Burcu that way you can bring it from home if it is cheaper.  

Chicken kebabs with beans and vegetables

Easy tzatziki sauce made from cucumbers, yogurt , lemon juice and olive oil. 

More to come on our journey tomorrow...
Thursday April 26, 2012

  We had an ultrasound appointment today to see how my follicles are growing and how many there are.  Every appointment Dr. Arici checks and then tells the nurse how the endometrium looks.  He then counts and gives the sizes of each follicle in each ovary.  Today he said he saw a small polyp on the far side of my endometrium that he couldn't see before.  I was of course worried.  What did this mean, was it bad, was I going to have cancel my cycle etc??  He explained that it was simply left over tissue from my last cycle that wasn't sloughed off and it was small enough that he was pretty sure it wouldn't be a problem.  If they are bigger, then he considers collecting the eggs and having the patient come back after the body has cleared it out.  Luckily in our case he says he can place the embryos far enough to the other side that it should be fine.  Our chances are still decent, but have gone down a small amount.  Please keep your fingers crossed and say a little prayer. 

  Today after our appointment we ventured out with our new friends from Texas, Kim and Jeff.  They are about a week ahead of us in the process.  Out of respect for them I haven't mentioned their names or put any pictures on the blog in the past, but they said that it was fine.  They are the same American couple that I have mentioned before.  I am behind in my blogging and it is really Saturday.  They had their embryos transferred yesterday and we are praying that their cycle was successful and results in a healthy pregnancy. 

Jeff and Kim

  I had been wanting to go to the Princes' Islands off the Anatolian(Asian) coast and when Kim mentioned it we were definitely game.  She had her oocyte (egg) collection yesterday (Wednesday) so we really wanted to take it easy and do something relaxing.  In order to get there we had to take the train from Fatih to Bostanci.  Bostanci is a really nice town with outdoor restaurants and nice shops. It is right on the water and is one of the major ferry boat ports. 

  We took a large ferry (feribot in Turkish) to Buyukada the largest and most touristy of the four islands.  The ride was smooth and relaxing and took about one hour.  On the way over we were followed by a flock of enormous seagulls.  Passengers feed them off the back of the boat and they catch the food or dive for it as it hits the water below.  

Seagulls diving for cookies and crackers

If you look closely the bird on the bottom left caught a cracker in flight and has it in his beak

 It is the last island that the ferry goes to so if you want just a nice peaceful meal you might want to get off at Kinaliada or Burgazada the first and second stops.  The third is Heybeliada and is a little more touristy than the first two but not as much as Buyukada.  It is also home to the former Greek Orthodox  School of Theology which has a famous Orthodox library that is still open and used by scholars.  Our five year anniversary is April 28 so we are talking about going back for a nice lunch or dinner to one of the smaller islands.  

On our way to Bayukada from one of the other Princes' Islands


  Once we were off the ferry we walked into a quaint town with ice cream shops, restaurants, patisseries, and street vendors making flower headbands for women and girls.  We walked up a little hill and ate a nice lunch.  We each ordered some hummus as a starter, which was a lot thinner than we are used to but decent.  For our meal,Jeff and I ordered Simit cheese and tomato pressed sandwiches.  Simit is a local sesame bread sold on the streets, ferry boats, trains, and restaurants.  Many eat it as a snack in between meals.  John ordered a chicken dish that was delicious.  It looked like a quesadilla and really had a mild Mexican flavor to it.  I apologize for forgetting what it is called.  

At the restaurant on Buyukada

Simit pressed cheese and tomato sandwich

Chicken something..all I know is that it was delicious! 

     The only form of public transport are horse drawn carriages called phaetons.  They line up down one street and around to pick up passengers and take them around and up the island.  From what I understand they will take you half way up and then you can hike the rest of the way to an old church.  The view is supposed to be amazing.  We did not feel like doing a bumpy ride and then hiking and thought it best to take it easy.  You can also rent bicycles but they are not allowed on all of the streets.

Below you can see all of the phaetons lined up ready for passengers to hop on for their tour.  The line wraps around and passengers get on closer to the center of town. 

A workhorse hauling large jugs of water

  The people of Turkey take care of the local stray animals and you will see them everywhere, even in Istanbul.  The dogs have a tag in their ears and I am assuming that they are picked up, checked out by a veterinarian, maybe given shots, tagged, and then let go again.  they lay around the streets and people feed them.  We have seen several around the hotel and hospital grounds that are extremely friendly and look well fed.  There are also cats wandering around.  Here on the island they were everywhere.  At our restaurant they came up to the tables and stared at you until you.  Kim ordered fish so they all came running when they smelled that.  They were very bold and we never saw anyone shoo them away.  Kim felt sorry for them so she shared her fish and they were in heaven.  

You can't see all of them but there were 12 in this little fenced in area hanging around the restaurant patrons.

We spent the afternoon buying bread, chocolates, and wandering the seaside streets.  We ended our island trips with some gelato or ice cream.  When we went to Italy five years ago on our honeymoon I believe we ate it everyday.  It was one of our favorite things and no matter where we got it, it was delicious.  We have since tried to duplicate and buy our favorite kind, hazelnut, many times without success.  On this day John was so excited because they had hazelnut gelato.  It was pretty good but still not as delicious as the real thing on the streets of Rome.

Seaside Restaurants

  Overall I would definitely recommend going to the Princes' Island for a nice relaxing day or even getting a hotel and spending a night or two in between doctor's appointments.  There is a lot to do and see including beaches, restaurants, bike riding and hiking.  As we head into May the tourism is likely to start picking up so it might get crowded.  If you are just going to visit for a day go during the week.  We are looking forward to going back next week if we have time.  

The ride back from Buyukada

More of our journey to come... 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wednesday April 25, 2012

  Today we slept in, got up, ate breakfast.  We had a little time to kill before the shuttle arrived to take us shopping at the grocery in Gebze Center Mall so we went over to the hospital so we could cut through and check out the couple shops that are in the hospital parking lot.  There is a pharmacy, a salon, and a mini mart. After shopping at Kipa we came home and cooked dinner and now I am getting the evil eye because I have been blogging for 2 hours and John wants the computer.  Tomorrow we have an ultrasound appointment with Dr. Arici and then we plan on hopping a ferry to the Prince's Islands.  

  If you don't know us you might be wondering why I blog about the food we eat.  It is partly because I figured those considering coming here for IVF might be wondering what they will eat especially since they will be here for 3 weeks.  It is also because I am somewhat of a foodie and have a food blog.  Although I haven't kept up on in awhile. Here is what we had for dinner tonight.  Shish kebaps (shish = lamb) with a marinated carrot and cucumber shaved salad.  I also made a tzatziki, or cucumber yogurt sauce, to dip the lamb in.  We also found Barilla pasta that is made with zucchini and spinach.  I made a bechamel white sauce and added a little cream cheese to it.  Then I tossed in fresh spinach, tomatoes and sauteed mushrooms.  Easy and delicious.

Tuesday April 24, 2012 

  Today we went with the husband of our American couple friends to the Grand Bazaar on the European side.  We took the train and the ferry boat again which seems like the cheapest way to go.  We first headed to the spice market again to do a little more shopping and then made our way to the Grand Bazaar.  We really just wanted to see it but more importantly our friends are also big into cooking and he had heard about a knife shop that sold really nice kitchen knives with wood handle and Damascus steel.  I guess they are really nice and stay very sharp.  We were hoping to find it but after walking for a long time we never did find it. I don't think we anticipated how large the Grand Bazaar is.  We will try again but this time we are hoping to find an address on the internet and take a cab there.  

  Taking videos and pictures today was not easy.  We were moving fast and a lot of where we were we took pictures the other day.   The area is full of some tourists as well as locals.  We met an Australian man that helped us some.  He spoke fluent Turkish and comes to Istanbul 1-2 times per year to fill a container ship of merchandise for his store in Australia.  He was very nice and tried to direct us to the knife shop because he knew what we were talking about and had bought knives there with his wife, but we obviously did not follow his directions well.

  Istanbul is truly a wonderful city.  It is full of life and the people are very kind and willing to talk to you when you approach them.  They are quick to get out of their seats to let women and the elderly sit down on the bus and train rides.  I was unaware of this the other day as John told me that a  young man apparently got up to let me sit.  I did not realize it because I was holding on for dear life as the bus weaved in and out of traffic.  Apparently they don't worry about whose lane is whose because the buses taxis and shuttles we have been on drive wherever they want to get to their destination as fast as possible. 

   After searching for the knife shop we realized we had walked pretty far and did not want to get back to the ferry boat too late because the locals would get off of work around 4pm and it gets very crowded on the trains and ferries.  I was also getting tired  so we took a taxi back to the ferry port and now I can cross riding in a race car off my bucket list because he went so fast I almost had an accident in my pants.  Before we got in the cab there was a vendor selling strawberries on the street.  They were beautiful and only 4 TL or $2.20 for a kilo which is 2.2 lbs.  Although they were big and beautiful they were not nearly as good as the small cone shaped ones I got at the Saturday market in Pendik.  
  After the taxi ride we decided to stop at a bathroom before getting on the ferry.  You have to pay at a lot of public restrooms but it is usually on 1 TL.  That doesn't mean you get great service or even a toilet, as is the case below in the men's bathroom.  John was kind enough to take a photo for all of you to enjoy.  Don't worry though ladies I haven't had to use one of these yet!

Public toilet in a men's room!    

  I apologize for the photo above being so close to the food photos, as I sit here writing it is grossing me out. 

After we got home we decided to make dinner.  We had purchased some lamb chops at the grocery store Kipa the other day and couldn't wait to try them.  Burcu (our contact at the hospital) mentioned that lamb was a little different here than at home so I wasn't sure what to expect.  It was wonderful and tender.  Cooking for two in a tiny kitchen isn't that bad at all.  I usually cook rice, bulgar, lentils or pasta first, load them with veggies and then set that aside.  It helps to cook more so we can have some the next night for dinner.  We eat a lot of tomatoes and cucumbers tossed in a little olive oil and lemon juice as a salad.  

Lamb chops with sauteed mushrooms

   more to come...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sunday April 22 and Monday April 23, 2012

On the ferry from Haydarpasa to Eminonu
  On Sunday we decided to the European side of Istanbul with the other couple from the states to go to the Spice Bazaar. Thank goodness for them because now we know how to at least get over there and back easily.

  We took a 2 minute taxi ride to the train station at Fatih where it costs 1.75 TL or about 97 cents to ride the train to the end of the line at Haydarpasa where the water taxis are located.  It was about an hour ride on the train.  The ferry costs another 1.75 TL and takes about 20 minutes to get to Eminonu which is where the Spice Bazaar is located.  You can also easily get  to other sites such as the Grand Bazaar, Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia, and Topkapi Palace from this ferry port.  
View of Istanbul from the ferry

Topkapi Palace


  The Spice Bazaar is a short walk from where the ferry docks and it a very neat place to visit.  In the front before you walk in there are fish, cheese and meat vendors.  The vendors are ready and waiting for Americans and even ask you " how can I get your money".  If you nod and say no thank you they have no problem letting you pass by.  Some are more persistent than others but they are always nice and respectful.  Most shops have at least once person that speaks pretty good English since it is a popular tourist location.  

  You can of course by wonderful spices, but there is also teas, nuts, souvenirs, rugs, lamps, handbags, jewelry, and Turkish Delights, which are like a jelly or honey candy made with nuts.  I found that the prices were not as good for some things as they were in Pendik especially for the nuts but you can haggle with them.  There is also a pet and garden market in the same area where you will find parents and children looking at the fish, birds and puppies for sale.  

One of the many spice vendors

A variety of Turkish Delights

Beautiful lamps

Kilim rugs, pillows, and pottery

 When you walk out the other end you are near the New Mosque and will see the men preparing to go in by washing their feet and then putting their socks and shoes back on.  There are plenty of street food vendors selling roasted chestnuts and ears of corn.  The streets are clean and well tended and you will find small sit down restaurants where the workers welcome you in to eat.  

  We stopped and split a Pide which is basically a flat bread pizza with a mild white cheese.  Our friends had one too but they asked to add fresh vegetable so it came out with tomatoes and some kind of small pepper.  It was delicious as well.  The Pide  has quickly become one of my favorite things.  John got a Doner which had chicken (Tavuk) gyro meat, lettuce and tomatoes rolled in a thin flat bread and pressed.  It was good but needed yogurt or a sauce. 

  Overall it was a beautiful day.  It was wonderful just walking around, riding the ferry, and hanging out with new friends.  We picked up a few souvenirs, stopped and drank tea, and now we are looking forward to going back over to the other side Tuesday.  This time we plan on going to the Grand Bazaar which is the largest and oldest market of its kind in the world. 

  Monday we didn't do much because we had a doctor's appointment in the morning after we ate our breakfast.  Everything is right on track and he suspects that he will do the oocyte collection a week from today.  I start a second injection tomorrow morning which prevents the follicles from bursting prematurely.   After our appointment we went to the Gebze Center and went grocery shopping at Kipa.  We weren't rushed this time so it was nice to wander around and be able to plan meals.  We had fresh fish and a mixture of bulgar and rice with fresh vegetables.  I also made some homemade skillet flatbread. 

Local fish with bulgar wheat, veggies and skillet flatbread

  Fish is very inexpensive here compared to where we live and so is lamb.  John and I both love lamb but it is a treat at home.  I purchased lamb chops and calculated it to be about $10 per pound vs the US which would have been probably  1 1/2 - 2 x that.  It still isn't cheap by any means but since it is just the two of us we can splurge. 
  More on our journey later...

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Saturday April 21, 2012
Pendik Market

Pendik Saturday Market
Click on the video above
  Today we  decided to to venture out on our own to Pendik to go to a local farmer's/flea market which to my understanding is only there on Saturdays.  The shuttle picks up in front of the hotel and the hospital about every hour on Saturdays.  Schedules are available for this particular shuttle in Anadolu Hospital.  It started to rain on the way there and I stupidly forgot my coat so when we got their I was freezing and had to buy a jacket. Luckily it was mostly covered and it stopped within a half hour.  

  The market is incredible.  There are aisles of fresh fruits and vegetables, dried fruits, nuts, olives, cheeses, and pickled items. There is also a myriad of shoes, handbags, clothes, undergarments, perfumes, and even goldfish for sale.  Most of the vendors are men, young and old.  Everyone was incredibly nice and they seemed to pride themselves in their products.  The walkways were clean and the tables were set up with items meticulously stacked from the shirts down to crates of neatly lined strawberries. 

Grapes leaves for stuffing... I might have to buy some next time!

Wonderful tomatoes neatly stacked

Walnuts, beans, and dried fruit.

John and one of the many stands of strawberries

  Since we are doing dome cooking we bought beautiful strawberries, lemons, curly peppers, cherry tomatoes and a container of berries that look like a long skinny blackberry.  Turkey is known for its pistachios so we also came home with 1/2 kilo.  It is helpful to have a converter on your phone to get an idea of how much you are buying.  

We had to haggle for these...2 TL for 4 lemons approx. 25cents each

The curly peppers: we had to try and figure out if the were hot or not

All of these items were pickled in these barrels

Click on the video above

They remove the leaves and the chokes and soak the vegetable so it doesn't turn brown.  It was fascinating watching them do this because they are so fast. 

  The language barrier makes it very difficult to communicate, but despite that everyone is very gracious.  Along the way we met an older man(below) that wanted us to take his picture.  We finally figured out that he wanted to see his picture too.  He was so excited that he gave us a beautiful bunch of Sarimicak, or garlic, and would not let us pay.  

Add caption

  We haggled with some of the men and pretty soon were surrounded by others.  John looked at me and said," I think they have discovered we are Americans we better get out now before we spend all of our money".  They were all eager to have us try their produce and basically thought they had it sold before we could move.  Being that I could live on fruits and vegetables and was in heaven I would have bought it all but John reminded me our refrigerator is dorm size and got me back to reality.  

  We had a little trouble getting home.  We are fly by the seat of our pants kind of people so lets just we didn't plan very well.  We had no idea if our shuttle would pick us up or if it stopped there and what time.  There were so many vehicles there it would have been impossible to find if it was there.  We ended having to walk through the Pendik City Center and ask about every 5 minutes where to go.  It was difficult because of the language barrier but if you ask enough people they will get you in the right direction.  We had the address and phone number to the hotel/hospital but we didn't want to take a taxi unless we had to because it is so expensive.  Everyone was extremely nice and tried to help the best they could.  Many even went out of their way to find us someone that spoke English. 

  While we were searching for a way home we noticed that Pendik is very nice.  It has clean streets, lots of shops,street food and people.  You could here the call to prayer(ezan) from the minarets at mosque in the center of the city.  The chanting is done six times a day and depends on latitude, longitude, sunrise, sunset and the geographical relationship to Mecca, the Holy City of Islam.  As I sit here and write I can hear the evening all out my window.  If you plan on visiting a mosque I recommend knowing what the times are for prayer or you may not get to go in.  That happened to us on our honeymoon.  

Click on the video above-this one was shaky sorry, I was really recording the call to prayer
A park on the way to the city center
 We finally made it to the Dolmus or shared blue taxi bus area where after asking 15 different drivers someone got us on the correct bus.  We had to change buses once and the driver kindly made sure we got on the correct one.  The fare is cheap at 1 - 1 1/2 Turkish Lira for each ride.  We finally made it back to the hospital...well almost, he dropped us off on the entrance ramp to the hospital right on the highway.  At that point we were just thankful we could see something we recognized.