by guest blogger Holly Walck
Moving 5,000 miles away from home is, for sure, a challenging experience on many levels. For example, the isolation from friends and family with whom you share a common language and the upheaval of one’s daily routine from the known to the unknown, can make for some tough times. But one of the most daunting facets of ex-pat life, for me, was losing what I like to call my “organic façade.”
Back home in the States, I bought almost 75 percent organic produce and dry goods from my local superstore. Maria thinks I am her yoga teacher, but I am also her student: She taught me to make requests of the employees in the produce department and customer service when an item I was looking for was unavailable. This way, she said, they see the face of a consumer who wants to spend money to buy an organic product and have to tell them they don’t have it.
From toothpaste to mustard, we in the metropolitan areas of the United States are living an organic dream. If the superstore doesn’t have it, we can, for the most part, get [desired object] from the local health food store, the farmer’s market, or the Internet. It’s a blessed life that I didn’t understand the value of until I moved to Turkey and began living, what my fiancé calls, “life by approximation,” as in, it is approximately the life you want to live, but not exactly.
The first excursion to the neighborhood shops revealed a grocery store 1/20th the size of the one I frequent back home, with an organic section of three shelves about 5 feet high by 5 feet wide, and a health food store that was incredibly small. My heart began to sink, and I could feel my organic façade start to crumble as I stood there, looking into a shop the size of a very large walk-in closet. STOP! I yelled to myself. I came to this new country determined to, as the song says, “look on the bright side” of life. So while not as expansive as I was used to, I shared with myself the good news that my organic life didn’t have to contract entirely.
A few weeks later, I heard that there was a café in my neighborhood that served food grown on the proprietors’ organic farm in the Turkish countryside. The first time I sat down at a table in the garden and opened the menu, which had the word “organic” in front of most of the ingredients, I actually CRIED. On the way home from that divine lunch, I walked to my local produce stand and noticed the word “Organik” written on the awning!
So what if the lettuce has a few bugs in it, the spinach is awash in dirt, and the strawberries sometimes have small, animal-size bite marks in them. Just because the food wasn’t prewashed and packaged in sterilized plastic containers didn’t mean it wasn’t just as organic as the stuff I was used to buying. That afternoon, I spent a very happy few hours cleaning and putting away my new treasures, and began to feel at home in my new world.