Expat Interview With Lonna - American Living in Turkey

Published: 20 May at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Turkey
Lonna Lisa Williams has been writing since she was four years old, after her father died, when her mother collected the poems she spoke. In love with words, Lonna wrote childhood stories and plays, eventually publishing books. "Like a Tree Planted" is science fiction, and "Selah of the Summit" is fantasy. “Crossing the Chemo Room,” “I Saw You in the Moon,” and “Fire and Ice” tell her true “Survival Stories.” She got her Master's degree in English at San Diego State University and has published poems, essays, and articles in various magazines and newspapers. A journalist and photographer, Lonna enjoys making Youtube videos and writing for “Digital Journal.” She posts new photos and writing on Facebook and her Blog. After losing her childhood family, surviving cancer, almost dying in a car accident, and watching her family and life in California burn up after a bitter divorce, Lonna found a new life teaching English overseas. Her four children live in California, and she visits them when she can. Her motto is that Christ's light can shine in the darkest places, and that after death comes resurrection. Lonna's expat blog is called Lonna Lisa Williams (see listing here)

Meet Lonna - US expat in Turkey
Meet Lonna - US expat in Turkey

Here's the interview with Lonna...

Where are you originally from?
I'm from Lake Arrowhead, California.

In which country and city are you living now?
I live in Izmit, Kocaeli (not far from Istanbul, Turkey).

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I've lived here for two years. I have a Turkish husband and family, so I'm not sure how long I'll stay.

Why did you move and what do you do?
I left California because I couldn't find a teaching job after I had taken time off to live in New Zealand and work on my writing and photos. First, I went to Russia for 6 long, frozen months to teach English. Then I found a teaching job (Online) in Turkey, and I flew to Istanbul where the sun was shining and yellow flowers grew by the grassy runway.

Did you bring family with you?
No, I came alone.

Lonna at Kar Tepe mountain
Lonna at Kar Tepe mountain
How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
Well, I had lived in England and New Zealand, but they are English-speaking countries and not difficult to get used to. Russia was very difficult, and Turkey has had its challenges. I'm still constantly surprised by things in Turkey such as a man riding down the street with his bicycle that has his food cart attached to it--next to a modern Mercedes. You can see a shopping mall on one corner of the street and a gypsy veggie market in a field on the other corner. In Antalya, a family of four rode a motorbike with no helmets or boots. Turkey is a land of contrasts!

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
I mainly socialized with Turks--my students, my husband's family, people I met in shops. The Turkish people are very friendly and smile a lot. They will offer you tea everywhere, even in markets or at the bank.

What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Definitely take a tour of Istanbul. Ride the ferry across the Bosporus waterway that joins the continents of Asia and Europe, and see the beautiful blue bridge and Maiden Tower. Enjoy a cup of strong Turkish tea as you relax by the water.

What do you enjoy most about living here?
Turkish food is spicy and delicious. Turks make a lot of natural dishes with herbs and vegetables. My Turkish mother-in-law makes the best homemade soup with fresh carrots and lentils. In all my travels, I never tasted such good food! I also love Turkish tea and coffee. It matches well with Turkish hospitality.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
The northwest region of Turkey is more expensive than the south where I lived in Antalya for five months. Heating and car fuel costs a lot, and clothing is not cheap. However, fresh vegetables and fruit are plentiful and a great deal, especially in open bazaars which happen at least once a week. Eating at restaurants can be reasonable, too. The best deal of all is housing. My apartment costs 1/3 of what I'd pay in California.

Ferry and Train Station in Istanbul
Ferry and Train Station in Istanbul
What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
As a tall, blonde, blue-eyed woman, I get stared at all the time here in Turkey where most women are dark-haired and shorter than I am. Most women do not wear a veil, but many do in my area of Kocaeli. I even see some dressed all in black with only their eyes showing. In Istanbul, there are more foreigners, but I still get stared at when I'm walking with my Turkish husband.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Don't expect customer service from the shops. Things are done differently in Turkey. If you buy something, it's yours. You're likely not to get a refund or an exchange without a fight (even if you have a receipt)! The attitude in Turkey favors the rich and the shop owners, not the poor shoppers. However, you will always get a free cup of tea from the shop owner!

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
I am an American Christian who has married a Turkish man, so I feel like an outcast with most of my American family and, to some extent, with the Turks. It's strange to straddle two worlds. I feel like I crossed over a forbidden barrier.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
It will be difficult to adjust to life in America after living away for 2 1/2 years. Life is always a struggle in Turkey, a battle to stand up against the common daily opposition people experience in this country. In some ways, this is exciting. It makes me feel stronger. Living in Turkey also makes me unique.
Turkey has been a great adventure, and I've explored the Black Sea in the north, the Mediterranean in the south, the Aegean in the west, and much that lies between. I've done a lot of photo essays for "Digital Journal," and I've even compiled an eBook from them. Sometimes I feel like a Turkish princess, like Sultan Hurrem from the old Ottoman days. In America, I would be just another woman.

Alanya, Castle by the Sea
Alanya, Castle by the Sea
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Do research before going to a new country. Read a book; look at a map. Know what to expect!
  2. Be willing to learn a new language.
  3. Take a cultural anthropology course or at least understand how important it is to respect other cultures.
  4. Eat and dress like the locals. Live like the locals. If you cross over by marrying a local, don't forget where you came from. Preserve your identity and your beliefs.
  5. Keep in touch with your family back home through Facebook and Skype. Visit then as often as possible and invite them to visit you. Send exotic presents!

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I write about my adventures in the California mountains, the glaciers and sheep farms of New Zealand, the frozen rivers and forests of Russia, and the contrasting landscapes of Turkey. Come and see my stories and my photos! Check out my 5 published books.

Lonna & Husband Omer at Alanya Bay View
Lonna & Husband Omer at Alanya Bay View
How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Via my blog or through Facebook. Also, see my books.

Lonna blogs at http://lonnalisawilliams.wordpress.com/ which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. Lonna Lisa Williams has an ExpatsBlog.com listing here so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with Lonna, please also drop her a quick comment below.
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Comments » There is 1 comment

Lonna Lisa Williams wrote 10 years ago:

Thanks so much for this well-written interview about me. I am honored!

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