Turkish family finds contentment in Findlay with plans for U.S. citizenship

. April 3, 2017.
he Dastan family, originally from Turkey, has enjoyed living in Findlay for about three years. Pictured are Mustafa and Tulay Dastan and their sons Arda, 13, (left) and Bora, 9 (right).
he Dastan family, originally from Turkey, has enjoyed living in Findlay for about three years. Pictured are Mustafa and Tulay Dastan and their sons Arda, 13, (left) and Bora, 9 (right).

Where are you from? What brought you to Findlay?

When Mustafa Dastan took a position as a truck tire design engineer for Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., he and his family made the trek to Findlay. The Dastans are originally from Izmit (near Istanbul), Turkey, but came to Findlay from Shanghai, China, where Mustafa worked in another position for about three years. Mustafa, 45, and his wife, Tulay, 40, have been married 15 years and have two sons, Arda, 13, who is a 6th-grader at Donnell Middle School, and Bora, 9, a 3rd-grader at Wilson Vance Elementary.

Some differences between Findlay and home:

Izmit and especially Shanghai are large cities in comparison to mostly rural Findlay. Trees, grass, playgrounds – all were hard to come by. “I don’t really like the snow blower or mowing the grass, but I have gotten used to it,” Mr. Dastan said, chuckling. “But the most important factor is that the kids have more space to play. Here they can be free and safe.”

The Dastans said they also enjoy Findlay because of what they see in the kids’ education. Mrs. Dastan, who was a teacher in Turkey, said for 1st through 5th grade, students remain with one teacher, who teaches all subjects and moves up the grades with them. Much of the learning in Turkey is straight from the book, and the Dastans appreciate the hands-on style of teaching in the U.S. Arda said math and science are pushed heavily in Turkey – his parents added that he also attended evening classes at a science and technology center three times per week.

“There wasn’t much creative thinking and there was more homework,” Arda explained. “A lot of times I would be up until 10 o’clock trying to do homework and I wouldn’t have time for much else.”

Favorite places in Findlay:

For a date night, the Dastans enjoy winding down at Logan’s. Mrs. Dastan shops at TJ Maxx, Gabe’s, JC Penney and Kohl’s, and when they go out with the kids the Dastans like the Findlay Family YMCA or Riverside Park. Arda and Bora play travel soccer for Pacesetter South teams and both enjoy basketball. Sports, their parents said, keep them all busy and have been a great way to meet other families.

Favorite cultural tradition from home:

The Dastans always enjoyed a “bayram,” or special traditional festival that takes place twice a year. During these religious celebrations, families dress nicely, give gifts, visit each other, and enjoy sweet treats. The Dastans grew up Muslim but said they respect every kind of religion. “For me, religion is here,” Mrs. Dastan noted, pointing to her heart.

A cultural tradition you enjoy here:

“I really enjoy the Christmas period, the way so many people put decorations and lights up,” Mr. Dastan said. “It keeps you in high spirits during the darkest and coldest season of the year.”

Mrs. Dastan loves the combination of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas – three fun holidays all in a row to look forward to.

Your top parenting trick:

Communication, the Dastans said, is key to parenting. “You try to capture what they are living,” Mrs. Dastan said. They make an effort to be open with their boys and stay connected with their friends and teachers at school. It’s essential the kids know there are consequences for poor decisions, but they prefer a softer approach. “Discipline is important, but not so harsh,” Mrs. Dastan explained.

Favorite recipe:

Turkish Yaglama – a dish made with flour tortilla, onion, garlic, green and red pepper, ground beef, parsley and spices, with garlic yogurt as a sauce.

The Dastans offered me Turkish coffee and Turkish Delight while we chatted. The coffee was strong and unfiltered, delicious, and served in a dainty china cup. I could hardly believe my ears when I heard the words Turkish Delight, as anyone who has read the book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe would have come across this indulgence. Since my childhood, I thought it was a fictional treat…how amusing to have the chance to taste it and find Turkish Delight really is delightful. The consistency is similar to a gum drop, but its texture is more pleasing. Pink in color, Delight is rectangular in shape, rolled in powdered sugar, and its distinct flavor comes from the ingredient rosewater. I had never tasted anything like it – and still grin with the knowledge that it exists.

Lasting impressions

The Dastans love Findlay for its educational system, the benefits it provides their kids to play and socialize, Mr. Dastan’s employment, and because they find it remarkably friendly. They plan to stay and gain citizenship. “I will always remember people’s respect and greetings (in public) that you don’t know,” Mrs. Dastan said. “They are always smiling – that is not common, not in Turkey and not in China.”

Mr. Dastan said the diversity in the area makes them feel at home, and it has been easy to adapt. “That is one of the most interesting things I have observed here,” he said. “Everyone is open to diversity. I feel like maybe it’s not so easy in other countries.”
And when their boys have grown up and gone off to college? Mustafa and Tulay hope to embark on another adventure – exploring the world.