Sunday, October 31, 2010

So True

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I am taking a break from Rosetta Stone in my Turkish lessons and instead using a program called "Mango." Mango looks more at the immediate need for language learning instead of the bigger picture like Rosetta Stone. It isn't so important to me that I can say what is under the table. What I really need to be able to do is ask where I can find the bathroom.

Anyways, Mango intersperses cultural lessons throughout your learning. One of the things I learned during yesterday's lesson was the following: "Turkish people will do anything to help you. It isn't unheard of for a Turkish person to walk you where you need to go. So, no fears about getting lost."

Wow. How true this is. Since we have been in Turkey, I have had numerous opportunities to express my confusion about how to find what I was looking for. I'm always amazed when a person will stop what they are doing and leave their place of work to walk me to the next place that I need to go to! One time it happened with John. Another time with Joan and my Mom.

How nice is that?!

I continue to be, quite literally, blown away, by the kindness of these people. Americans pale greatly in comparison! If you think the Middle East is out to get us and that all of Muslims hate Americans, you are solely mistaken. I continue to be reminded how important it is that we not let a small sect of people define an entire population.

Turkish/American Women's Club

Thanks to my friend Stebbins, I have been given the incredible opportunity to join a club here in Turkey. Long story short, Stebbins lives next to a Turkish gal, Seyhun, (who is married to an American). Stebbins was invited to join this group by Seyhun and Stebbins invited me, and I feel so incredibly fortunate to have this opportunity. While it is open to all Americans on Base, I am not sure I would have heard about it had it not been for this connection.

This is the type of opportunity that I had hoped to have while in Turkey! I have Hatice and Ilhan and Halil and some of the nannies on Base, but the opportunity to really bond with people in the Turkish culture when you live on Base is limited. (School teachers can live off-Base, but we are not allowed to.) I did not want to just come here and coast through in my own little bubble. I wanted to embrace an opportunity of a lifetime. But how to embrace isn't always completely obvious.

While once 150 members strong, this group is now at about 50 and hoping for new growth. The idea behind the club is that these two cultures can find a common ground and learn from each other. They have Turkish women in charge of various activities. The gal on the right (Klara) is actually Turkish but looks more American and speaks incredible English. She is heading up an English Literature group. They pick an English book that has been translated into Turkish and all read it. The gal on the far left is Ms. Barbara, my neighbor, and the gal next to me is my new friend Nevin. Nevin and I immediately connected, and in fact, I am going to attend a Turkish Ballet next weekend with her. (JB is coming too!)

All of the Turkish women in this group are educated, affluent, women who want to help educate incirlik Americans about life in Turkey. I continue to work on my Turkish and was told by numerous women that I am doing a good job. Klara said that my pronunciation is very good and I do not sound like an idiot. Hurrah for that!

This group will provide another opportunity for me to practice this new language. In fact, Nevin and I were practicing with each other. She'd talk to me in English and I'd try to talk to her in Turkish. Of course, all of the Turkish gals speak way better English than I speak Turkish, but at least I am trying. I have taken a short break from Rosetta Stone and am instead using a program called Mango. JB actually told me the other day that he has completely given up on understanding what I am saying to people. And when the gal who was doing my nails asked me where my sons were, in Turkish, I understood her answered her, in Turkish! How cool is that?!

Anyways, the club is AWESOME! I really hope this opportunity proves as positive as it is right now. Way cool!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Saying Good Bye Stinks

Plain and simple. It stinks to say good bye. You try to find the good but you just end up crying harder. I try to remember the positives. We came here so JB would have good hours and he wouldn't deploy and we would get to be together more as a family and experience a new culture and travel. We are getting all of that. Not being close to family is one of the downsides to our "choice." What a wonderful time we had with Grama Di and Joni. I got to sleep in many mornings and take some time for myself. The boys got a ton of individual attention and were spoiled appropriately. How blessed I am to have been able to have visitors so early into our assignment.

Another silver lining is that we got an extra hour of sleep last night as Turkey celebrates Daylight Savings Time earlier int he year than America does. So, until the U.S. "falls back", we are only six hours ahead of the East Coast. Maybe communicating will be a bit easier during this time. I have found that it isn't the phone issues that cause communication problems but the time difference. So I'll enjoy a smaller gap while I can have it.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Language barriers

It's been three months since I've gotten my haircut. I got it done right before we left South Florida (via Debbie who has done my hair since I was a teenager) and that was at the end of July. (Side note: have we only been here three months? Man we've jammed a lot of living into that shorta time!) Anyways ...

I've sort of put off getting my hair cut, because, well, I speak such a tiny amount of Turkish (biraz Turkce biliyorum) and the hair dressers both at the little shop on Base and Pretty's off Base speak such a little bit of English. Could I accurately convey what it was Debbie knew how to do by heart?

Well, the answer is, no. There was obviously a communication barrier. I went to Pretty's for a trim of my long layers. I, instead, got this:

Now, don't get me wrong. I think my hair looks cute. I like it. I really do. But it is ... short. When my hairdresser asked me what I was thought of it, I said, "It's short." This sent the gal at the desk who speaks pretty good English into a Turkish conversation with aforementioned hairdresser that ended up having the guy explain that he did what I said -- cut my longest layer just a tad. And then the rest of them quite a bit more than a tad. Apparently the "short" trim was of my longest layer. From there he went up, up, up. In fact, I now have bangs!

Joan liked it. My Mom liked it. JB liked it (and surprisingly did not think it was too short as I thought he would have.) They all liked it. I like it. But woah it is short.

I really think there is a part of living in another country which requires you to relinquish control. I'm glad I'm not a control freak. I think if I were a control freak and very picky, life here would be hard. You'd constantly be wanting something and not sure how to get it.

While my head is a lot lighter on hair, my pocketbook is not much lighter. For a pedicure, manicure, and hair cut for me and a pedicure for my Mom I paid a whopping total of $35 USD. No joke! And, they did it all at once. I had four people working on me at one time.

Shows how much work I needed, huh?

A big boy room

We weren't planning on transitioning both boys to toddler beds. But I found a second one on the Incirlik Facebook Yard sale page for $15. And the rest ... well, see the pictures below to find out for yourself:

Here is JB on a ladder putting glow-in-the-dark starts on the ceiling.

Here is the cool vinyl wall piece I ordered from a seller on Etsy.

Here's the other piece I ordered from the site. Anyone notice a problem with this? On another note, take a look at the two beds. I spent a total of $35 for two beds that look nearly identical! We are keeping the crib in the room for now in case one of the boys has trouble in the toddler bed.

Here is Elijah praying with Daddy before bed. He folds his hands and closes his eyes halfway when it is time to pray.

Here's Isaac post-prayer, already set-up with his book and ready for the lights to go out so he can see the stars on the ceiling.

And here are the boys about 30 minutes later, both sound asleep.

I'm not sure how the beds will work at nap-time but bed-time, appears to be a success. At least for right now. How did this happen so quickly?! How does a child grow up right before your eyes.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


I just finished Joan's all-time favorite book: Rebecca. Oh folks! This one should be added to your reading list. It was fantastic. It started a bit slow so it give two or three chapters. Riveting. Written in 1938 but still a classic. I can't believe I waited 33 years to read this. Awesome.

In a subsequently opposite review, I will warn you to not waste your time with the movie Wimbledon. Not very good.

To read more of my recommendations, click here.

From Grama Di

Wen told me she'd like me to post a blog during this trip -- where do I start?

She has kept the blog updated w/ pictures and details of our activities so there is really nothing I can add to that. It has been an adventure for sure.

When we are on base I forget that I am on the other side of the world. It almost reminds me of when I was growing up. All the neighbors know each other, kids play together, even take each others' toys home for the night. People stop by just to say hey, or can you watch my kids while I run to the PO or grocery for a minute. It's a warm, safe place.

Then you go thru the gate ... ID's checked coming and going ... it's a whole different world. The traffic is INSANE! We went out the other night and I saw some things that had me w/ my hands over my eyes. Someone went into a 'round about' from the outside lane in front of JB; a motorcycle came so close between 2 cars, horns honk if you pause a nanosecond at the light. Yet, in all the insanity, we have yet to see an accident. YIKES. South Florida seems mild in comparison.

I have seen how some of the Turkish people live. They have so little and yet are so content. They are warm, loving people. They light up when Wendi speaks to them in their language and do their best to communicate with her. They attach themselves to you in a store and if you touch something, they pull it out to show you and someone follows behind them folding it up and putting it away.

They LOVE children! I love children! Especially two little boys. It is busy but so fun. Wendi has let me have the monitor in my room so I get to go in and get the snuggles before anyone gets up. We go downstairs and read books and do puzzles until others start moving. We have been to parks and play groups and walks w/ the wagon or stroller, kissing boo boos, chasing them thru the grass, laughing and wrestling. Then to hear Isaac say "Hi Grama Di", or "I waked up" or "I love you more" in response to my "I love you Isaac John."And Elijah brightening up when I say "wanna do a puzzle" or go for a walk or play tent. It's constant activity.

By 10:00 a.m. Joan and I look at each other and cannot believe the day isn't gone. We are so tired but hating to see them go to bed. Last night they were in bed by 7:30 and I swear it felt like 9:00! Brings back a lot of memories!!!

It has been so great to see the support system around Wendi and John. Everywhere they go, they make it home and settle in w/ good friends. Her housekeeper let me know that she will keep an eye on Wendi and the boys so I don't have to worry. That lady is so special!

Watching Wendi work the language and working hard to communicate (and doing a great job at it!) is so fun to watch. Seeing John and Wendi loving and training these special little guys has been such a gift. Like I have said before, the thing I love about Wendi and John is that they make home where they are. They miss family but rarely do I hear them talk about how they wish they were in Florida, Minnesota, or Kentucky. They seem to know that this is where God has them now and they make it home. I love that.

I have discovered that I am an American girl! This has been fun and an adventure but living overseas ain't for me. I'm looking forward to experiencing this with George one day. I know he misses his boys and they look for him on the computer. This time has made me thankful for my wonderful hubby, home, church, and church family! I am thankful for where God has placed us. I am so grateful for my support system in South Florida. That is my home.

But how thankful I am that I could experience this! I am truly blessed. Saying good bye to the boys will be tough but we made some fun memories and Wen's blog will keep the memories alive. I am amazed at what Isaac remembers about the time he was at our house a few months ago. God has always seemed to make a way that we can find some time together.

Thanx John and Wendi, Isaac, Elijah, Scrubby and Joan! This has been a vacation of a lifetime!

Tent Time

My Mom has no idea I took this picture. But I did. She is under the "tent" with the boys reading a book. I walked into the room and heard her saying, "Hmmm . . . it's a little dark to read a book." But she was trying anyways! How lucky my boys are to have so many wonderful people who love them (and will try to read a book in the dark with them.)


Ms. Barbara and I share a grassy field in between our homes. She is gracious enough to allow me to run Scrubs to his heart's content. She enjoys watching him just out her window and calls him a "lucky dog" to have someone who plays with him so often. (I've told her I have no choice.) Ms. Barbara lost her husband last year after a long battle with Parkinson's. They had been married 51 years. She's in her late 70's but moves like she is much, much younger. She teaches second grade at the Base school and wears festive vests and earrings and belts and jewelry to celebrate whatever season is currently upon us.

She also asked us to dinner on Tuesday evening. She suggested something in the Alley, and I suggested we upgrade to a beautiful place in Adana overlooking the lake (which is quite a bit more expensive). I invited other friends. She invited other friends. And yet she insisted on picking up the tab. She's spry and feisty, and I look forward to having her as my neighbor until she retires at the end of this school year. She misses her husband very much and is determined to stay busy and fight the loneliness until she can retire and be with her kids and grand kids non-stop.

... here are some pictures from our evening at şato -- a luxurious Turkish restaurant.

Despite leaving Base before 6pm, it was still nearly dark by the time we reached the restaurant. It takes about 20-30 minutes to get to Adana from Base.

Gorgeous isn't it? While this is a very fancy restaurant for Turkish culture, in America, the prices would probably be about $15 a person.

My best friend and me (and his sippy cup.)

Here's Ms. Barbara (on the right). This is one of her good friends, Ms. Rose.

The reason I chose şato is because they have a playground for the kiddos right there at the restaurant. Isaac, Elijah, and their buddy William were in heaven. Isaac especially liked the beanbag chairs. He asked Joni: "Please sit with me in the bean bags." She said she would if he actually agreed to look at the camera for a picture. This picture was the result.

My Mom with Stebbins and a goofy Shane, whose wife Linda is still in the States.

Love this picture of Joan and my Mom.

The three boys in their bean bag chairs. I had no idea these were so popular.

One of the meals. Definitely different than the traditional Turkish cuisine you get at most other restaurants. Turkish food is delicious but so far in our journey, does not provide one with incredible variety.

Another yummy dish.

Our group (minus Ryan -- Stebbin's husband) and JB.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My Turkish Mom

I am so far behind on updating everyone "back home" on my visit with Joni and Grama Di. So forgive me for some random posts that are quite out of order.

On Friday of last week, we went over to Hatice's house for tea.

Me and Hatice. I love this gal!
Hatice with the boys.

Hatice with her two youngest daughters. Her oldest daughter is married with a baby in Istanbul and the other just got married a few weeks ago. These two are 15 and 17.

Hatice made both me, Joan, and my Mom head scarves! Hand made each of them. How wonderful. We had tea, cookies, and then walked over to the convenience shop her husband runs on the corner. I also talked to her sister-in-law who runs a tailor shop next door to the convenience shop about curtains in our living room. Hatice's husband is a wonderful guy and he gave the boys each a ball to take home!

We all scream!

We are pretty sure that Grama Di, and Mommy, and Isaac, somehow ended up with the same "sweet" gene. If there is one thing that will excite Isaac (and Grama Di and Mommy) like nothing else, it is sweets. Ice cream especially. And chocolate ice cream is even better. Isaac and Grama Di have done some bonding over ice cream!


I am so proud of JB. Earlier this week he found out that he was the recipient of Incirlik's Medical Operations Squadron Quarterly Award winner for the 3rd Quarter. This means that he was chosen out of everyone at the Clinic. He will now be "competing" at the Wing Level. We aren't exactly sure what that means but it is a good thing. :)

JB I am very proud of you. I know I don't tell you as often as often I should, but I am. You manage to balance the role of father, husband, and provider with relative ease -- always giving more than I think you have to each. I wish I knew how you did all that without getting stressed out and crying now and then and needing a nap everyday like I do.

Great job Babe!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cappadocia (Part 2)

In response to some of the questions regarding the history of the area of Cappadocia ... the earliest record of inhabitants goes back to 1700 BC. However, it was around 303-308 AD that the Christians began using the area to hide from the Roman soldiers. The hidden valleys and soft volcanic rock made it the prefect place to create places of worship and to be secure from pagan Roman soldiers. We were able to see many churches with frescos underground (although we weren't allowed to take pictures in these locations.)

Some authorities suggest that the underground cities were created during the earlier period, as storage areas, by the Hittites and were much later extended and brought into use as refuges for Christians persecuted by the Romans.

Some estimate that there are as many as 300 underground "cities" in the Cappadocia region. The dramatic landscape of Cappadocia is formed from rock which is easy to work (and actually gets easier the deeper you go) but which dries to a hard surface resistant enough to allow the excavation of wide rooms with horizontal ceilings. Trees producing wood suitable for building use are scarce in Cappadocia (and apparently always have been).

It is unlikely that the underground cities were ever intended as permanent, or even long stay, settlements, but they were clearly built to withstand attack and could support large numbers of people and their domestic animals, for long periods of time. The urban organization was very complex, and there was probably always work in progress. Extensive networks of passages, tunnels, stepped pits and inclined corridors link family rooms and communal spaces where people would meet, work and worship. The cities were complete with wells, chimneys for air circulation, niches for oil lamps, stores, water tanks, stables and areas where the dead could be placed until such time as conditions on the surface would allow their proper disposal. Most importantly, carefully balanced moving stone doors, resembling mill stones, were devised to quickly block the corridors in the event of an attack. Of course, these doors operated from one side only!

All right. So enough history. On to the rest of our trip!

The view from the top of our hotel to the bottom. Amazingly beautiful!


More pictures of our beautiful hotel.

Eating breakfast on the terrace. I wish I got a picture of the breakfast. So many meats and cheeses -- and even chocolate cake!

Another view of the area surrounding our hotel.

Breakfast at the hotel.

JB really was having a good time -- even though it doesn't look like it here!

Daddy and boy #2.

After we left our hotel, we headed to an underground city for a tour. Elijah fell asleep in the bus so JB opted to stay back and chill with him while we looked around at a ton of underground churches and buildings.

These holes were used for pigeons. They would collect the pigeon poop for fertilizer.

One of the most famous places in the world to take a balloon ride is in Cappadocia. Both Joan and my Mom said that next time we come, they are going to do this!

Isaac chilling with the ladies. He got flocked by one school group right after this picture -- lots of pinching and kissing. Unfortunately they didn't understand him when he said, "No thank you!"

So cool.

Lots of walking with steep hills.

After that stop, we were on to a pottery shop.

And then a jewelery shop.

The boys were incredibly popular at the jewelry shop and really loved the men who worked there. Here they are hearing a story about a turtle from one of the guys who worked there.

They thought this story was incredibly fascinating. Man. Elijah needs a haircut.

Then the jewelers took the boys out to meet their guard dog. This guy standing by the boys was a huge hit with Isaac. Isaac really took to him.

We found lots of rocks in Isaac's pockets (and even one in the washing machine.) They are becoming little boys putting all kinds of things away for later.

A view of our sites on our way to lunch.

After that it was time for the three hour bus ride back home. Stickers and books saved the day (I brought our DVD player but forgot to recharge it at home and you couldn't plug it into a 220 at the hotel.)

Elijah entertaining the bus on the way home.

Silly boy!
While the weekend was exhausting, we had a wonderful time and were so glad we took the time to show this area both to our family and to ourselves! I know we'll visit Cappadocia again during our years in the Middle East.