Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Still truckin...

Our trip is almost over, and I haven't posted about half of it!  Internet has been hard to come by, and when we do have it, it's just on our little iPod touch.  Tonight I have access to a real computer...it has a keyboard...it's pretty cool, y'all.  Although foreign keyboards are different.  I guess the Italians don't use the apostrophe very often, because it is in a very strange place.

I was going to try to catch you up on Switzerland, Germany, and Italy, but this computer, however well-endowed with a keyboard, is severly lacking in the swift upload department.  So I will leave you with this picture of my dear hubs in Basel.  What a guy to travel the world with.  Never ever gets lost, knows International Hand Signs like nobody else, and demonstrates enormous longsuffering with his wife who is apt to complain of being hungry, having blisters, getting tired, and the like.  What a guy, what a guy.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Turkey: Istanbul

 It´s been a few years since I have been in a city of 15 million people.  My first moments in Istanbul were a spot on recreation of my time in Kolkata: a hot and sweaty round of How Many People Can We Cram onto a Metro?  We are talking tight, as in don´t bother holding onto the overhead pole, because you are packed in so well you aren´t falling anywhere.  Aaron barely made it on.  But I married a fighter.

Istanbul has beautiful history.  It has been used as a center of kingdoms for 1,500 years.  But the impression  left on my heart was not it´s history.  Anytime you gather 15 million people into one city, a panorama of human need is created.  I hadn't had to brush up against the poor yet on this trip, but Istanbul reminded me.

We were sitting in a park after our long day's tour.  Eating a little baklava, because our Turkish motto had become, "Why not eat baklava?"  A old man with a grizzly beard wheeled up next to us.  He had no legs.  My first thought was, "Oh no, he is coming to beg."  But no.  He was coming to offer his wares, little packets of kleenex and wet wipes.  Nathan searched around in his pocket for some spare change.  All he had left were some small coins, amounting to less than 1 liyra.

"How much?" Nathan asked him.  One liyra each.  Nathan gave him the change and motioned for him to keep the wet wipes.  A gift.  The man touched his tan, wrinkled hand to his mouth.  A blessing.  But Drew had already opened the packet of wet wipes.  The old man smiled broadly at him and handed Abby a matching packet.  And then, without a word, he turned his chair around and headed off to sell to other benches.

I was overcome.  The old man gave us more than we had given him.  We were the privileged ones, we were the ones sitting with both legs, filling our already full bellies with baklava, and he gave out of his poverty.  It was the same  beautiful, deep, tremendous lesson I learned in Kolkata five years ago.  We think we come to serve the poor, to give to them, but the poor are often the ones who give to us.  Oh, how much we have to learn! 

May the Lord bless you, Gentle Old Man.  May the Lord make His face to shine upon you.
Thank you for humbling me,
for exposing the hard and selfish that is still in my heart,
for wheeling me around to face things that I would rather forget.

The Hagia Sophia 

Aaron and I inside the Hagia Sophia 

 One of the amazing mosiacs from the Byzantine era inside the HS

Sultan´s palace overlooking the Bosphorus Strait - how would you like to live there?

A gorgeous example of the Iznik tilework all over mosques

Ceiling of the Blue Mosque, covered in tiles like the one above

 Fifty cent ice cream never tasted so good

 Aaron is brought back to his childhood

 Rachel finishes first

 Reading the map around the city

The underground Basilica Cisterns, used by the Byzantine Empire to store their water

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Turkey: Cappadocia

I told my sister that if she didn't live in Turkey, Cappadocia would never have been on my list of places to visit.  Not that I had anything against it, I just never knew it was a cool place to go.  

Well, it is.  

If you ever find yourself in Western Asia, you should go there.  Now you are more informed than I was.

Cappadocia is in central Turkey, and it full of interesting rock formations, canyons, and mountains.  It sort of reminded me of a mix between Arizona and the Black Hills of South Dakota.   Along with the natural landscape, there are hundreds of years of history: caves, underground cities, homes carved into the soft rock.  

Our Chacos were perfect for Cappadocia.  They felt much more at home than in Paris.  

We stayed at a great pension in the little town of Göreme that was cheap, clean, and had tasty breakfast. 

The kids loved playing outside in the yard. 

Here we are, getting ready for a long day of sightseeing and hiking.

We spent the first morning exploring the Göreme Open Air Museum, a site full of cave churches with paintings from the 11th century. 

We weren't allowed to take pictures of the intricate paintings.  Here's an example of some of the more simple designs.  

This picture is off the internet, but it's from one of the chapels we visited.  Amazing, huh?  Paintings over a thousand years old and some of them are in incredible shape.

Drew was a little unimpressed with all the history.

We found some great restaurants in Göreme.  Our favorite Turkish dishes so far are börek, gözleme, and pide.  

Afternoon of day one, we hiked to the top of a rock castle used by the Romans.  Great view along with drop-offs that made my sister very nervous. 

After hiking to the top, Abby declared it the best day of her life.  I think we have a tiny adventurer! 

Not sure if this guy felt the same way.  

 Day two, we traveled to Kaymaklı, an underground city used by Byzantine Christians in the 6th century.  When Persian or Arab armies invaded, beacons were lit to warn Christians.  The message could travel from Jerusalem to Constantinople as quickly as three hours.  When the warning came, entire cities moved underground into a complex system of tunnels and rooms, complete with ventilation shafts.  The upper levels were even used to store their animals!  It was mind-blowing to tour.  I kept wondering how they found their way around without electricity.  Parts of the tunnels were pretty claustrophobic!  

On our last night, we hiked a bit around the hills surrounding Göreme.  All was fun until a couple of wild dogs gave us a scare, but we made it out unscathed.  Here's a view of the sun setting, captured before the canines showed up.  :)

God is amazing.  His creation is incredible.  There is so much we have not seen.  Every new scene only expands my understanding of His majesty.  Thank you, Father, for this beautiful world.  

Friday, June 1, 2012

Turkey: At Home with the Family

We're still here!

 There's nary a moment to blog when your two favorite little people are hanging onto your legs.

We've been in Turkey for a week now, and we're soaking up this time with our dearies.  Nine months is a long time to be away from your favorite people.  Abby, my niece, keeps saying, "Lara, I can't believe today is the day you are really here."  Me either!

Here are some pictures from our first few days in Turkey.  We're a little behind "real time" blogging, but hopefully tomorrow, we'll have time to post about our trip to Cappadocia, which we just returned from today.

Nathan and Aaron doing Just Dance Wii at another expat's house.

Reading books and more books.

Hanging out at a beautiful park.

Drewbers pulling a GQ pose on the dinosaur slide.  Love the little butt sticking out.  

The littles spend most our of walking time on the shoulders, backs, and hips of the grownups.  But who can resist them?  I also can't get Aaron to make a straight face for anything.

This little monkey is too cute. 

And this sweet girl is getting too grown-up. 


We made gingerbread cookies after reading Jan Brett's Gingerbread Baby about 100 times.

Aaron made a "special" one.  See what I mean about his faces?  I'd like to give a shout-out to the archaeological shirt.  It's dry-wicking to boot.  Love you, hubs.  :)

Cappadocia was incredibly cool, and we can't wait to show you what it looked like!   For tonight, it in the words of our host country, Hoş ça kalın!