The Move and En Route to Paris

So my journey from Ankara to Istanbul and on to Paris has definitely be a fine one. I write to you from my plane ride from Zurich to Paris (so I guess I have yet to make it to my final destination of my friend Allyce’s 8×8 Parisian apartment) but nonetheless I think I can manage the streets of Paris – or so I hope. All the French I am surrounded by I am a tad intimidated. My Turkish will get me nowhere in the city of love.

But first things first, the whirlwind that was my last day in Ankara followed by my move west. I woke up around 6am to get my mind in Turkish mode. I had 4 huge Turkish Level exams to pass for my certificate and while the practices went smoothly, I knew the real deal was gonna be rough – and I was not wrong. They were super rough. While I passed I wasn’t so happy with my grades, even though I was third in the class and yes there were more than three people in my class. Close to 17 for this past month. Anyhow I know my placement amongst my peers because the school posts your grades outside the building – name and all! No number identification or anything. I think I prefer the US system that follows the privacy act. Anyhow, then it was off to a lunch with my roommate Azusa to wait out our teacher grading our exams. Around 1:30 we headed back and the grades were up which meant I needed to get some documents and my certificate. Long story short, the school system crashed right before they could print me my last document. WTF!!! Last day in Ankara people and they don’t have an email service – I thought this was the 21st century. So there I am with two teachers talking rapid Turkish at me and somehow I understand it all but still find myself sitting because I realize that something that was so close at my fingertips is now gonna be a massive hassle when I get back to Turkey. However, I thankfully know the manager of the Istanbul language school (she just so happens to be the second host sister – met her in Bodrum) so hopefully I can pull what few strings I have and get the Ankara branch to fax it to the Istanbul branch. Oy vey – I will be on an adventure when I get back.

So there I am walking down the street home one last time complaining – in Turkish to my Japanese roommate who is trying to calm me. If you know me and things don’t go near what I plan I can get a little hot headed – me hot headed in Turkish basically is me on repeat – wait – no me hot headed in any English is me on repeat. Finally got home, through the last of my belongings into my suitcases and Azusa and I headed out together – her to Kapadokya (the hot air balloon spot) and I to Istanbul. I went to hail a taxi and lets just say that saying “hey I need a taxi, but not here over there” sounds just as ridiculous in Turkish as it does in English but nonetheless I got the classic “buyurun” which means like please, come, here, etc etc. and I jumped in the back seat to show my taxi guy the way. Once at the bus stop I thought I was golden, but nope. There was mass confusion over the buses because there were two going to Istanbul by the same company and people were all mixed up over which one to get on. I waited patiently for the bus boy to finally come to my aid and after loading up my luggage I got comfortable for my 6 hour ride cross country. Funny thing about the buses – like airplanes they give you luggage tags. Do they do this in the US? I have no clue – I try to avoid bus travel in the US – bad experience as a freshman in college.

Anyhow, finally got to my stop in Istanbul which meant I was a 20 min taxi ride from my apartment that I hoped I remembered what it looked like. Granted I saw it in the daytime and by now it was close to 11 at night. I found a taxi driver and off we went. Now this guy was a joker. Ali was his name and well I kinda felt like I was in the Turkish version of “Cash Cab”. He would rattle a whole bunch of stuff of in Turkish about American pop culture and I would find myself trying to put it all together to figure out what he was talking about/help him remember something.

I give you some examples translated into English:

Film + War + Hawaii = Pearl Harbor

Film + War + not Tom Hanks = Braveheart

Film + Indiana Jones + Paris = Taken for me to later state that the actor is Lian Neeson)

And so that went on for a good five minutes until he decided that discussing adult libations would be a better topic. So there we were discussing spirits and liquors as he haphazardly drove through the dark streets of what I was hoping was the right neighborhood. What a ride, what a ride. Although I must say I would rather talk about alcohol than have my taxi driver pull over so that he can welcome me to Turkey by buying me a beer (true story).

Once I got to the apartment I was still unsure if it was the right place and the fear in my stomach didn’t subside until my roommate stuck her head out the window and yelled down to me. Hallelujah – I made it. I have moved a lot in my 23 years, but usually I am just a tag-a-long and my parents are the ones having to worry about it all. I should travel with yall more often (;

Quick side note since I mentioned the lovely parentals: HAPPY 29TH ANNIVERSARY! You two make it look easy. Kimber and I are so blessed to have you two wonderful people as our parents! I am super excited to be your tour guide in Istanbul in 2 weeks time!!!!

Ok back to travels.

So I hastily unpacked and got somewhat settled into my new digs and then realized that I was dead tired and would rather just wake up early to pack for my trip. Splendid idea. Now the night I arrived the hot water worked and so did the internet. When I woke up my roommate had just left and I was then left with cold water and no internet – I think my apartment is out to get me. But I made the best of it – remember I am an sort of an expert at cold showers. I then headed to the ATM to make a cash deposit for my rent – funny thing is you need a Turkish Identity # to do such a transaction – something I don’t have. So there I am in the bank trying to explain my situation to the bank clerk who knows no English and I certainly don’t know the proper vocabulary but somehow she figures out my problem and just uses the cop on duty’s Turkish identity number (not sure if that is legal but he is the law) so I went with it and all said and done my rent was paid and the receipt gave me confidence in the transaction. Now that surely delayed my travels but I was confident I could get to the airport in time. So I raced to the bus station and that went well. Once I got to the tram I needed to reload my card and naturally the machine was broken. Really? So I ran a good 1/3 of a mile (backpacking bag and all) to the nearest Bufe (Kiosk) that could reload my card for me. Raced back to the tram and naturally missed it by a 2 clicks – grrr, but finally was on board and arrived at the airport. Went through a security before the check-in desk where I was stopped for my Kindle – and that took a good ten minutes of unloading and reloading everything. Afterwards Check-in went super smooth, passport control – yeah not so much.  Here comes my little passport control story for you…

In my world I am officially a resident of İstanbul having paid my first month’s rent, but in the eyes of Turkey I am still a resident of Ankara and not for much longer as my residence permit is on its last 15 days. Uh oh. I knew I would have to apply for a second residence permit, but wanted to forget that on my Euro Holiday. However, in going through passport control in Istanbul, the passport police man got all clicky tongue with me and was saying that I better be quick in my return. My response “Anladim” or I understand and at that he laughed. Only for me to race on to get to my gate. Really cutting it close Nat…seemed to be the trend of my day.

Boarded and sat next to a friendly Turkish lady – we ate some Turkish delight together and chit-chatted. Arrived in Switzerland and I must say it is quite a fancy airport. There are glass doors everywhere that just seem to open up to longer and longer corridors. At first you are not sure where the sign is directing you and then magically glass sliding doors reveal your way. This wasn’t my first time through the Zurich airport it, but my last time there surely made for a top three all time travel story for me and I am pretty sure any of my fellow travelers will tell you that I definitely was not conscious.  To save you the gory details, flying back from India sick is something I would never ever wish upon my worst enemy. It is cruel and unusual punishment and Switzerland just happened to be part of my excruciatingly long journey back what with a 6-hour layover.

This time I did some exploring though since I had 2 hours to kill and I found a really cool fresh market restaurant/café. I enjoyed some fruit and was working on my Turkish composition when I realized that I had 15 min to get my gate before it closes. I set off on yet another mad dash. Let me just say that naturally when you are in a rush your gate will be the farthest away – no joke. My day was a rollercoaster of ups and downs and it wasn’t over yet. Little did I know that while I had three currencies on me, I had haphazardly left my envelope of Euros in my apartment – real smart Nat. I realized this in Switzerland but naturally the only currency that is getting spit out there is CHF à that took me up to my third currency. So there I was in angst of finding an ATM in the airport train station and to my bad luck I had to run another good 1/3 mile to find one and pull some Euros. So I can say that I am safely on the RER Train into Paris with 4 currencies on me so I hopefully won’t run into anymore currency issues along the way and hopefully all machines will be on my side. In 30 min I should be with my good friend Allyce and by then I will have forgotten about all of this or at least will be re-telling it over a nice bottle of French wine. Until my next travels from Europe. Look for a post on Friday (hopefully) recapping my adventures in Paris.

And I just realized that this is super long….wow but pictures will be forthcoming so hang tight.

Do you have a favorite memory, restaurant, or activity to do in Paris?

Cheers from a Swiss Airplane and a Paris Train

n

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Anxious…I think

Today is my last full day in Ankara. Wow. Let me say that again. Today is my last full day in Ankara. Yep didn’t work. It really isn’t setting in that my time here is just about to be up. Granted I finally started to pack last night – shocker I know. This time there were no 11 o’clock at night discussions over what luggage I should take between me and my parents because well I only have the luggage in my room. My room for only 36 more hours. Gosh. Still not setting in. Will it ever?

But yes I did start to pack and what did I realize, that it’s gonna be fun lugging me and my equal weighted luggage across the countrry tomorrow, but I will persevere. I made it from Italy to Germany with more luggage 2 years ago and well I can make it half-way across Turkey or so I tell myself. I’ve made the bus journey before so I am not worried for that, but yet I am still worried, or I think I am worried. What exactly is anxiety and the feeling of being anxious – not being able to put your finger on what you are feeling? If so that is exactly what is surging through my body right now.

Maybe I am just unsure of what to feel because my life is gonna be a whirlwind for the next month and I don’t know what to think about. To give you a little flash forward here’s the breakdown:

August 28th – Leave Ankara for the Big City of İstanbul. Move into my new digs at 11pm at night.

August 29th – Pack for my Euro Backpack Trip and fly to Paris in the afternoon and hang with my long lost program companion Allyce!!!! Go back one time zone

August 30th – Greet my friend Jess from the US and do Paris Live!

August 31st – Fly to Lisbon, Portugal. Go back one more time zone! Holy moly I will only be 6 hours ahead of my lovelies back in Illinois. That’s the closest we will be in a long time – a very long time.

September 1st-4th – Experience Portugal through sights, sounds and of course tastes

September 4th-8th – Experience Spain via all my senses. The Al Hambra – EEEEEEKKKKSSSS! and fly back to Paris

September 9th – Fly back to Istanbul! Wowsers

September 10th-12th University Orientation

September 13th-20th Become a Tour Guide for a week for my Parentals – ahhhhhhhh so excited to see you two and eat out on your wallet FPU – but really excited to see you two – I can’t contain my excitement!

September 21st-23rd – Maybe sleep??? Find my inner realm of peace and reflect on my life

September 24th – My semester starts

September 25th –> Start putting money back into my bank account.

And somewhere in the midst of all that I will get some runs in, I will hammock internationally and I will know what it feels like to be in a country where I don’t speak the language. Heck I may actually be praying to hear Turkish when it is all said and done with. Portuguese – you frighten me,  Spanish well  I gave up on you after 3 years and switched back to the mother tongue and then chose 2 more languages over you so you know where you stand. And French well I am just not able to sound as formal and proper as you require so I will stick with my limited vocabulary of please and thanky you that I will be scorned at by all Parisians no matter how hard I try. It seems as if I am a hater of languages now – but really I am not I just have my preferences of English, German, Italian and Turkish. I think my Italian may help me around, may being the keyword.

Yes I think that clearly classifies as a whirlwind of a month, if not well then I am not sure I could handle a whirlwind because that is overwhelming enough already as it is for me. And mapping that out was more for my own sanity I think…

With all of that laid out I will be quite busy, but I do hope to keep you all up to date on my activities.

Now I will just try and separate out all the mixed emotions running through me and keep my head screwed on right so that I can focus and pass my Turkish level exams! May luck be on my side.

Cheers from Ankara

n

 

 

 

 

To 2 Ingredient Pancakes

That’s right – 2 ingredient pancakes.

The peanut butter gets all nice and melty too!

Sounds too good to be true? Yeah I thought the same when I first read about these little fellas over on Carrots ‘N’ Cake.

Naturally the day I read the blog I had to give them a try for myself. Not to mention I am without my awesome host mom so have been back to cooking for myself (aka eating straight up veggies and fruit and soup because well I don’t wanna buy anything to make food since I leave in 2 (TWO) days for Istanbul.

Gosh there is that magical number of 2 (TWO) again!!!!

Now the first time I made these I attempted one large pancake and well I should’ve listened to my inner voice saying “Nat you suck at making big pancakes, small pancakes you rock at, but just like you are junk at big cookies, your big pancakes are nothing less than garbage”. Well I didn’t listen to my inner voice so my horrible “big pancake skills” combined with sans non-stick pan left me with more of a pile of pancake than one big grand pancake. Now I figured the NEXT time I make these pancakes I will take my “small” approach – and that approach was a lot more successful.

Way more success – way way way more success.

So you want some of my 2 ingredient pancakes too? Sorry I missed that – I couldn’t hear you since I was lost in a world of guilty pleasure that includes two of my favorite things of nanners and pb.

Maybe next time I will share…keyworld being maybe.

Ingredients: (from Carrots ‘N’ Cake – her secret tips to the perfect 2 ingredient pancake are included too)

1 egg

1 banana

Toppings – fresh fruit, pb, other nut butters, honey, nuts

Directions:

Mash banana, crack egg and mix into the mashed banana. Make sure it is as homogenous a mixture as possible. Heat a pan on low-medium heat. Wait for the pan to heat up – biggest trick to checking that the pan is hot enough is that water droplets will skip across the pan. Then lightly oil and pour about 2-3 Tbsp. of your pancake batter. The trick to these little fellows is patience. Super hard – I know. But wait until there are bubbles in the middle of the pancakes before you flip. Then wait a few more minutes while your second side cooks. Plate, top and gobble away. But try to breathe while eating – it will make the indulgence last one second longer (:

Second upside to these babies – they are soft – super necessary after wearing my retainers for the first time in like a month – my teeth are sore – gahh.

Third upside – you can blast Jack Johnson and have no shame – really – no shame.

Fourth upside – food art is also acceptable – no shame – no shame whatsoever

Cheers

n

Earworms

Earworm: A song that you can’t get out of your head. Now usually it applies to songs, but I am just gonna incorporate all things that I am loving and well maybe frankly – just too obsessed with lately and thus and continuously thinking about. Example –  I will incorporate any of these into as many conversations as possible just so I can talk more and more about my current obsessions. The Earworm series is gonna be a new series on the blog. Interesting fact –  earworm was added to Merriam-Webster Dictionary this month! How cool is that?!? Along with F Bomb, Bucket List and sexting. The world in which we live is changing.

1) Current Earworm –> song here. 

2) NPR Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me Podcast I listen to it and other podcasts when walking in the city. I was always told to smile when walking – people will wonder what your smiling about – well I am certainly giving the people something to wonder about – this show gets me to laugh right out loud.

3) Cupcakes – I really just wanna bake some cupcakes. I’m having dreams of baking cupcakes – not eating them. Baking them. Really gotta find a pan and then figure out how to bake cupcakes in a toaster oven.

4) The Newsroom – HBO series produced by Aaron Sorkin that I may or may not have be watching continuously. With Turkish subtitles…naturally. It’s just too good to stop watching. Really here is a quick clip to hopefully peak your interest.

5) Up Hair-dos that only require bobby pins – no hair tie needed. Warning: You may start finding bobby pins anywhere and everywhere that you go. Mums you know you miss finding my bobby pins (;

What are your current earworms or obsessions?

Cheers and now back to watching more of The Newsroom

n

To Figilicious Overnight Oats

Fig obsession continues post vacation. I have already eaten about a half kilo in two days – and I just can’t stop. I want them for all my snacks and incorporated into all my meals and I just want them. I really do. I just want to gobble all of them up that I see. Completely and utterly unable to practice self-constraint around these bad boys. All I can say is at least they are a fruit – if they were in the abur cubur (junk food in Turkish) family well I would be a little SOL now wouldn’t I? But they aren’t so I am gonna continue to enjoy them with no shame.

Gettin’ Figgy with it – nah nah nah nah nanah nahhhh

Ok recipe time. Tweaked a bit from my basic overnight oats recipe.

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp. Chia Seeds

2 Tbsp. Ground Flax

1/4 cup oats

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup water

cinnamon

the pulp of 3 big fresh refrigerated figs (the green ones – nom nom nom)

maple syrup

Directions:

Mix all of the ingredients except the maple syrup together and put in the fridge overnight. In the morning drizzle with syrup and nuts if you have them (I recommend pecans but I didn’t have any – all I have right now are pistachios and well I was digging that combo).

Dive in and enjoy all the figginess. May actually have to up it to the pulp of 4 figs next time….

and I will also have to work on the presentation of this fine breakfast because it doesn’t look nearly as appetizing as it tastes…aka reason for my decision to not include a picture.

Instead I will leave you with some interesting facts about the fabulous fig

– Top three producers are Turkey (woot woot), Greece and California

– Figs were one of the first fruits ever cultivated

– Figs are a fiber source

– Figs contain good levels of potassium, magnesium, iron, copper and manganese

– Dried figs are a great source of calcium (250mg per 100g as opposed to milk at just 118mg)

Cheers from the #1 fig producer

n

 

Turkish Family Vacation on the Bodrum Peninsula

I’m baaaaaack. Ok maybe that is a tad creepy – but I am back on the interwebz. Now at first I was a “tad bit miffed” (yes Kimber that is a shout out to you) that I was without internet, but then I came to accept it and quite frankly loved it. I really was able to just let my mind wander and really enjoy the piktoresk (picturesque) views that I was experiencing for free. I did come across internet for about 15 minutes on two random occasions and opening my inbox to 100+ emails and having many messages in whatsapp certainly put a smile on my face – thank you to all of you who wished me well on my travels (:

Map from the Underwater Archaeology Museum – I was super close to Greece!

My holiday wrap up (the short version)

– a good time was had by all 8 of us in the summer house (baba – host dad, aysel hanım – host mom, Özlem – host sister, Özge – host sister, Teyze – aunt, Cansu – cousin, Azusa – Japanese roommate and myself)

– many big bellied Turkish men were spotted

– the consumption of refrigerated figs equated to my body weight (my daily afternoon snack)

– Turkish balcony and garden cooking and eating was a daily event

– salty hair and a sun-kissed bod was had

– hills were run

– books were read

– thesis was worked on (shocking – I know)

– awkward moments were endured

– and memories were made

View of the Aegean from Host Family’s Summer Home

Figs = my most consumed food on vacation. How I have lived this long without having a refrigerated fresh fig is beyond me

the long version if you happened to be a tad bit in withdrawl of zee blog (cough cough – mi mums) or if you are bored and wanna read further – not all is covered but a fair amount.

Thursday

Thursday marked the start of my tatil (holiday – vacation) with my Turkish host family and all I knew at the start was that the Aegean Sea would be waiting for me at the end of a 12 hour long busride. 12 hour bus ride – yeah a bit much but with it an overnight bus and me being able to sleep basically anywhere I knew that the 12 hours would speed by and I would soon be getting blinded by bright sun and blue waters and I was definitely not mistaken. All I could think when we finally could seaside was “WOW” and “this looks a lot like Greece”. The PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain) are world known for their coastal towns with white houses, purple flowers and views of the sea that are endless, but I don’t think as many people are aware that Turkey boasts these picturesque and sublime for painting towns too. Living on the sea is such a laid back lifestyle, I don’t blame my host dad for escaping for the entire summer to live down here either – for one thing the air is a great deal cleaner than that in Ankara and the hills make for good exercise – seems like a healthier lifestyle to me already (:

Friday

Friday morning when we got in we headed to the summer house and since my host mom had shared a few photos with me I had a tad bit of a hankering of what to expect, but seeing the real deal is just better. Sometimes a picture just can’t capture the entire essence of a place, but that’s ok because if pictures could no one would ever feel a need to travel. After enjoying a grand Turkish breakfast on the front porch we headed on down to the sea. The neighborhood runs a bus service to get people up and down the hill – while the walk down isn’t bad, the walk up sure is a doozy. Friday started my daily routine of chilling by the sea, sun-tanning, reading, going for a swim and listening to music. Sure other things happened, but I became like a dog with a predictable schedule. Just watching all the kids running around made for good smiles too.  Evenings were spent hanging around with the family (I got to meet another aunt, a cousin and the eldest daughter of my host parents). Great people and enjoying big Turkish dinners with 8 people around the table felt just right. Now my host mother was the only one fasting during Ramazan, but Ramazan didn’t end – initiating the beginning of Şeker Bayram (Sweet Holiday) until Saturday’s Sunset call to prayer. This meant that we would all wait around until we heard the firework go off before chowing down. I was a fan because it allowed the ability to fully watch the sunset. Not to mention after being in Turkey for almost 3 months I am adjusted to not eating until 8:30. In fact, we ate earlier during Ramazan since my host mother would break fast which was around 8-8:15. Dinner would conclude with dessert and of course there after copious amounts of Turkish tea were to be had and chilling in the swinging chair reading was to be done (hammocks still rank higher in my book though).

My daily view down on the docks

The docks where I soaked up the sun – this was in the early morning, by noon the place was buzzing with vacationers

Saturday

Saturday started my morning routine with my host father of getting up around 7:30 walking down to the sea going for a run and possibly a swim. The water was calm the sun was up and yet everyone seemed to have the same agenda of getting up early to do a little exercise – most were walking or swimming and then head home around 10 to partake in breakfast. I journeyed out on a good 7 mile run which started along the sea, but before I knew it I was on the other side of the port getting lost in the hills of neighborhoods and even ended up on the outskirts with dirt paths and barely traversed terrain. Saturday was also the morning that a cute Turkish lady called me “Marathon Girl” – I guess while I was out running Baba (Turkish dad) got around to telling all his swimming pals about me. Classic. After that it was breakfast, bathing suits on and heading back down to the docks for the day. Now while all of us “kids” headed down to the beach, Aysel Hanım (host mom) and Baba would stay back and chill at the summer house. When we came back it was always a surprise to see what Aysel Hanım had been cooking up all day. Saturday was probably the best, because when we returned it was to her making baklava. Gosh yes! My eyes were probably as big as saucers as I watched her roll out her homemade dough with her wooden rod. The woman has magic hands. If I didn’t love her already, that love was solidifed when I saw her making not one but 2 batches of baklava. Baklava is a common dessert that is made to celebrate Şeker Bayram. Dinner of course ensued and after that all of us ladies sat down and made yaprak şarma (stuffed wine leaves) together. Yes – I know how to turn a leaf into a vessel of goodness now – hopefully wine leaves can be found in the states because while these little guys are time consuming I just have to share the deliciousness with my family back home. That night when I fell asleep it really was a lights out type deal – not until I stirred the next morning with the sun creeping through the window did I realize how deep and soundly I had slept. I guess all the sun had its toll on me, but twas worth it.

Early stages of the baklava being made

Özlem kissing her wonderful mom

Sunday

Sunday was the actual celebration of the start of Şeker Bayram with lots of neighbors stopping by, tons of blessings being given, and all around happy people. Nothing to complain about when everyone is in good spirits. Baba and I nonetheless went down to the seaside for our morning exercise, mine of which was followed up by an interesting conversation with a Turkish lawyer. This guy was hilarious, knew absolutely no English, but somehow I figured out everything he was saying as long as he spoke slow. Naturally he like every other old Turkish man asked if there was a husband – these guys are obsessed with this question and labeling me as Turkish – I guess my bronzer skin though gives me a little bit more of a Turkish look – but no I am Amerikayalım (American). He was shocked when he found out I was American – I am to the point where I don’t know if it is a compliment or not. There were a few special dishes on the breakfast table (homemade börek and a few different dips) but my favorite of a homemade cherry preserve (usually not a fan of cherry things unless fresh, but this stuff was good) was there too. Also I copied my host mom by putting lemon in my tea and boy oh boy was it good. Definitely hit the spot – a burst of flavor for my taste buds to endure. That night we stayed up late chatting on the front porch – a funny conversation about arugula happened (host sister thought I said regular) haha and then we had the whole family trying to figure out what the word was in Turkish – the dictionary failed me. Finally we figured it out though. My host sister learned that there was a country called Jordan (and yes it is Jordan in Turkish too) and the host mother made sure that we all had a second dessert of ice-cream. If you want to make a diet (diyet yapmak – yes the literal translation in Turkish) then make sure that she is nowhere near your kitchen because it becomes about 20x harder. She is basically a personal chef – even her eldest who lives in Istanbul is soaking up as much of her mother’s cooking as she can – who can blame her though.  I just called her awesome and everyone was just like “yes” haha.

Where my run took me one day

The well earned views at the top of my 3 mile up hill run – needless to say the 3 miles back down were a lot easier

Found these little guys on one of my runs

Monday

I got up early to go for a run that led me way into the hills of the town and I actually ended up finding the dump (yes the garbage disposal place). Now this just proves that the eye sees what it wants to see, because I never think of garbage when on a luxurious holiday, but it is there nonetheless. This day surely left me a tad sore with running. I think I ran 3 miles up hills in all, but the views were well worth it and it made for my second adventure run while on vacation. Azusa and I decided to take a trip to the town of Bodrum which meant a relaxing 30 minute ride on a dolmuş. In Bodrum we checked out the castle that has an underwater archaeology museum in it. The museum showcased some of the shipwrecks in the Aegean and their recovered ruins. After the museum we went for lunch, I decided to have a salad so that later I could have a waffle. It seemed that all the little cafes were whipping up batches of waffles and while I love a hearty breakfast style waffle, I knew that a waffle topped with fresh fruit and ice-cream could not be passed up. So post lunch we did a little shopping and then found a café with a great view of the castle. The town was hopping with tourists who were staying many nights and with others who were only there for the day with their cruise ships docking in-port. Had a nice encounter with the Dönerci (man who sells Döner Kebabs) – who was super impressed that I knew Turkish as did a man who had himself a little leather shop. When Azusa was taking a picture of the sea a Turkish guy gave the thumbs up so I commented  “şaka şaka” – joke and he started to talk with us and when he found out I was American he said “ahhhh yes the Americans are so friendly” – I’ll take it. Going to tourist filled towns and shocking store owners with Turkish language skills that go beyond hello, goodbye and thank you is awesome – not to mention can score you a little bit more of a discount. This day was great because Azusa and I get along quite well – we even decided to switch music on the dolmuş ride back. To my shock and absolute amazement the songs she listened to were quite similar to what I have on my own playlist. No denying that I love a little bit of Flo Rida when running, Of Monsters and Men as my ringtone and Maroon 5 at anytime of day. I guess you could say the two of us are more alike than outsiders may presume. The girl has a wicked sense of humor which I can only imagine how great it is if I knew Japanese and she has no fear. I truly will miss my time with her but one day I will get her to visit me in Illinois and I will head on over to Japan.  This day also marked a first for me – the buying of cigarettes. Before you freak parentals they were not for me, but rather for the host sister. She called us right before we got back into town and asked us to. When we went into the store I simply asked “Winston Light sigara var mi?” and the guy said yes and handed them to us – now I probably sounded as American as possible with Winston Light prounced the American way and the rest in Turkish – the guy smiled though and we went on our way, back to the homestead where a delightful homemade dinner awaited us and exhaustion overtook me.

May have chased a peacock around the castle…

The bay through one of the castle’s windows

Simple Salad for Lunch

Waffle topped with Bananas, Peaches and Kiwis and Chocolate, Strawberry and Lemon Ice-Cream

View of Bodrum Castle while I was eating my waffle

Partner in Crime for the Day – Azusa

Beach scene in Bodrum

Boats of Bodrum

Tuesday

My last day in the sunny Aegean but I made sure to make the most of it. Woke up for a quick run to loosen up from yesterday’s crazy hills – definitely was needed and followed it up with a nice swim. Went home to enjoy breakfast with the host parents (the others were all asleep) and then got my bags packed before heading back down to the seaside for some last soaking in of the sun rays. Sadly enough our service bus driver had a fender bender – took off the license plate of another car – no bueno. But I can say that I was shocked that I didn’t witness more accidents on the steep, narrow pot-holed and cobble-stoned accident prone hills – not the place to learn how to drive stick and only the most able should even give it a try – many were burning rubber (that would not be I – I am too freaked to even drive stick out of a neighborhood and that is after having 4 – FOUR teachers – you people know who you are – they still walk our earth). After chatting with the family I learned that the cousin’s name Cansu means “Life Water” or the first watering of a plant – I thought this was beautiful – my sentimental moment. Also learned that the eldest host sister who works at the same language school I attend but at the Istanbul branch is the model in one of the photos in my Turkish workbook – super hysterical. After heading home and getting cleaned up we sat down to what was my last host mom cooked meal – she is at the summer home for another week so won’t return to Ankara before I set out for Istanbul ): but nonetheless the last meal was superb – saç boreği and it was made in the neighbor’s garden – great ending to a lovely family vacation.

Özge – host sister and I chilling down by the sea

Host mom preparing the Saç Boreği in the neighbor’s garden

The Aunt cooking the Saç Boreği on my last night – they were filled with eggplant

Wednesday

Got back into Ankara around 8:30am and was back to school by 9am – we mean business with the learning of Turkish. Already stocked up on figs – they are a second close to bananas as my most beloved fruit (and if you know me you know how serious a statement that is).

Cheers from Ankara – my home for only 1 more week

n

New Spin on Family Vacay

In a few short hours I will be boarding my 12 hour long bus ride to the beautiful (well the pictures tell me so) city of Bodrum. Bodrum said in Turkey is the equivalent of saying Hawaii in the US so I am super ecstatic – words don’t describe my excitement.

Now this is gonna be a whole new experience for me not only because I am in a new place (that is a given) but because it is for the celebration of Bayram (ending of the month of Ramazan) and I am going with my Turkish host family. Putting a new spin on family vacation.

My time in Ankara and my time with my awesome host family is coming to an end so this is a perfect ending to my three months in the capital. Not to mention I get to hang with my Turk Father again (hopefully this time our bonding does not include condoling me at the breakfast table after my not so fortunate date with the porcelain throne – uffff – bad memories)

If I understood my host mom there is a running path that I can run on or depending on the beaches I just might get a nice sand work-out in – super pumped.

So for the next few days I will be soaking in Turkey’s southern sun and breathtaking views. Hoping to get some reading done – both recreational and educational. Not sure I will have access to the world wide web, but if I do I will be sure to post pictures that are bound to make all eyes that see them jealous.

Any family vacations for yall coming up?

Cheers from Turkey

n

Hitchhiking in Turkey

Before anyone (especially you my lovely parentals) freak out by the title of the post there is no need to fret because well I am writing this post so that means I survived and nothing awful or horrible happened during my little weekend get-away that may or may not have included a hitchhike…or two..unintentional or not, but first things first I must lay the groundwork.

A friend (Audrey) and I decided to check out Safranbolu on Saturday and then head on over to the Yenice Forest. Photos have been posted here. When we got to Safranbolu it was a tad confusing because we were not dropped in the old city center but rather at some random bus service station. If you have ever traveled by bus in Turkey you are quite aware of the outside the city or your destination dropping points. This led to a little chaos with calling our hostel to pick us up but then the bus guy calling his friend to give us a tour of some of the surrounding areas. Mind you all the while when we are trying to figure out our own plans our new found Spaniard friend Alvaro was in an even more confusing position. While he knows English, French and the obvious Spanish, his Turkish is lacking, or well just plan non-existent so Audrey took on figuring out his situation as well because frankly the only thing I was concerned with was finding a bathroom so I just sat there and let her take the reins.

Needless to say the three of us were automatically clumped together and the Turks assumed we were traveling together to include the hostel  guy moving us all into a shared room together – whatever no big deal – as long as we had our own beds (which we did), but not all yabancı (foreigners) travel together – just saying.

So after exploring a cave (which I had no clue I would be exploring when I woke up – hence caving in a dress), eating a delectable lunch from what was basically a family’s home  (house restaurants/food are extremely popular in Safranbolu) which I totally loved because nothing beats home cooking, touring Safranbolu’s historic sites and just chilling around town at a Nargile Cafe I thoroughly enjoyed my day. Not to mention at dinner in another house like restaurant we ended up watching the Turkish version of Wipe Out – which just so happens to do a lot more camera editing with slow-mo and reverse motion – all I can say to that is expect the unexpected.

There were the awkward moments too like when it decided to pour rain so we chilled with our taxi driver in his taxi for awhile until we decided that the rain would not pass to allow us to explore the aqueduct (granted more awkward for Audrey who was chilling up-front with the driver, I just had to endure not knowing how to say Alvaro’s name properly – dang the Spanish and their pronunciation of “v” as “b”, or the most awkward – yes and I mean the most awkward hotel receptionist I will ever cross paths with – yes handing over a key at check-in is a normal procedure in the hospitality industry – no?? And yes when we mention wanting to see the roman ruins we mean the ones in the town we are actually in and not the ones in another city.

Now our hostel was an old Ottoman style house which was really neat and was updated at least with the inclusion of a flat screen. Super thankful for that because it just so happened to be the night they were airing the men’s 4×100 relay – if you missed that race, well then you missed greatness. Ever greater was that Alvaro got so excited at about 300m that he leaned to far on his bed which sent him flying face first towards the tv – and yes me being the concerned person I am just yelled for him to move his head instead of asking him if he was ok -but he was still cheering the runners on so I guess subconsciously I thought that his well being was not at stake.

Mind you this was not the hostel we booked but hey when in Turkey do as the Turks do – no I don’t think that is right – we can only hope that our replacement hostel was as good as our originally booked hostel.

So by the time Sunday rolled around we were ready to check out the Yenice Forest (mined you “c” in Turkish is pronounced “j” –> I still royally screw up this pronunciation even though I’ve been in Turkey for almost 3 months – sheesh – let’s not talk about how time flies by at an accelerating rate the older we get – by the way why is that?

We eventually made it to the forest after Audrey had some bizarre and confusing conversations with the guys at the bus station. Now the one thing I won’t forget was the fresh smell – it was like breathing pure oxygen – ok maybe not that extreme, but with Ankara’s air pollution so high I felt like I had a third lung. We walked through what I believe was Şeker (sugar) Canyon and were strolling along at a nice pace when a pick-up truck with two friendly Turkish men pulled up and offered us a ride to the top. We said sure why not – we can then just walk back down. Well where we ended up was a hotel construction site – all I can say is that future hotel guests will be waking up to breathtaking views. We then got a ride back down because the one Turk believed it was too hot for walking – haha – oh Turks you make me laugh.

Now after a nice lunch at a restaurant right at the beginning of the forest we meandered back down to the main road/highway. We had over an hour to kill before the scheduled bus would come and Audrey suggested hitchhiking back – I said sure what the heck but you gotta talk to the driver – that was the deal. I even said if she actually did I would treat her to an ice-cream. Somehow her nerves got to her and I ended up being the one to flag dance down  a car

I am not made for hitchhiking – as can be explained by my method of flagging down a car

Expected:

My on the spot version looked just as ridiculous:

But my hitchhiking dance paired with Audrey’s speaking skills got us to the town of Karabük – yes that is a “b” and not a “d” Audrey and thus in the end was quite effective. Must I mention that we avoided a downpour of rain and also got home an hour earlier because hitchhiking got us to the bus terminal way ahead of schedule. Oh YES – some things just align perfectly together like pb and nanners and when those moments happen you embrance them and grin ear to ear and let out a big sign of relief – there is good in the world. there really is and it includes being in the backseat of a Turkish strangers car with big raindrops coming down outside. Yes, that car-ride was way more comfortable and a heck of a lot cooler than our dolmus ride would’ve been.

And I almost forgot to mention – at the beginning of our trip Audrey declared herself “boring” – nothing about this trip was boring and quite frankly the only problem with the trip is that I got re-addicted to Lokum (Turkish Delight) – fresh made – yeah there pops the button on my jeans – I can devour that stuff by the hundred grams – I should probably sign up for a Turkish Delight eating contest – that there is something I would be great at – that just became Plan C for life. The flavor choices are up there with those for salt water taffy and if you’ve ever been with me in a taffy shop well then you know it can take me awhile to decide.

So if for some reason you would like to be nice to me a box of Turkish Delight would do the trick, but if you are stateside well then Lago’s Truffles are pretty dandy too!

Re-Cap

Hitchhiking in Turkey – yes, hitchhiking in USA – never

Spaniards = cool people – remember Alvaro to stay in my good graces I am well on my way already to writing your biography (;

Nature has a way of bringing you back to reality

Turkish Delight – brilliantly delicious – my stomach is somersaulting

Cheers from the land that makes the best lokum

n

Safranbolu Photo Gallery

 

 

 

 

This past weekend I traveled to the Ottoman Village Fairytale town of Safranbolu – North of Ankara by about three hours. Great little city to visit with plenty of adventures that I will be posting about. My friend Audrey and I also visited Yenice Forest which is about an hour from Safranbolu – felt great to be out in nature. Here are just a few of the photos from my little weekend get-away

Yenice Forest and Şeker Canyon – near Safranbolu

Me on top of the hill that overlooks the old city of Safranbolu. The new part of the town is in the background.

Overlookıng the Ottoman Village of Safranbolu

Ottoman House

Inside the Caravansary or Han – it is now a hotel

Alvaro and I as old travelers in the Han

Our view during lunch

More of the view from the lunch table

This cat was chilling out with us at lunch – one blue and one yellow eye – totally cool

The locally produced soda in Safranbolu

The cave we visited – 4th largest in Turkey

Yenice Forest

Audrey and I split tea at a Nargile Cafe

River going through Yenice Forest

Yenice Forest

One Buttery

Two Butterly

My favorite picture from the forest

We ended up at the construction site for a hotel

What will be the view from the hotel rooms

More future hotel views – quite breathtaking

Hypothermia Shower

A quick post because I have lots and lots of Turkish to study.

But I think I just took the coldest shower of my life and that is saying something. I embraced the ice cold bucket showers (big bucket with little bucket method) in India where your body is producing steam because it is warmer than the water – yes 3 weeks of that really makes you appreciate a shower head that pours out hot water. And I’ve even showered in the cold mountain water of Thailand when in Chiang Mai. Heck, stateside I’ve even had to embrace the shower shivers when on a volunteer trip in Memphis. I guess you cold say I’ve become a little bit of an expert of how to approach a cold shower, but I was not expecting it at my home stay. Now if I hadn’t gone for a run I would of just foregone the shower – I also have a little bit of expertise in not showering for extended periods of time (usually finals induced), but post my run tonight I was stinky and my hair was super sweaty (sorry for the overshare) so a shower was a must.

Now I should have realized when washing dishes post dinner that there was no hot water, but I just figured it was a glitch with the kitchen sink – boy was I wrong – the whole apartment is without hot water. Needless to say it was a quick shower and my body temperature is slowly warming back up – just a few minutes of hypothermia doesn’t hurt, right?

I will update tomorrow about my weekend travels – I traveled nearby (only about 3 hours away) but I have a good story or two to share and photos, but they just have to wait.

Must get back to Turkish studies and warming my body up – shouldn’t be hard in my inferno room

Cheers from the land of confused temperatures

n