Monday, October 31, 2011

Republic Day

Hasanlar Baraji Dam
Yiğilca, Turkey
To commemorate the official celebration of the republic, the Turkish Republic that is, we decided to frolic in the Turkish countryside. I am always up for a good frolic, you know. Tas, Victoria (a dear friend who lives in Duzce and is from Belgium and works at a pajama factory!!) and I headed out of Duzce, up into the mountains and vast bumpy dirt roads which take you to all kinds of places that aren't on any kind of map. We began our exploration with a very simple idea: a dessert picnic. I love picnics and dessert, so why not? We drove through rolling green hills with tiny villages tucked into the mountainsides with desserts piled into the backseat.  In the countryside, the sign up a spiraling minaret always signals a nearby town. We stopped at a nearby dam, famous for its scenic views and sprawling lakeside fishing shores for a good photo-op (photo top left). It was stunning, with the fall colors oozing into the countryside, highlighting every last drop of beauty before the winter steals it away into its whiteness. After an hour of discovering new berries clinging onto the last of the branches and photo shoots at every which-way angle, we got back in the car and chugged along towards the next big city. Our tummies had started to rumble and luckily, just as we noted our empty tummies, a mosque appeared! A town was close... we drove into the city center greeted with red and white flags strung in the center, signaling the celebration of the freedom of the republic. The town was quite small, so we stopped near the supermarket and asked a local man in the grocery store where the best restaurant in town was. True to Turkish hospitality, he warmly welcomed us to Turkey and personally escorted us across town to the restaurant and bid us happy Republic Day. We ate a delicious lunch of assorted meats and dishes, typically Turkish of course and kept warm by sitting next to the coal burning stove, which was placed smack dab in the middle of the restaurant. We inquired about some scenic locals and discovered a nearby waterfall where we could have our picnic! The roads there were lush, and full of houses with chickens clucking in the front yard, little boys hauling wood from one neighbor's house to the other and kids playing in the streets. A few bridges and a windy road later, we found ourselves at the foothills of the waterfall.
Saklikent Selsasi (the Saklikent Waterfall)
The most beautiful waterfalls I have ever seen, the autumn colors were screaming to be photographed. If I have ever seen a natural movie set, it was here. I felt like I was in a movie, or witnessing some kind of fairy land. When I was a little girl, I used to imagine a place where the fairies of NeverNever Land go- this was what I pictured. Several waterfalls run together into crystal clear pools of water, branching off into baby waterfalls that flow into clear streams. We hiked around the waterfalls, munched on desserts and deciding that our return was eminent because of its loveliness. The greens, yellows and reds made me want pumpkin pie, a pumpkin spice latte and a good ole Macy's day parade. This is my first true fall outside of Florida and I feel inspired by the colors of of the season. I wish you all were here to take in the magnificence I am lucky enough to witness. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Best Teacher You Ever Had

I don't pretend to be the world's greatest teacher, heck even a great teacher. But I am a new teacher and I'm trying. After a week orientation on ESL, a summer of experience teaching English in Italy, one coursebook and pat on the back later, I entered my classroom for the first time. I have officially switched sides. Being a teacher is not how I thought it would be. It's better. Being a teacher makes me respect the great teachers in my life even more than I thought possible. I have the best students in the world. After a placement test and classes changed, I had an old student approach me and grab my hand. He kissed it and touched it to his head. In Turkey, this is a sign of respect. It is how you would greet a grandparent or elder whom you respect.  It made my heart smile!

On a totally different note, teaching takes hours of behind the scenes work, especially in a class where you are fighting for them to understand an TEFL environment. (Teaching English in as a Foreign Language) One of my classes speaks literally no English. My Turkish is getting better really fast because they only speak to me in Turkish, unless forced in an activity. I am translator, teacher, momma bear, actor, sponge, leader, guide, you name it, I probably play that role sometime in my teaching day. Teaching is one of the most difficult professions because of one thing, one single thing. In order to be a good teacher, it requires constant self-reflection. You have to know yourself and assess your strengths and weaknesses daily. If your kids aren't understanding you have to figure out if it is you, or them. Or both? How can I improve class? How can I motivate these college students who act like high-schoolers? How can I be better? God, it's demanding.

So here is where you come in. I want to know the best teacher you ever had. But here is the tough part- what do you think made them so good? (Especially if they were a foreign language teacher!) Please please let me know. It can be general things, or specific practices you noticed that particularly motivated you. I may or may not be attempting a research project analyzing motivations of different students in relation to their improvement. :) But help a girl out, I'm trying to change lives over here, geesh!

Special thanks to Mr. DeLeonardo and Mrs. Travisano, the two teachers who changed my life and made me the person I am today. Thank you. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Prayer is a Prayer

Last week, I accompanied my roommate to the mosque, where we prayed. We have a beautiful neighborhood mosque, just a block and a half down the road towards the city center. Conspicuously austere, the mosque emits simplicity in its exterior but is magnificently opulent on the interior. It is one of the few mosques I've seen with such brightness, such brilliance in its tiles. Colors of bright white, rich crimson reds, shining blues and greens like mountain grass, it is a place where even the non-believers, like myself, can find solitude and believe in something.

At first when I lived abroad in Christian minority countries, I thought it strange to pray in a temple or a mosque. It felt like I was cheating on Christianity, on how I was brought up. I would find the occasional church and attend a service, but nothing was quite the same. I didn't feel the same familial bonds, the kinship, the divinity I feel at my home church. In Israel, I attended temple services regularly, much more regularly in fact, than many of my Jewish friends. In Egypt, it was more difficult to go into the smaller mosques, but I did so outside of Cairo, in Alexandria and smaller towns. There is something beautifully holy about being able to pray wherever you feel inspired. Such simplistic beauty, in Turkey especially, inspires prayer. I find my odd practices humbly reflect my view of religion: holistic and universal. I don't care where I am, or with whom I may be, but rather, where I feel inspired. Where I know that there has to be something greater. I wish I had that confidence to believe, but at moments, you can almost believe it, you want to believe it and pray for some kind of direction...a sign of sorts.

If people stopped judging, if we took the time to actually learn and go outside ourselves, maybe there wouldn't be so much horror. Go to one of your local temples or mosques. Attend a service. See if you can find spirituality in a new place, through another perspective. I hope to hear what you find.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Clinging to the Toilet

When you live abroad, you are bound to give away a bit of your health. Unless of course, you decide to go to another first world country, which is much less fun. The third world is unfortunately full of diseases, illness', virus' and countless other things that can and will make you ill. It is also full of tastier food, richer cultural experiences and a perspective of the world that is unique to the third world.

In Jordan, I got a parasite. In Egypt, I got food poisoning, in Israel strep throat and in Lebanon, I couldn't eat anything but rice for days until Nadim's mother forced me to eat aloe-vera, at which point I started to improve. (it is really disgusting by the way; the actual aloe from the plant- NOT from the bottle) In Turkey, I had the flu. Basic really. Last night, heaven knows what I had, but after dinner I felt extremely nauseous. Of course, the illness progressed and let's just say I clang to the toilet bowl all night, on the freezing cold tile floor of my (at that moment) unheated apartment.  Vomiting is by far the worst thing to have abroad. No one wants to be sick in unsanitary conditions without anyone there to take care of them. I had to go to the market today to attempt to eat something, my body's blood sugar was alarmingly low after a night of clinging to the toilet. It took all my strength to put on clothes and walk the five minutes there, buy my tea, baby food apple sauce, and rice. I almost passed out walking back up the four flights of stairs and was so exhausted, I plopped all my groceries in the foyer and did not move from my bed for the next three hours. I missed work and am threw up all day. Gross. Sorry for the t.m.i.

These are the stories that are conveniently left out of the stories you tell back home.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Conquering the Uludağ

After our late Friday night arrival in Bursa and our subsequent 7am wake up call, Seline, Tas and I hopped on a bus to the city center. On the way to meet two of our other friends, I had just enough time to glimpse and appreciate the scene before me. At the bottom of a valley, with mountains looming  around us the sun finally awoke and peeked over the tips of the mountains, shedding just enough light to highlight the mist covered city, with the minarets of the mosques proudly spiraling upwards towards the sky. Good morning Bursa.

The Climb: (Pictures!)

We took the teleferik up twice- to the highest point possible. From there, we arrived in a resort town which was truly a ghost town in mid-October. I'm sure it is full of bustling skiers in the winter but eerily quiet on this Saturday morning. We were the only people attempting to hike the Uludag that we saw. We convinced a "friend" to have a dolmuş (a taxi for several people) take is to the farthest hotel, at which point we would commence our ascent, which saved us a good hour and a half. But before we left, our colleagues and friends told us we were nuts. On the way, everyone we told along the way was perplexed. "Why are you climbing?" Apparently, trekking in Turkey is not a big thing. We didn't understand everyone's skepticism until we saw the mountain. Apparently, it had snowed earlier that week. I felt as though I as glancing at Mt. Everest- with all the snow that covered the tip. [This is my serious Florida exaggeration- that much snow to me is Mt-Everest like] I was skeptical at first, actually at three different points along the journey, that we'd actually make it to the top. W began our entirely vertical ascent up a very steep incline, avoiding most of the snow and getting a killer workout. I was convinced I would look like the "20 minute Buns" workout video models by the was that difficult! We saw two fellow hikers in the distance and yelled a friendly "merhaba arkadaslar!" (hello friends!) We continued, though were nervous about how long our ascent would take in relation to the sunlight, as we started at 10am. Four hours, one snack break, several gigantic hills and numerous piles of snow later, we reached the summit. I was constantly reminiscent of the climb up the 3750 Steps of Repentance at Mt. Sinai because of the ache in my legs from climbing straight up. At one point, the snow was so deep that I was terrified my feet would be completely soaked for the remaining ascent and descent. I was wearing my trusty Nikes. So we paused while Tas and I covered our socks/feet in plastic bags and then put our shoes back on- and finished the hike- so hard core! When we reached the zenith, I couldn't have been more proud. I leapt and yelled out a giant "woohoo" which echoed over the mountains for a good minute. It was the most difficult hike I've ever done. We took in the views of the other mountains peeking though the tops of faraway clouds. I was afraid to move of speak, for fear that this beauty before me would vanish. I blinked several times, but it was real. We finished the last bit of the climb- to the little shack on top of the summit- (the true summit) and met the only two hikers we saw the whole day- two Turks who couldn't have been any sweeter and helped navigate the treacherously steep, snow-covered, hole-filled way down the mountain. The descent took about 2 hours, in total about 6 for everything. I still can't feel my bum, just saying.

For those of you daring the Uludag, it is divided into about 6 parts:  (taking about 6 hours up &down)
1. Teleferik ride to the base
2. The steep climb up the side of a "hill" till you reach the old Wolfram mine (and ski lift)
3. The ski lift to the steep vertical climb 
4. The snaking, deep snow covered route to the peak.
5. The flat part of the zenith- a table-top cliff if you will (with more mountains behind it to climb)
6. The short climb to the shack at the true zenith.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

a Kerfuffle erupted

The bureaucracy in Turkey at times astounds me. In Turkey, like most countries, what you see is certainly not what you get. It has taken them almost 5 weeks now to procure a residency permit for us. This is after numerous tea sessions, countless visits by our good ole university representative and at least dozens of phone calls later. I leave the country in two weeks and if I don't have this permit, I can't get back in the country. Minor details ;)  If there is one thing I am grateful for in America it is organizational efficiency. People stand in lines, you generally can accomplish something by the time you leave a government building, and things are labeled, with forms ready for you to fill out and hand it, though arduous they may be. 

But in terms of surprises, and bureaucracy, today our class at University received a big surprise. Our students took a second placement test to put them into appropriate levels in their respective classes. Except I didn't know that we were exchanging classes today. Twenty minutes into my lesson, I hear a knock and all heck breaks loose! Kids are telling me I am their new teacher, and my other students are literally jumping over desks, rushing to the main hall to catch a glimpse at what class they tested into. So twenty minutes into an early Wednesday morning, I found myself teaching a brand new group of students. Back to square one. It was introductions, rules and expectations all over again. I felt like a mother hen who had to let her little chicks go out of the nest a bit too early. Well, hears to fresh starts and sixty-five brand new students one month into the university session. Welcome to Turkey, Sarah hoca. (Sarah hoca=teacher Sarah... the traditional name students use to refer to their professors)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Duzce by Camera

Our little apartment

The Purple Palace

my room

the lakes of Duzce

a village in the mountains

the waterfalls

view of Duzce, surrounded by mountains

Is it possible to look forward?

This is a blog I recently found that I wrote back in 2009. I still believe it rings true today. 

Ms. Tzipi Livni Vice-Prime Minister & Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel noted in her conference; ‘Proclaiming terrorists as a nation’s cultural heroes will negatively influence education and the fabric of society with long term implications and damage to the international recognition of a future Palestinian State. In Israel’s fight on all fronts to combat the threat of religious extremism and terrorism, the cooperation and support of the international community is greatly needed.’ Noting exactly my sentiments on how a harmful and caustic cycle of a lack of societal benefits (education, safety) causes the glorification of terrorism as a means to an end, Tzipi and I could not agree more.
While I did note the importance of allowing the Palestinian State to build infrastructure both from a political standpoint and a physical one (houses, education, health care, roads, etc) it is equally important to recognize the state of Israel’s right to defend their land. The Israeli’s, whether or not the Palestinians like it, have proven their military and agricultural dominance in the region. Since the creation of the state, the Israeli people have been tireless in its defense. Such a large majority of the national budget is channeled into defense and intelligence. Look at a map. Please, go do it. Note the size of the country. Israel is tiny. For all the hardships the Jews have endured since their exodus, isn’t it time we let them rest? Let’s look at a solution, lets’ talk. I am in favor of talks and a two-state solution. But most importantly, lets educate each other.
After living in both worlds, the Jewish/Israeli world and the Egyptian/Islamic one, I can honestly say the two mindsets are not the same. These two groups of people think differently. Different cultures, languages, and geographic locations all work together to thread the view of how you look at the world. The Arab world and the Israeli world are different. It is so difficult to pinpoint that thing, the thing that separates one from the other. One of my friends here always asks me, “why, Sarah, why? Why are they (the Arab people) so violent? Why are they bombing schools?” I don’t know what to say to her. My only response is, “They do not all think that way. You have extremes in every place, and the Arab violence gets a huge chunk of attention from the media.” I stand by what I say, but unfortunately, I have noticed, and I really want to learn why, that hatred runs so deep. On both sides. If the Middle East and all its problems were one big puzzle, I think I have the 4 corner pieces, and maybe a few sparsely scattered in the middle. Slowly but surely. I think my biggest realization from living here has been: how is it possible for diplomats and mediators in this process possibly attempt to mediate something unless they have lived here? Unless they have taken the time to learn those cultural nuances, to master the languages, to really listen to the people, and not only the leaders? I suppose it’s human nature. Revert to the leaders. But maybe some positive change could be made if instead of focusing on forcing talks between two governments with agendas- what if we focused on the new generation. Focus on the kids who will be the leaders, so we don’t’ continue to breed generations full of their grandparents hate. Education is the first step in a process that will last beyond any of our lifetimes.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Days No One Talks About

Today is one of those terrible, no good, very bad days. It is cold here. High of 52, low of 32. It will be below freezing tomorrow. It is also raining.

I am sick. (ill, as we say in Turkey) I am going through cough drops like they are crack.I lost my voice and had to pantomime the last two hours of class today.

Someone farted on me today. On the bus. I was sitting. He was standing. It was awful. The bus was hot because it was cold and rainy outside. Hence, this multiplied the gross factor by fifty. It was a real low.

Now, I am done complaining about my terrible, no good, very bad day. That is all.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The tiny town of Kerpe, Turkey

Palamut, a Black Sea fish
Ünal Lokatnta: A restaurant where there is no menu. Where the locals eat and smoke by the sea. A place that only serves four different kinds of fish, and they do it darn well. I plopped down into this restaurant along the stormy shoreline, nestled into a small cove, to begin my feast. The restaurant literally hung over the cliff. The mighty waves crashed along the deck with such force you wondered if the rickety place would hold. After being presented 4 different fish, and no menu to choose from, I chose Palamut- a fish I've heard wonders about, and a salad. When the salad came, they poured grape molasses and oil on it- a uniquely Turkish custom. I sat and wondered- read- relaxed. They brought a huge plate of fish all for me. I ate the whole whopping fish platter and ended the meal with tea. I stayed just long enough to hear a local guitar player serenade a couple of young lovers with his deeply luscious chords emanating from his wooden instrument. I wandered back to my hotel, Gokhan Hotel, where I sat fireside with the sweet staff- 2 girls of 20 who study at University. We sat and sipped chai until a group of about thirty men appeared from nowhere to have dinner.  [Keep in mind this is after seeing a total of 15 people since I had been there.] I exited, being the only woman, and decided to indulge in a date night with myself. Let me tell you, one small bottle of dry red wine from Ankara, a tid-bit of dark chocolate and a new book makes for a relaxed evening of bliss. It was a windy day and eerie creeks of wooden doors opening and closely echoed around the hotel as I lay reading my latest Ken Follet thriller. I was forced to pray for solitude, and thought out a plan of attack, just in case. For heaven sakes, no one was going to attack me but a girl traveling by herself can never be too careful.
the cliffs of Kerpe

ATVing around Kerpe
The next morning I awoke to smells of the Black Sea and headed down for breakfast where I met Mustafa, a nice guy who worked at the hotel and was very patient with my Turkish. We spoke for over an hour- only in Turkish. It was a huge confidence booster, and throughout the day, very few, if any, words of English left my mouth. I told Mustafa I was going to walk around the city, so he showed me the hotels secret ATVs. I was lucky enough to get a tour around the city on ATVs. It was a blast! We stopped at the famous Kerpe cliffs/caves. (In the photo) It was breathtaking! Caves in a little alcove-waves berating the shore- words don't do this little slice of paradise justice. After the cliffs we rode around the town for a while, parked and went to meet some of his friends for coffee. I was again the only woman, and the men were my waiters and diners I had seen the night before. It is such a small town. There were seven men and me, and they were extremely generous- they brought baklava in from the town over (because there were no sweet shops in the this town), served me freshly brewed coffee and took me on a field trip to the fig groves; where we picked tons of fresh figs, blackberries, another fruit I'd never seen before and walnuts from a giant walnut tree. After tiring of fruit picking, the men took me back to the hotel and I chatted with the owner of the hotel and Mustafa, continuing my devotion to only speaking Turkish. It was time to head home, so I packed my bags and caught the next bus to catch three more buses to get home. It was the perfect holiday. Go to Kerpe if you have the chance, you won't have any regrets.

To do in Kerpe:
1. See the cliffs of Kerpe and climb through them! (bring good shoes)
2. Wander by the waterfront on foot
3. ATV through the back roads and forests
4. Lounge on the beach
5. Eat lots of delicious fish

Note *If traveling by bus, have patience. You will have to take several buses to eventually reach Kerpe. My route Duzce>Adapazari>Random no name bus station>Kandira>Kerpe. From Istanbul, go to either Izmit or Adapazari to Kandira then hitch a minibus to Kerpe from there.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Bus to Nowhere

What starts as a bad day can somehow turn around into magnificence. I only teach for two hours on Tuesday morning so I decided a bit of spontaneity would do me well. I finished classes at noon and headed back to get some lunch at home before heading to the bus depot. Thirty minutes and a purse full of stuff later. I arrived at the otogar. I thought...hmm, I could use a little Black Sea today. I had researched a few towns on the Black Sea, two small towns, Kerpe and Kefken, only 10km apart and supposedly tiny and breathtaking. So I hopped on a bus headed to Adapazari hoping someone would point this yabanci (foreigner) in the right direction. Two hours later after rolling through a plush countryside and dirt roads, we arrived at the Adapazari bus station where my bus driver proceeded to grab my hand and shuttle me onto another bus. I assumed was leaving for Kefken. False. 45 minutes later (after asking my bus driver how long it takes to get to Kefken and his reply was "I don't know") I was very confused when I was dropped off at yet another bus station- a nameless one.
With increasing weariness and skepticism I boarded my third bus. Just to triple check, I asked "Kefken?"- with a reply of "yes, get on." This bus was particularly stinky, so I mostly breathed into my pashina to avoid inhaling the plague I was sure the women next to me was coughing up. The weather  was dreary but the sights were stunning. Women and men tilling soil, countless shepherds herding their sheep, pushing each other around in wheelbarrows and untouched forests that remained me of the forests on Prince Edward Island. Another forty minutes later, we pulled into the Kandira bus station where my bus driver, yet again directed me to another bus that wasn't leaving for thirty minutes. I was seriously regretting my choice of destination. After all, I only have twenty-four hours, there's no way the destination can be worth all this. I bought some peanuts for sustenance and waited- growing increasingly anxious. I had no hotel reservation, no plan, no maps,  no bus schedule or darn idea what I was doing. Bah. I finally boarded this "bus" which in reality was not a bus at all but a small van loaded with 30+ school kids. Another twenty minutes later we veered down this dirt path- a straight path that went up and down, like the hills of San Francisco. I saw the Black Sea and my worries decreased. Upon our initial approach into the tiny town of Kerpe, that no one I asked had heard of, I fell in love. Deep, adoring love. A city nestled on hills surrounding a cove. And destination or not, I knew this  was my stop. I hopped off the bus with my driver saying "wait -this isn't Kefken."- to my response in Turkish "I know, and a smile." I walked into a hotel, got a room with view for a steal of a deal and just like that I was back to my old self. Bring on the adventure.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Yabanci Rulebook

Tips to Blend In, in Turkey  
*As a foreigner living here for a short amount of time, I have apparently already stumbled across quite a few Turkish cultural faux pas... learn from my seriously embarrassing moments.

1. Do not chat consistently (even quietly) on public transportation! (We literally had an old women turn around and give us a 15 second stank eye)
2. Do not yawn without covering your mouth.
3. Do not attempt to take off a sweater in public, even if you have a t-shirt under it. Heaven forbid.
4. When the azzan (call to prayer) sounds, always make sure your feet are uncrossed and on the floor, it is a sign of respect.
5. Don't show off your assets like you would in the states. Attempt to blend in. Classy is sexy.
6. Never say NO! (God willing works best...)
7. Replying "huh?" or "what?" is very rude. Desist please.
8. Take off your shoes when entering someones house.
9. Don't refuse tea if you want to make friends. Prepare your belly for gallons of tea!
10. Claiming that you are "sick" is the equivalent of our f-word. You are forevermore, ill.
11. Um is also a very crude curse-word in Turkish. Don't make that mistake... (Uh works fine) 
12.  Don't wear shorts or flip-flops. They are uncommon unless you're here in the very hot summer months.
13. When toasting, always make eye contact with everyone you clink glasses with. 

I'm sure the list will continue to grow... unfortunately.
The students I teach at University correct me daily.
It's both endearing and embarrassing.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

LOOK at ME!!!

Inevitably, in every culture there will be things I love and things I hate. Turkey is a glorious country but there is one thing that is driving me nuts. Nuts! Simply stated, men will not make eye contact with me. Don't get me wrong, if you read my earlier blogs, sexual harassment in Egypt was a huge problem for me. It usually is in the Middle East because of the blonde hair, blue eyes thing. In Turkey, it seems that I have the opposite problem.

In Turkey, the men much more respectful of women. I have not once seen a butt grab, someone get felt up, whistled at or cat-called in the streets- even in Istanbul. When I came here the first time from Egypt, I was shocked. And cautious. I kept waiting for it to happen. I'm still waiting. But the truth is, it is much more logical when seen through the perspective of Islam. Sexual harassment is not condoned in any religion, especially Islam. I was always confused at how men could claim piety and feel up foreign women. In Turkey, Islam has a different feel than in Egypt, Jordan and Israel/Palestine. Islam here feels more settled and less constraining, socially speaking. Though, in more conservative parts of Turkey, like my city, the religiosity continues to permeate the social and political realms. The men are so hyper-aware of gender roles and religious respect, the pendulum swings to the complete opposite side.

Egypt=intense sexual frustration with results of sexual harassment which is clearly in direct contradiction of Islamic teachings
Turkey= religious respect so much so that no one will make eye contact with me

[Thanks to good 'ole Wikipedia] "In the Islamic faith, Muslims often lower their gaze and try not to focus on the opposite sex's faces and eyes after the initial first eye contact, other than their legitimate partners or family members, in order to avoid potential unwanted desires.  Lustful glances to those of the opposite sex, young or adult, are also prohibited. This means that eye contact between any man and woman is allowed only for a second or two. This is a must in most Islamic schools, with some exceptions depending on the case, like when teaching, testifying, or looking at a girl for marriage. If allowed, it is only allowed under the general rule: "No-Desire", clean eye-contact. Otherwise, it is not allowed, and considered "adultery of the eyes".

For instance, when my roommate and I were in the market for an apartment, when met with a real estate agent to look at another possible apartment. Our other Fulbrighter, Nick, came along as well as a male university representative. The real estate agent got into the car, greeted the men and completely ignored us. No hello. No hand shake. Even though we were the ones buying the apartment! When the real estate agent spoke he spoke to Nick or our university rep. Never us. Even when touring the apartment he wouldn't make eye contact with me. I became so irked that I stared at him...convinced if I stared long enough he'd have no choice but to look at me. Wrong. Only at one point, when I directly addressed him, did he look at me, and it was literally for a second. At the end of our meeting he departed with farewells to the men. Tas and I were not included. I was irked. Our amazingly sweet Turkish girlfriends explained to us, "when a man is there, he is in charge." That pretty much sums it up.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Lost in Translation

Taking a trip from Duzce to Bolu is a decently easy task. We hopped on a bus from Duzce that got us to the Bolu highway in less than an hour. After climbing the hills of the Bolu region, we finally arrived in Bolu, well on the side of the road of Bolu and had to transfer buses to reach the city center. Our final destination was Abant Lake, a beautiful Turkish paradise tucked away into the mountains of the Bolu region.
Turns out you must take a bus from the city center to Abant Lake, which is another hour. But they only run every 90 minutes or so (the next bus left at 11:00) so we had an hour to kill before the departure to our final destination. We stopped to get some tea and coffee to artificially energize ourselves for the adventure. We sat down at a cafe overlooking the city center and I attempted to order a coffee. Being lactose-intolerant, I always try to ask for soy milk. Never happens, but hey, I try at least. I asked for "soya sütü" the Turkish phrase for soy milk. The two waiters straight up laughed at me, literally making no attempt to hide their amusement at whatever I had just asked for. She walked away, confused, and emerged two minutes later holding a bottle of Soy Sauce. Then, we all laughed, pulled out the dictionary and magic! All was understood.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Wine Tasting in Turkey Part II

As we made our way back up through central Thrace after 8 straıght hours of wine tasting, our bus was sılent. We were all mesmerızed by the rural lucıous nature we were seeıng. Low hills and shallow valleys sprınkled wıth creeks runnıng throughout, thıs regıon was the exact opposıte of what I had pıctured the "European side" of Turkey would look like. Smoke rose and drifted over corn and cabbage fields and the bus was required to stop to avoid the potholes, meanderıng cows and mıscellanıous lıvestock roamıng the streets.
As we moved down the hılls there were numerous abandoned cıtıes, weather-torn buildings, and half built houses. The only people we had seen for mıles were Turks campıng ın the hıllsç roastıng fresh food on the bbq. Nearly thırty mınutes later we moved back ınto cıvılzatıon, ınto the town of Tekirdağ- there were people ! And a cıty ıt was. Smack dab on the Marmara, the cıty was full of resteraunts, cafes, stores and houses. It had an aura of rıch culture. Tekırdağ was one of the few citıes we saw today ın addıtıon to experıencıng a slough of varying landscapes and a very large range of rural cities and bustling metropoli. Turkey has everything from huge urban advanced cities, to isolated mountain town, to sea side vıllages and everything in between. In conclusion, you should definitely attend a Turkish wine tour. Questions? Feel free to ask!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wine Tasting in Turkey Part I

From Istanbul to Chateau Nuzum- our first stop of wine tasting. I found a wine club on Internations- a great expat website, and learned of this wine tour that would tour north west Turkey. I signed up as fast as the internet would navigate me through its pages. The bus picked us up at 7am and we hit the vineyards and began the wine tasting day at 9:45 am. It's five o'clock somewhere, right? Our little English speaking bus consisted of Americans, Poles, Canadians, Aussies, Brits, South Koreans and Turks. Our little bus that could scooted up the hills along the Marmara coast, skirting the water and allowing us to enjoy the views of early morning ocean glitter. Our guide's name is Hakan- a Turk who studied in Australia. He gave us a brief history of wine in Turkey. Interestingly enough, Raki remains the national alcoholic beverage- and wine still has a connotation of being a Christian drink. But, in fact, a Turkish wine culture is slowly developing. For all you wine lovers up there, Turkish wine differs largely by region. We tasted mostly cabernets, syrahs and merlots.
During our first stop, at Chateau Nuzum, we learned that they keep the skin on the grapes during processing from anywhere between 10 days to 4 weeks, depending on the pH balance and the intensity of the grape. They also "fire toast" the insides of the barrels in order to emit flavors of the wood- or chocolate or vanilla, or whatever. So smoky, more complex wines are probably in a fired barrel. They slightly char the insides with fire. We tasted both "lightly toasted" and"medium toasted" wines though every time he said toasted, I wanted to ask for the butter. (Bad joke, I know) Apparently, 95% of wine are produced and immediately distributed and consumed. The other 5% of wines are stored for aging. That's the stuff you shell out the Benjamin's for.
After departing the vineyard we headed to our lunch destination overlooking the sea. Check out my food page on the blog for details on the food! We munched on mezze, we devoured our meats, and we molested our desserts. But paired along with our 5 course meal were 8 different local wines. 8. Guys, that is a lot of wine. After wine tasting. I sipped verrrryyy slowly, as we had a long windy bus ride along the coast ahead of us.  We then drove through Ericlice- a teeny tiny city by the sea, remembered for its vast agricultural products and the single wharf stretching out onto the water- constructed with pieces of broken fences, and looked like a lawn-mower spat out its wood which just happened to make a wharf. We arrived in Murefte, and sat on the edge of their pier and watched the mesmerizing movements of jellyfish in the Marmara. We visited their wine museum and tried several of their aged local wines. Yep, that's right guys. We are up to about wine #13 or #14. I lost count. After strolling along the coastline and chatting over chai, we plopped back into the bus and onto our next destination. (to be continued...)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Take me back to Constantinople...

After half-strolling, half-power walking to the harbor to board our gigantic steel grey ferry departing for Istanbul, we plopped onto the balcony seats on the back to glimpse the view of the city of Yalova. Mountains shadowed by the sun peeking out of the gray clouds highlighted the Sea of Marmara. After buying a cup of coffee for 6TL (!!!! $3.50!) I finally settled down to begin our relaxing journey down to Istanbul. Tas and I had joined our friend Clayton in his big little sea-side city of Yalova before heading to our big city-- Istanbul. We, once again, were graced with luck and saw at least four dolphins playing happily, jumping out of the waves made by the enormous ferries. We passed the Prince Islands, fortresses  of old, and islands peppered with trees- just asking to be climbed. These secluded bits of Marmarian paradise have captured my imagination. I dream of hiking up to the top and stationing myself right at the zenith- perched to wake up to the sight of a glorious sunrise. Or more excitingly, I dream of being a princess. Let's make it queen, shall we? Queen of a tiny little island. I could eat fish and hike and swim all day long in big pink dresses. But enough about my dreams. Saturday was our first Istanbul trip this year.... 
After finally landing in Istanbul, we hurdled ourselves into Istanbulium- the word I think is most appropriate for all the Istanbul encompasses. Turkish craziness. My motto here is go with the flow. Any other attitude immediately sets you up for limitations on fun.  Our of every city in the world I have been lucky enough to visit, Istanbul is the one. A unique flair or European meets a very tangible feeling of East-ness. We headed to Taksim Square, a bustling center for both Turks and Tourists. We had met a friend through a friend through a website and were crashing with her for the night. Turned out, she was a really cool girl from Georgetown who is opening up a travel company in Turkey! We dropped our stuff of at her place near Taksim and went on to devour some mediocre food. We headed to the American embassy for me to take care of some business and then meandered back towards the main part of Istanbul. Lazily passing shops full of music, vintage photographs, clothes, lollipops, steel, hair, (you name it, we passed it) we hiked up to Galata tower and took in the food. And when I say took in the food, I mean we ate a whole heck of a lot. Tas departed back to Yalova and Clayton and I wandered up to his old apartment in Galata- which has a stunning view! Clayton, myself and two adorable Turkish women took in the most beautiful views of the Bosphorous, of the whole city. Check it out.

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