Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Trojan Horse, Burgers, and Fries

On the third day of our vacation we visited the Ancient City of Troy.  This was an all day event.  We spent 5 hours in the car driving through Turkish villages brimming with character and giant, craggy mountains before we landed at our destination.  The drive was absolutely beautiful; the shimmering sea, the majestic mountains, green, lush fields.  After hours and hours of driving, we were very eager to stretch our legs and explore the ruins of Troy.  My history lovin' husband was on cloud nine. 

We explored the ruins of this once glorious city dating back thousands of years.  We saw walls and towers still in tact from the Trojan War.  We saw the remnants of homes, a theater, the citadel, a well, bridges, and walkways.  At the top of the hill, Dan pointed out the fields below us where the fighting during the Trojan Wars took place.  The farm fields about a quarter of a mile from the city used to be covered by the Aegean Sea but have been filled in over the course of thousands of years.  Because of this, we found little seashells scattered throughout the ruins of Troy.  The natural beauty that surrounded the ruins made our hike even more enjoyable.  It was about 65 degrees outside and felt like a perfect Fall day (even though it was just days before Christmas).  The sun was beginning to set, which painted lavender and pink hues across the sky.  We were surrounded by farm fields and nature, which made the whole atmosphere quiet and serene.

There was also a large replica of the Trojan Horse for visitors to view.  We were even able to climb up inside of it!  Peter loved going up the ladder with daddy into the Trojan Horse! 

On our way home, we drove through a tiny, quaint village near Troy.  We saw roosters and donkeys, little boys playing soccer in the street, and old men drinking Turkish tea.  I hopped out of the car at a little produce stand to buy some delicious bananas for the trip home.  Then we started our 5 hour drive back to the hotel.

One of the challenges we found while driving through Turkey is that there are no drive-thru's.  There are many little kabob stops in local villages, but nothing quick and easy when you have a long day of driving and can't afford the time to sit down at a restaurant.  We ended up eating granola bars for lunch many days.  After several hours of driving on our journey home, we spotted something familiar...a Burger King at a Turkish mall.  Since we had a light lunch and skipped dinner, we were eager to make a quick stop at this familiar spot. 

As we walked into the Burger King, we quickly remembered that we were still in Turkey...and the employees didn't speak English.  We went through our routine of "survival communication" which consists of charades, pointing, and a couple of key Turkish words that we have learned.  We felt that we had successfully communicated our order of 2 burgers, 2 fries, 2 Cokes and a happy meal.  Phew!  The Burger King employee then asked us a question in Turkish.  No idea.  We did our usual smiles and sheepish "I don't know" nods.  He then made a gesture as if he was holding a handle and said "Bucket?".  Ah, yes.  Bucket.  Yes, we would like our food "to go".  Thank you.

Dan handed the man some Turkish Lira and the man handed us an unusually large amount of brown Burger King bags.  When we left the restaraunt Dan commented, "Wow!  That was an expensive Burger King!  Our meal cost 40 TL (which is almost 30 dollars)!"  We peered into our 3 large bags to find 5 Cokes, 5 cheeseburgers, and 5 orders of fries.  I guess we'll never know if our Burger King friends thought it'd be a funny joke or if we're really that bad at communicating in a foreign country.  Either way, it was definitely a memorable language barrier experience.  And we had all of the fast food our American hearts desired.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Mary's Home and Saint John the Apostle's Tomb

As Christ was dying on the Cross, He asked Saint John to care for His mother.  Saint John brought Mary to Ephesus, where she spent the last years of her life.  We had the opportunity to visit this modest stone house where Mary lived after Christ's death and Resurrection.  By far, this was the most incredible experience we have had in Turkey.

Mary's home rested at the top of a breathtakingly beautiful mountain outside of the city.  As our car drove up the mountain twists and turns, we took in the natural beauty around us.  I can see why God chose this mountain for His mother, we marveled.  It was too beautiful for words.  We parked our car and hiked the rest of the way up.  We felt an intense peace as we hiked through the evergreen trees and listened to the cool breeze blowing through the pine needles.  The warm sun peaked through the branches and the fresh mountain air smelled sweet. 

As we came closer, we saw a baptismal font for early Christians.  We hiked further down the path and came to Mary's home.  It was a humble stone house nestled in the trees.  We entered the main room of her home.   It was simple and humble.  There was a statue of Mary, a nativity scene, and several chairs.  To the side was a little bedroom.  In the corner were crutches and leg braces, evidence of healings that resulted from pilgrimages to this home.  A Franciscan brother and sister quietly cleaned and decorated to prepare for Christmas (Dan helped the Sister by holding the dustpan for her while she swept.  He was so excited to say that he helped clean Mary's house!)

  I stood in the little room, closed my eyes, and took a deep breath.  Peace.  Incredible peace.  My heart felt at rest.  During all of the trials and challenges of this year, we have placed ourselves in Mary's arms and asked for her intercession.  When Peter got sick right before our trip, we placed our trip in Mary's hands and asked for her help.  Now we were here, in Mary's home, and we felt loved, we felt safe.  We were at home, with our Heavenly mother.

I could've stayed there forever.  I considered it.  But reality hit in the form of a little boy yelping "Ma! Ma! Ba! Eh! Ah!"  Peter had been so good and quiet on Dan's back, but he was gently reminding us that it was time to go.  As we left, we stopped at a natural spring next to Mary's home that she may have used.  We each took a sip and filled a bottle.  Next to the spring was a wall filled with notes and intentions for Mary.  We sat down and wrote a note to Mary, rolled it up, and placed it in the wall. 

We drove down the mountain and stopped at our final spot for the day: the tomb of Saint John the Apostle.  A Church was built around his tomb.  We explored the ruins of the Church as the sun set over the village.  We asked Saint John to pray for our family.  It had been a long, amazing day. 

The Ancient City of Ephesus

We woke up early the next morning, eager to explore Turkey's west coast.  Before heading out on our next adventure we ate breakfast at our hotel.  Mmmm....absolutely superb!  The breakfast included lots of fresh fruits, breads, olives, cheeses (Peter was thrilled to be able to eat cheese- his favorite food in the whole wide world- for breakfast), yogurt, tea, coffee, and Turkish and Swiss traditional foods (we stayed in a Swiss Hotel).  Yum! 

After breakfast, we picked up our rental car, a little silver Hyundai Getz, and headed on our way.  Dan drove (I am so thankful  for my brave husband driving in a big, crazy city!) and I navigated (well...sort of).  And together, we somehow found our way out of downtown Izmir and onto the highway.  Next stop?  The ancient city of Ephesus! 

The drive to Ephesus was breathtaking.  I accidentally directed Dan to take the wrong highway (first of many times on our trip), which ended up being just a little bit longer and a lot more scenic.  It was worth it.  The mountains on Turkey's west coast are incredible.  There are no words to describe just how massive and grand they are.  I have never seen anything like it.  The fields and valleys around the mountains were lush and green.  We marveled at the shades of green...some so bright and bold it almost seemed unreal.  And the Aegean Sea twinkled in the warm, bright Turkish sun. 

After some exploring and map checking...we found our first stop off the beaten road.  Tucked away from the highway, outside of the city, we found the ruins of the Ancient Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  We hiked through the field of columns and stones and imagined what this grand temple must have looked like when it was new.  Some columns were still standing while others lay on the overgrown grass below.  We found Greek writing and designs on some of the large stones, which helped paint a picture of the ornate beauty that this temple possessed. 

After the temple of Artemis, we hopped in the car and drove down the road to the Ancient city of Ephesus.  Ephesus was first a Greek city built in 1000 BC.  Many of the ruins we see today are from the 4th century BC.  We put little Peter in our hiking backpack and walked down an ancient road and explored this beautiful ancient city.  I love Ephesus.  The ruins are incredible and the natural beauty surrounding them is exhilirating.  

The first stop we came upon was the very first Church dedicated to Mary.  It was here that the Council of Ephesus took place in 431 AD.  The Church was still beautiful, with crosses etched into its stones and archways in tact.  We found two baptismal fonts for the early Christians.  Imagine the early Christians celebrating Mass in this beautiful shrine. 

Next  we saw a theater from the Hellenistic period.  Saint Paul himself preached to the Ephesians in this theater!  This outdoor theater was incredibly impressive; the stone rows of seats reaching almost to the sky.   We climbed almost to the top and looked down on the stage, imagining the firey, bold words of St. Paul echoing throughout the stone walls. 

Next stop: the Library of Celsus.  This impressive structure was built in 114 AD and still possesses much of it's original beauty.  At one time, this library held 12,000 scrolls. This was one of my favorite ruins...the ornately carved pillars and statues were beautifully displayed against the backdrop of the impressive mountains in the distance. 

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Adventure Begins...

Merry Christmas!

Our family just returned from an absolutely wonderful vacation to Turkey's west coast!  A few weeks ago, we bought some wonderfully cheap plane tickets to Izmir, Turkey and booked 4 nights in a local hotel.  The days leading up to the trip were filled with anticipation and excitement for a new adventure and nervousness at the thought of traveling all by ourselves in a foreign country.  And then Peter got sick. 

The night before our trip, Dan and I wrestled with the idea of cancelling our trip to spend the week at home taking care of our little guy with the sniffles.  The next morning we woke up, completely unpacked, and took our sniffling, coughing little man to the doctor.  She reported that he had an infection in one ear.  But then reassured us that she'd put Peter on antibiotics right away and encouraged us to go on our trip anyway. 

There was too little time to think too much about it.  It was 10:00 am.  The shuttle was scheduled to take us to the airport at 2:00 pm.   We flew into action and started packing.  Up until this point, I had apprehension about the trip.  But suddenly, I felt at peace and ready to go. 

We miraculously pulled everything together and made it to the airport shuttle pick up by 2:00 pm.  Then our adventure began.  Arriving at the Adana Airport was our first experience of being foreigners in a place where little (or no) English was spoken.  We gestured and guessed our way through the airport security, check-in, and baggage check and waited for our flight to board. 

While we were waiting, Peter spotted a Turkish woman with a little lap dog.  Peter loves dogs and immediately hopped off my lap to meet his new friend.  As we approached, the woman spoke several Turkish sentences to me, in which I smiled and nodded "I don't understand".  She then responded in perfect English that she was from Turkey but currently lives in Canada.  Ah, thank You, Jesus.  She was the first of many angels that God sent to us on our journey.  God is such a loving Father, His guiding hand was with us every step of the way. 

Our new friend, Gabby, and her dog, Maggie, interpreted the flight announcements for us so that we'd board the right plane.  Before long, we were on the plane headed for Izmir.  The flight was a little over an hour and Peter was a great traveler!  He loved looking out the window at the massive mountains below us.  When we arrived in Izmir, we hopped on a Havas (like a Turkish Hertz) bus and drove to the hotel. 

Our hotel was absolutely amazing.  It was in the heart of downtown Izmir overlooking the Aegean Sea.  The hotel staff greeted us and gave us a traditional Turkish winter drink made of orchid seeds, hot milk, sugar and cinnamon.  YUM!  They warmly welcomed Peter and placed a Hot Wheels car in his little hand.  We settled into our room and ordered room service (a luxury we had never done before!) as we got our little man into his pj's. 

A great first day...and our adventure was only beginning! 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

One Week until Christmas!

 It is a unique and sometimes challenging experience to live in a Muslim country around Christmas time.  When we walk off base, there are no twinkly lights, no Christmas carols, no snow covering the ground.  Thankfully, the base does a wonderful job of helping it feel more like "home".  You can find decorations, parties, caroling, and Santa sightings. 

But more than anything, Peter has brought the holiday spirit to our home.  Peter loves reading The Night Before Christmas and exclaims "ehn-nuh!" (Santa) when jolly old Saint Nicolas is spotted.  Peter very seriously and very reverently loves picking up baby Jesus from the manger scene to give Him a big, dramatic kiss (several dozen times a day).  He loves toddling up to the Christmas lights hung in front of the grocery store to gaze in wonder.  He loves gently reminding me ("mmmmma! mmmmma!") to plug in the Christmas lights on our one foot tall tree.  He loves blowing out the candles from our Advent wreath when dinner is done. 

It's just one week until Christmas! 

Dan has a few extra days off this coming week, so we bought some plane tickets and are taking a little trip!  I'm keeping our destination a surprise...but I'll give you a hint.  We will ask Mamma Mary for her intercession for all of you, dear friends, in this special spot!  Please say a prayer that we stay safe & healthy (and that our very basic Turkish will keep us out of trouble!).  

Come, Lord Jesus! 

p.s. Did you know that Saint Nicholas is from Turkey?!?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Got Milk? (Yes we do!)

We have one grocery store on base.  It's not teeny, but it's not a Super Walmart either.  And all of our groceries are flown in from the USA or Germany.  It's a very interesting situation.  We have organic wheat bread from Boulder, Colorado and BBQ potato chips from Pennsylvania.  Usually this system works out pretty well, but every once in awhile there is a glitch...a holiday or a delayed shipment...and you realize how much you are at the mercy of the airplanes that deliver your groceries every week.

Last week, when I rounded the corner at the grocery store to pick up some cartons of milk I discovered a sign on taped to the rows of empty shelves.  The sign read: "The milk shipment has been delayed.  It will arrive on Wednesday.  Sorry for the inconvenience."  I quickly counted in my head "Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday...that's five days without milk."
(I then picked up some yogurt for an alternate source of calcium, only to find that all the yogurt was expired.)

That evening, my stomach sank a bit when I poured the last drop of milk into Peter's cup.  We're out of milk.  It was such a foreign feeling to be out of something as basic as milk and not being able to hop in the car and pick it up somewhere.  We have such an instant gratification society in America.  If one grocery store is out of something, there are 8 other stores down the road.  10:30 at night?  Not a problem.  Super Walmart is always open. 

It reminded me of the Turkish language and culture class I took on base.  The teacher told us that in many Turkish families, the youngest child always drinks the milk first because they need it the most.  That way, if they don't have enough, at least the little ones will have had some. 

I then realized that this minor inconvenience was good for me.  I think God has a lot He is going to teach me here in Turkey.  One of those lessons is gratitude.

We survived the five days without milk and I eagerly walked to the grocery store first thing Wednesday morning.  This time, I rounded the corner to find shelves full of milk cartons.  I eagerly dove for a carton and couldn't help but smile when I held that simple blessing in my hands.  I noticed several others equally excited to load their carts with milk as well.  I actually had a couple of conversations with people that day about how excited we were about having milk again.

At a very stressful time in my life several years ago, a wise friend gave me a Thankfulness Journal and told me to spend 5 minutes a day before bed writing down all of the little blessings that I received throughout the day.  I learned to count the little things (not having to scrape the ice off my car windows before work, a hot cup of coffee, an email from an Air Force Academy crush named Dan  : ) )  and it helped my whole perspective change. 
As I walked home from the grocery store with my carton of milk on the day before Thanksgiving, I began to count all of the little, sometimes unrecognized blessings since arriving in Turkey:
*showering after a long overseas plane ride*sleeping in a bed after weeks of air mattresses after our furniture was shipped*Stauffer's lasagna with new friends on one of our first nights here*Peter getting over jet lag*every syllable of the first phone conversation with my parents*driving our car (once it arrived) to the store after over a month of walking*eating a cheeseburger at a Turkish McDonald's (it felt so comforting and familiar)*

Dear God, thank You for all of the big and little blessings in our lives!

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Very Happy Thanksgiving

It's Friday evening, my boys are asleep, and I'm enjoying every little bit of this quiet calm after the excitement of the past two days.  Though Thanksgiving started off a little rough with my mouse frustration and missing Dan and my family, it ended up being a wonderful, memorable holiday. 

Yesterday afternoon Peter and I shared a fabulous Thanksgiving meal with our friends.  What incredible souls God has placed in my life!  These friends are so full of joy and life...it was easy to feel like we were among family as we feasted on an amazing spread of delicious food.  I am so thankful for them.

When we got home, Peter and I had a bedtime snack while we watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV.  (I've never watched it at night before...kinda fun!)  Peter loved the parade floats and pointed and laughed with excitement.  He was mesmerized with Macy's Santa Claus and studied him very carefully, trying to figure him out. 

Today we had Thanksgiving: Round Two.  This morning felt so much like a holiday with Dan home.  We ate our breakfast together as I started mashing the potatoes for our afternoon feast.  We listened to Christmas music for the first time this year.  And we even danced a little polka with Peter (Peter just started dancing...it doesn't get any cuter than this.)  This afternoon, we had some of Dan's Airmen over for a Thanksgiving meal.  We were happy to have these young men over since they are living in the dorms away from their families during the holidays. 
And I successfully cooked my very first Thanksgiving dinner!  It was so much fun! 
I made Turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, green beans, corn, and 3 pies.  The guys that shared our meal with us were so grateful and fun- it was a fantastic evening!  And Peter loved showing off for his "big kid" friends! 

I am so grateful for all of the people that shared this Thanksgiving with me and helped make it so memorable.
We have not caught the mouse yet, but he stayed hidden all day today during our feast.  I am thankful for that too. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

This Kitchen Ain't Big Enough for the Both of Us

I should be peeling potatoes right now. 

It's Thanksgiving Day.  Peter and I will be going to celebrate with some of our friends soon.  Dan has to work today, which has made this first holiday away from home just a little bit harder.  But I made two pumpkin pies last night and am sincerely excited to celebrate with my wonderful friends.  God is good!

Dan and I will celebrate our Thanksgiving meal together tomorrow.  We are having about 10 of his Airmen over to our house for a Thanksgiving meal.  This will be my very first time cooking a Thanksgiving dinner.  Which is why I should be peeling potatoes right now.
Which leads us to my current predicament.

Two nights ago, we discovered a very unwelcome guest in our home.  As we were finishing up dinner, a sneaky gray mouse scurried across the kitchen floor and slipped under the dishwasher.  Since then, it has left evidence of it's intentions to get cozy and settled with us all over the kitchen.  I am absolutely disgusted by the idea of this guest staying as long as it has already and am doing everything I can to get it out.
So far, the mouse has eluded the traps.  But after spending the morning watching youtube videos on how to catch a mouse, I am armed and dangerous.   Watch out, little pest.  You will not be sharing our feast with us tomorrow!
(Please say a prayer for that!)

It's time to head to our Thanksgiving Feast! 
PS- I have been obsessively and constantly disinfecting our kitchen.  Don't be afraid to try my pumpkin pie! 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Small Town USA...uh...Turkey

I love living on base here.  It feels like 1950's Small Town USA. 

Everything is within walking distance, so Peter and I can walk to the post office and say hello to neighbors along the way.  When we go to the grocery store, we can count on bumping into lots of familiar faces.  And it feels safe, even when Dan works long, late days.
The community is so small and everyone is so connected with each other.  It's so easy in a bigger city to just forget about your neighbors.  But here, everyone looks out for one another, like family.  When we first arrived here and barely had anything but a couple of suitcases, friendly neighbors who had only known us for hours were giving us their pots and pans, toys for Peter, shower curtains and towels.  I even witnessed someone unplug one of their phones out of their wall and hand it to us to borrow.

And the generosity keeps on coming.  When Peter needs new clothes, a generous soul delivers a whole Rubbermaid tote of hand-me-downs from her boys.  When a family on base is suffering, people line up to offer prayers and deliver warm meals.  I feel so blessed to be able to live in this kind of community.  I pray that this beautiful example of Christ-like love and generosity can stretch my heart to learn to give so freely without hesitation.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Halloween: Turkey Style

October in Nebraska is usually pretty chilly.  I remember bundling up with a coat stylishly draped over my Halloween costume before setting out for Trick-or-Treating.  Sometimes Trick-or-Treating was cancelled or moved to an indoor Mall when an early snow or ice storm hit.  This hot cocoa and mittens weather was always a good indicator that the holidays would soon be approaching.  

This year, we celebrated Halloween weekend "Turkey Style".  The day before Halloween we joined Father Efren and some fun friends on a trip to the beach.  It was a fabulous day!  Father is friends with a Turkish family that owned a tiny restaurant on a private part of the beach.  This wonderful family generously welcomed us and let us enjoy the Mediterranean while they prepared lunch for us. 

The beach was great!  It was a perfect, sunny day and we were the only ones there to enjoy the Sea.  Dan was eager to let Peter experience the waves splashing up on the shore.  Peter was hestiant for a minute or two, but soon discovered how much fun it was to let the waves splash up on his little legs.  He was so excited!  Even the big waves didn't phase him.  He was a perfectly content, soaked little boy.  He also loved feeling the sand on his toes when he walked.  He kept digging those little toes deeper into the soft sand.

After a morning of playing in the Sea, we worked up an appetite.  We walked up to the restaurant for some tea while we waited for lunch.  When our hosts heard we were coming, they cast out a fishing net the night before our arrival so we could feast on freshly caught fish from the Sea.   They let us peer into the cooler full of ice and Sea Bass and pick out the fish we would like to have cooked for us. 
Our lunch was perfect: freshly grilled Sea Bass and shrimp, salads, bread, Coca Cola in old fashined glass bottles and tea!  The fish was perfectly cooked and seasoned...the best I've ever had!  Yum!

After our feast, Father bought some fresh crabs from the Sea.  They were huge and bright blue and still alive!  We could hear them scratching around in the cooler during our drive home.  Father generously offered to share the crabs with us.  We carefully picked out four of them using salad tongs as they tried to pinch us.

Since we're Nebraskans through and through, we had no idea how to cook a live crab.  I've only even eaten crab once before in my entire life.  Dan jumped into action and googled "how to boil a live crab" while I put our salty, sandy little beach boy into the tub.  Fifteen minutes later, we had a clean little boy and four beautiful boiled crabs.  Hooray, Dan! 

The next day, we celebrated our first Halloween in Turkey.  I LOVE Halloween on base.  It feels so safe and friendly; like what it might have been like in the 1950's.  Here on this small base, you know and trust many of your neighbors, which makes the entire atmosphere very family friendly.  There were lots and lots of children out Trick-or-Treating with their parents.  The Security Forces guys volunteer for "Pumpkin Patrol" which means that there are dozens and dozens of Security Forces police officers walking the streets ensuring that everything is going smoothly. 

The Base Chapel hosted an All Saints Day Party in which adults dressed up like Saints and Bible Heros to educate little Trick-or-Treaters about their lives.  Peter attended this party as his patron, Saint Peter.  He even carried his very own set of Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. 
After the chapel party, we came home to hand out candy and put Peter into his other costume.  Grandma Beth mailed Peter a super fun surprise costume...and Peter celebrated his second Halloween in style as a Disco Baby (yes, afro wig and all!).

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Snake Castle (Yilankale) and the Mediterranean Sea

Dan works every other weekend.  So the weekends he does not work are heavenly.  I have come to appreciate all of the precious time our little family has together more than ever.  It is bliss.

We try to go out on little adventures on weekends that he's not at work.  This past Saturday we ventured to Snake Castle.  Snake Castle was built in the 13th century.  There are many legends about this mysterious castle, but little is known about its true origin.  According to mythology, it was home to a ruler who was part man and part snake.  Another story claims that it was so infested with snakes that it had to be abandoned. 

I must admit, though excited about a chance to explore a new place, I was not very intrigued at the thought of spending the day at the ruins of an old castle.  I figured we would wander around for awhile, taking pictures of ancient stones and piles of rocks, trying our best to imagine what the castle would have looked like long ago.  Snake castle more than exceeded my expectations!

It was incredible!  The castle sits at the top of a mountain.  We drove partially up the mountain and then parked our car to start the hike.  We straped Peter in our hiking backpack on Dan's back and started the trek.  We began our hike on a paved path which quickly disappeared as we found ourselved crawling up marble boulders on the side of a mountain.  The amazing (and sometimes unnerving) thing about landmarks and historical sites in Turkey is that there are no guardrails, no safety nets, no fences or restricted areas.  You can crawl up and down and all over history.  And that's exactly what we did. 

Dan, being the history buff that he is, excitedly scaled the mountain with Peter perched on his back.  I followed the boys, sending Dan gentle reminders every 5 seconds "Careful, Dan..."  "Maybe we shouldn't go that way."  "Are you sure about this?"  (Side note: Dan took wonderful care of both of us and we made it through without a scratch.  I was probably overly cautious...but that's my job.  I'm a mom!)

When we reached the top, I was amazed at what I saw!  Rather than seeing piles of rocks that somewhat resembled what used to be a castle, I saw towers and archways and rooms and windows and doorways...it still looked like a castle!  It is incredible how intact it still is!  We were the only ones there, so we took our time exploring each room and imagining it almost one thousand years ago in all its glory.  Peter also enjoyed the view from Daddy's back...he quietly soaked it all in and didn't complain once.

After climbing the mountain and exploring the castle, we came home for a late lunch, some rest, and a shower.  Then, we geared up for the next part of our day! 

We have had the blessing of being introduced to a wonderful Turkish man who lives in Adana.  He has taken good care of us and is always eager to show us around his beautiful country.  On Saturday afternoon, he insisted on taking us to the Mediterranean Sea.  We, of course, eagerly agreed to his plan.  He took us to his family's vacation home on the beach.  It was wonderful to see the Mediterranean Sea for the first time!  It was almost sunset and the view was beautiful.  Dan took Peter down to the waves to introduce him to the ocean for the first time.  It was a little too big for Peter...and he nervously insisted on being held the entire time.  Can you blame him?  He is a Nebraska boy, after all.  We're going to have to get used to the Sea.  I'm sure it won't be hard. 

My mom

My mom is the most adventurous person I know.  As I was growing up, I always marveled at the stories I heard about my mom's world travels.  At the age of 16, she flew to Greece all by herself and lived as a foreign exchange student for a Summer.  My mom spent over a year in Switzerland after college.  She's traveled all over...and has the exciting stories to prove it.  She once dove under a car in Switzerland to dodge to chaos of a riot.  She's boogied at the Discotec as a teenager in Greece.  She's skied the Alps.  There are even rumors (that she firmly denies) about her cheating death at a pub in Ireland.  Adventurous.

Now God has blessed me with this opportunity.  I can follow in my mom's footsteps...and have my own adventures.  Inspired by mom, I've been trying to soak in as much of the culture as I can.

The base offers free Turkish language classes on Tuesday nights.  They are fantastic!  It's so much fun to stretch my brain in a new way.  I'm not fluent in Turkish (or even close!) but it has been exciting as I start to recognize little bits and pieces of Turkish.  I was giddy the other day when I recognized "Dikkat: Cok Sicak" as "Caution: Very Hot" on the side of my Starbucks Carmel Macciato cup!

Last week, I took a Turkish Cooking Class sponsored by the Spouses' Club.  We had the opportunity to go behind the scenes at a Turkish restaurant and learn how to make Turkish food!  It was exciting to watch the owner of the restaurant sprinkle handfuls of spices on his creations and toss them into the large stone oven. 

Maybe I haven't embarked on large scale adventures just yet, but I am savoring all of the little cultural experiences that have come my way so far. 

I always admired my mom's adventurous nature, but I never imagined that I'd be able to follow in her footsteps and have some adventures of my own.  I am thoroughly enjoying it.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Tarsus: Saint Paul, Cleopatra, & Waterfalls!

Yesterday, we ventured beyond the Incirlik Air Base gates to the nearby city of Tarsus, hometown of Saint Paul.  This was our first adventure on our own; just the three of us!  Armed with a phrase book, some Turkish Lira, an adventurous spirit, and a roll of toilet paper-just in case- we set off on our way! 

Dan was a natural at driving in Turkey.  It was his first time, but he quickly caught on to the unpredictable craziness and was even liberally honking his horn like a Turk in no time!  Thank You, God, for keeping us safe!  It was the Feast Day of the Guardian Angels, so we felt like we were in good hands. 

Dan downloaded maps of Turkey into our GPS, which was a lifesaver!  We arrived in Tarsus, safe and sound, and found a parking lot.  As we stepped out of the car, we heard the sounds of roosters crowing and a carpenter tapping a hammer.  We saw several Turkish old men relaxing around a card table near the road playing a traditional Turkish dice game and eating pomegranates.  It was not hard to picture Saint Paul walking through the streets of this quaint little town. 

Our first stop, Saint Paul's Well.  This well was around during the time of Saint Paul, so you can bet that Saint Paul stopped to drink water here often!  After roaming up and down several cobblestone roads we found our way to this holy landmark.  As we approached, I reminded myself over and over...Saint Paul walked here.  It was incredible. 

When we first arrived, we were the only ones there so we eagerly raced to the well, said some prayers, and started snapping photos.  The well had a bucket full of water perched on top of it.  Saint Paul's Well water. 
Peter joyfully splashed his hand in the bucket while we debated whether or not we should take some of this holy water with us.  We concluded that Saint Paul would approve and we eagerly dipped our empty water bottle into the bucket.  The very next moment, we heard a man yelling in Turkish.  He raced toward us, grabbed the water bottle from Dan, and dumped it out.  Gulp.  "Sorry, sorry!" we pleaded as we sheepishly backed away.  The man gestured toward the well, lifted the metal lid, and cranked the handle to lower the bucket into the well.  Moments later, the bucket returned, full of fresh water from the well.  He motioned to Dan to lower his water bottle into the bucket to retrieve fresh water from the well. 
"Tesekkur ederim!" we enthusiastically thanked him for his kindness as we left with a full bottle of water- straight from Saint Paul's well!   

I love the little cobblestone streets near Saint Paul's well.  It is so peaceful and quaint.  We saw children giggling and playing, a man selling his paintings, and a couple enjoying lunch at a little cafe.  We pictured young Saint Paul running and playing on these same streets as a boy.    We pictured the same fiery Paul walking these streets years later after his conversion.  Incredible.

After our stroll through Saint Paul's neighborhood, we walked several more blocks to a busier part of town.  Our next stop was Cleopatra's Gate.  Here, Marc Antony first met Cleopatra so he could determine if she would support him over Octavius (Ceasar Augustus).  Cleopatra's arrival into Tarsus was so spectacular and her beauty was so striking that Marc Antony fell head-over-heels for her instantly. 

Our last stop was to see the beautiful waterfalls of Tarsus.  It was a perfect ending to a wonderful day.  We ate dinner at a restarant overlooking the waterfalls and enjoyed a cool, misty breeze and a beautiful view as we ate.  After dinner, we tasted our first Turkish coffee!  It was thick and rich and delicious! 
And the cherry on top of the meal: we asked for the bill...in Turkish!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Antioch (Antakya)

On Saturday, we were blessed to have the opportunity to travel to Antioch (modern day Antakya, Turkey).  We traveled with a busload of beautiful souls from our parish led by a charming Turkish tour guide with a British accent (he was a tour guide in England for over a decade). 

Before this trip, our only experience of Turkey was the nearby city of Adana.  I love Adana because it's adventurous and big-city-lots-of-people-cra-zy and always an interesting experience.  But traveling away from Adana on a 2 1/2 hour bus ride to Antioch allowed me to experience a completely different side of Turkey.  The scenery was beautiful.  We admired the massive mountains, golden fields speckled with green plants and trees, and saw the sparkling Mediterranean Sea in the distance.  It was a breath of fresh air. 

As we approached Antioch, I excitedly reminded myself of the holy footprints left on these streets.  Antioch is the birthplace of St. Luke the Evangelist, St. Ignatius, and St. John Chrysostom.  St. Peter himself lived here from 47-54 AD as Bishop before he moved to Rome.  Sts. Paul and Barnabas often joined him.  The book of Acts of the Apostles mentions that the community of believers were first called Christians in this city.  And Antioch is home to St. Peter's Cave which is regarded as the 1st Christian Church.
Our first stop...St. Peter's Cave!  It was absolutely incredible.  It is a small, humble church carved out of the side of a mountain.  Inside the cave is an altar and a stone statue of St. Peter.  It is easy to imagine early Christians celebrating Mass with St. Peter here because it looks as if it has not changed since the days of the early Christians.  To the left of the altar is the entryway of a tunnel system; an escape route for the early Christians during times of persecution. 

To the right of the altar is a little hole dug into the stone which served as a Baptismal font.  There was a bowl sitting inside with holy water.  We made the sign of the cross on our foreheads (and Peter's too) with this holy water.  This Baptismal font was the most powerful and memorable experience of the entire day.  It was amazing to picture St. Peter or St. Paul rolling up their sleeves and dipping their hands into this Baptismal font to Baptize some of the very first Christians! 

After visting St. Peter's Cave, we hopped on the bus and drove to a mosaic museum.  Inside were beautiful mosaics from the 2nd and 3rd centuries.  We also saw a coin collection including coins from the time of Nero and Julius Ceasar. 

Next, we had a delicious lunch at a nearby restaurant.  Fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs, yogurt, bread with honey and hummus, rice and chicken....Mmmmmm....what a feast!  We finished it off with an interesting and rich Turkish dessert.  It was warm, gooey cheese covered with a shredded wheat sort of topping and drenched in honey.  It was very unique and addicting! 

Our last stop of the day was the Antioch Bazaar.  Dan and I enjoy the bazaars for people watching rather than shopping.  It is a true cultural dive!  By the time the bus arrived to pick us up, we were eager to plop down into our seat and relax.  Peter insisted on me reading/singing his "Wheels on the Bus" book to him about 15 times on the way home.  I'm sure the other passengers appreciated my vocal talents (or lack of) as well.  We admired a beautiful sunset on the way home to wrap up our day.  Thank You, God!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Carpet Show

This week we went to our very first Carpet Show at Ahmet's General Store.
Some wonderful friends of ours set it all up with the owner of the carpet shop, Ozkan.
We were greeted at the entrace on Ahmet's General Store by Ozkan and all of his family members who were waiting for our arrival on the front porch of their store. 
They brought us inside and up the stairs into a carpet wonderland.  There were gorgeous handmade Turkish Rugs, or "carpets", everywhere; hung on the walls, on the floors, rolled up and stacked together. 

First, they treated us to some wonderful Turkish hospitality.  They served us a huge, delicious Turkish dinner:  breads, chicken and lamb tava, rice, stuffed mushrooms, salads, and wine.  We feasted until we were stuffed. 
Then, we joined them on couches to admire the dozens and dozens of carpets.  They pulled out their carpets, one at a time, and described the origen of the carpet and materials used in making each work of art.  It was fascinating to hear about the process of making these beautiful carpets by hand, each one taking more than a year to complete.  They rolled out carpet after carpet, each with it's own unique colors, designs, and qualities.  They let us test out each carpet by walking on it with our bare feet and feeling it with our fingers.  Peter loved testing out the carpets...he crawled and walked over all of them, and sometimes even snuggled into them and kissed them. The wonderful thing about the Turkish people is that they allowed, even encouraged, Peter to crawl all over their thousand dollar carpets.  Children are treasured here and Peter is always treated like a little king. 

It was a perfectly wonderful evening with good friends, Turkish hospitality, beautiful carpets and a taste of this unique Turkish culture.  And, yes, Ozkan is a very good salesman.  We now own our very own handmade rug.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Preparing for Antioch

We are going to Antioch on Saturday!

Here are some fun facts about Antioch:

1. St. Peter lived here in 47-54 AD & was frequently joined by Sts. Paul and Barnabus.
2. Sts. Luke the Evangelist, Ignatius of Antioch, and John Chrysostom were from Antioch.
3. Antioch is home to St. Peter's Cave which is regarded as the 1st Christian Church.
We will pray for you on our pilgrimage! Please pray that we will have a safe and blessed trip!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Happy Anniversaries

Yesterday Dan and I celebrated our two year wedding anniversary.  Dan Beaudoin, my life has been quite the adventure since I became your wife!  Last year, we celebrated our one year anniversary by bringing our 4 day old son home from the hospital.  And now, our two year anniversary was spent in our new home...in Turkey!  Never a dull moment. 

We are also celebrating another anniversary.  We have been in Turkey for one month now.  And I think we're adjusting.  Hearing the Muslim call to prayer sounding through the streets as I walk to the grocery store almost feels normal now.  The smell of Summer campfire in the air (from the Turkish people burning their trash) is barely noticeable.  I'm getting used to being blasted by the heat when I walk out the door.  I don't miss the luxury of a cell phone or a car as much as I had a few weeks ago.  "Merhaba" rolls off my tongue almost as easily as "Hello" (Dan and I are working on learning more Turkish) = ).  And I'm getting used to on-line shopping for everything I need.  

I celebrated another small, but exciting, milestone today.  A friend and I walked off base into the alley on our own!  This was our first time going without the help of a more experienced friend.  It seems small, but confidently walking through Turkish security and taking a cultural dive into the streets of Turkey feels like a big accomplishment.  We pushed our two adventurous little men in their strollers down the street to the Tailor Shop.  My friend was having a dress made at the shop and went for a fitting.  Peter and I tagged along, eager for a fun adventure.  It was a success!  We celebrated by going to the Base Pizza Hut for lunch.  Baby steps, right?  Maybe next time we will grab a lamb kabob instead.  = )

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Last weekend, we went to the city of Adana near the base.  We hopped on a dolmus (taxi bus) with several other folks from the base and headed to the city!  Riding the dolmus was better than I anticipated.  I expected standing up in a huge, cramped bus.  Rather, we sat on padded seats in what felt more like a large van than a bus.  Yes, it was cramped...and yes, it was a little smelly...but considering it was public transportation in the heat of August, I'd say it was pretty good.  We passed our coins up to the driver and went on our way. 

Driving in Turkey is quite the experience.  People drive in packs, rather than lanes...zipping back and forth, in and out.  It's always impressive to count the number of Turkish people that can fit on one tiny motorcycle.  I've seen families with children and babies all squished onto one.  Honking is used more liberally here than in the states as if to announce "Here I come!  Watch out!"  I was so happy that I could let the bus driver take control and I could just watch the excitement out the window. 

Adana is a city of 1.5 million people, which felt pretty big for this Nebraska girl.  It reminded me a little of New York City with all the busy, crowded streets and sidewalks, the smells of car exhaust and food sold by street vendors, and something interesting to see around every corner. 
We did a quick paced, walking tour of the city.  Peter was a very good traveler.  He was entertained by all of the sights and sounds.  He's gotten good at sipping water in this heat and staying hydrated. 
We did a lot of window shopping, saw beautiful Turkish gold jewelry, experienced a smelly outdoor meat market (yikes!), stopped by a charming candy store (and tried Turkish Delight for the first time!), saw an ancient Roman bridge, saw the largest mosque in Turkey, ate our first Turkish ice cream, saw a colorful spice shop, and finished with lamb and chicken kabobs for lunch.  It was a full and exhausting day. 

Peter fell asleep in the dolmus on the way home.  Dan almost did too.  It was quite the adventure and we were smelly and exhausted.  But it was also exhilarating.  Diving into a culture that is so different and unique is such an adrenaline rush. 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A glimpse into our first three weeks

Three weeks ago we boarded a plane and started our journey. 

Each and every step of the way, God has sent us reminders that He is taking care of us.  From super helpful airport employees to friendly fellow travelers...God has shown His love through so many of the people we've met.  And after what felt like an eternity in airplanes and terminals...we landed in TURKEY! 

It's hard to wrap up three incredible, overwhelming, exciting, and exhausting weeks into one little blog post, so I will share a few Turkey nuggets...and add more along the way!

Incirlik is a small base with an amazing community.  I am positive that some of the most genuine and generous people on earth live right here on base.  Everyone has been so wonderful and willing to help us get on our feet.  It has made our adjustment here so much easier and made it feel like home. 
The base itself it beautiful.  Palm trees and sunshine are everywhere you look. 
It's still in the upper 90's here, but a cool breeze comes in the the evening and it's very nice.  During the day, Peter and I stay cool at the pool, at playgroups, and fun friends' houses.  Incirlik is a great place to be a mom (and an 11 1/2 month old).  There is such a wonderful mom community and so many adorable kiddos to be Peter's pals. 

Dan and I LOVE any opportunity we have to go off base and explore Turkey.  Since our car's not here yet, we wait for generous friends to take us on our next adventures.  It's a whole different world out there...never a dull moment! 
One of my favorite places so far is the Turkish Market. That was wild! We went with the Rary family (they were our sponsors and have been AMAZING). We were the only Americans. There were lots and lots of Turks with their fruits and veggies in their carts yelling in Turkish (Buy my peppers! Buy my melons!). It was exciting to learn how to buy fruit with my Turkish Lira and try to communicate with the vendors (they didn't speak English). Peter just watched the whole thing...wide eyed. : )  The produce was so inexpensive and delicious!  It's amazing!  The best peaches I've had in my life. 

How It All Began

I was out running errands with our newborn Peter when I got the call from Dan. 
"They have an accompanied to Turkey for two years.  What do you think?"

"Um, sure.  Let's do it!" was my response.  At the time, I don't think I could've easily found Turkey on a map, let alone fully comprehend packing up and moving to the Middle East.  A week earlier, it looked like Dan would be stationed in Korea for a year...without us.  So when this new opportunity came for our family to stay together, we jumped on it. 

About 9 months later, we watched the movers come and pack up our lives and empty our house.  Several weeks after that, we said goodbye to our families and friends, took a deep breath, and boarded a plane to start our adventure.