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 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.