Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Our Holiday in England (Part 1 of 4): Waking up in London

We just returned from "going on holiday" to England!  We hopped on an evening flight from Turkey on Wednesday, took a London black cab to our hotel, and woke up in London on Thanksgiving Day.  We started our tour of London bright and early; we had lots to see and only one day to see it!  We were blessed with perfect weather: brisk, but sunny and bright clear skies.  A perfect day for a tour of London by foot! 

Our trip to England was rejuvenating from the moment our plane landed and we heard English being spoken by the customs officer.  Though we do have the comforts of America on our little base in Turkey, outside of that one mile radius encircled by a barbed wire fence is a culture starkly different from our own.  To be able to speak English and blend in while traveling was a breath of fresh air.  We haven't been back to America in almost 1 1/2 years, so going to England gave us the little taste of home we needed.

Of course, even England is not completely  like "home" for us.  As we arrived in London, Peter asked Dan to play football with him.  Dan held him by the shoulders, looked into his eyes and told him "Peter...there's no football in England!"  Peter's eyes got big and he said in a deep, worried voice "OH NO!!!"  : )

We walked several blocks to the Westminster Catholic Cathedral (not to be confused with Westminster Abbey).  It was beautiful!  Westminster Cathedral is the largest Catholic Church in England and Wales.  It stands on land originally owned by Benedictine monks who established the nearby Westminster Abbey.  The church is dedicated to the Precious Blood of Jesus.

The inside of the Cathedral was spectacular.  There were several Cardinals buried in the little ornate side-chapels of the huge Cathedral.  Each side-chapel was so very unique and detailed.

The massive Crucifix hanging in the Cathedral Church of the Most Precious Blood in London.

Next we strolled several more blocks to Buckingham Palace!  The palace's flag was waving, which meant the Queen was home!  It was easy to get swept up in the magestic ambiance of the massive palace and wonder what "royal happenings" were taking place inside. 

I told Peter that this was the very big house of the Queen.  He nodded and responded "Crown." 
Peter's background knowledge of royalty consists of:
1.  Seeing pictures in books of Jesus and Mary wearing crowns as King and Queen of Heaven
2.  The cardboard crown he wears proudly during our rare trips to Burger King on base
So, I'm not sure who exactly he was picturing as we gazed at the palace, but I could tell the wheels were turning.

Peter paused and then wondered aloud, "Where is she?"  (Sounds more like one word "Where-Izzy?")
I responded, "In her house...maybe she's....having a snack?"  (That was the first "queenly" activity I could think of...)
It worked for Peter.  He confidently repeated "Keen, sack" (Translation: "Queen, snack")

As we explored, I noticed a beautiful street lined with British and Turkish flags leading up to the palace.  Pretty crazy, huh?  There must've been an important political figure visiting from Turkey!

The ornate sculptures, beautiful fountain, and horse drawn carriages surrounding Buckingham palace made it feel even more like we had stepped into the setting of a fairy tale. 

We walked along the pretty autumn tree-lined roads, soaking in the sunshine and the atmosphere.  Peter jumped in the crunchy, colorful leaf piles and grabbed big handfuls of the autumn leaves that covered the ground.  Coming from a land of palm trees, this was a big deal. 

As we turned the corner and entered a charming city park, we saw a little squirrel scamper along the path.  Again, this was a big deal.  We don't have squirrels in Turkey, so this was Peter's first interaction with this kind of little critter.  We took pictures, pointed, and made such a commotion that I noticed a man peer toward us trying to see what treasure we had discovered.  When you're far from home, any little taste of home is so very exciting.  Peter loved the little squirrel and thought it was a hilarious little creature.  He laughed and toddled through the park, searching for more. 

Our morning adventures led us to one of my favorite landmarks in London:  Big Ben.  We approached the big "tick tock, Ben" (as Peter calls it) just as it struck 12:00 noon.  We listenened to the deep ringing of the bell as we walked through the crowds of people bustling through the streets on their lunch breaks.  Our stomachs were growling too.  We grabbed some sandwiches from a little street cafe and ate a picnic lunch by the entrance of Westminster Abbey.  Our morning in London had been full of wonderful sights...and we were only halfway through our day! 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Islam 101

Living in the Middle East has been an eye-opening experience to say the least.  I am so thankful for the opportunity to temporarily live in a county that is 99 percent Muslim.  Does it have its challenges some days?  You bet.  I definitely miss Christian culture and feel that living in Turkey has helped me to appreciate my Catholic faith more than ever.  But I am also so very grateful for the blessing of our Turkish Muslim friends.  I wish everyone could have a chat with our charming, hard-working gardener, Ilhan; discuss family values and faith over a kabob with our dear friend, Sefer; or encounter some of the hundreds of kind-souled, humble Turks that we have met during our time here. 

Several of my American friends on base have blogs as well.  My dear friend, Sarah, recently wrote a beautiful reflection on her experiences as a Christian in a Muslim country.  I am re-posting her blog to share with you.  I couldn't have said it better myself! 

Islam 101
(from my buddy, Sarah at:
Before moving to Turkey, my only real contact with the Islamic religion was through my TV. Like most other Americans, I watched the planes hit the Trade Centers and burned with anger. Osama Bin Laden became the poster child for Muslims-all of which, I thought, were evil terrorists who hated America.

Then I moved to Turkey, a nation that is 99% Muslim. I became the minority, religiously speaking.

I have been given the opportunity to learn about the Muslim faith from a new perspective, and to erase some erroneous ideas and prejudices I never knew I had. Before I share, let me be clear. I am a Christian. That will never change. In fact, my own faith has deepened during my time here. Learning about another faith shouldn't threaten your own.

I have learned that Turkey is pretty progressive in the Islamic world. It seems to me that the faith is more of a cultural thing and not so much of a personal belief thing. The same, I think, can be said about America. Many people calling themselves "Christians" don't practice the faith necessarily. But they grew up going to church and hunting Easter eggs and celebrating Christmas. So culturally, they are Christians. Get my drift?

When the Call to Prayer sounds 5 times daily, no one stops what they are doing. Things continue as normal. Most women here do not wear a burka or even a head covering. When I have had conversations with some Turks about their faith, they all take a very universalist approach to it. They believe what they believe, but don't make any effort to evangelize anyone. They think that many roads lead to God, and think that what works for them doesn't necessarily work for you. Again, Turkey is progressive, this is not always the case in the Middle East.

I have also learned that the events of 9/11 sicken most Muslims. Some of my friends here on base have actually been given apologies by Turks for what happened. I think I know how these Turks feel. Exactly how I would feel if people viewed me in the same light as radical so-called Christians who bomb abortion clinics or picket military funerals.

So when I return home and see a news story about Muslims, I won't think of Osama Bin Laden anymore. I will think of Seyhun, Hatice, Cigdem, and the many more friends I have made here. I will also think about how learning about anothers faith has the curious effect of strengthening your own. And for that I am really grateful.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Our next adventure...

We know our next assignment!
We are thrilled to announce that after our adventures in Turkey, we'll be packing up and moving to...

South Dakota State University!

Dan will be an ROTC instructor
at SDSU in Brookings, South Dakota! 

And, yes, Peter is already prepared to fit in with the locals with his snazzy new SDSU Jackrabbits shirt.  My family volunteered to take a road trip to Brookings to check it out for us!  They came back with a glowing report, lots of photographs, and an SDSU t-shirt and socks for Peter.  Here's a little virtual tour of our new home:

The population of Brookings is about 20,000 people. 

SDSU's campus looks beautiful! 
Here's the future home of Dan's office.

My mom taking a stroll around campus.

My family even went to an SDSU football game during their visit! 

My brothers, Ryan and Greg, cheering from the stands.

Dan will start his new job at the end of July 2012.  We are absolutely thrilled to be back in the Midwest; just 3-4 hours away from our families!  We are excited for this next step in God's adventure for us.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Chapel Trip: Tarsus, Heaven, and Hell

We recently joined our Catholic parish for a day trip visiting local sites.  Our first stop was Tarsus, hometown of Saint Paul.  Though this was our fourth time visiting Tarsus, this visit was especially unforgettable.  We were given the priviledge of celebrating Mass in Tarsus inside of St. Paul's Church--a church originally built in the 1700s.  There is a tradition, however, that this church was built on the site of the second Christian Church (after the church in Antioch) founded by Saints Peter and Paul!


We were blessed to have two holy priests accompany us on our trip.  Father Bob is our pastor on base (on the left).  Father Francis (on the right) is a missionary priest that serves the local Catholic Turks in the area.  It's amazing to think of the possibility that both priests were celebrating Mass on the very site that Saints Peter and Paul celebrated Mass almost 2000 years ago!  As Father spoke the words of consecration, I got goosebumps as I imagined Saint Peter speaking those very same words on this sacred ground. 

A painting of Saint Paul in his church in Tarsus

The modern city of Tarsus does not have any Christian residents with the exception of two little Italian nuns sent here to maintain St. Paul's Church and arrange for groups to celebrate Mass here. They live in a small, discreet convent across the street from the church. The joyful little sisters invited us to join them for coffee and cookies after Mass.  I can't imagine the challenges these sisters face being the only two Christians in Tarsus.  It was apparent that these crosses did not take away their joy.  They radiated the joy and peace of Christ as they welcomed us into their humble little home.  Though they spoke very little English, they didn't heistate to offer our little "Pietro" another (and another and another...) cookie. 

The Italian nuns put us in their convent's Guest Book!

Our group in the Church of Saint Paul.  The Italian nuns are in the navy blue on the right. 

I have been blessed with wonderful friends in our parish! 
Here are some of us at the Well of Saint Paul. 
It is believed that Saint Paul's home was near this spot and he used this well!

The Beaudoin's at Cleopatra's Gate

Enjoying a tasty Turkish lunch in Mersin!
Next, we visited the Corycian Caves, better known as "Heaven and Hell".  The two caves were formed by underground chemical erosion.  There are many legends associated with these caves. 

The first cave we saw was "Hell".  Fortunately, we couldn't climb down into this cave!  We just peered down into this gloomy deep pit.  It's believed that this was the location that Zeus imprisoned Typhon (from where "Typhoon" storms get their name), a many-headed monster serpent that was the father of the guard dog of Hell (Cerberus). 

Our next stop was "Heaven".  This cave is much larger than "Hell".  We climbed down 452 stairs before we reached the ruins of a Byzantine Chapel dedicated to Mary, built in the 400s AD. 

Inside of the chapel one could see the faint remains of frescos on the ceilings!

Deeper past the chapel is a cave-gorge with an underground river, thought by some to be the River Styx. 

We climbed down, down, down the wet, slippery rocks and clay until we reached the end of the path where the little river quietly trickled. 

It was a fun and busy day!  We went to Heaven, Hell, and back!

Kizkalesi and Kanlidivane

We recently took advantage of a sunny Saturday and went exploring.  First, we visited the ruins of Kanlidivane.  Kanlidivane is an ancient city built around a massive sinkhole (about 230 ft deep) near Mersin, Turkey.  Its history dates back to the pre-Roman era.  It evolved into a Byzantine city, with the ruins of basilicas, cicerns, and graves that can still be seen today.  

The photo above shows the massive sinkhole in the center of the ancient city of Kanlidivane.  Kanlidivane means "bloody spoon".  The origin of this name is unknown.  It possibly refers to the red soil that covers this region.  Another legend states that criminals were executed during Roman times by being thrown into the sinkhole (which maybe is the "spoon" referred to in the town's name). 

This is one of the reasons why I love traveling in Turkey.  You never know what you are going to see!  As we were driving on the road near the ruins, we found a manequin leg!

Next, we visted Kizkalesi.  Kizkalesi, Turkish for "the Maiden's Castle", is a coastal town on the Mediterranean Sea.  This town is famous for its twin medieval castles.  The first, built in 13th century using materials from the 5th century BC, is situated on the shore.  Its sister castle is built on an island in the sea. 

Above is a view of the castle in the sea.  This photo was taken from the castle on the shore.  Legend has it that a King sent his daughter to live on this island after it was predicted that she would die from a snake bite.  His efforts to protect her were in vain when a basket of fruit sent to the princess contained a deadly viper. 

After exploring the castle on the shore and splashing in the sea, we hopped on a boat and set sail for the castle in the sea.  Above is a picture of the castle on the shore...taken from the castle in the sea.

The little boat that took us to "The Maiden's Castle"

Saturday, November 5, 2011

All Saints Day Festival

November 1st was the Feast of All Saints Day.  I love this feast.  We celebrate all of our brothers and sisters in Christ who have finished the race; who have attained perfect holiness and union with Christ in Heaven.   It is a beautiful reminder that I am not alone in my journey to Christ.  We have holy big brothers and sisters in Heaven to inspire us with their lives and cheer us on as we run the race toward our Heavenly home.  Just as I find great consolation and strength in asking a dear friend to pray for me, I find an even greater consolation in asking a dear friend in Heaven-who is constantly gazing upon the face of God- to pray to God for me.  There are no magic formulas or superstitions, just Heavenly friendships. 

In fact, the history of Halloween comes from All Saints Day (which was once called "All Hallows Day").  The word Halloween means "All Hallows Eve"...the day before All Saints Day!  I love to try and picture the enormously joyful party up in Heaven on this day as the lives of ALL of the Saints in Heaven are celebrated!

We celebrated All Saints Day at our Catholic parish on base too!  All of the CCD children dressed up as Saints and gave a short presentation on the life of their Saint. 

Peter was Saint Ignatius of Antioch.  Saint Ignatius was the third Bishop of Antioch (which is right down the road from us)!  He was the first Church Father to refer to the Church as "Catholic".  Saint Ignatius was captured for his faith and martyred in Rome. 

Since I am a CCD teacher, I also got to dress up!  I was Saint Helen.  Saint Helen was the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine.  She used her wealth to help the poor and build churches in the Holy Land.  She is famous for finding the True Cross of Christ. 

My teaching buddy, Katrina, dressed as Saint Gabriel the Archangel.  Her husband and son joined her as Saints Raphael and Michael the Archangels! 

Friday, November 4, 2011


This Halloween was Peter's first experience trick-or-treating!  We ordered his costume on-line and talked it up for weeks in advance.  So by the time October 31st rolled around, he was ready.  Okay, that's an understatement.  He was completely thrilled!

We met up with some of our good friends and their kiddos for a little pre-trick-or-treating pizza party in the park.  I love Halloween at Incirlik.  The weather is still warm enough for you to be comfy in a sweatshirt, Security Forces members volunteer to walk the streets to keep everyone safe, and the whole base comes alive.  It is so safe and innocent, much like I'd picture trick-or-treating in the 1950's.  Everyone knows all of their neighbors and everyone is out together, celebrating and having fun. 

Peter and I were crayons! 

The Beaudoin's: two crayons and a piece of paper

Peter was so excited!  We'd been practicing for weeks!

He would walk up to the house and say "aaa-teeet!" and boldly hold out his bag.  After his candy was safely in the bag, he'd hurry to the next house chanting "More!  More!  More!". 

Peter's favorite stop of the night was Father Bob's house.  As we approached Father's street, Peter started begging "Bob House!  Bob House!"  Our friends, Nate and Erin, were also there!

The fruits of Peter's labor.  He was so proud!  

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Zombie Family Glow Run

On Friday night, Dan came home from work and excitedly asked, "Would you like to run the Zombie Family Glow Run together tonight!?"

I grumbled and responded with an "I don't think so...are you crazy?!" because:

1.)  It was 7:20 pm and the race started at 8:00 pm
2.)  Peter was currently spashing away in the bathtub
3.)  I'm trying to recover from years of running injuries and can only run about 1.5 miles at a time (The race was 4 miles.)
4.)  I am the least spontaneous person in the world. Spontaneity makes my head spin. 
5.)  Our running stroller had a flat tire.

I had my list of reasons.  I was determined not to budge.
Luckily I have a husband who knows me better than I know myself.  He's always there to gently encourage me to step out of my comfort zone. 

Somehow, 40 minutes later, I found myself at the starting line of the run.  Dan had fixed the stroller and threw our jack-o-latern in with Peter.  Runners at the starting line were dressed in costumes and adorned with glow-stick jewelry.  My grumpiness started to fade away as I remembered how much I love running in races.  It had been too long. 

Dan started off the run by my side, but I could tell he was itchin' to race, so I sent him off to the front of the pack with Peter in the stroller.  I trotted happily along towards the back of the pack with the grade school children and casual runners.  It was a fantastic experience!  I ran all 4 miles and met some fun running buddies along the way.

Dan and Peter finished in 2nd place (GO DAN!)...

...and I just plain finished (GO ME!)...

 ...and we had a lot of fun doing it!