Monday, February 21, 2011

February, oh, February

Oh, Februrary 2011.  I will not soon forget you. 

This has been a crazy, unforgettable month and, I must admit, I am very excited to wrap it all up and turn the page to a new month.

I don't want to complain in this post.  There have been so many blessings and graces that have accompanied the challenges of this month and I am truly grateful for it all.  However, this month has been so eventful, such an opportunity for growth for Dan and I, that it is impossible not to document it with a blog post. 

Peter started off the month with a mysterious fever.  He had no other symptoms, so it didn't seem worrisome at first.  But when his fever climbed to 102...103...104.4 degrees...we started to worry.  After a little over 24 hours of high fevers and several very short febrile seizures, we reached a point where we did not feel like we could safely monitor Peter at home and took an ambulance ride off base to a downtown Turkish hospital. 

We ended up staying three nights in the hospital with Peter so he could be monitored.  The hospital's pediatrition was puzzled by the mysterious fever because Peter had no other symptoms and his white blood cell count was normal (indicating that he did not have an infection).  On the third day, Peter's fever disappeared and he developed a rash all over his torso and face.  The rash was the clue we were waiting for to diagnose Peter.  Peter ended up having Roseola (or some virus similar to it).  The rash cleared up within a couple of days and our little man has recovered 110 percent!  Praise God! 

It was very difficult to be so far away from home, so far away from American hospitals, and so far away from family when Peter was so sick.  However, I felt God's presence with us in such an unbelievably real way- both through the grace He granted us to persevere and through the support of some of the most incredible friends I have ever known. 

I have to share with you some of the amazing blessings received during this time:

*One of our dear friends, Tina, is fluent in Turkish.  After getting a frantic phone call at 8:30 pm, she rushed to our house within minutes and followed the ambulance to the Emergency Room to be our friend, support, and translator.  She has five children of her own, but offered to stay as long as we needed her.  She dug through the seats in her minivan and found lots of fun toys to keep Peter entertained, as well as a Bible for Dan and I.  She came back to the hospital the next two days (once with her daughter, and once with her husband) bringing food, more toys, and books(*This is an amazing sacrifice!  The drive to the hospital takes about 30 minutes in stressful, crazy traffic.  It is not easy.)  They read to Peter while Dan and I ate a little hospital food and relaxed.  When we returned home from the hospital, we found a Welcome Home sign and balloons on our door from their family.  They brought us a delicious dinner that evening. 

*Another very good friend, Linda, also just happens to be Peter's peditatrition on base.  We are so blessed!  She has done so much for us!  When Peter first got sick, she advised me on the phone at 2:00 am, made a house call the next day, and phoned the ambulance for us.  The following day, she drove all the way to the hospital with her husband, Shane, to visit us, check up on Peter, and speak with the Turkish doctor about his blood tests.

*Our wonderful friends, Wendi, John, Sarah and Ryan drove all the way to the hospital bringing toys and a portable dvd player for Peter (Peter was attached to an IV for 3 days, so anything to entertain him was hugely appreciated! Another generous friend, Angelica, sent a box of fun toys for Peter!).  They also brought magazines, snacks and pizza for Dan and I!  It was so good to see our friends!  None of the nurses spoke any English and the television was in Turkish so it was wonderful to have conversations with familiar faces.  It rejuvenated us so much! 

*When we got home, we received many meals, phone calls, prayers and gifts from our dear friends.  It was such an amazing experience of God's love!  We are so blessed!

*Our families back home- I know it was very difficult for them because we could not contact them from the hospital and they had very little information.  But we felt their love and prayers so much (and all of the prayers from our wonderful friends in the States)!  It's what kept us going.

In Peter's hospital bed with his IV.  It must've been around 11 pm and we had just done blood tests in the ER.
 I'm not sure why we're smiling so big!  I guess we're just relieved he's okay! : )
 *And last but not least- PETER!  I can't brag enough about how good he was through it all!  Other than during the sponge bath, blood draw, and insertion of the IV in the ER, Peter did not cry at all the entire time!  He was so tough!  He watched Turkish cartoons and read books in bed, walked the hallway with his IV following him, and sat on the couch in our room looking out the big window at the buses and trucks driving on the busy street.  I am so blessed to be his mom!

Our little sweetie taking a big nap.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Anavarsa: Roman Ruins, a Castle, & a Flock of Sheep

Turkey is a country so rich in history that it seems we are never short on ideas for our next big adventure.  We have been enjoying little day trips on Dan's days off lately.  Several weeks ago, we explored the ruins of an Armenian castle made entirely out of black volcanic rock.  This castle is called Toprakkale (which means "dirt castle", otherwise known as Black Castle to the Americans on Base).  We had fun exploring the rooms of this unique castle with the help of a local guide who insisted on showing us his favorite parts.  The castle was built in the top of a mountain and the view on that clear, sunny day was magnificent!

Last week, we recruited a couple of our friends to join us on our latest day trip.  We ventured about an hour down the road to Anavarsa.  This ancient Roman city now sits nestled in a quiet field, surrounded by farms.  A steep mountain with a glorious castle on top of it overlooks the ruins of this old city.  Luckily our friends, Erin and Nate, were feeling as adventurous as we were as we approached the ancient city and rain started pouring from the sky.  We bundled up with coats, ponchos, & umbrellas and started our journey to the ancient Roman city of Anavarsa. 

Thankfully, the rain let up soon after we started trekking through the muddy field and it wasn't long before we were dry again.  We spent all morning walking through the never ending field of ruins.  Anavarsa must have been an incredible city.  We explored ancient bathhouses, Byzantine churches, roads, archways and columns as we stood in awe of the dramatic cliff that hovered near us.  The overcast sky added to the drama of the atmosphere around us.  We were not alone as we explored the field.  We shared the land with a large flock of sheep, an even larger herd of cows, and some Turkish shepherds.  At times, the cows were a little too close for my comfort level, but my traveling companions assured me that we were just fine. (Someone has to be the cautious one, right?  It might as well have been the mom of the group.)  Peter, who had only seen cows in books, was absolutely thrilled.  He mooed excitedly for about 30 minutes straight.  The atmosphere was absolutely unforgettable.  We all stood still for a moment, just soaking it all in.  The only sound heard for miles was the soft ringing of the sheep's bells that rolled through the quiet, still field.

We went back to the car to have some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, string cheese, and almonds for lunch before our climb up the mountain.  We drove to the base of the mountain, strapped Peter in the backpack, and started our climb.  There was not a trail to be found, so we climbed up large porous rocks (the large holes in the rocks made them look like moon rocks!) and through thick greenery.  Halfway up the mountain, we discovered an ancient graveyard with large open tombs.  After a bit more climbing, we approached the castle.  It was beautiful.

It took us several hours to walk through the entire castle.  It was massive.  One of the highlights of this castle was discovering the ruins of a church.  We could see the remnants of frescoes painted on the arch of the church's ceiling.  We saw 11 halos with faint faces.  Part of the ceiling was gone, so we suspected that at one time this may have been the 12 apostles.  Above the halos, were traces of angel wings.  Amazing!

After lots of climbing we made it to the top of the castle.  The view was absolutely incredible.  We were up so high!  We looked down on the field of ruins that we explored that morning.  The sun had peaked out after lunch and it ended up being a beautiful, sunny, clear day.  Dan and I took in the magnificent view of the mountains, little villages, and fields stretching for miles.  Dan read my mind as he said, "We'll never be able to capture this view with words or pictures". 

We hiked back to our car and drove home as dusk was approaching.  It had been a long, satisfying day.  I've definitely found my new favorite castle in Turkey!