Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Three Hundred and Sixty-Five

One year ago today, we arrived in Turkey!

It has been a year of great blessings and great challenges.

It is impossible to capture each and every experience, lesson learned, emotion, and milestone during this year.  Here’s our past year in numbers:

  • One Year
  • Three hundred and sixty-five Days
  • Two Base HousesAfter discovering that the bathroom in our first house was covered in mold-common in such a humid climate- we moved to house number two.
  • Six Castles explored (Snake Castle, Anavarza Castle, Tumlu Castle, Black Castle, and two Yumurtalik Castles)
  • One monumental first step taken by Peter
  • One very fun 1st birthday party for Peter
  • Dozens of splashes during our 1st trip to the Mediterranean Sea
  • One tasty cheeseburger from a McDonald’s in Turkey…that just happened to be Peter’s very first taste of the golden arches
  • Two mice in our house...one of these little critters decided to make itself at home in our kitchen while I attempted to make my very first Thanksgiving dinner.  We caught the little guy just in time!
  • Three trips by the exterminator…ah, the ants and termites
  • Two nights in a Cappadocia cave hotel…near the hometown of St. Basil!
  • Twelve flights to and from new adventures
  • Two trips to a Turkish ER…one for Peter's mysterious bug bite infection and one for Roseola
  • One ambulance ride for Peter (when he had Roseola) followed by Three nights in a Turkish Hospital…the doctors and nurses took such good care of our little man during his bout with Roseola! And about a month and a half later, One hernia surgery in Germany (for Peter).  I’ve learned how tough our little man is this year!  And I’ve also experienced God’s intense love and care when life gets challenging.   Peter has been blessed with the best doctors and wonderful recoveries and is stronger and healthier than ever! 
  • Countless wonderful friends who have been with us through it all (both across the street and across the ocean!)
  • One beautiful handmade Turkish carpet purchased
  • Three trips to Tarsus, Saint Paul’s hometown…we love living down the road from such an inspiring hero’s home!
  • Six Superbowl champs visiting Incirlik…Peter and his Daddy were both thrilled to see the Packers Champs here!
  • Fifty-four blog posts published
  • Four countries visited (Turkey, Germany, France, Israel)
  • One boat ride on the Sea of Galilee…one of my favorite places in the world!
  • One kosher Happy Meal from a McDonald's in Israel
  • Four Sesame Street characters visiting Incirlik…including Peter’s favorite: “Mel-mo!” (Yep, you guessed it!  Elmo!)
  • Eleven months (how long it took me to muster up the courage to drive off base)
  • Three hundred and sixty-five days without a cell phone (I am surprised at how little I miss it!)
  • Three hundred and sixty-five days without a Target Store & Runza Restaurant (I am surprised at how much I miss them!)
  • One ancient city conquered with a Trojan Horse…we loved our trip to Troy!
  • One journey to Mary’s house in Ephesus…another one of my favorite places in the world!
  • Two wonderful weeks with my Mom, Dad, and brothers in Turkey! I am so happy they visited us! 
  • Zero squirrels and rabbits here in Turkey…it feels so odd!  Peter doesn’t know what a squirrel is!  Instead, we have lots of fun and unique creatures, like geckos, snails, bats, giant spiders and hedgehogs!
  • Fourteen Saints’ tombs visited (Plus, Christ’s EMPTY tomb!)
  • Twenty-nine Saints’ hometowns visited

And some are just too many to count...

  • Lots of wonderful, sunny hours at the park with Peter (we have lots of parks in our neighborhood...and lots of hours of sunshine in Turkey!)
  • Tons of on-line orders from Amazon and Old Navy (yes, our selection here on base is a little limited…and it’s always fun to get mail!)
  • Dozens of cups of Cay (pronounced: Chai...Turks love their black tea! In Turkey, you are offered a cup of tea wherever you go...in a store, a beauty salon, and after every meal!)
  • Hundreds of calls and emails home
  • Dozens of trips to Starbucks (We do have a Starbucks on base! It's perfect when you need a little mocha-flavored taste of home!)
  • Many Turkish Bazaars and Markets (my favorite purchases: a Turkish tea pot and lots of fresh produce!)
  • Tons of Turkish flashcards
  • Countless number of times Dan and I have been mistaken for a Turk (until we open our mouths)
  • Lots of lots of kabobs! 
One year ago...

Here's Peter one year ago today!  He was a great traveler on that long overseas flight!

On our journey to Turkey, we met another Incirlik-bound family!  They have become our good friends. 
Their son, William, is one of Peter's favorite friends. 
Here are the new little buddies in their pj's at a layover in Germany.  They've both grown so much!

Fast forward a few months to Peter's first McDonald's cheeseburger...in TURKEY! : )

    Saturday, August 20, 2011

    The Holy Land: Israeli Lunch, St. Peter's in Gallicantu, Jerusalem Take 2, and Finale (Day 7: Afternoon, 4 June 2011)

    After yet another very full morning, we were eager to relax and dive into lunch!  We ate at a very quaint little restaurant near our hotel.  The food was so fresh and perfectly seasoned...yum!  I can still taste it!  We started our meal with a staple in Israel: bread.  Unlike Turkish flatbread that is dry and chewy, the flatbread in Israel is very soft and dense; having a pancake-like consistency.  It is perfect for dipping!  During our trip, we were served hummus at every meal, including breakfast.  I enthusiastically heaped it onto my plate three times a day the entire trip.  I had heard that Israel's hummus is the best in the world; I heartily agree! 

    At this restaurant, our bread was also accompanied by pickles, lettuce and tomatoes, and several other delicious dips, including baba ghanoush.  Baba ghanoush is a Middle Eastern dish made of mashed eggplant, olive oil, tahina, and various seasonings.  This was our first time trying this tasty treat--it was love at first sight!  I wish I could've packed some away in my suitcase!


    Our main course consisted of chicken and lamb kabobs and rice.  Mmmm!  Most of our meals during the week consisted of grilled lamb, chicken, or fish and one could always count on an abundance of white, fluffy rice at every meal!  We were also often served vegetable soup and lots of fruits and veggies.  After our delicious feast, we nibbled on intensely sweet Israeli doughnut holes while our tour guides relaxed and puffed on a hookah with the locals.

    We then went back to Mount Zion for our last official stop on our tour:  the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu ("the Church of St. Peter where the cock crowed").  This beautiful, somewhat modern church is built over the ruins of Caiaphas's Palace where Jesus stood trial.  It was here that Jesus was imprisoned in the "Sacred Pit," where St. Peter denied Christ three times, and where Peter and John were imprisoned after Christ's Resurrection (according to the Book of Acts).

    St. Peter's in Gallicantu

    From the parking lot of the church you could see the City of David below (a southern portion of Jerusalem outside the modern walls where Jerusalem was in King David's time).  The Pool of Siloam where Jesus healed the blind man was also below in the City of David.

    The Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu was extraordinary.  It was beautiful, modern, and the ruins inside of it were excellently/reverently preserved.  Dan found it very cool that a Christian Church was over a place where such hypocrisy occurred...Caiaphas probably would have torn his hair too if he would have known that his palace would one day have a shrine to the man he condemned built over top of it.  God's justice is sooo beautiful and poetic!

    The ceiling of the church...Jesus was likely tried inside the space of this very church!

    The mosaic over the front altar of Jesus' trial and Caiaphas tearing his garments (on the right).

    After exploring the beautiful upper church, we then went down into the caverns in the lower church.  We were able to pray inside the Sacred Pit where Jesus was kept before being brought to Pilate and where Peter and John were kept later.  It was very powerful thinking about our Jesus being lowered down into this pit/cell awaiting His death.

    The Sacred Pit where Jesus was kept in Caiaphas' palace before He was taken to Pilate.

    After praying in the Sacred Pit, we went outside to the Church courtyard.  I believe that this spot must have been close to where Caiaphas' courtyard was--where Peter denied Jesus.  Very powerful to be in the same space.  Some sculptures in the courtyard captured the tragic event:  "Non novi illum"--"I do not know Him."


    Nearby the courtyard were some ancient stairs that dated back to the time of Jesus!  The "Holy Steps" led down to the Kidron Valley to the southeast of Jerusalem.  It is likely that Christ and His disciples, after the Last Supper in the Upper Room in Mount Zion, descended these stairs into the Kidron Valley on their walk to the Garden of Gethsemane.  After arresting Christ, Caiaphas' guards would have brought Him up these stairs to Caiaphas' palace!  Very amazing...not many structures/stairs are still intact from Jesus' time--another powerful location!

    The Holy Steps leading down to the Kidron Valley.

    Jesus being led up the Holy Steps to Caiaphas' Palace

    As we finished exploring the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu, Peter (Beaudoin) had a meltdown.  He was very tired after seven days of exploring the Holy Land and needed some rest.  It came at a good time--our official tour had ended and our tour guide gave each person two options:  1.  Take the tour bus back to the hotel OR 2.  Go with him back into Jerusalem's Old City to explore the Jewish Quarter which was walking distance away from Mount Zion.  Sarah generously volunteered to take Peter and let me (Dan) further explore the Old City...and buy souvenirs.  :) 

    A few other people from our tour group and me headed off with our tour guide back into the Old City.  We went through the Zion Gate which was pock-marked with bullet holes from an Arab-Israeli War in the 20th Century.  We explored various sections of the Jewish Quarter and saw:  some historical synagogues, the remains of the ancient Byzantine "main street" called the "Cardo" which has been built over, an old Crusader marketplace with vaulted ceilings, a section of the city wall called the "Broad Wall" from before Christ's time, and the site where the Knights of St. John (the Hospitaller Knights--a Crusader Order) built their first hospital for pilgrims to Jerusalem.

    Our tour guide eventually parted ways with us and we were left to explore the Old City on our own.  It was fun to be able to see whatever we wanted.  We walked all over the Old City--which is filled with covered bazaars and shops--looking for items on our "to get" lists. 

    I wanted to see the Church of the Holy Sepulcher again and the rest of the group I was with generously came with me so I could go.  I wanted to visit the Church one last time to reflect and say some prayers--this was difficult to do our first time there.  I went inside the Church, walked to the Holy Sepulcher, touched my hand to it, and prayed for my family and for all our special intentions.  I reflected on how many pilgrims through the ages had so longed to visit Christ's tomb but were unable to due to distance, money, war, sickness, and death.  So many pilgrims from Europe throughout history had taken the Cross and journeyed 3,000 miles on foot (the same distance across the Atlantic from England to America).  How blest were we to have the same privilege without the dangers and length of that journey--to actually visit the tomb of our Lord and find it EMPTY!
    Dan touching the Holy Sepulcher

    After visiting the Holy Sepulcher for a short time, and almost getting run over by a procession for what appeared to be a Greek Orthodox Patriarch (a high-ranking bishop) either of Jerusalem or of Antioch (both of their thrones are located inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher), I journeyed with my friend Anthony to the beginning of the Via Dolorosa to visit the Birthplace of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  We had passed by this spot when we walked the Via Dolorosa a couple days before but we did not get to stop and visit it.

    We paid the entrance fee and stepped into the area known as "Bethesda."  Tradition has it that in Christ's time, Sts. Anne and Joachim lived near the twin pools of Bethesda.  The Virgin Mary was born in this spot which is right across the street (to the north) of the Temple Mount. 

    The church that is standing over the grotto where Mary was born is called the Church of St. Anne (after Mary's mother).  The church is a beautiful Crusader Church from the 1100's--one of the few surviving structures from that time.  The church was built over the remains of a Byzantine Church from the 400's.  After the Muslims took Jerusalem from the Crusaders in 1187, the Muslim leader Saladin made this church into a Muslim law school--in fact, a five line Arabic inscription (from 1192)which is still above the front door to the church, tells about how Saladin, the conqueror of Jerusalem, converted the church to a school.

    At the end of the Crimean War between the Ottoman Turkish Empire and Russia, the Sultan of Istanbul in 1856 offered the site to the French government in gratitude for its help during the war.  France undertook an extensive restoration, returning St. Anne’s as closely as possible to the original basilica. A second restoration was necessary after the church was damaged during the Six Day War in 1967.  The flag of France still flies over the church.

    We entered the church and noticed that the stone church had EXCELLENT acoustics (I ran into a pew as I was looking around).  We then walked down into the crypt and into the caves where tradition has it the Blessed Mother was born...very incredible!

    After exiting the church we went to explore the ruins of a Byzantine/Crusader Church built in between the former pools of Bethesda.  It was in this place where Jesus healed a paralytic man:

    "After this, there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep [Gate] a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes. In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled.  One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.  When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him, 'Do you want to be well?'  The sick man answered him, 'Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.'  Jesus said to him, 'Rise, take up your mat, and walk.'  Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked."

    -John 5:  1-9

    It was very cool to see the spot where Jesus conducted this miracle of healing...a sign marked the spot:  "Jesus healed the sick man near these medicinal baths."  It's neat for me to think about a sign marking an event where God Incarnate (Jesus) conducted a miracle 2,000 years ago.  Coming from Nebraska, I'm used to signs at state parks saying:  "This is where a Native American graveyard was."  or "This printing press was brought to Bellevue, NE in 1886 and has been here ever since."  Places back home that I'm used to were no comparison to the place before my eyes (as with so many other places we had seen in the Holy Land). 

    Bethesda (which in English means "House of Mercy") was a very holy and amazing place--Christ's miracle and mercy here affected me 2,000 years after He stood next to these baths...

    St. Anne's Church in the background and the ruins of the Byzantine/Crusader church straddling the two Pools of Bethesda

    A statue of St. Anne and her daughter, the Blessed Virgin Mary, inside the Church of St. Anne in Jerusalem.

    The spot where Jesus healed the paralytic at Bethesda
    (the small sign indicating the approximate spot of the miracle is in the lower-middle of the picture slightly above the railing).

    After exploring Bethesda, we walked 30 minutes through the crowded Jerusalem streets back to our hotel, The Olive Tree.  Sarah and Peter had had a relaxing afternoon and we were all excited to end our day looking at the souvenirs I had bought from Jerusalem.  We relaxed the rest of the night and savored the rest of our time in the Holy City.

    The next morning, we departed our hotel and flew out of Tel Aviv for Turkey. 

    Our trip had been an amazing, holy, and busy journey!  It wasn't easy the whole time, but it was an experience we wouldn't trade for the world.

    During our boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, our tour guide told us that many people identify the Holy Land as the "Fifth Gospel."  I can definitely say that's true--reading the Bible and hearing the scriptures at Mass has gone from black and white to color for us.  I highly recommend to every Christian to "take the Cross" and celebrate the Mystery of Christ's life, death, resurrection, and ascension on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. 

    We pray that any graces the Lord may have granted us on our pilgrimage may rest with you, our family and friends.  God bless you all and thanks be to God for all He has done for us!

    Sunday, August 14, 2011

    The Holy Land: The Mount of Olives (Day 7, part one: 4 June 2011)

    Day seven...our last full day in the Holy Land!  As usual, we started the day with a delicious breakfast at the hotel and then hopped on the bus with our trusty tour guide, Ihab.  We drove through the busy streets of Jerusalem and ascended the Mt. of Olives--a mountain to the east of Jerusalem's Old City with a stunning view from its top.

    Our first stop was the Dome of the Ascension.  Several churches have stood on this site throughout history.  However, after the Crusaders were driven from Jerusalem in 1187, the Muslim leader Saladin gave the church to two of his followers, who added a stone dome and mihrab. The Ascension of Jesus is recognized in Islam, although it is not mentioned in the Qur'an. The building remained in use as a mosque for over 300 years.  The building fell into ruin by the end of the 15th century, and the east section of the octagonal surround-wall was walled off to form the asymmetrical shrine that stands today. A mosque and minaret were added next to the chapel in 1620 and the entire site remains in Muslim possession.

    We stood on this holy ground and looked up at the clear, piercing blue sky where Christ ascended into Heaven.  Inside of the mosque, we placed our hands on the stone where Christ stood (legend has it his footprint is still in the stone).  We stopped to pray and soak in the grace of the moment. 

    The Dome of the Ascension atop the Mount of Olives

    Next to the footprints of Christ

    Next, we went to the Pater Noster (Our Father) Church were Christ taught His apostles the Our Father prayer in a small cave.  We went down into the cave and...you guessed it...prayed the Our Father!  It was very cool.  On the walls of the church surrounding the cave, the Our Father prayer was displayed in 62 different languages.  It was beautiful to meditate on Christians throughout the world being represented here. 

    Peter and his best buddy on our trip.
      These two had so much fun exploring the Holy Land together!

    The Beaudoin boys by the Our Father

    After that, we went to a scenic overlook of the Old City and snapped a few pictures.

    Then we visited the Dominus Flevit Church, a small chapel built where Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem when he thought of its future destruction by the Romans in 70 A.D.  The Church was built to look like a tear drop.  Through the window of the chapel was a clear view of the city, giving pilgrims the same perspective that Christ had that moved Him to tears. 

    Outside of the church was a tree with thorns.  Our tour guide said that this same type of tree was used to create the crown of thorns Jesus wore on His head.  Picturing such sharp, unforgiving thorns pressed into Jesus' precious head made me shudder.

    We next walked down to the bottom of the Mount of Olives to the Garden of Gethsemane, the location of Jesus' agony the night before His death.  The snarled olive trees perfectly and eerily set the tone for the setting of Christ's intense suffering and prayer as He took all of the sins of humanity upon Himself.  However, the intense midday sun beating down on us made the atmosphere feel a little off and it required a bit more imagination to picture Christ praying here in the dark shadows of the night.

    Next to the garden was a massive church called the Church of All Nations (it was built with funds from 12 different countries).  The Church of All Nations was amazing.    It has a bright, beautiful outside, but the inside is very dark and somber (with deep blue walls and purple stained glass windows). The darkness inside is supposed to set the tone for Jesus' night in Gethsemane. This church is built over the stone where Christ prayed on the night before his Passion and Death. 

    This church was a powerful spot for Dan and me. We took a moment and knelt in the dark and offered up all of the sufferings and crosses in our own lives in union with Christ. We placed all of our pain, anger over injustices, and frustration in the Garden of Gethsemane; and asked Christ to help us leave it there.  

    It was incredibly powerful to offer up our small sufferings in the place that Christ took on all of the sin and suffering of all mankind.  We are so blessed to have a Savior that knows our sufferings, that took them all upon Himself. 

    We then journeyed to another section of the Garden of Gethsemane and arrived at another small cave church.  This was the "Grotto of the Betrayal" where tradition has it Judas betrayed Jesus.

    After visiting this grotto, we visited yet another spot where traditions (mostly Greek) say Mary's final resting place was.

    Next, we journeyed to the border of the West Bank to view the massive separation wall between Palestinian and Israeli settlements.  The current conflict in the Holy Land is between these two peoples:  Palestinian (Muslim) and Israeli (Jewish).  This wall was built around ten years ago in an effort to keep violent persons from straying into Jerusalem from the Palestinian-controlled West Bank.  According to our tour guide, the number of suicide bombings have gone way down since the wall was erected.  He said that he used to fear having his children wait for a bus to go to school in Jerusalem.  Viewing the wall was an intense experience and I think we were all happy we didn't linger here for very long.

    After this, we were off to get some awesome lunch with some delicious hummus and something new:  baba ghanoush!