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! 

Mosque Park Playdate

We recently joined our best buddies for a playdate at the "mosque park".  We live down the road from the largest mosque in Turkey.  It is an impressive sight, surrounded by perfectly cultivated gardens, fountains, and playgrounds. 


Peter's very best friends in the world joined us (William, Elijah, and Isaac)!  It's so much fun to see Peter grow up and develop friendships. They are such sweet boys!  Peter talks about them constantly!

  The boys playing in one of the beautiful fountains 
(On the end is our friend, Patty, who also joined us!)

Wendi and Sarah!  I honestly don't know what I'd do without these girls.  They are beautiful souls and have been such a blessing during our time in Turkey!

I love this picture!  What a unique experience we've been given to live in Turkey!  How often do you hear: "Want to meet at the mosque park on Wednesday?"  I love the uniqueness of our lives here!  Peter is out of the shot...right behind them...running as fast as he can to keep up with the "big boys".  Peter's the youngest one of the group by about a year and looks up to these boys so much!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wandering Through Istanbul: The Grand Bazaar and Tastes of Turkey

After our whirlwind introduction to Istanbul via tour bus on the previous day, we were eager to explore the city on our own.  We slept in, had a leisurely breakfast with a beautiful view, and then set off by foot to experience Istanbul.  Our first stop was, of course, the Grand Bazaar!  My sister-in-law, Hannah, and I were thrilled to have some girl time! 

Hannah and me in front of the Grand Bazaar!

The Grand Bazaar was an exhilirating and, at times, overwhelming experience.  Picture a shopping mall on Black Friday: a sea of shoppers and enough merchandise to make your head spin.  Inside, we found wall-to-wall people bustling through a confusing maze of endless shops.  We stayed close to Dan, his parents, and Peter knowing that it would be nearly impossible to find eachother again through all of the twists and turns of the Bazaar. 

Bargaining is an art form in Turkey, especially at the Grand Bazaar.  Hannah is a natural!  She picked it up right away and was barganing like a pro.   Together we made a pretty good shopping team!  In the picture above, we are trying to bargain with a jewelry salesman. 

Dan and Peter with the Column of Constantine.
After shopping in the Grand Bazaar, we left and walked to the Column of Constantine.  The Roman Emperor Constantine placed this column here when he dedicated his new captial of the Roman Empire (Constantinople) in 324 AD. Legend has it that underneath the column is buried sacred relics, among which are: the axe Noah used to build the ark, St. Mary Magdalene's flask of oil she used to annoint Jesus, and fragments of bread from Christ's multiplcation of the loaves.

After several fun purchases and lots of window shopping, we were ready to find some lunch!

This man is carving meat from a doner kabob.  This rotisseri style meat (either lamb or chicken) is extremely popular in Turkey.  The tasty meat is either served over raw veggies, in a sandwich, or as a wrap. 

After lunch, we visited the Spice Bazaar.  We found the Spice Bazaar to be even more crowded than the Grand Bazaar!  The air was filled with the overwhelmingly strong aroma of spices.  We shopped, bought some spices, sampled some Turkish Delight, and soaked up the array of colors and textures on display.

Above:  A rainbow of dried fruit, dried veggies, powedered-sugar-coated Turkish Delight, and spices.

...And even more Turkish Delight, dried fruits, Turkish teapots, candle holders, and bowls.

I love the boots on the top row!  If money grew on trees, I'd own a pair in every color. 


Tea leaves!  The Turks take their tea very seriously.  Once, during a conversation with a Turkish woman, she referred to the Lipton tea bags as "dust in a bag" in disgust.  I can understand why.  Their tea leaves are so fresh and flavorful!

Large blocks of Turkish Delight! 
The deep red block on the left is my favorite: pomegranate pistachio.


After shopping, we left the Spice Bazaar in search of some fresh air and a snack!  The photograph above shows men washing themselves before entering a mosque for prayer.  In Islam, a person is required to pray five times a day.  They are summoned to prayer by a religious leader singing the "Call to Prayer" from a minaret of a mosque.  Before praying, they must wash all areas of their bodies that are exposed to dirt or smog (face, hands, feet, etc).  I found the following washing guidelines on
  1. Declare the intention that the act is for the purpose of Worship and purity.
  2. Wash the hands up to the wrists three times.
  3. Rinse out the mouth with water three times preferably with a brush whenever it is possible.
  4. Cleanse the nostrils of the nose by sniffing water in to them three times.
  5. Wash the whole face three times with both hands if possible from the top of the forehead to the bottom of the chin and from ear to ear.
  6. Wash the right arm three times up to the far end of the elbow and then do the same with the left arm.
  7. Wipe the whole head or any part of it with a wet hand once.
  8. Wipe the inner sides of the ears with the forefingers and their outer sides with the thumbs. This should be done with wet fingers.
  9. Wipe around the neck with wet hands.
  10. Wash the two feet up to the ankles three times beginning with the right foot.
Our good friend, Sefer, told us that a Muslim must also wash themselves any time they are preparing to read the Koran.  I have found the respect that they have for prayer an inspiring element of Muslim culture.

Finally, we stopped by a Turkish ice cream cart for an afternoon pick-me-up.  Turkish ice cream is made with salep: finely ground dried tubers of locally-found wild orchids.  The salep makes the ice cream extremely chewy.  It is very unique! 

After our long day, we grabbed some dinner and headed back to our hotel.  Our hotel was a cozy, charming little spot just down the road from the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sofia.  In accord with Turkish culture, they treated Peter like a little king and brought him warm milk every evening before bed.  Peter adored the attention from the hotel's barista, Sedat, who concocted the steamy, frothy milk.  Peter spent as much time as he could with Sedat, watching the colorful fish swim in the hotel lobby's fish tank. 

A view of the sun rising on the Hagia Sofia from our hotel

The next morning we were on an airplane back to Adana. 
Our nine days of adventure in two countries proved to be an unforgettable journey!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Stroll Through Istanbul

After the successful completion of our big, fat Greek adventure, we boarded an evening flight (which turned into a late night flight after delays in the Athens airport) and headed to our last big adventure: Istanbul, Turkey.  I must say, my heart has become attached to Turkey after living here for over a year and I felt a little as if I was "coming home" when I caught a glimpse of the minaret-dotted skyline from our airplane. 

We caught an aiport shuttle bus to our hotel (I don't even want to guess how fast the driver was speeding!) and landed at the doorstep of our hotel around midnight.  Phew!  The next morning we dragged ourselves out of bed, quickly sipped some Turkish cay (tea) and hopped on the tour bus for a day tour of the city. 

I was immediately struck by Istanbul's unique charm.  The history of this city is incredible.  Originally a series of Greek colonies, this city was later crowned "Constantinople," the capital of the entire Roman Empire, in 330 AD.  After the empire's split, the city served as the Eastern Roman Empire's (the Byzantine Empire) capital, then shortly served as the center of the Latin Catholic Empire after the Fourth Crusade.  The city finally fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453 AD and the Turks have held it ever since.  When the Republic of Turkey was established less than 100 years ago, it became known as Istanbul.  This city, which has been constantly redefined throughout the centuries, has an alluring effect on its visitors.  One can't help but fall in love with its beautiful minaret-lined skyline, the mysterious blue Bosphorus Sea, and the charming, colorful streets just dripping with culture.  In fact, the European Union named Istanbul a Capital of Culture in 2010.  Additionally, Istanbul is the only city in the world that inhabits two continents: Europe and Asia.  This city has a truly unique identity.

Here are a few snapshots of our city tour of Istanbul:


Our first stop was the Blue Mosque, famous for its blue tiles from Iznik (modern day Nicea).

Inside of the Blue Mosque



After we left the Blue Mosque, we found ourselves in a large city park. This park used to be Constantinople's "Hippodrome" where chariot races were held. Nothing remains of the stands, but the path where the chariots raced is still here. In addition to this, 3 ancient columns placed here by Constantine remain. Charioteers would race around these columns!  The column in this picture is an obelisk that Constantine had transported from Luxor, Egypt!

Another column had some special significance for us.  After the Persians defeated the Greeks at Thermopylae, they captured Athens and then kept marching. They then met a huge army of Greeks at Plataea and were defeated, thus ending the Persian invasion. After defeating the Persians at Plataea, the Greeks melted down the Persian weapons and made a triumphal column of three snakes wound together to show that Greeks were dangerous when united.

This column was placed at Delphi next to the Temple of Apollo! (we had visited this earlier in our trip!) Constantine later had the column brought to Constantinople where it remains on display today. Unfortunately, the heads of the snakes were broken off by a drunk in the 1700s...

Our next stop was the Hagia Sophia Church.  Hagia Sophia means "Holy Wisdom."
Originally, this structure was a chruch built in the 500s and was the largest Christian Chruch on earth. When the Turks captured Constantinople from the Greeks in 1453, it was converted into a mosque.
 In the early 1900s, it was converted into a museum and many of the beautiful Christian mosiacs that were covered up were rediscovered.  Very amazing that this building has been standing for 1500 years!!!

Inside of the Hagia Sofia!  In the front and center, you can find a Greek mosaic of Mary and Jesus in between two arabic seals.  The Hagia Sofia has the fourth largest dome in the world behind those of St. Peter's Basilica, the Duomo of Florence, and St. Paul's Cathedral in London.

We stopped at one more mosque on our tour.  Peter is putting his shoes on a shoe holder inside of a cannot wear shoes inside a mosque.

Ladies also have to cover their heads in mosques.  Peter decided to join us. 

We next visited the Topkapi Palace...this palace was used as a residence for Ottoman Turkish sultans for around 400 years!

It is now a museum filled with artifacts from the life of sultans including many riches, and items holy to Muslims such as the Prophet Mohammed's swords and pieces of his beard!

From the palace you can see the Bosphorus Strait which separates the European side of Istanbul from the Asian side. 

After touring the palace, we went back to our hotel, went out and introduced Dan's Family and Kevin and Lauri to Turkish food, and then went to bed in our cozy hotel in the Sultanahmet District.  It was an awesome but tiring day!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

My Big Fat Greek Vacation (Part Five: Athens)

Our last stop in Greece: Athens!  Oh, what can you say about Athens?  As I stare at my computer screen and try to conjur up some positive adjectives about Athens, my mind is blank.'s one: memorable.  Our experience of Athens was indeed memorable.

Athens is a big, bustling, dirty city.  I had heard it was big, dirty, and overwhelming.  But I had visited big cities like New York City, Jerusalem, and Milan in the past, so I thought I'd be mentally prepared for anything Athens threw at me.  I was wrong.

Our travel agent booked our hotel in an interesting part of town.  My stomach turned as I watched dozens of Meth addicts roam the streets like zombies.  I think it is accurate to say that every square inch of the city is completely covered in graffiti:  buildings, signs, playgrounds.  As we walked several blocks through the city to find a restaurant for dinner, I began trying to count people who appeared to NOT be on Meth.  During our half-mile walk, I think I counted about ten normal looking, healthy people. 

The next morning, we thankfully had a scheduled bus tour of the city.  It was comforting to be on a bus with other tourists!  We were happy to see that the more touristy area around the Parthenon seemed safer and more pleasant!

We visited the Olympic stadium where the first modern Olympic Games were held in 1896.

Our tour bus then took us to the Acropolis of Athens. We visited the Acropolis museum and saw many artifacts from this historical location.   In ancient Greece, many major Greek cities had "acropoli" which means "high city"...usually on top of a hill or rocky outcropping. If a city was about to be attacked, citizens would go up into the acropolis for safety.

A theater at the Acropolis

East of the Acropolis is the hill where democracy was BORN! (you can also see the Aegean Sea in the distance)

The Beaudoin Family with the Parthenon atop the Acropolis of Athens!

This is a picture of our van we traveled Greece in along with our friend, Kevin, who drove us!

So...when we got back to our hotel from the Acropolis (after long driving delays due to the closed streets because of the Greek government protesters and rallies), three meth addicts were "relaxing" around our blue van. Since the van was the tallest vehicle on the street, the addicts could shoot up behind the van without being seen...suffice it to say, our van was popular. Kevin told the manager of the hotel to move the addicts...the manager replied "Oh, they are just sleeping!"--yeah right...

The manager woke up the addicts and a few of them got very angry and confrontational. We threw our bags in the van, piled in, and drove to the airport as one of the addicts continued to yell and point at the manager.

Again, visit Athens because of the Acropolis and then leave!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My Big Fat Greek Vacation! (Part Four: Nafplion)

Our adventures next took us to a little port city on the Aegean Sea called Nafplion.  This city was the captial of Greece after the Greek Revolution against the Turks in the 1800s.  After checking in to our hotel, we set off on foot to enjoy the bright blue sea and grab a bite to eat. 

Peter and I by the Aegean Sea
Behind us, you can see a fort in the city's bay.

 We strolled up and down the quaint little streets of Nafplion.  Since it was not the tourist season, we found the streets quiet and many of the restaurants empty.  We walked down a street lined with restaurants, eager to try some fresh fish and more delicious Greek cuisine.  A little hole-in-the-wall restaurant with orange walls and outdoor seating on the cobblestone street caught our eye.  We eagerly ordered the works:  octopus, calamari, salads, fresh fish!  Not long after we dug our forks into our dinners did we realize that this would be a dinner we would never forget. Everything tasted and smelled a bit "off".  The unappetizing fish was accompanied by a cold lump of garlic mush.  As we politely picked at our food, we discovered that we were not alone.  The odors from our seafood had beckoned every alley cat in town to join us.  Soon we were surrounded by three...four...five...six cats meowing loudly, rubbing against us, and begging for food.  Dan's dad scooped up the garlic mush and launched it by forkfulls to the other side of the alley in an effort to get rid of the cats.  Some eagerly lapped up the inedible mush, as other cats appeared out of nowhere to join our feast.  In a flash, we grabbed the bill, left a stack of Euros, and dashed away from our cat-infested table.  We had ice cream for dinner that night. 

The next morning, the boys explored a Venetian-built fortress overlooking the city of Nafplion while the girls and Peter spent the morning at the beach. 

These cells held prisoners with life sentences!

Beautiful view from the fortress!

Me and my super fun sister-in-law, Hannah!  Love that girl! 

 While the boys explored the fortress, Peter splashed in the Sea and the girls enjoyed a little sunshine and relaxation.  It was a little chilly outside, so we had the beach all to ourselves.  Aunt Hannah bought an ice cream bar for Peter from a little snack shop by the beach.  He was one happy camper!

Peter and his FAVORITE aunt! : ) 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My Big Fat Greek Vacation! (Part Three: Olympia)

The next stop on our road trip: Olympia.  From the moment we drove down the dusty old road to our hotel, tucked away on a quiet mountain, we fell in love with Olympia.  It was quiet, off the beaten path, peaceful, and beautiful.  We arrived at our perfect little hotel early enough to take a dip in the pool and enjoy a glass of Greek wine.  Our hotel included dinner that evening, so after swimming we were able to walk over to our charming little dinner spot with a gorgeous view of Olympia.  This was our favorite dinner of the trip.  The weather was perfect, the food was incredible, and the atmosphere was quaint and relaxing. 

Our perfect dinner in Olympia

The view from our dinner table

The next morning, we enjoyed a tasty breakfast at our hotel.  During breakfast, a cute grandmotherly British woman approached us, motioned to Peter, and said "I had the fresh squeezed orange juice for breakfast, but I really just want to squeeze him!"  Several of her traveling buddies joined her as they Ooohed and Aaaahed over Peter saying "Oh!  He's just a little poppet, isn't he!?"

After breakfast, we explored the ruins of the ancient city of Olympia!

Below are the ruins of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia. Inside this temple stood one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: the Statue of Zeus at Olympia. The statue was said to have been huge and incredibly beautiful--made with sheets of gold for his clothes and sheets of ivory for his flesh.

The Beaudoin Clan and the Temple of Zeus

One of the most awesome sites on our trip that we visited was the ORIGINAL Olympic stadium where the ancient Greeks held their games!  Below is a photo of Dan and his sister, Hannah, at the starting line inside the stadium! These two were eager for a little friendly competition.  It was a close race!  : )  The track from one end to the other was a little over 200 meters. 

Next, Dan took a run with our little Olympian. 

On your mark, get set, GO! 

Below is the Altar of Hera in Olympia. It was in front of the Temple of Hera in Olympia. Hera was the queen of the gods (Zeus's wife).  The ancient Greeks made burnt sacrifices to Hera on this spot.

In modern times, this small pile of rocks is actually very significant...since the 1930s, the Olympic Flame for each modern Olympic Games is originally lit right here and taken to the site of the Olympic Games that year!!! Very cool!