Monday, December 31, 2012

Thoughts for the New Year



Window Washers at the Burj Khalifa
For the last few months we are now to the good part.  It’s that time of year where the weather is so nice - Mild, sunny days.  Yes, Dubai is extremely hot for 3 or 4 months of the year, but it is a small price to pay for beautiful weather the rest of the time.

The city and everyone living here takes advantage of the amazing weather.  There are countless events outside, and it is always a great day to head to the beach.  It only rained one day about a week ago, and that will likely be it for the next 12 months or more.

In addition to the weather, we enjoy the area where we live.  When we first moved to Dubai, housing was hard to come by.  If you saw an apartment you liked, you had to sign on the spot because it would be gone within an hour later.  No joke.

I came here and had a look for one week, and during that time I found a complex that was under construction.  The model looked nice, and the size seemed reasonable, but more importantly I had the most unexplainable feeling that we needed to live there.  I felt very strongly that we should not live anywhere else.  It was not until a few years later that I learned we would be across the street from the world’s tallest building and what is referred to as “Downtown Dubai”. 

I remember looking out the window asking my husband where it would be.  “There,” he told me.  But there was nothing there.  It was all desert.  We were pretty much living at the end of Dubai for a few short years.

I watched Burj Khalifa emerge from the sand out my window, and I somehow still could not believe it.  Now it is great to wake up every morning and see it.  We also enjoy a walk or run around the Dubai Fountains and spend a lot of time playing football (soccer) or lately, freeze tag on the lawn at the base of the building on the weekends.  

Two weeks ago I went out earlier than usual to shoot some architecture photography.  I was amazed at how many people were out cleaning the area.  I know they do it, but to see so many was both impressive and humbling.  Many places here are always immaculately clean.  Even if it looks clean already, someone is cleaning.  They wash the sidewalks, maintain the fountains and clean the windows of all these buildings among other things.

Since last weekend, they have been preparing for the New Year.  We will watch from our much less crowded balcony again, but to see all this come together and all the work that goes into it, has been amazing.  I am so appreciative of the workers, and all the others who work to keep the area and Dubai clean. 

The big thing in the news here last week was about a gas station attendant that was strip searched over a small tip.  Needless to say it created a lot of outrage.  Blue-collar workers here are paid a low wage, and like many migrant workers throughout the world, they send their money back home to their families and children so they can hopefully have a better life.

The story did not go unnoticed.  Many people are protesting the gas station.  But more importantly, on the seventh anniversary of his accession, Sheikh Mohammed, Ruler of Dubai, used this as an opportunity to honor and create awareness about the blue-collar workers here. 

He is quoted as tweeting, “This year, we focus on a new group: general labor employees such as gardeners, janitors, construction workers, domestic workers among others.

“These groups play an active role in society. Some have spent many years doing a great job and they deserve a big ‘thank you’ from all of us.”  Sheikh Mohammed said these “unknown soldiers” were the reason streets, buildings and other facilities were ready, clean, and decorated every day.  “We want to let them know that their services are valued and appreciated as they make our lives easier and better.”  (thenational.ae)

This is such a big step for workers rights here, and hopefully those who have been mistreated, or not appreciated will see improved conditions and pay in the future.

So while we are watching the fireworks at Burj Khalifa, or anywhere else in the world for that matter, let's not litter, pick up our trash, maybe buy the workers a sandwich or a bottle of water.  Let's do something in 2013 to let them know how much they are appreciated.  As Sheikh Mohammed said, they make our lives easier, so let’s do something in return.


Washing the sidewalks at the Burj Khalifa

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sirince, Turkey, A Safe Haven


Şirince, Turkey
Earlier this year we visited a Turkish village called Şirince (pronounced Shirinje).   It is nestled in the hills close to Selcuk, and it is believed that when Ephesus was abandoned, many moved here. Vineyards, olive groves and peach trees surround it, and true to its namesake it is very pleasant.


The breakfast area at Nişanyan Hotel in Şirince, Turkey

Much to my surprise, I read an article a few days ago, that many people from a religious group have travelled to Şirince.  They believe that it is one of only two places to escape the alleged apocalypse.  The only explanation in the media I could find for this is that they believe Şirince is a safe haven due to its “positive energy”.  

All hotels are full.  The town is at capacity.  I even read one hotel received a call from the US from someone offering any amount of money for a room.  The reports make it sound as if this has now morphed into some kind of party.  

Şirince is sometimes promoted as a place where great wine is made.  Perhaps that was true at one time, but even the place we stayed had it clearly written on their menu that the wine in the village is not that great.  Their recommendation was to drink reputable Turkish brands.  I was later offered some of the local wine.  I have to agree, stick to the reputable Turkish brands.  Many of those are excellent and should not be missed.

What WAS great about Şirince was everything else.   I agree it is an amazing town, and full of natural, positive energy and many opportunities for breathtaking views and relaxation.  My son and I spent much of our time there exploring and taking pictures of bugs - grasshoppers, dragonflies, a praying mantis.  The air was fresh, the local food was fabulous, and our B&B was very quaint. 

The dried red peppers cannot be missed.  In Turkish, pul biber is very important in Turkish cuisine. This was by far the best I ever tasted.  It was spicy in that pul biber kind of way, but also sweet at the same time.

If you have the chance, it is worth a visit.  

My prediction for 2012?  There might be a few people in Şirince with a bad hangover on the 22nd...


Peppers Drying, Şirince, Turkey

Şirince, Turkey

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Texas, you are from "The Hood"


My Texas Christmas Tree Ornament. Given to me by a dear friend years ago after I moved from the US

I always find the life stories of others interesting.  In the case of moving abroad, sometimes the move is planned, other times not, but everyone’s story is interesting.  

I met someone at a gathering recently that introduced themselves as having just moved from New York City.  She went on and on about how different Dubai was from New York.  The streets, the restaurants, the lifestyle... I agree it is a pretty special place.  

I obviously introduced myself as American, so as everyone was leaving, she asked me which state I was from.  “Texas”, I answered.  “Oh, we are from Dallas”, she told me. However, that subject was quickly changed and her emphasis was still making it clear that she had just moved from New York because that is “the last place they lived before coming to Dubai”.

Now, I could be reading too much into this, but I just felt like she did not want to openly admit that she was from Texas.  I confess that I have been in situations where I was not always sure how someone would react to me being from Texas, or in some cases America.  For example, when George W Bush was not the most favorite American president, I would take a millisecond mental preparation for any sort of response about having the same state in common.  A few people inquired, but it was never malicious.

Imagine my horror when I first met one of my neighbors and I asked her where she was from.  Iraq.  This was only one day after the US started bombing Iraq.  In normal introductory conversation, she in return asked me where I was from.  That was one of the few times in my life where I felt speechless.  What should I say?  “Hi, nice to meet you.  I am from the country that is bombing yours.”  I felt this profound need to apologize or even hug her.  Regardless of what anyone thinks politically, bombs were dropped.  My initial reaction was to do something, and a hug was the first thing that came to mind as mass military movement is a heavy subject.

After I got over my shock, I answered that I was American.  It didn’t seem to faze her and we went on talking about our kids, where we live and other day-to-day things.  Of course like all people I have met throughout my time abroad, she doesn't mix people and politics.  It was never even a topic of discussion. 

In general, people that I meet who have been to Texas really like it.  People who have been to anywhere else in the US also really like it.  Some even think I am a bit crazy for not having a specific plan to move back to Texas anytime soon.  Maybe so, but it's just not in our cards.

I do not have a long family tree from Texas.  We moved there when I was very young.  However, I grew up there.  While I continue to live happily where I am, if someone asks where I am from I fess up.  So while you may have escaped “the hood”, don’t erase it.  Own it.  The eyes of Texas are upon you…

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Abu Dhabi - The Weekend Escpae

Local women at Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Many people may not think of Abu Dhabi as a weekend escape, but I think it is worth considering - particularly Saadiyat Island.  It is a low lying area in Abu Dhabi that we have visited on a few occasions over the last two years.  Since we had a 3-day weekend due to UAE National Day, we ventured there again.  From Dubai, you can be at a nice hotel and feel far away from everything in just over one hour.

Saadiyat island has some of the cleanest sea I have experienced in the UAE.  The beach where we typically stay is protected because turtles lay their eggs there.  On this visit we saw a group of dolphins swim across the sea right in front of us.  They were in no hurry and it was great to watch them play.

Dolphins along the shore at Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi, UAE

Later that day, a flock of flamingos flew over my son's head as he made sand castles with his friends.  And the occasional butterflies on the beach were a nice touch.

I really hope that Saadiyat island stays special.  It is the site of an upscale development that will include a Louvre, Guggenheim, a New York University Campus and many other sites.  I know development comes at a price, but hopefully not at the cost of the wildlife that frequents the island.

Kite surfing at Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi, UAE


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Be Thankful for your Features!

Happy Thanksgiving for those of you in the US, and those of you celebrating it abroad.  It is a work day here us, so we always celebrate it on the weekend.

My son had a small Thanksgiving breakfast at school yesterday.  I was in charge of table cloths.  Knowing I can deliver a huge dinner, with Turkey, pies and more, I felt I was cheating somehow just bringing a festive table cloth.  So, I bought two.

We also got back the school pictures this week.  A professional studio in Dubai banks on the market of school pictures here and seems to do well in this.  It is a smart way to boost their business, and they probably get some families that come in for portraits as a result.

I saw the proofs - one head shot, and one upper body.  Both very cute, but of course, I think so because he is my son.  I am very impressed at the over the shoulder look my son gives the camera. They have posed him well.  His hair is so well groomed it looks like they had a stylist on the set.

The prints came back and they are beautiful.  But wait.... the more I look at them, the more something looks different.  It is him, but it is just different somehow.  I see the package every day on my desk waiting for the weekend so it can be framed.

Then yesterday it hit me.  They have photoshopped him too much!  That is why he looks so different.  His face is very soft and angelic-like, and it seems they have photoshopped his nose to the point where it is almost too small.  It does not look unnatural or out of proportion, BUT, this is not my son's nose.

My son is blonde haired and blue eyed.  Just like his father.  He looks just like his father did when he was that age.  A photocopy.  He even has his nose.  Yes, his father is 100% Turk, but most Turks are not blonde and blue-eyed.  In many ways, his nose and it's cute little deviated septum is one of his few physical features that is distinctively Turkish.  They took away his Turkishness!  Not many people would notice the difference, but it is just enough that I can.

As a photographer, yes I use photoshop.  I use it for mild corrections and to enhance colors when I need something to pop out of the frame.  I do not really use it on people.  The only time I have was to photoshop a huge vein sticking out of my own forehead on a snapshot that is now my Facebook profile picture.  Its not something I would usually do, but I do have a pretty big forehead so I thought it best to avoid Neanderthalism on social media.

But to overly photoshop a child's nose?  This just seems wrong.  How are we supposed to teach our children to love themselves just as they are if someone is photoshopping out their ethnic features?  

I will contact the studio as I am curious to see the pre-processed image.  I doubt anything will come of it.  It is not a bad picture, but it is just not quite him.

So on that note, have a great Thanksgiving and be thankful for your God-given features!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lost in Translation


Living abroad can be challenging sometimes.  For most people, I guess the biggest challenge is missing someone or something.  After this, I am guessing that the frustration of communication has to be pretty high on the list.  If there were anything to remind me I am in a new or different place, it is almost always the communication.

When I first moved to Turkey, I had that Carrie Bradshaw moment she experienced in Paris when she was with her Lover and his friends as they carried on in French and she could not join in the conversation.  Such a scene is expected. If you do not run back to New York with Big, over time you learn the language and become just as opinionated as everyone else.

But what do you do in the case of Dubai where everyone for the most part speaks fluent English and you sometimes cannot communicate effectively?  There are days when it can feel more challenging than not speaking the same language. 

Case in point.

I was out with a friend a few weeks ago.  Before she drove back home, she wanted a black coffee.  The conversation to order went something like this:
Can I have an Americano coffee please?
Would you like milk with that?
No, black coffee please.  Americano.
OK, I will bring the milk on the side for you?
No, just black coffee.
You do not want milk?
Ok. Just bring the milk on the side.

My friend was so polite and patient through all of this and finally obliged.  Coffee without milk just did not seem like a possible concept.

The same waiter arrived with the coffee and an elegant little pitcher of milk on the side.  After he put the coffee on the table, he politely asks, “Would you like me to pour the milk?”

I try not to smile too much.  My friend once again manages it and calmly responds, “You know what, I don’t need any milk. Thank you.”

The waiter smiled and walked off happily knowing that he delivered the best service ever.

*******

A few weeks later we were with friends at a hotel over a long holiday weekend.  Her son wanted a cheeseburger for lunch.  The waiter came over and the boy politely ordered.

Can I have a cheeseburger please? 
Do you want falafel burger or beef burger? 
Um, can I have a cheeseburger?

Granted this waiter could be a vegetarian and perhaps where he is from there could be many vegetarians so falafel burgers may be more the norm.  Seeing where this was going, I chimed in with the answer.  Beef. 

*******

My husband arrived later than planned from the airport after a business trip. He was never able to find the complimentary car service offered.  He called the number of the driver to find him, and so the conversation goes.

I will be there in five minutes sir.
Ten minutes passed, no car.  He called back.  Where are you?  
I am here sir. 
Where is here? 
At the gate. 
Which gate?  He gave a number.  The problem was that this number did not exist in terms of airport exits.  My husband explains in great detail where he is.  The driver ensures him he will be there in five minutes. 

At this point, a taxi would have been faster, but he kept trying to work the system, or lack thereof.  The driver never showed.  My husband went to an airport bus of the same company and had that driver speak to the driver of the lost car.  Even with directions in his own language, the driver never showed. 

My husband called again.  There was a lot more of  I am here.  Where is here?  Over there.  It is very challenging to not loose your patience after a 1am arrival.

These are harmless social examples.  What if you are trying to get something done at the bank, a work related transaction, something medical, or somewhere else critical?  It is not always so entertaining.

I don’t really have a solution.  Some situations have worked out with directness, almost to the point where I feel rude.  Realizing that our reactions and responses link back to our culture and education, not the language itself, is important. Things may not translate even though we speak the same language.

I do realize that altering expectations of things like service has somewhat helped to get past the frustration.  Throwing expectation out the window can be a good survival mechanism for living abroad….well, maybe sometimes.  And if that doesn’t help, then I guess there is counting and deep breathing.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

My Exercise Mantra


Lately I seem to have, or see the same discussion among a lot of friends… The subject of exercise.  When is it not on our minds?  At some level it always is.  Get healthier, get slimmer, get fitter, get faster, get stronger….

I was reading a friend’s awesome blog the other night, 40’s Here I Am and her entry I Heart Triathlon was so timely.  I have known this blogger, Cristen Plummer, since high school.  We spent a few years next too each other in the same high kick line in our school dance team.  We spent many hours dancing, kicking and sweating under the hot Texas sun together.  She is now an awesome triathlete among many other things and has a great blog that I recommend.

I Heart Triathlon resonated with me because she really articulated that she is in a very Zen place with her training.  I am not even training for anything, and I could relate. 

I have another very dear friend in Dubai who just participated in an Ultra Marathon and completed her first marathon in a very brutal Venice this year.  She is also a rock star.

In a few brief emails upon her return, she mentioned she wants to take me to the ultra, and she thought of me when she was in Venice and is encouraging me to get back to my runner self again.   In theory, I love this idea.  In reality, I don’t think I want to.  At least not anytime soon.

In no way am I slighting her amazing achievements, or her thoughtfulness.  As Cristen acknowledges she is in a place that she is happy to focus on shorter tris.  I am happy to acknowledge that I am in a place where I am not focusing on any type of distance what so ever… Insane? maybe.  

A “few” years ago I completed a marathon.  It was one of the best and worst days in my life equating to a life changing experience.  Having experienced both, I think childbirth could be easier.

Back when I was a long distance runner, I always told myself I would complete an ironman when I turned 40. Well, guess what?  I passed that benchmark.  I am sincere when I say that I am equally ecstatic that another friend I know from that same dance team completed an ironman – two years in a row.  And she rocked it.  I have not completed an ironman, or any kind of tri for that matter, and it is okay.  I am so happy for those that have.

My philosophy about exercise today is if everything works and I can function, then that is enough for me.  I don't sit around and let it deteriorate, but this is my mantra right now.  I think a lot has to do with the fact that I always live by a number. 

I live by the time I need to get up.  The time I need to get out the door.  The time I need to drop my son at school.  The time I need to pick him up.  The time the nurses will check his blood sugar.  The time they will call me if something is off.  The time I need to be at this meeting or that one.  The time my son’s blood sugar will be checked again.  The time I need to go to a doctor’s appointment.  The time my friends are getting together for an early dinner that I will not be able to join. The time I need to work later because I break in the day to pick up my son from school mid-day.  The time my son goes to bed.  The time I need to check my son’s blood sugar.  The time he needs to eat so his blood sugar does not go too low later.  The time of that yoga class I will not make because I need to work to finish something before the scheduled meeting the next day.  The time of that cool aerial silk class that is way too early for anyone who works.  The time I need to be at that party.  The time I need to be at that dinner.  The time I should be sleeping.  The time I need to get up the next day to achieve everything else I need to do… the time…tick tock tick tock.  Enough scheduling and racing against the clock.

As a result of living by the watch, I have a new exercise philosophy, which I owe a lot to my previous yoga practice.  I started yoga years ago as the result of a running injury before it was as cool as it is now.  I found something amazing, and I was in the best shape of my life, but the benefits are not only physical.

What it did teach me was to live in the present.  Enjoy the moment.  This is my new training regime.  I am just in the present and enjoy it.  Maybe I will change someday.  But for now, I am just happy to be with it.  Be in it. 

I do not run every day.  I do not do yoga every day.  I am not sure what I am.  I am pretty sure this does not matter.  Shocking revelation: I exercise based on my mood and what I feel, and what time of day it is.  I look at what I need at that time, and do it. 

I do not have any PRs (Personal Records) to beat, or distances to further.  It has been refreshing to not have to train for anything.  I just go out and do what it is I need to do.

I ran the other night.  I love running again.  Why?  Its not the distance, or the hope to fit into my skinny jeans.  I love running because I can run past the Dubai Fountains while listening to the Talking Heads or something else that is not expected.   I can run to meet my friend that is getting her hair colored at the salon nearby.  I can run behind my son as he rides his bike and we stop for lunch. 

I wear no watch.  I know no distance.  Be sure, “Run mommy run!” is the best phrase you will ever hear that indicates you are about to embrace the best speed workout or tempo run of your life.  The beauty is, it does not feel like work.

I really salute all of you amazing people out there accomplishing your fitness goals.  It is never easy, and always admirable.

However, sometimes, there is something indescribable about being in that moment.  That moment which is so amazing that you will never get it back.  I do realize a lot of those epiphanies happen during races and PR’s.  They also happen at other times when you least expect them…

Today I asked my son if he wanted his sunglasses as I ran after him while he rode his bike around the Burj Khalifa past the Dubai Fountains. 

“No mommy.  Everything is so beautiful I want to see it”.

Make sure you see it.  Don’t miss it.

View from a run in Downtown Dubai



Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Eid Mubarak!

Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi
Last week there was a coffee morning at the school for parents.  I am not really a coffee morning kind of mom as I typically only have time to enjoy my weekday coffee engaged in work rather than over good friendly conversation.  Erin's blood sugar was a bit off, so I thought this might be something to do while I stuck around until his next check.

I am glad I stayed.  Not only for Erin, but I also got a chance to meet the very nice parents of his classmates.  Staying really confirmed we chose the right school.  While it is an American curriculum, most children are not American, or have one parent that is not American.  Even better, they embrace Dubai and are excited to be here.

The benefit of going to this school is that Erin will be exposed to many cultures.  He has children in his class from China, Korea, Egypt, Ireland, America, Pakistan, Morocco, Spain and more.  The statistic on the number of languages spoken across the school are too many to count.

Not only will he get a good education, but equally important, he will grow up learning about different cultures and traditions.  As today is Eid al Adha, they even learned a little bit about this in school which is great.  For anyone that might be skeptical, this is not in a religious context.  Plain and simple, it is about cultural awareness and understanding others.

This week, the letter of the week was "E".  For Erin, this meant that he was the class "Star of the Week".  The Star gets to help the teacher with different tasks and is featured in the newsletter that goes out to parents.  They also include an interview with the child.  I was so surprised at some of his answers.  Favorite color - Green.  Really?  He is so boy it usually Ferrari red.

I cannot tell you how pleased I was to see his answer to the question, Where are you from?  His answer was America and Turkey.

I had one of those small moments when you think that just maybe you have done something successful as a parent.  While it is a small thing, it is a huge deal for us that Erin understand both his American and Turkish background.  It only enhances it more that he is in a place that appreciates it too.

For those of you celebrating today... Eid Mubarak and Bayram Kutlu Olsun!!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Say Cheese

This is called the O14 building, commonly referred to as the "Swiss Cheese Building".  Located in Business Bay, this opened just a couple of years ago.  It is an office tower, and that Swiss cheese outside is actually concrete.

With so many new buildings coming up, this one is for sure eye catching.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Namesake

Today as I entered the elevator to dart back to work after dropping my son at home after school, I heard a child heading toward the elevator.  It was a small, local boy under the age of two with his father.

I said hello, but the child did not answer.  His father commented that he should learn to say hello to people.  Observation: We do not really encourage children to interact with strangers in the US.

I learn the boy's name is Hamdan.  "Hamdan. That is a very nice name", I reply.  Just as I was thinking it, the man proudly told me that this is the same name as the Crown Prince of Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan.

As I walked to my car, I couldn't help but feel how proud this father was of his son's name and how proud he was to have named him after the Crown Prince.  I tried to think of other countries where this might happen.

I think we might be hard pressed to find an American who would name their child after George Bush, Burak Obama, or Mitt Romney.  There are some great historical leaders that people may consider or admire, but living leaders, I'm not sure.  I started to scan Europe - Tony Blair, Nicolas Sarkozy?  Not likely I assume.

The national pride here feels very genuine.  It is not arrogant or aggressive.  It was a nice reminder of many things...

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Olive Tree


Olive Tree at Sunset, Yalikavak, Bodrum, Turkey

The olive tree..... Known throughout history as the tree of wisdom, hope, peace, light, fertility, health, wealth, and balance, among other things.

Sunset is my most favorite time of day... always, anywhere.  I took this in Yalikavak in Bodrum, Turkey.  This lone olive tree was standing there enduring the wind.  It wasn't the best sunset that day, but when I leaned to the left just a tiny bit, the sun hid behind this tree.  I was amazed at the outcome.

But I guess that is life.  Sometimes if you slightly change your viewpoint, you see things in a completely different light.

Namaste.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Anadolu Kavak, Istanbul

I tend to write more about Turkey than my Life in the Middle East sometimes.  I can't help it - it is part of that "write about what you know" thing, and I love Turkey.  It is a beautiful country with a rich history, so it is hard not to.  On that note, I leave you with a few highlights from a recent visit to Anadolu Kavak in Istanbul.


Anadolu Kavak, Istanbul, Turkey

Anadolu Kavak is the last village on the Northern Anadolu, or Anatolian side of Istanbul, at the entrance of the Black Sea.  This is the Asian side of the city.  In the days of Constantinople, a very large chain was strung across the Bosphorus from Yoros Castle to Rumeli Kavak to control the Strait.  Today Anadolu Kavak is largely known as a fishing village and popular day trip from Istanbul.


Yoros Castle, Anadolu Kavak, Istanbul, Turkey

It is easy to get there by ferry boat, and although crowded on the weekends, it is still recommended.  You can enjoy the day eating fish at one of the local restaurants, walk through the village and visit the local vendors or just people watch as you enjoy a coffee or ice-cream.


Fishermen making their way up the Bosphorus in Istanbul

The fish are plentiful in Anadolu Kavak


A great catch.  A cat stealing from a fisherman of Anadolu Kavak.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Ephesus

Have you ever wanted to travel back in time?  Well, you can - sort of.  Visit the ancient city Ephesus and walk where others have walked thousands of years before - Alexander the Great, St. Paul and many more.  Visiting such places is the closest thing to time travel that I am aware of.

I have been to Ephesus in Turkey a few times, and I highly recommend a visit if you are ever in the area.  It is much more crowded than ever before, so beware, if you want the city to yourself it may be more challenging in the summer.  The good news is that the area is so large, you will still be able to enjoy it.  At it's peak it is believed to have had a population of over 400,000 so there is room for everyone.

Here are a few of my favorites from my visit this summer.

A couple walking through the ruins of Ephesus that are now one with the landscape


There was a time when I dreamed of studying Architecture and Classical Studies.  A sign I would have ended up living in Turkey one way or another.  I can almost see myself sitting on such a mound brushing out artifacts.


I love you Burj Khalifa, but this is one of my all time favorite structures ever.  I will forever wonder how such things were constructed without "modern" tools and technology.

The Celcius Library, Ephesus, Turkey
The detail of the Celcius Library, Ephesus, Turkey

I always say, if the cats of Turkey could talk, they would have the most amazing stories to tell.  This one was obviously wore out.

A cat at Ephesus - tourists were swooning like paparazzi.  He was too tired to bother.

Sadly, I have never hired a guide at Ephesus.  I would suggest it because every single thing means something.  Every picture you see, every Greek word, every sculpture, it is all symbolic.

Temple of Hadrian, Ephesus, Turkey

This is the second time I have seen dust blowing like this at Ephesus.  There is some wind in this part of the country, but I cannot help but wonder if it is some ancient spirit still lingering.

Ephesus, Turkey

If you want to learn more about Ephesus, I suggest http://www.ephesus.us/ . It has some of the most comprehensive information I have seen about the city and its history.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Baklava vs Bugs


I know I promised pictures from Ephesus. I am experimenting with those in a new-ish software, so I want to play a bit first, then will upload.

In the meantime, I leave you with a few funny quotes/anecdotes/randomness from the summer.



A butterfly in my friend's garden


Taxi Drivers

I learned a lot from the taxi drivers of Istanbul.  I improved my Turkish, learned that not everyone thinks politically, learned that a good taxi driver will go out of his way for you, and I learned how to navigate the back roads of Istanbul - so well that sometimes I could get around better than my native husband.

I also learned they are not often afraid to ask questions...

Coming back from the Princess Islands one day we decided to taxi the rest of the way home from the Asian side of the city.  My son fell asleep during the ferryboat ride, so we carried him to the taxi. The first question upon entry, "Is that child yours?"  Kidnapping is no joke, but do we really look like the type that would just pick up a random sleeping child?  I don't think he meant that, but I am not sure what he meant, if anything.

"Boy or girl".  I'll give him this one because my son does have a full head of hair and had not had a haircut for a few weeks.  The best inquiry was yet to come during the long ride to our destination across the Bosphorus.

We were with a good friend who is a cardiac surgeon.  Since we all have a healthcare background, we were talking shop.  Once the taxi driver caught on that he was a surgeon, he asked, "So is smoking bad for you?  I gave up drinking, but I still smoke."  Note, this was not the occasional social smoker.  He smokes.  

The Turkish anti-smoking campaign with pictures of corpses, black lungs and the like on cigarette packs have not given it away just yet.  It seems like a question our friend gets a lot so rather than reacting, he paused for a second and very calmly answered, "It's better if you don't smoke".  

My son, the party boy

While in Bodrum, we were fortunate enough to be there to celebrate a good friend's 40th birthday with her.  It was a great party in the beautiful garden of her summer home.  There were maybe 100 or so people, live music, a DJ, lots and lots of dancing.  Erin did not hold back and much to my and everyone's surprise, danced most of the night.  We left very late and he did not want to go even though it was beyond late.  

As we started to leave he asked, "Mommy, can I have a party like this when I turn five?" 

It left a lasting impression because the next night as we were going to dinner he asked, "Are we going to another party?"

Fortunately, he was accepting of the quieter family dinner.... for now.

Amateur Macro Lens User

That would be me, testing out my new macro lens.  I had these romantic visions of shooting lady bugs and bumblebees in the sunflower fields of Sarkoy.  

Erin and I did go on bug hunts.  He found a praying mantis once - unfortunately no macro on the camera at the time.  Outside of that it was pretty standard: ants and rocks.  

One morning, I came across a small spider hanging from a pomegranate tree in my mother-in-law's garden.  I thought this would be a great way to check out my new lens capabilities.

Apparently, he wanted to give me an extreme close up.  He jumped onto my camera!  I shrieked in a very embarrassing, girly way and moved away very quickly.  Translation: I did that girly bug dance.  "I hate spiders, so why am I trying to take their pictures?"  

I did not seek out any more spiders.  Chasing the above butterfly in a friend's garden was very therapeutic (even without a macro), but in general I just might prefer pictures of homemade baklava over of insects.

After all, wouldn't you rather eat baklava instead of bugs?



Homemade Baklava!!!



Thursday, August 30, 2012

Carpe Diem

I am up early this morning - I've got this thing, once I'm up, I'm up.  I guess I should also give into the fact that this is a result of my lifestyle (being a mom) and with school starting next week, even the concept of becoming a morning exerciser is eminent.

Since we recently repainted a few walls, and I have a few frames to fill, I am up selecting which pictures I want to use.  I am very excited about my corner that will have my water series.  I have one frame to fill that will be all about Erin.  He has a great sense of humor so many of his pictures are a lot of fun.

I came across this one that always makes me think.  This was during a trip to Hong Kong in November 2010.  We went to Disney Land there.  Growing up, I always heard people in the US talk about taking their children or grandchildren to Disney Land or Disney World.  There was always someone that said you have to wait until they are older so they will remember.

Having learned this, I kind of reacted the same way when my husband suggested we go to Hong Kong Disney.  Really? But Erin was not even going to be three for a few months!  Of course he thought, why not?

In retrospect, I am so glad we did it.  I have no regrets.  And believe it or not, Erin still remembers a lot about that trip and visit to Disney.  I think his most vivid memory is the giant, dancing gingerbread man giving him a head butt during the Christmas parade.  (Hong Kong, blondes stick out).

This is a picture of him playing the drums in the Jungle Book area.  He seems so young compared to the boy he has become.  However, when I see this picture, I am so very glad we took him to Disney Land.  Even if he didn't remember, or doesn't remember everything, he had a great time. Nothing wrong with living in the moment.  Carpe Diem!



Tuesday, August 28, 2012

It All Started With A Peach


It all started with a Peach….


Well, okay, maybe not quite a peach, but it had a lot to do with my early impression of living Turkey. 

I met my husband while he was working in the US in the mid-90’s.  A couple of years later, he received a job offer in Istanbul, his home “town” and politely asked if I would join him.  I figured better to go than to wonder “what if”.  Needless to say, for many reasons, I am glad I moved.

When we first moved to Turkey in the summer of 1997, we took a road trip from Istanbul along the coast, down the Aegean Sea to the Mediterranean Sea.  We had to end this two week adventure in Kas (pronounced Kash), and head back up through the middle of the country to get back to Istanbul to start our new life.

Although short, it was an amazing start.  It was the first time I experienced Turkey outside of Istanbul, and I fell in love with it for many reasons.  Everywhere I looked, something significant had happened on the same soil hundreds, if not thousands of years ago.  As we continued south, it was during a visit to the ancient city of Ephesus that the grandeur of it all began to sit in – the history, culture and… the peaches.

Ephesus is probably best known as an ancient Greek and Roman city, but it is much older than that.  It is tangible proof that ancient civilizations we grew up reading about really existed.  It is larger than life.  I read that even though it has been consistently under excavation since the late 1800s, that only 10% of the area has been excavated.

I have visited a few times, and it is always interesting to see what has been uncovered.  I will also forever be in awe of the Library of Celsus and never tire of sitting in one of the theaters to imagine what it would be like to have been there before.

In addition to this ancient city, another thing I am in awe of are the peaches in the region. In general, the produce in Turkey is like no other.  But the peaches here, they are amazing – the best, biggest juiciest peaches I have ever tasted.  They are just too good for words.  Perhaps it is the ancient soil that fertilizes those trees.

Wanting to introduce my son to his Turkish culture, we stopped at Ephesus this year.  We parked at the back entrance this time and took a horse and cart around to the main entrance.  (Which was not a bad idea with a small child to walk downhill through the city.)

The ride took us around the peach orchards.  It left me wondering why there is no ecotourism here where people can do a farm stay to work on a peach farm in trade for a room and fresh farm breakfast.  I would be happy to stay for several days and just pick peaches!

Pictures of Ephesus to follow soon…