Decking the Halls

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I am FINALLY feeling better after two weeks of being completely miserable with a nasty virus.  Once I started feeling human, my Christmas spirit kicked in almost immediately and I had to start celebrating.

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I made plans with friends to check out a Christmas Festival in Istanbul, even though the weather was about as un-Christmas-y (that’s a word, no?) as it gets.  It may as well have been spring.

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This was actually made out of gingerbread.

It was so cool to see people from all over the world coming together to celebrate Christmas in a place where the Christmas spirit just isn’t most of the time.  There were little stands run by people from Spain, France, Syria, Thailand…you name it.  There were Christmas cookies, handmade decorations, mulled wine, and all kinds of delicious food.

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I came home with quite a few treasures, including some homemade cranberry liquor and some great hot sauce, but by far my favorite purchase of the day was this set of hand-painted ornaments.  They are painted with a traditional Turkish tulip pattern and I am hoping to keep them forever so I can always have a little piece of Turkey with me at Christmas, no matter where I may be.

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Of course, my day would not have been complete without turning up the Bing Crosby and decorating the lojman.

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Wishing a happy holiday season to all.

A Weekend Long Overdue

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Fresh juice all day, every day.

Wow, I have really neglected this space lately…not to mention myself.  My life has mainly revolved around work for the last month and a half, which has not been the most exciting.  My husband and I finally mustered up the time and energy to journey over to Istanbul for the weekend for some much-needed interaction with civilization. IMG_1599.JPG We didn’t want to make any specific plans, so we just went with the flow the whole weekend long.  After hitting up one of our favorite cafes, we found ourselves wandering over to the iskele to take the ferry over to the European side of the city.  After all this time, crossing the Bosphorus still feels like such a magical experience each time.

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Even though it didn’t feel like it at all due to the heat, the city was showing a few signs of fall.  After eating and wandering the streets, we ended up in Sultanahmet and decided to check out some of the museums we hadn’t yet seen.

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We stumbled into the Mosaic Museum, and for such a small museum, it was really impressive.  Even though the mosaics were from the Byzantine period, you could really see the fusion of east and west that has always been at the heart of Istanbul reflected in the imagery.  I can’t believe we’d never stopped there before…well worth the visit!!

We tried to visit the carpet museum as well, but we didn’t make it in time, so I guess that’s another plan for another day.

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Pancake breakfast!!

I’m hoping this is the start of a few more adventures and a little less self-neglect.

Settled

dsc_0259In the blink of an eye, here we are in a new season.

This third year seems…different. Everything that at first seemed wild and foreign to me now seems so routine and familiar. Bargaining at the pazar, my days in the classroom, fumbling through conversations in taxis while zooming through traffic – it all feels so natural.

With my change in status from new to veteran yabanci, I find myself becoming more of a homebody. When I first made the big move, I set my sights on seeing something new at every opportunity; now, I am settling into favorite places and activities. Such a change may seem uneventful from an outsider’s perspective, but for me, it is welcome. As much as I love traveling, it feels good to finally feel like I belong here. It feels good to be home.

A World of Color in Alaçatı

IMG_0935.JPGAfter returning from Chios, we spent the last few days of our sweet, sweet summer in Alaçatı, an adorable little town just 15 minutes east of Çeşme.  We were pretty sunburnt and tired of swimming at this point, so a couple of days of wandering through colorful streets, drinking coffee, and stuffing our faces sounded pretty perfect.

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By night, the streets were an overpopulated nightmare that left me feeling a little like this, but in the mornings, they took my breath away.  Hardly a soul was to be found before noon, so my husband and I had the winding, colorful alleys to ourselves for hours.  I think I’ll just let the pictures do most of the talking on this one.

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Alaçatı is the sort of place that really embodies summer, with bright pops of color and flowers hanging above the streets.  It was a nice way to bid farewell to the season before long, lazy, sunny days are replaced with work and chilly weather.

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Chilling Out in Çeşme

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I realize I’ve neglected this space for about a month now.  To be honest, going from the U.S. back to Turkey wasn’t the smoothest of transitions, especially considering that we had to get up for a long day of meetings just 10 hours after stepping of the plane.  The week of jet lag that followed didn’t help.

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Still, we survived, got ready for the upcoming school year, and mercifully took off for a 10-day holiday, thanks to the Bayram.  We contemplated going off on a new European adventure, but after a crazy summer full of fast-paced traveling, we wanted to hang out a little closer to home and relax.  In the end, we decided to spend a few days in Çeşme, a nice beach town on the west coast of Turkey.

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Right away, we knew we had made the right choice.  The town was cozy, relaxed, very pedestrian-friendly and full of delicious meyhanes.  

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Our agenda mainly involved beach time, alternating between lounging in a sunbed and swimming in the beautiful Aegean Sea.  While there are many beautiful beaches in the Çeşme area, several of them are private and will charge an entrance fee for the day. We found the public beach – Ilıca – to be more than satisfactory and felt no need to pay for more than a sunbed and a couple of beers.  The water was perfect and there was plenty of space for everyone to lounge and swim, regardless of the Bayram crowds.

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Aside from beach bumming, we took some time to explore the local castle, which had some interesting exhibits and offered fantastic views of the city and marina from the top. The fact that we got free entry with our Muzekarts was just the icing on the cake.

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Çeşme was lovely and refreshing – exactly what we needed after a hectic summer and before the start of another school year!

 

Perfect Podcasts for Summer Escapes

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Is anyone else out there addicted to podcasts?  I’ve mentioned this before, but ever since I taught Serial last winter, I’ve jumped straight down the rabbit hole and have done a lot of binge-listening.  I love how podcasts – unlike TV shows – allow you to multi-task since you don’t have to keep your eyes on a screen.  I started out just listening to them at home to have a little interesting background noise while I grade or do chores, but lately they’ve also become great travel companions.  Whether I’m on the long flight between Turkey and the U.S. or cruising the highway, I’m bound to be listening to something.  Since they’ve been such a game-changer for me, I thought it might be worth it to share a suggested list of podcast/rip pairings based on my summer listening…kind of like a list of wine/dinner pairings, except without the wine.  Or dinner.  Anyway…

For a trip near the water…

Passage

The Bridge

For the Deep South…

S-Town (my personal favorite of the summer!)

For a classic American road trip…

Alice Isn’t Dead

Behemoth

For a ghost town voyage…

The Tunnels

Return Home

For those who meditate…

Within the Wires

For anyone who doesn’t mind a little gore…

The Box

Darkest Night

For those who wish to transcend our physical world…

Rabbits

Archive 81

The Far Meridian

I’m always looking for new podcasts (because I’m obsessed), so I’m all ears (no pun intended) for any recommendations!!