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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Chios, Greece: A Tiny Aegean Paradise

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Çeşme is a fairly frequented tourist haven, which is no surprise because it’s full of beautiful beaches.  What is surprising is that the Greek island of Chios is only 20 minutes away by ferry and it is seldom traveled in comparison…which is a shame because it’s lovely.

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We got an amazing deal on a resort with a private beach and got to wake up to this view every morning!  It was great only being a minute away from a perfect morning swim. Much like Çeşme, Chios is full of beautiful beaches, but because we basically had a beach to ourselves, we didn’t venture off to any of the others.

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After a much-needed day of settling in and hanging out in the water, we were ready to explore more of the island.  One of the main attractions of Chios is the tiny town of Pyrgi, known for its beautiful houses covered in unique grey and white geometric patterns.

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Every building in town was so beautiful and elaborate and I especially loved the color contrast of all of the tomatoes being hung out to dry throughout the neighborhoods. We spent several hours simply wandering through the tiny alleys admiring the patterns.  We also stopped to sip on some mastiha, a liquor made out of mastic, which is one of the island’s specialties.

IMG_0818.JPGAnother highlight of the island is the little pier with historic windmills, not far from the main port.  They are much bigger than they seem and look absolutely stunning next to the turquoise water.  We visited in the afternoon, but I imagine they are breathtaking at sunset.

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We were really surprised by how beautiful and charming Chios was.  We had been to Greece before, so we knew we’d likely be in for a treat, but it was so nice to explore one of the lesser known islands and not build up so many expectations.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned about traveling, it’s not to be afraid to go off the beaten path.  The beaches, lovely architecture, food, and hospitable locals blew us away!

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I look forward to even more Greek islands in my future, but especially those that are so close to Turkey!  The ferry ride was only 25 euros and was a breeze (as long as you show up at least an hour before departure for passport control).  It’s also interesting to see the influence that both Turkey and Greece have had on one another so close to the border.

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Besides, it’s really hard to turn down the opportunity to see two countries in one trip and drink really good wine for 2 euros a glass.

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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!

 

Sun Up, Sun Down

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I might be a little biased, but I honestly think that the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets I have ever seen have been right here in the Kansas prairie.

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Even the cloudy night sky is stunning.

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It’s been good to be home and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit sad to be leaving next week.

 

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!!

NYC!

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New York City was a place I had always built up in my mind.  It was the backdrop to nearly all the sitcoms of my childhood, the land of Broadway, and a foodie paradise; I knew I had to make it there eventually.

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One of my best friends since middle school recently moved to a suburb near the city and invited me to visit, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity – it had been two years since we’d seen each other (which was FAR too long!) and we knew we’d have a blast exploring the city together.

 

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After a night of catching up and relaxing after my flight (which had spent 3 hours on the runway), we were up bright and early and ready to explore.  It was a little surreal to walk out of the bus station and right into The New York Times!

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We started out by walking around Times Square and I could not have chosen better weather.  It was cool and overcast, but not rainy or humid at all – a far cry from the smoldering Kansas heat I had left behind.

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We stopped for lunch in Koreatown and I will probably be dreaming of all the wonderful Korean barbecue for the next year now.

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Next up was Central Park, where we spent several hours enjoying the beautiful weather.  I couldn’t believe how HUGE the park was!  I was also surprised at how many newly married couples were walking around nonchalantly getting their pictures taken.  The park is pretty enough in summer, but I imagine it’s stunning in the fall.

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Our last stop for the day was the 9/11 memorial and Tower One, which was sad and beautiful all at once.

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One of the things I was most hoping to do while I was in New York was to see a Broadway show, so I was pretty stoked when we scored some decently priced last-minute tickets to The Book of Mormon.  The humor was not for the faint of heart, but it definitely kept me laughing and the venue, set, and costumes were spectacular.

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After the show, we decided to try to catch happy hour at a nearby rooftop bar, which offered fabulous views of the skyline.  Sipping on watermelon coolers to beat the afternoon heat was just the icing on the cake.

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On Day 3, we did a little double decker cruising (touristy, but fun) and went to see the Statue of Liberty.

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All too soon it was time to disembark and get ready to pack for my early flight back to Kansas.  I could easily have stayed for another week, but I was grateful for the time I had. It’s hard to be so far away from family and friends, and unfortunately, friends can often get pushed aside for the sake of family.  I’m so glad I made time for this adventure and hope to make a return trip next summer!

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