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.

 

In the Land of Oz

IMG_0035.JPGWe’ve been back in Kansas for about a week now hanging out at my grandparents’ place. Lingering jet lag means lots of morning walks and snapping photos of a place now foreign and familiar all at once.

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IMG_0044.JPGIt’s been a full house with my dad, stepmom, sister, aunt, uncle, cousins, and a whole slew of other relatives visiting.  It’s also been a sweltering 100 degrees almost every single day, which means it’s been the perfect time to get reacquainted with air conditioning, play lots of late night card games, and eat as much American junk food as I can handle.

Peace, Love, and Lake House

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Post-coffee bedhead and lounging

My grandpa’s lake house in the tiny town of Council Grove, KS is one of my all time favorite spots.  We always know we’re in for a fun and relaxing time, full of card games, long chats, and paddling on the water.  One of my fondest memories is of the weekend my husband (then-boyfriend) and I spent there in college, riding bikes and kayaking.  Even though it was only 30 minutes away from where we lived, it felt like a different world, which was a pretty big deal for two young people with lots of wanderlust and no money.

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We spent an amazing few days with my grandpa and his girlfriend…who plan to visit us in Turkey next year! I’m so looking forward to showing them around.

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Great nook for reading and coffee

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I will never get tired of bonfires and s’mores

The night sky was unbelievable there.  I wish we’d had a proper camera lens to capture it.  Seriously…you can see the Milky Way in rural Kansas.  I guess I took it for granted since I lived my whole life there, but after a year of constant light pollution, I can really appreciate the big prairie skies with fluffy clouds and the endless sea of stars.

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Can you spot Mars?

It was so hard to leave this peaceful place.  Our summer is dwindling, and while I’m ready to stop being flung from place to place, I’m somehow not ready for it to end!

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I suppose there’s always next summer.

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This frog has a different outfit every time we visit.  Currently, he’s in Mardi Gras attire.

 

Traces of Yesterday

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Some places never really leave us.  Somehow, even after countless journeys through renowned cities in over a dozen different countries, this tiny town tucked into the Flint Hills still takes my breath away.

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Emporia, KS.  This place has a permanent spot in my heart.  This town shaped so much of who I am.  The moment we set foot in our old stomping grounds, I was flooded with a rush of happy memories of old times.  Being on the old college campus was especially  nostalgic.

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We only had one night there, so we wanted to make the most of it.  One of the highlights of the trip was discovering that Emporia actually has an Airbnb place and booking a room in an old Victorian house right by the downtown so we could walk to all of our favorite places.  If you haven’t tried Airbnb yet, it is a must!!  It’s usually much cheaper and more comfortable than a hotel with the added bonus of  local hosts who usually welcome you and clue you in on your surroundings.  We had a great time chatting and swapping travel stories!  Nothing feeds the soul like meeting fellow travelers.

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In addition to strolling down memory  lane, we also couldn’t pass up the opportunity to eat at some of our old favorite restaurants.  Stop #1 was Radius, a super tasty gastropub that opened right before we moved.  It’s soooooo good!  I’m really going to miss American food in a couple weeks!

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Porter-infused creme brulee = best dessert ever!!

After stuffing our faces, we walked around downtown a bit more, sorry that we couldn’t spend more time there.  It seems crazy that it’s only been a little over a year since we left Emporia, and yet it seems like a lifetime ago.  It feels different and exactly the same all at once.

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We went to both of our favorite local coffee shops and picked up beans to take back to Turkiye!

Being back where all of my crazy dreams started to take shape really made me want to conquer those dreams all over again:  reading more, writing more, teaching better, and studying languages.  Oh, and definitely more traveling!

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Forever a Hornet!

It was so great to be back in our former home.  I’m looking forward to going back again next summer!  My heart is happy and recharged with new ambitions for the year ahead.

 

The Little Apple

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We’re currently in Manhattan, KS (a.k.a. The Little Apple) spending some time with my mom, stepdad, brother, and sister.  There have been a few hikes through the Flint Hills, LOTS of coffee shop stops, good food, and soaking in the views of my mom’s new house at Tuttle Creek.  We even saw a mountain lion!

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LAVENDER LATTES. Life-changing stuff.

When did my summer start going by so fast?

Brief Life Hiatus

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I finally bought a Kindle and a couple new books.  There has been lots of coffee and reading around these parts.  My husband even surprised me with that cute little Dumbledore.

See you in a few days, world!

Strataca: A Journey to the Center of the Earth

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When I was little, I was fascinated by fossils, minerals, and pretty much anything that had to do with digging up the past.  For the longest time, I wanted to be a paleontologist, thanks to The Land Before Time.   Even now, I would have no qualms about my life going in that direction.

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As much as I love my home state because it made me who I am, it ranks extremely low on my list of travel recommendations.  There simply isn’t much to see for an outsider.  All the same, if you happen to be stuck in Kansas for one reason or another, there are a few hidden gems for those who need to satisfy their wanderlust here.  One such gem is Strataca, a salt mine and museum located 650 feet below Hutchinson, KS.

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After descending from the dark elevator, you are greeted with the site of old, rusted machinery, information stations, and lots and lots of glittering salt.  Strataca is one of the world’s largest salt deposits and the museum’s unique location not only allows a peek below the Earth’s surface, but also a peek into the life of a miner throughout history.

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The museum offers several experiences.  The gallery houses and protects several historical documents, movie props, and records.  The various train rides allow visitors to see different sections of the mine and learn more about how mining technology has changed over time (which for me was the most fascinating part of the trip).  They also offer overnight hiking and camping events and have an event room for dinners and weddings.

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Two thumbed gloves, designed to conserve material during WWII.

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The miners seemed to pretty much abandon an area when it was finished being mined, without bothering to clean up.  This is a whole bunch of perfectly preserved trash from the 1950s.

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The train

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One of the big highlights of the trip is getting into the salt piles to pick out a few pieces of souvenir salt rocks. We couldn’t take any big ones, but we grabbed a few small ones to decorate our bookshelf at home.

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Also, we rocked the hard hats.

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There’s No Food Like Grandma Food

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My husband, sister, and I just spent a fantastic few days with my grandparents, where we were spoiled with lots and lots of delicious food.  Homemade chicken nuggets and gravy, fruits and veggies straight from the garden, you name it.  Oh, and bacon and waffles and maple syrup…all stuff I’ve really missed this last year.

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I could’ve eaten ten pounds of those potatoes…

The best part?  Her famous pie with the best homemade crust, which she taught my sister and I how to make this weekend.  We requested peanut butter pie, which is our favorite.

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It tasted like heaven with a cup of coffee:

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I felt so at home.  We had a wonderful time chatting, catching up, and playing lots of games of Scrabble.  I can’t wait until our next visit…and to try my hand at making her pie recipe!

 

 

Just Call Me Dorothy

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We were welcomed back to the Land of Oz in the most cliche way possible:  not one hour after crossing the Kansas border for the first time in a year and we were met with an ominous wall of clouds.  It looked pretty spectacular, but as we kept moving on the highway, we noticed that the color of the sky didn’t look quite right, and before we knew it, tree limbs and litter were flying across the highway and ferocious winds made keeping the car in line a struggle.

DSC_0094We turned on the radio to see what was going on, and sure enough, a tornado was on the ground not far from where we were driving.  The heavy rains started about two seconds after that and the weather man announced that nickel sized hail would be soon to follow. Needless to say, it was time to pull over and find shelter.  We somehow made it to a gas station through all of that crazy rain to wait out the storm.

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Luckily, the storm dissipated quickly and we were able to get back to my grandparents’ house at a decent hour.  I just couldn’t stop staring at that sky.  I had  forgotten how ridiculously beautiful the sky is in Kansas.  These pictures don’t do it justice at all since they were taken out of a car window on the highway.

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There really is no place like home.

Endings and Beginnings

Wednesday will be my last day in the U.S.A….at least for the next 10 months.

My current emotional state is a confusing mix of happy, sad, nervous, excited, scared, guilty, and hopeful.

We got the approval for our work visas today, so we will be flying to pick them up in Chicago and then flying on to Istanbul from there.  We were cutting it close, but we will be there in time for the first day of classes on September 7th.

It’s been a one-of-a-kind summer.  I have made some amazing memories with my mom, stepdad, siblings, , and fur niece and nephew that I won’t soon forget.  I am so, so grateful to all of them for putting up with us, helping us out and making us laugh.  This was the first time I’d spent an extended amount of time with them since I moved out at 18 and I felt like I was transported back into a classic childhood summer in the best way.  I am also so glad I got to spend a little time with all of my grandparents and my sweet nieces, although I wish I could have had more.  I’m sad that I never made it to Alabama to see my dad and his wife or my in-laws, or to Colorado to see one of my best friends, but I guess that’s how life works out sometimes.

I know this move will probably be even harder for our family than it is for us.  We will have plenty of things going on to distract us from homesickness while they will have to go about their daily lives knowing we are now on the other side of the world.  This is a time of transition and adjustment for all of us and I hope it will smooth over quickly.

Booking that one-way ticket gave me the jitters like  nothing else.  We’re really doing this thing!

As you can probably tell, I’m a little rambly and emotional.  I almost decided not to write this, but I feel like it would be an injustice to the experience not to, so I’m writing it anyway.

This will probably be one of the hardest things we ever do…and one of the most rewarding.  I can’t wait, and  yet part of me wants to wait just a little bit longer…even though I know it is time and that putting it off would only delay the inevitable emotional roller-coaster.

Alas, all good things must come to in an end so that more good things can begin.

To all of my family and friends reading this:  Thank you for all of your love and support!

Adventure awaits.