A bit of Colorado
A few weeks ago, our family traveled to Colorado for vacation. I plan on writing more about our trip in a later blog post, but I thought I'd share one picture from our trip.
This is in one of our favorite spots in downtown Estes Park. There is a park behind the main street (Elkhorn Avenue) where the Big Thompson River and the Roaring River join and they have all of these cool areas for kids to play in the water. It is a very relaxing area. I coaxed Elspeth out onto this rock and surprisingly, she posed for me to shoot some pictures.
I added a little glow and some grain to give this picture an earthy yet ethereal feeling.
Square One - Turkey, Day 15
Saturday, June 11, 2005
We rode the airport shuttle through the dark streets of Istanbul. In the middle of the day, it took us at least an hour to get to the Side Pension when we arrived 2 days ago. Now it only took us 20 minutes to drive back to the airport. We arrived there at 3:30 a.m. and quickly checked in at the KLM desk. Apparently the Dutch are really effecient because they already had our boarding passes printed and waiting.
We walked over to our gate and plopped down to wait for our 5:50 a.m. flight. I borrowed James' CD player to listen to the new Coldplay CD. I put in my headphones, laid down on the chairs with my head on my backpack and listened. Wow. From the very first song, "Square One", this CD was amazing. By the time I got to song 4, "Fix You", I was actually quite emotional. I'm not sure if it was because this amazing trip was coming to an end or because the music was just that good. It was probably a combination of both things. I listened to the entire CD alll the way through.
After listening, I decided to go to the restroom. Across from the restroom was the duty free shop, so I walked around for a minute or so looking to see if there was anything I could/should buy. Since I just didn't need any liquor or cigarettes, I passed. Then I remembered that our Turkish friend, Deniz, works at the duty free shop during the night shift, so I started looking around to see if I could find him. When Mandy came by, she asked what I was doing and I told her I was looking for Deniz and did she remember if he was supposed to work that night. She thought he was, so I continued to look for him. Finally, Jay came by and I told him I was looking for Deniz. He said he was sure that I would find him... in the Antalya airport! In my sleep-deprived stupor, I forgot that we were in Istanbul and not Antalya.
So, feeling just a bit foolish, I walked back to the gate.
We got on our flight to Amsterdam with no problems. I don't really even rembember this flight. I think I listened to the Coldplay CD one more time and slept some.
We landed in Amsterdam at around 7:00 a.m. We weren't due to be at our gate until something like 1:30, so we decided to go into the city and look around for a while. We got through customs quickly and headed out into the mall in the front part of the airport to buy train tickets to get to Amsterdam Centraal (downtown). First, we tried to buy our train tickets at an automated machine with a credit card. It wasn't working for some reason, so we went to another machine and had the same result. Finally, Dick and I went to the ticket counter and bought our round trip train tickets for something like 7 euros each.
We went downstairs to the train stop and soon a sleek yellow and blue double decker train whisked into the station. We jumped on - there was actually no one there to check our tickets, so I guess we could have ridden for free. Soon we were on our way to Amsterdam Centraal. This train was fast and smooth. It was cool to see the city from through the windows. It made me want to go spend more time in Europe. Everything was very clean and modern.
About 15 minutes later we were at the train station - it was a huge station just like one that you would see in a movie. In fact, it is the same train station you see in the film Ocean's Twelve (thanks to my friend James for that fact). We quickly made our way outside and there we were... in Amsterdam!
Not sure exactly where we wanted to go, we just started walking in what seemed to be the main direction to the center of the city. We were surrounded by old churches, old buildings, tons of shops and restaurants and a very diverse crowd of people. Amsterdam is a very cosmopolitan and pluralistic city. There is pretty much every type of person there and you can pretty much do anything. There is legal gambling, legal prostitution, some legal drugs (marijuana, for instance), legal abortion and basically legal euthanasia. We walked for several blocks and realized that we were hungry for breakfast, so we started looking for a good cafe.
And it was cold. Somehow, I had thought of this and had brought a pair of jeans and put them on in the airport, but I was still a bit chilly. We found a nice cafe for breakfast on one of the side streets. The restaurant was pretty smoky, but the food was pretty decent. Like Turkey, apparently there are no smoking/non-smoking sections in The Netherlands.
We thought about trying to go tour the Anne Frank house/museum, but we weren't exactly sure how far away it was, so we decided against it. In retrospect, I wish we had gone to the Van Gogh museum, since he is one of my favorite painters. I guess that means I have to go back some time...
As a side note, why do they get to call their country Holland AND The Netherlands? And why are the people called Dutch? Why aren't they called Netherlandese or Hollandish? Can anybody answer these questions?
Well, I just looked up part of the question on the web and found out this: "Holland - popular reference to the country known as The Netherlands. Holland is actually a province (state) in The Netherlands" Now you know.
That still doesn't explain why they get to be called Dutch.
Anyway, after breakfast, we walked a few blocks to a big plaza. It felt very European, there were tons of people milling around, artists painting, people dressed up as strange creatures and statues trying to make money (there was someone who had painted themselves silver and they were doing an impression of the tin man from the Wizard of Oz), TONS of pigeons, statues, etc. And there were millions of bicycles. I know, many of you are thinking, "millions? Come on, Brett, there couldn't have been millions!" Well, there were, I promise. (Ok, I looked this up too, there are only 600,000 bicycles in Amsterdam...) And they were all these very Dutch looking bicycles. You know, cruiser style with the baskets on the front and the little bells on the handlebars.
We even got to see part of a TV show being filmed. We might have been in one of the shots, so if you are ever watching Dutch TV and see someone that looks like me... it is me.
After milling around for a while, we decided to keep walking. We just picked a street that looked cool and took off. We ended up seeing some great houses, more bikes and great views of the canal system. You see, there are tons of canals and boats. You can pretty much get around the city by boat, bicycle and train better than by car. They actually recommend that you not drive in the city because it is just easier to travel by various other means.
Yes, those houses are leaning
We walked around for a couple of hours just admiring the architecture and feel of the city. After a while, Jay got hungry and we stumbled upon a shop called "New York Pizza", so he went in to grab a slice. When he came out, I snapped a quick picture of him.
What a tourist...
Finally, it was time to head back to the train station. I quickly decided that I would come back to this city someday. In just a matter of a few hours it had completely captivated me and I was sad to leave.
We walked back through the plaza and to the station, then boarded. I listened to a bit of Coldplay as we flew across the city. What a feeling... listening to Coldplay in Amsterdam. I think the album X&Y is quite European in feel anyway, so seeing Amsterdam out the window of the train as I listened was a visceral experience I won't soon forget.
When we got to the airport, we quickly walked back through the terminal to our gate and soon boarded our plane for the long flight back across the Atlantic. This time our destination was Detroit and our plane was a KLM plane (our other trans-Atlantic flight was a Northwest Airlines plane). Let me tell you, this was the coolest plane I have ever flown on. It was a typical widebody jet in a 3 seats, 5 seats, 3 seats configuration. The cool thing was the LCD screens in the backs of the seats in front of each of us. I have actually experienced this before, but this time, each of our LCD screens had on-demand entertainment. We each had a remote that popped out of our armrest that would allow us to choose from dozens of new movies (some still in theaters), dozens of TV shows, dozens of music stations, dozens of video games, several games (like trivia) that you could play with other people on the plane, interactive maps where you could get facts and figures about various countries and cities, etc. It was amazing.
A couple of hours into our 9 hour flight, they served us a meal, then I decided to watch a movie. I couldn't decide between Million Dollar Baby or Hitch. Heck, why not watch both?!? Since I wasn't in a serious mood at the moment, I decided to watch Hitch first. It was lighthearted and very funny.
Soon after I finished the movie, I decided to listen to my iPod for a while. Suddenly I got quite nauseous and dizzy, so I took my headphones off and began to put them in the seat pocket in front of me. Apparently I lost consciousness and fell forward, then to the side. There was a doctor 2 seats away from me who witnessed the entire thing and quickly roused me. After I came to, I was again quite nauseous and broke out into a cold sweat. The doctor asked if I was epileptic because initially he thought I had suffered a seizure. Then he asked if I knew anyone else on the plane and I pointed to James in the row in front of me. He tapped James on the shoulder and woke him up, then asked him if he knew me. James was quite out of it at first, so he said he didn't know me. Finally, he realized what the guy was asking him and said he did know me. Eventually, we determined that I hadn't had a seizure, but just passed out, probably from dehydration and just sitting too long. After a while, I got to feeling better, so I got some water and walked around the plane trying to get the blood flowing again. After about 30 minutes of pacing around the plane, Jay joined me in the back and we talked for a while with one of the stewardesses who had bought some 20 or so bottles of wine in the duty-free shop in Amsterdam to take home with her. She claimed that she bought it there because it didn't have any sulfites in it like the wine you buy in the U.S., but Jay and I decided she just drank a lot.
Eventually I sat back down in my seat and the rest of the flight was uneventful.
We landed in Detroit and had to pass through several long, slow lines through customs. I'm sure they wanted to make sure that we weren't terrorists or something.
Then we headed to our gate. On the way, I exchanged my last bit of money (Turkish Lira and Euros) back into American Dollars. Then I realized that I could call Elise on my cell phone since I was back on American soil. I called her and we chatted for about 20 minutes. Then I grabbed a salad at McDonald's and went to meet the rest of the group at the gate.
We had about an hour delay, then finally got on the plane. Once on the plane, they told us that we would be unable to use the bathroom because of some kind of mechanical problem. After a bit of a delay, the pilot came back on the intercom and announced that we would be changing planes because they felt like it was inhumane to make us fly on a plane without a bathroom. Something about FAA regulations...
Once we got on a working plane, the pilot said that drinks were on the house! Of course, aren't drinks always on the house on planes?
An hour and a half later, we landed in Northwest Arkansas. After we got off of the plane, we gathered up in a circle and said a quick prayer thanking God for an amazing trip and for his protection while we traveled. Then we walked to the terminal. As I started down the escalator, I saw Elise and the girls waiting for me. Maitlyn and Elspeth had made signs that said "Welcome Home, Daddy" on them and they were really excited to see me. There were lots of hugs and kisses all around.
Soon I grabbed my bag from the carousel, said goodbye to the team and we left the airport. Mission Turkey was officially over.
This 2 week trip to Turkey was amazing. In many ways it was life-changing for me. I now have a different perspective on the world and various cultures. I was able to see God at work in many ways. I hope that by journaling about my experiences, you have gotten a taste of some of what I learned, felt, thought and experienced. Thanks for reading - Brett.
A mosque, a church, a palace, oh my! - Turkey, Day 14
Friday, June 10, 2005
I woke up this morning and took a shower with plenty of hot water and lots of water pressure. Thank you, God. Then upstairs to the roof for breakfast. The breakfast at the Side Pension wasn't quite as good as at the White Garden back in Antalya. Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Rolls, Simit, Olives, Cheese and Tea or Coffee. I sat down at an empty table and soon James and then Mandy joined me. Just after James sat down, someone from our group at a neighboring table pointed out that he had something in his hair. He was still quite sleepy, so it took him a minute to get his bearings and realize what they were saying to him. It turns out that at the same time, the waiter was asking him what he wanted to drink and he was telling the guy "Su" (water). Somehow, the guy didn't understand and got a bit frustrated because James was distracted by trying to figure out what was in his hair. Chill out waiter guy...
After breakfast, we walked a couple of blocks over to the Blue Mosque. This is a massively huge mosque. As we started to go in, we had to take our shoes off and put them in a bag. We walked into a huge room that was decorated with thousands of geometric designs paited on the ceilings and on the stained glass windows. This mosque was built between 1603-1617 and was Islam's answer to Ayasofya (see below). They don't let you walk into the middle of the room where they have prayers (which were scheduled to happen later on the day we were there). It was impressive and all, but I experienced a real heaviness in the room. I was also struck with sadness as I realized that thousands of people had worshipped a false god in that room. We looked around for about 30 minutes, and then walked out.
We then crossed a huge courtyard with a fountain in it, crossed the street and headed over to Ayasofya (also known as Hagai Sofia), or The Church of the Divine Wisdom.
This church was built by Emporer Justinian in 537 A.D. Many people say that this was the greatest church in Christendom until St. Peter's Basilica was built in Rome a thousand years later. It is awe-inspiring, to say the least. It has this massive dome in the middle that was said to be the largest dome in the world until the 60's when the Astrodome was built. It was later turned into a mosque when the Ottomans conquered Constantinople. The muslims then proceeded to paint over the thousands of mosaics in the building (there are over 30 million gold tiles) because they don't believe in iconography.
Now, the government is in the process of uncovering those mosaics as it has become a historical building and is no longer used as a space for public worship. In fact, there is this massive scaffolding that is about 17 stories tall that rises up to the dome so that they can restore it. It is so tall that there are 2 elevators installed in the scaffolding for the workers. They are also leaving up the HUGE pieces of arabic script that was installed at each corner of the great room by the muslims. The building inspires awe. It is not the awe of religion or God, since it is church or mosque no longer. Rather, it is the awe of age, of history and of miraculous architecture. When Emperor Justinian walked in on December 26, 537, he proclaimed "Glory to God that I have been judged worthy of such a work. O Solomon! I have outdone thee!" We walked around and marveled at the building for at least an hour and a half. I tried my best to imagine thousands of believers gathered in this space worshipping God. That must have been amazing.
One thought that continued to echo through my mind as we toured these two magnificent spaces used for worship was that they are just buildings. Just bricks and mortar. They are temporary compared with the eternal God. They will someday crumble, but he will rule forever.
Our next stop was Topkapi Palace. This was home to the Ottoman Sultans for nearly 400 years. It is a sprawling campus right on the Bosphorus. While impressive, it didn't really hold my attention like the Blue Mosque and Ayasofya did. We walked in dozens and dozens of different buildings on the campus. By the time we were finished, I was tired and hungry for lunch.
Upon leaving the palace, we met up with another missionary that we knew in Istanbul, then we walked across the street to a kebap restaurant. We scarfed down some amazing kebaps - I was hungry no longer.
Next stop was Yerebatan Saray (Sunken Palace Cistern). This is an underground cistern that can hold up to 21 million gallons of water and dates back to the Byzantine Empire, when the city was called Constantinople. There are hundreds of columns holding up the ceiling and some really cool medusa heads at the bottom of a couple of them (they are turned on their side or upside down to show that medusa has no power).
After the cistern, we walked back over to our pension to gather anything we would need for our night. We were planning on meeting Yüksel in an area of town called Beyoğlu and then going to his house for dinner. After a little freshening up, we took off again. We rode a bus to a part of Beyoğlu called Taksim Square. This area of town is considered the heart of modern Istanbul and was developed and inhabited by many Europeans in the 19th century. We met Yüksel and then proceeded to walk down Istiklal Caddesi (Independance Avenue). This is huge pedestrian mall and is compared to Times Square in NYC. There are hundreds of shops, restaurants, coffee and tea houses, galleries, cinemas, banks, consulates, etc. In the 19th century, travelers spoke of Istanbul as the Paris of the East and it was said that they were usually referring to Istiklal Caddesi (then known as the Grand Rue de Pera).
After walking for about 10 minutes, James and I realized that we had already passed about 3 music shops... Coldplay! We almost sprinted to the next shop that we saw and were excited to see that they had a huge display in the front window for Coldplay's new album X&Y. Now, let me say that I didn't NEED to buy the CD in Turkey. I was just going to borrow James' CD player to listen to it later, so I could have just used his CD. It wasn't even a different CD than the one I could have bought in the states (sometimes bands release different bonus tracks in different countries). It even cost more in Turkey than it would have in the U.S. (about $20). However, I didn't care. I wanted to say that I bought it in Turkey. I wanted it in my grubby little hands. So I bought it (so did James and "I") and was satisfied.
We continued to walk down Istiklal Caddesi for about an hour and a half. We occasionally meandered into a shop or down a side street, but mostly we were just taking in the sights and watching the people. We stumbled into an old church at one point and walked in for about 15 minutes to observe some sort of small mass going on. The cathedral could have sat about 800 people, but there were only about 20 people up in the front. I couldn't really hear what they were doing very well, but I don't think they were speaking Turkish. There were tourists (foreign and Turk alike) who would wander in and observe for a few moments before heading out to the hustle and bustle of Istiklal.
Finally we were starting to get hungry, so we made our way from Istiklal to a subway stop. We rode the subway north to the end of the line (about 20 minutes). Then we got into 2 taxis and rode for another 20 minutes or so to some northern district where Yüksel lived. We had by now traveled for miles through Istanbul and everywhere as far as the eye could see was just more city!
We went into Yüksel's house and met his parents and a cousin and an aunt (or something like that). His family was extremely friendly and welcoming. We spent some time talking with them and then dinner was served! We started with soup and salad. I think many of us thoght that was the meal. It was very filling. Then they brought out these huge plates loaded with chicken, beef, lamb, spaghetti, rice, bread and some kind of green beans. We were stuffed. We then made our way to the chairs and couches and proceeded to chat with the family. It was a good time of getting to know them and getting to tell about ourselves. Yüksel's family are Alevi Muslims. Alevi is a branch of Islam that is quite tolerant and open. Because of that, we were able to share about our faith quite freely and they seemed genuinely interested. I know that Yüksel has heard the gospel many times before. Now we were able to share some with his whole family. More seeds planted...
They brought us çay (tea) and then these huge plates of baclava. I was already very full from dinner, but I did my best to stuff down some baclava. After the baclava, they brought out these huge bowls full of fruit. It was at this point that I had to call it quits. If I put another scrap of food in my mouth I was going to hurl chunks. Jennifer was sitting at the kitchen table with some of the women from their family and allegedly she bravely shoved copious amounts of fruit in her mouth so that the family wouldn't be offended.
Well, it was getting late and we had to be at the airport by 3:30 a.m., so we said our goodbyes, embraced Yüksel's family and left. This time Yüksel and his father drove us back to the Side Pension. After about 30 minutes we arrived and said some more goodbyes.
An interesting note... in Turkey, it is common to greet and part with someone by kissing them on each cheek. This usually only happens among members of the same sex - men with men, women with women. Usually Turks won't engage in this process with you unless they know you well, but for some reason, Turks seemed really comfortable with me because they would often do the double kiss thing with me. On our first day in Turkey, we were instructed that if a Turk does lean in for the kiss, we should let them lead regarding which cheek to kiss first. This way you could avoid an inadvertant lip smack. Well, on Thursday night as I was saying goodbye to Yüksel, he leaned in for the kiss and I forgot to let him lead. Long story short, we came within millimeters of a full on mouth kiss! Luckily we both pulled out at the last moment while the team cracked up with laughter. Well, tonight when I was saying goodbye to Yüksel, I made sure to let him lead and we did the cheek kiss without incident.
At this point it was about 11:30 p.m. Our airport shuttle was picking us up at 2:30 a.m. Some people went up to their rooms to catch a little shuteye. Some others just stayed up. I decided to grab the camera and take one final walk around Sultanahmet. Why sleep when I could spend a few hours in one of the most amazing cities in the world, right? I walked around for a while and shot a few pictures. For a while I just sat on a bench in the courtyard between the Blue Mosque and Ayasofya and reflected on the trip. I was sad to leave this amazing country. I was ready to see my family, but sad to leave. If I could have flown them there to be with me I would have been comfortable staying for quite a while longer.
Finally I headed back to Side Pension and went upstairs to shower and pack my bags for the trip home. I finished just in time to head downstairs to meet everybody and jump on the shuttle to the airport. Jennifer was going to stay in Turkey with the M's for the rest of the summer, so we said our goodbyes to "I" and Jennifer, then got on the shuttle and were off to the airport.
Istanbul (Not Constantinople) - Turkey, Day 13
Thursday, June 9, 2005
We woke up early, ate a quick breakfast, then took off for "L"'s apartment for some team debreifing time. We spent 2 hours discussing our experiences over the past 12 days. The goal was to discuss what we had learned, what God was teaching us, what God was calling us to do, etc. We shared, then spent some good time praying for each other about how we would apply the things we were learning from our experience here in Turkey.
After our debreifing time, we walked back over to the Pansiyon to bring our bags down from our rooms. I settled our bill with the White Garden Pansiyon, then joined the rest of the team in the garden to hang out before we were set to leave for the airport at 11:30. "P", "T", "L" and "I" joined us and brought some meat filled pastries for us to snack on. We spent about 45 minutes chatting with them, Metin & Salim from the Pansiyon and Catherine while we played games with her son, Conlaodh.
Finally, our ride arrived. We said our goodbyes to everybody (except for "I", who was going to join us on our trip to Istanbul). We said our goodbyes to everybody, then piled in the van and we were off for the airport. There was a bit of an awkward moment when we got in the van and "I" slammed the van door and then our driver (another missionary we knew in town) yelled at him. Then Jay turned around and sang "awkward..." and I thought I was going to lose it. Jay and I were in the front seat, so when the driver got in the van, I had to try my best to not crack up.
We got to the airport and started checking in when we realized that a couple of people in our group didn't have their paper tickets for our flight to Istanbul. If you remember, we had quite an ordeal back in Amsterdam with our tickets. Because of that, we had tons of different tickets and papers. Well, somehow, Jennifer and Megan didn't have their tickets anymore (they thought we would be E-Ticketed). By some provision of God, we had an extra ticket to Istanbul that "I" had purchased a few weeks prior for Jennifer. So now all we had to take care of was a ticket for Megan. We realized that it was in the trash can back at the Pansiyon, so we called "T" and had her go get it and take a quick taxi to the airport to get the ticket to us. She arrived about 5 minutes before we were set to board the plane. We made it on the plane just in time.
I specifically remember laughing a lot on that 1 hour plane flight to Istanbul. I don't remember why we were laughing or what we were laughing at, but for some reason it was incredibly funny.
We landed in Istanbul and grabbed our bags. Then we met a friend of Megan's named Yüksel. She met him in Florida last summer when she was at Kaleo. He was working at a waterpark as a part of a program that college students in Turkey can participate in called something like "Work and Travel", where they can go to some other country to... work and travel. Anyway, Yüksel turned out to be a really cool guy. We were heading to the old city in Istanbul, called Sültanahmet, which was quite a ways away, so Yüksel piled half of our team in his Jeep Grand Cherokee and the rest of us jumped on a Havaş (bus). We rode the bus for about a half an hour, then got on a train that took us to the heart of Sültanahmet.
I was already starting to get the sense that Istanbul is quite different than Antalya. In fact, Istanbul makes Antalya look like a sleepy little seaside city. Istanbul has this incredible energy and life. Not to give too big a history lesson here, but...
I quickly got the sense that I was going to like this city very much.
- Istanbul straddles the Bosphorus strait (which is the gateway to the Black Sea). One side of the city is in Europe and the other side is in Asia.
- It has been the seat of several massive empires, including the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, and the Ottoman Empire.
- There are now an estimated 15-17 million people in Istanbul.
- Istanbul sets the cultural pace for Turkey (kind of like New York City in the U.S.)
We waited for a while at the Sültanahmet train stop for Yüksel and the other half of our team. Somehow, we forgot to give them one of our cell phones, so we weren't sure exactly how to call them and they were late. Finally, they found one of our numbers and called us saying that they would meet us at the Side Pension, our lodging for the next 2 nights. We walked a couple of blocks to Side and there they were.
Our Pension was in the heart of Sültanahmet, and about 2 blocks from the Golden Horn, a part of the Bosphorus that juts into the heart of the city. We were 1 block from the Blue Mosque (one of the largest mosques in the world) and Ayasofya (once a church, then a mosque and now a museum, it boasted the world's largest enclosed dome until the Astrodome in Houston was built in the 60's). We were staying in quite an amazing place!
We got settled into our Pension. I roomed with "I", so I was looking forward to some good time of hanging out and talking before we left Turkey. Our rooms were very nice. Each of them had these huge heavy wooden doors and really nice bathrooms with lots of water pressure (which was lacking at the White Garden Pansiyon in Antalya). All of this for something like 40 bucks a night per room!
We then gathered downstairs and with Yüksel as our guide, we took off to walk around Sültanahmet a bit, with the Grand Bazaar as our ultimate destination. This covered market dates back to 1461 and is one of the largest covered markets in the world. There are an estimated 4,000 shops in the Bazaar! I guess this was one of the first malls.
A view of the Grand Bazaar
We split up into a couple of groups and wandered around the Grand Bazaar for about and hour and a half. It turns out that the other group got a little lost and turned around, but finally they called us on the cell phone and we found them.
Then it was off to find a place to eat dinner. We finally decided on a nice place near our Pansiyon. We had a wonderful dinner at the nicest restaurant we had eaten at yet on our trip. I got sea bass, which was amazing and we had dessert as well. It was a really enjoyable meal.
It was already getting a bit late (around 9:30), so after dinner, most people headed back to the Pension to get some shuteye. Some of us decided to walk around to take in some of the sights. I took this opportunity to get some nice shots of the Blue Mosque.
After shooting for about 30 minutes, Jay came up to me to tell me how friendly the people in the city are. As I was shooting pictures, apparently, he had converstions with several people who were really friendly. One guy even asked if he wanted to go drink some beer, which he declined. We had a bit of a laugh, then Jay went back to the Pension and I continued to shoot pictures. After I was done shooting, I packed up my camera and tripod and then a guy stopped me asking if we could talk. He said that he was Turkish, but lived in Cologne, Germany right now and was back home visiting. He quickly asked if we could go get a beer together. I got a really strange feeling that something fishy was going on, so I said no thanks and headed back to the Pansiyon. As I walked away, I noticed that he was already walking up to someone else to talk. I began to theorize about what this guy was doing. Either he was some sort of con artist. Or he was a homosexual and was trying to proposition me. Or he was a male prostitute. Or some combination of the 3!
I walked over to Jay and James' room and as I told them about my experience, Jay and I realized that this was the same guy who asked him to get a beer and we agreed that something just wasn't quite right about the guy.
Jay and I decided to head out to a cafe to chat and maybe grab one last Efes (the local beer). James, being underage (at least here in the U.S.) decided to stay at the Pension. So I took my camera back to my room and we headed out. I sent a text message to "I" (who was hanging out with Megan) to see if he wanted to join us. Jay and I found a cafe a few blocks away from our Pansiyon and "I" soon joined us. Jay ordered an Efes and me and "I" ordered a very popular, traditional drink in Turkey called Rakı (pronounced "rahk-a"). It is made from aniseseed (the same stuff that gives black licorice its flavor). They serve it in a short narrow glass and it is clear. Additionally, they serve it with mineral water. What you are supposed to do is pour the mineral water in the Rakı, which then turns it a milky white color. In fact, the nickname for Rakı is "lion's milk". We all hung out for about an hour chatting. One of my favorite things about our trip was experiences like these when several of us would just hang out and chat. It was very refreshing.
A couple of funny observations about the Rakı. It is a very mild liqueur, so by drinking one, we suffered no effects... sort of. Mind you, we didn't feel any of the traditional sensations you feel when you drink alcohol. Instead, it made my tongue numb. And "I" claimed that it made his scalp tingle. Weird.
Anyway, after chatting for a while, we all headed back to the Pension. I wrote in my journal for a while, then me and "I" continued to talk for quite a while. I think we finally turned in at around 2:30 a.m.
It had been a very good day.
How many people can you fit into a Turkish apartment? - Turkey, Day 12
Wednesday, June 8, 2005
I woke up this morning and ate breakfast, then we had a team time. We spent some time encouraging one another by mentioning actions or qualities in each person that were admirable. It was a good team bonding time. After that, I washed some clothes again in the sink. Some of the members of our team had appointments to meet with various Turkish friends to continue relationship building. I didn't have any appointments until the afternoon, so after washing, I read some and went up onto the roof of the Pansiyon to enjoy the view.
Around lunchtime, several of us walked out onto Işiklar to eat at the potato place (James has so appropriately named it "The Flying Potato"). After a leisurely lunch, we all split up to meet with various people. I had some time, so I found myself just wandering around the old city trying to enjoy my last full day.
These ruins were just about 2 blocks away from our Pansiyon. We passed them almost every day on our way to wherever we were going that day. They were actually behind an iron fence and I wanted to sneak in and take pictures, but never actually got around to it. For this picture, I just stuck my camera through the fence.
I met with Metin, the associate pastor in the afternoon. I was never told what the goal was in our time together, but I tried my best to encourage him and pray for him. He shared the story of how he became a Christian. It took a while for God to get through to him, but eventually Metin chose to follow Him and soon became involved at the church in Antalya. A bit later he began working at the church doing basic janitorial and security stuff, then eventually was asked to become the associate pastor. Soon he will be moving to Ankara for a year to receive some Bible training. It was inspiring to hear his story. I prayed for him to end our time.
We eventually all met at Paul's Place, the coffee shop at the church, and walked together over to Hüseyin's apartment. Hüseyin is from eastern Turkey and is a college student studying art at the Akdeniz Universitesi and we had spent quite a bit of time with him over the past 10 days or so. He had invited us over for a meal of Kurdish food for our last night in Antalya.
We walked the 10 blocks or so to his apartment and all of us along with about 7 Turkish friends packed in. We all gathered in the living room for our meal. While we sat on the floor, the meal was served in the middle and we ate family style. We had a spicy beef & vegetable stew type dish over a bed of rice. Although we were crowded and it was hot, it was a very enjoyable meal with great fellowship.
Jay and his "Turkish Brother", Camil
After dinner, we split up into 3 teams to play movie charades. Each team brainstormed 5 movies to be thrown in the hat, then we took turns trying to get our team to guess which movie we picked. Our team got the most difficult movie titles of all, including "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly." (Come on, try to pantomime "Good" "Bad" and "Ugly"). Needless to say, we lost badly.
After our charades game, as we were sitting around talking, my stomach began to hurt. I think "The Flying Potato" was beginning to take it's revenge on my digestive system. It really wasn't any huge deal, but I was going to need to spend a little time in the bathroom to take care of the issue. However, since we were in a small, crowded apartment with about 25 people, I knew if I took care of my issue there, it might be a bit embarrasing... so after saying my goodbyes, I walked back to the Pansiyon. Ah... the comfort of a private bathroom...
It was only about 9:30 by now, and I really wanted to soak up a little more Antalya before heading off to bed, so I grabbed my camera and took off to walk around Kaleiçi. I didn't really even take very many pictures, but I wanted to just enjoy one final night in the old city. I was in quite a contemplative mood, so it was good to be by myself.
Then it was back to the Pansiyon to do a little bit of packing and head to bed.
Baclava! Baclava! Baclava! - Turkey, Day 11
Tuesday, June 7, 2005
At some point on our trip (I think it was in the Amsterdam airport on the way to Turkey), we came up with some code words for our team. Here they are:
Baclava! - means "I'm in trouble", or "get help quick" or danger" (usually said 3 times rapidly)
Warsaw! - a battle cry
Schnitzel - a universal term that could mean pretty much anything
These words were used many times on our trip, usually accompanied by much laughter. Little did I know I was going to be able to eat some baclava today.
This morning, we had some free time. After breakfast and team time, I just chilled out around the pansiyon and washed some clothes in the sink. I wore one change of clothes and brought 2 others for the entire trip, so I did laundry in the sink every other day. This tactic was a first for me - it was awesome to have light and small luggage for our travels. It also allowed me the room to bring my camera and associated gear.
Around 11:00, James, "I"and I were off to the Joy Store (a CD shop in town) to pick up the new Coldplay album, X&Y! I was very excited to purchase the CD. James had brought a CD player in addition to his iPod just so we could listen. Of course, I didn't have a CD player with me, I just had my iPod, so I wouldn't be able to listen to my own CD. That didn't matter, I wanted to buy it anyway, just to say that I purchased the new Coldplay CD in Turkey. We were bitterly disappointed to find out that the 'ol Joy Store didn't have it!
Dejected, we walked down the street a bit to a Canon Camera store. I had filled all of my Compact Flash cards (2.5 gigs) with pictures, so I wanted to have them dump the pictures onto CD-ROM so that I could continue to take pictures. This process took about 20 minutes, then we were off to the church to meet a couple of folks for lunch.
Dick, James, Jennifer, "I", me and a missionary we'll call "T-money" all walked to a little outdoor döner place called Golf (I guess because they had astroturf?). We all ate while "T-money" shared about his ministry. He works with a group based out of Istanbul and their primary focus is to train and equip local pastors in Turkey. He was a pastor of a couple of churches in California, but had sensed that God was leading him to Turkey a couple of years ago, and so here he was. While helping to put on training events in the region, he also works very closely with Ramazan, the pastor at the church in Antalya to train and equip him for ministry. It was inspiring to hear about how God is using him there.
After lunch, all of us headed back to the church.
Dick, Jay and I from our team, the "M" team in Antalya, "T-money" and the pastors of the Turkish church had planned to meet to discuss small groups. Apparently, the church there had attempted to start a couple of small groups in the past, but they had failed. Now, they were interested in how to implement groups into their ministry, but were seeking some help from us. Since both The Grove and Fellowship are heavily focused on small groups, this seemed very natural for us to share some of our experiences and convictions about them. Jay was the one who mostly shared and discussion ensued from there. There were a few times that I stepped in to help clarify what Jay was saying for the sake of our Turkish brothers. I believe that it was a fruitful meeting. However, some of the ideas shared, like releasing leaders to do ministry within their small groups, will be challenging culturally for Turks to adapt to. I pray that God will guide them on their quest to release the ministry to the people.
After the meeting, or team was set to meet with all of our Turkish friends in front of the Burger King (this and the McDonald's were the only American fast food chains I saw there) to go on a photo scavenger hunt. We divided up into teams and were off to shoot pictures of our team doing silly things in the old city (posing like Charlie's Angels in front of the fountain in the park, picture with an ice cream vendor, etc.). One of our assignments was to tell a story with 4 pictures. We decided to tell the story of how Jennifer and Pelin were walking through the park when James tries to steal Pelin's purse. Jay (the hero), then proceeds to clothesline James, and gives Pelin's purse back while they all proceed to kick James to a pulp.
After the scavenger hunt, we headed over to a teahouse to chill out for a while before dinner. I proceeded to take some random pictures of people without looking through the viewfinder. Later, at Zeynep's Kitchen for dinner, I did the same thing and captured some great moments on our team. It seemed like we were always laughing...
After a tasty meal (I don't remember what we ate), we split up into 3 groups to visit some families from the church. I was with Jay and "T". We were slated to go visit an elderly couple. They call the husband "dede", which means grandfather. I don't remember ever hearing the wife's name. Apparently, she isn't a Christian and doesn't really attend the church.
We walked for several blocks to their apartment building. When we got to the door, we rang the doorbell several times. (A small aside here, most doorbells in Turkey actually sound like birds chirping...) When no one came to the door after several minutes, we prepared to head back downstairs to the street and head home. Well, just then, the door opened and there was dede and his wife, looking a little surprised and shocked that we were at their door. They slowly invited us in, we took off our shoes and settled into the living room. Dede had been watching TV and had it turned up pretty loud, so that is why they hadn't heard the doorbell. Apparently, there was a bit of a communication mix-up and they hadn't been told that we were coming to visit them this evening. They seemed to take it in stride. The wife proceeded to drench our hands in this lemon scented cologne that is common in Turkey. Then she retreated to the kitchen to prepare some Turkish Coffee. Meanwhile, we began a slow laborious conversation with dede. It seemed that they were pretty tired and were planning on heading to bed pretty soon, so we decided not to stay too long. Also, the wife began to appear quite irritated that we had arrived unexpectedly, so we were getting the cue to keep our visit short. We talked about their family and how they met. We tried to ask dede about how he came to become a Christian, but somehow, we never really got the full story. He showed us his Bible as well as an old Koran he had from before he was a Christian. I think he said something about reading them both and comparing them. I wasn't sure if that meant that he believed that both of them were truthful books. Maybe it was just a difficulty in translation.
Dede's wife brought out the Turkish Coffee and we thanked her. Turkish coffee is served in little mugs that resemble espresso mugs. They grind up the coffee really finely and usually mix it with sugar. Then they boil it and pour it into the mug. You then have to wait a while for the grounds to settle before you drink it. It is usually really strong. This evening, dede's wife didn't put an sugar in it, so we were in for a real treat (note the sarcasm in my voice). Additionally, Jay had never in his life drank coffee of any kind, so here we were, trying to be good guests and we were going to have to down some really strong black coffee. Jay was a good boy and drank about half of his little mug. I was really proud of him for forcing it down. I drank my entire cup, which didn't turn out to be as bad as I expected. Usually, I add tons of sugar and creamer to my coffee before I can drink it. The idea of strong black coffee isn't my favorite. However, this coffee was really smooth, so after a bit, I drank it with ease.
After some more slow conversation, we thanked them for hosting us, took a picture with them and left. Even though it seemed that they were glad that we left, I think dede was encouraged by our visit. I pray that God will use our time there to plant more seeds in his wife's heart.
Since our visit was pretty short (only about an hour), and the night was young, we decided to head to a pastry shop on Işiklar Caddesi to have some baclava. Several of us had been talking about how tasty baclava was for our entire trip, and we finally were going to have some. Baclava is a flaky pastry with lots of layers. The baclava that I have had in the past had some sort of fruits or nuts inside and was soaked in honey. Baclava in Turkey usually only has nuts and instead of honey, it is soaked in sugar water. We got a couple of sampler plates and dove in. My favorite was the walnut - my least favorite was the pistachio. After eating way too much baclava (it is very rich), we took off for our pansiyon. It was only about 9:00.
On the way to our Pansiyon, we stopped and chatted with the Ali Baba guys for a while. We showed them pictures of our family, friends, and Arkansas. They seemed really interested in knowing more about our homes and families. After a while, there were quite a few teenagers all walked up and down the streets, so the Ali Baba guys seemed a little on edge each time they would walk by. I never did find out what was going on, but these guys didn't seem to like all of the loitering around. After hanging out for an hour or so, we headed back to our pansiyon.
The other two groups hadn't returned yet from their visits to families. Jay decided to go for a walk out to the harbor to write in his journal and think. Since I was still pretty hopped up on the caffeine from the Turkish Coffee and it was only about 10:30, there was no way I could go to bed yet. I wandered around Kaleiçi for a while, then I settled in the garden at the pansiyon at one of the breakfast tables to write in my journal. After a while, the other 2 groups returned and headed upstairs to bed. I continued to write, occasionally taking breaks to talk with Salim, the desk clerk, and to Catherine and Conlaodh when they came in.
After I was finished writing in my journal, I went upstairs to Jay and James' room to hang out and chat. It was late and soon we were all feeling quite sleepy (apparently the caffeine buzz had finally worn off). I tried to get comfortable on James' bed without falling asleep, but after a few failed attempts, I headed upstairs to my room and crashed.