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GG Arrives in Turkey!

May 7, 2009

img_6770.jpgAll of the excitement and anticipation about my mother’s arrival came to an end when she arrived at the Izmir airport on Tuesday. We’d been talking with her about coming for a few months and the time was finally right. She was a real trooper and traveler, flying three legs; from Denver to Atlanta, Atlanta to Munich and then Munich to Izmir. Twenty four hours after leaving her house in Colorado Springs she arrived in Turkey, more than a bit tired. Then, as GG (Grandma Gail), she had to listen attentively to the many, many stories that Jack and Eliot were dying to share with her on the way home from the airport.

Yes, this is GG of WGGSH or Would GG Stay Here? from the Where We Stayed section of the blog. We now are putting that question to her directly, not raising the level of accommodations while she is here, instead having her dovetail into our travels as another one of our group. After three days I can say that she fits in very well and acts as though she’s been traveling with us the whole way.

Ainsley asked her to pen an entry on the blog and she will do so before she departs, so for now I’ll just post a bunch of photos from her first few days and will leave more of the story for her to tell.

We get up at 6 AM tomorrow to catch the dolmus (small bus) to Kusadasi from where we will take the ferry to the Greek Island of Samos. So, we only have a few more hours left in Turkey and then we get on our first ferry since our fated ferry back in Thailand.

Where are you from?

April 30, 2009

eliot-voting.jpg(Voting in the 08 Presidential election in Lima, Peru)

Where are you from? This is a question we have heard frequently over the last eight months. One might think that it is an easy question to answer, but it takes us a few times in each country to figure out how to answer. It turns out that saying “the United States” in most countries is greeted with a blank, questioning stare. No, most people don’t know our country as the United States. The correct, or most understandable, answer ends up being “America.” No, we don’t really live in America. America technically includes Canada and Mexico. North America that is. What about people living in Central America and South America? Aren’t they from America too? Well if you’ve ever heard that famous song “I’m proud to be an American” by Lee Greenwood, which I was sentenced to hear over and over again at the Naval Academy, perhaps it is common knowledge that we are American and thus must be from America. Well, at least that’s how we answer most of the time, but we still try with United States on occasion because it just seems right.

Some people guess where we are from before we even answer or before they hear our voices and accents. Often they think we are from France, Canada, New Zealand, or Australia. One time while walking along the river in Phnom Penh we were mistaken for being from England. A couple saw us walking as a family and said to each other that we surely must be from England because it was highly unlikely that an American family with children would be in Cambodia. It then turned out that they were from Chapel Hill. Go figure! Another time in India the questioner could hardly believe that Kelli was telling the truth. The woman said that Kelli must be from Australia because everyone from the US is fat?!?

The responses to our nationality have changed quite a bit over the last eight months. Initially in South America, before the presidential election, after hearing we were from the US we were greeted with a very quiet, meek “Obama?” People were eager to know our political leanings, but cautious about offending us. Upon hearing of our support for his candidacy a smile would break out upon their face or a thumbs up would result or even a high five would happen. Many people we met knew quite a bit about US politics and the upcoming election. They made it clear that election day in November 08 was not just for us; it was an election for the world.

Now the response we get is an immediate and enthusiastic “Obama!”, especially here in Turkey. President Obama visited Turkey a few weeks before our arrival and left a lasting and positive impression on this country. We spend a few minutes talking about him, the US, the economic crisis, etc. and many people volunteer that he is not just our president he is also the world’s president. The other day a cook sitting on the step outside of his little restaurant, one where we ate earlier, asked me the question as I walked by. “Where are you from?” I answered America and a quick smile came across his face. He and the woman next to him practically said in unison, “Barack Obama!” I repeated it back to them. Then he corrected me and said “Barack Hussein Obama!” I repeated his full name this time and then he gave me a high five. Turkey is somewhere around 99% Muslim and I couldn’t help but think that President Obama’s diverse background, and yes his full name, create connections with people all over the world in new ways. It seems that our damaged reputation is in the very early stages of repair. I can’t help but think that our reception would have been very different had we been traveling a few years ago.


April 20, 2009

img_5529.jpgOur first day in Istanbul we went to visit the Blue Mosque. On our way we stopped for juice. We had fresh orange and pomegranate juice. As we were getting up to leave a seagull pooped right on my dad’s head and then splattered on the rest of us. I hope it is good luck to get pooped on by a seagull, but I have my doubts.

We went to the Hagia Sophia, a church turned mosque that is a thousand years older than the Blue Mosque. It now no longer functions as a mosque and is only a museum. The ceiling used to be made up by a lot of mosaics, but after being restored much of it is painted. The big dome has been restored with mosaics, but it is constantly being worked on. When we visited there was a giant block of scaffolding going from the floor to the top of the dome. One really interesting thing for me was the ramp to the second floor. The ramp that we went up was made of slick stone, but the ramp that we went down had ridges on the stones. When we were in Jaipur, India we visited the Amber Fort. The Maharaja that lived there had many wives. The robes that the wives wore were so beaded and heavy that they had to use wheelchairs to get around. The ramps that they used were slick to go up and had ridges to go down. The ramps in these two places were very similar in shape also.

We also went to see the basilica cistern. They were first discovered when people said that they were getting water and fish out of holes in their basements. The underground reservoir was used to store water for the palace. Now you can go to visit and walk on elevated ground inside the cistern. We saw all kinds of little fish swimming in the shallow water.

So far Istanbul has been a magical city. I’m sorry to say that after our first lunch we struck out with food, but then again we aren’t willing to pay some prices. We leave this evening on an overnight bus to Cappadocia. Did you know that you can’t go to youtube in Turkey because someone posted something not nice about Ataturk (the founder of modern day Turkey), but for some reason I can still get it on my ipod. Go figure!

…..not quite!

June 23, 2008

We plan to go here, but haven’t yet arrived. Take a look at the map at the top right side of the home page to see where we are and the “Where?” page for where we intend to go.