Monday, August 9, 2010

Istanbul and the flight home

It was still dark when I got in to Istanbul at 5:30 am, so I hung around the bus station for an hour before hiring a taxi to take me to the appartment of some friends I would stay with for a day. After looking at the address, they said the address was in a different neighbourhood than I had thought. They said they'd take me there for 45 lyra, and then they knocked it down to 40 lyra when I hesitated. I accepted, and the driver I bartered with passed me over to another driver (who spoke very little english). So we set off, and as we drive further and further, I start feeling really horrible, thinking this can't be right. The instructions I had been given indicated that the bus station was really close to my friends' appartment. I kept praying that we were headed in the right direction. After 20 minutes of driving, he started stopping and asking locals about the address. No one seemed to recognize it. That wasn't a good sign. Eventually, the driver indicated that I call my friends and since it was only 7 am I was really hoping they were up already. My friend immediately told me that we were indeed in the wrong neighbourhood, and that the neighbourhood we had started in was the correct one. I then passed the phone to the driver, who was very frustrated to be told that he had driven 30 minutes away from the address, and would need to drive 30 minutes back just to get into the right neighbourhood. After ending the call, he complained to me in Turkish, and although I just kept nodding my head, I did understand when he told me (in Turkish) it would have taken only 5 minutes to get to the address from the bus station. As frustrated as he was, he didn't seem to be angry with me, and I think it helps sometimes to look younger than I am, since he may have taken pity on me for that reason. When we finally arrived at the right address, I gave him the 40 lyra, the last of my cash, and felt a little bad that I couldn't give him more since the trip was worth a lot more than what we had agreed upon at the beginning. But then, it wasn't my fault, nor was it my friend's fault; it was the fault of the taxi driver's friend who sent him to the wrong neighbourhood.

I was very thankful to arrive safely at my friends, and I spent an absolutely fantastic 28 hours with them. Unfortunately, shortly after arriving at their house, I had to sleep for a couple of hours thanks to my sleepless night, but the rest of my non-sleeping hours was spent in lovely conversations with them.

On Wednesday morning, my friends gave me directions on how to get to the Sultanahmet district of Istanbul, where my hotel for that night was. I had a very early flight (5:55 am, needed to be there for 3:55, so left at 3:30 and up at 3:00) the next morning, so I had decided to stay in a hotel my last night in Turkey and catch a taxi to the airport.

After taking a bus, a ferry, and a tram, and a good 20 minutes of searching on foot, I arrived at my hotel. I had a quick rest before heading out to do last minute shopping. I had left some of my shopping for the end so as not to have to carry it throughout my travels. I left the hotel around 3, and hoped I'd get it done quickly. One shop did very well with me buying some pillow covers and table runners, among other things. Definitely my most exciting purchase was my baglama, an Anatolian/Turkish folk instrument, which I bought at a music store. I also briefly explored the busy Spice Market, avoiding the main bazaar which would have been even busier. I had made some heavy purchases at the first shop so I left the stuff there before I hit the Spice Market and on the way back I returned to the shop to pick up my bag. If I had taken the tram back to my hotel, I likely would have escaped Turkey without buying a rug, carpet or killam. I didn't take the tram, and as a consequence got hooked into entering a carpet shop and purchasing two smaller sized killams. It is a difficult feat to leave Turkey without buying a carpet, partly because the carpet salesmen are so insistent and seem confused if a tourist hasn't bought one.

After my shopping was done, I had a quick supper and wandered around taking pictures of the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Hippodrome and other buildings around the Sultanahmet. By 11 o'clock, I was all packed up and in bed.

5 hours later I was up. I enjoyed the business class lounge at the airport (though the many juice boxes I took for later in the trip weren't allowed to pass through the gate security) and the short flight to Frankfurt. What was supposed to be 6 hours at Frankfurt unfortunately turned into 8 and a half hours (and would have been plenty of time to leave the airport to go into the city). Flying into Reykjavik, I nearly shed tears seeing Iceland for the first time. The airport felt like I was stepping into someone's home complete with wooden floors and a creaky wood staircase. Needless to say, I already have a desire to return to Iceland; the airport giving enough of a taste to get me hooked it would seem. After 2 hours there, I climbed aboard my third flight of the day to fly into Halifax. 28 hours after I had woken up, I was finally able to go to sleep, back in my own bed.

I'll have at least one more post after this, describing some of my reflections on the trip, so do come back to continue reading! And thanks so much to those who are reading, and have kept me in their thoughts and prayers while I was in Turkey!


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Bodrum and Izmir

"I left a piece of my heart in the pingos, deep in the permafrost of the earth and I, I will go retrieve it someday, and maybe I'll see you, and we'll know that we're home."

I was hoping to be able to give an update on my last days in Turkey while I was in transit flying home, but I had no free wifi to pick up in either the 8 and a half hours in Frankfurt of the 2 hours in Reykjavik so that update never happened. I've now been home for a few days and will finally give you guys an update on my last 7 days in Turkey, which I will split up into a few posts.

So two updates ago, I was on my way to Bodrum. That was Friday, July 30. I took a ferry to Bodrum, and it was a very pretty trip there. Upon arriving in Bodrum, I called an archaeologist friend, Rebecca, who was working in the city to ask if she could recommend a place for me to stay. She mentionned one place, but then offered a bed at her dormitory, which just so happened to be at the Institute of Nautical Archaeology, which is connected with Texas A&M. The price to stay was minimal, so I gladly accepted. I met a few Canadians at the Institute who were from Brock University and the tour of the place Rebecca gave me was fantastic, especially seeing the shipwrecks they were processing from Yenikapi. After settling in, I headed back into the city centre to check out Bodrum's famous Underwater Archaeology Museum. People seemed to get really excited when I told them about my visit to the museum. Now,the museum is not actually underwater and I was disappointed that most of their excitment disappeared when I clarified that. The museum was very interesting since it was located in a Crusades era castle (I believe) and the exhibits were a mix of castle and shipwreck related artifacts within the castle buildings. My favourite definitely was the Uluburun shipwreck exhibit, a shipwreck that's right off the coast of SW Turkey. Some very cool artifacts. I then met up with Rebecca and Jessica (another Texas A&M grad student) and we explored the local market before grabbing some supper and returning to the Institute for an early night.

The next day I was up bright and early to catch a bus to Izmir. I was told that once I arrived at the bus station in Izmir, there would be a free service bus that could take me to the neighbourhood of the friends I would be staying with. After some confusion, I eventually got on a dolmus (not a free service bus) that ended up dropping me a few kilometres from where my friends were expecting me. After waiting at this spot for their son to pick me up for about 30 minutes, I caught a taxi and spent a 5 lyra taxi trip getting to their house. I spent the Saturday, Sunday and part of Monday with these friends, and joined them in going to church on Sunday morning. I had a fantastic time with them, and felt very refreshed after I had been starting to feel a little tired of travelling.

On Monday morning, I left my friends and took a dolmus to the centre of the neighbourhood I was in. I had talked to my friend Ilkay a few days before, and we were going to meet in Izmir so I could see Ulucak Hoyuk, the second site I was supposed to be joining and I would also have the opportunity to meet his supervisor who is also the director of the Ulucak Hoyuk dig. The site was absolutely amazing! Getting to see mud brick and wattle and daub walls dating back to the Neolithic was pretty awesome! Ozlem (the director) gave me a very detailed tour of the excavations which I very much appreciated. I ended up spending a few hours hanging out with the crew at the dighouse and at the site, chatting and inhaling the second-hand smoke from countless cigarettes smoked by all the crew. Despite there being only a few english speakers, I had a great afternoon with the crew and chatted quite a bit with a phD student from Boston University. He seemed excited to have an english speaker to talk with. In the evening I was dropped off at the bus offices where earlier in the day we had purchased my ticket to Istanbul, and I bid farewell to my friend Ilkay.

I must remember for future reference never to take an overnight bus again. I can't sleep on them, and it turns out I get super irritable. When you add to that me getting hungry, you've got a horrible case of hangry (being hungry=being angry, but only in severe cases) and I want to viciously wake up the young woman sleeping beside me simply because she's sleeping so well (I didn't though; I restrained myself). Anyways, I left Izmir at 9 pm and arrived in Istanbul at 5:30 am.

Monday, August 2, 2010

"All the way down the line, let's go. All the way down the line together"

In Turkey, I have travelled by long distance buses, dolumuses and city buses, tram, train and plane, car, taxi, ferry and shuttle, all of which prove to be interesting experiences in their own right, but usually having something to do with the way Turks drive. There's a certain order to their chaos, and surprisingly I've only seen one accident, and that involved a parking and a parked car. Except for a subway, I believe I have taken every form of public transportation in Turkey. I should take the time to describe the experience of all of them, but the long distance buses hold a particularly special place in my heart.

First off, you must understand that these buses are nothing what you think of when you picture bus travel in North America, especially since in recent years our minds are drawn to the horrible Greyhound incident which won't be forgotten for a long time. It's more along the lines of travelling by plane, except with an always friendly attendant and better snacks

I have travelled with Pammukale, Nilüfer and one called something like Lüks Amasya. The later bus company wasn't too fancy, but I wasn't going to a very popular place (Amasya). The former two have had personal tvs in each seat, a lovely feature. Mind you, it's all in Turkish, but that didn't stop me from watching Night at the Museum 2 and Henry Poole is Here on separate occasions. As I said, the snacks are pretty great, and have included a cake bread, pretzels, a bun, mango, and orange and pomegranate juices, tea and coffee, water, cookies and ice cream. Yeah, the ice cream has been a highlight twice. That should definitely happen more often. When you consider how relatively cheap a bus ticket is, they certainly treat you well.

The buses makes stops every two hours for bathroom breaks (and smoking breaks for all the Turks that smoke) and even the rest stops are catered to large crowds. You'll usually find several buses (each holding around 40 to 50 people) stopped and all can easily be accommodated. Often they have a restaurant, and snacky things to buy as well. Some places even wash the stopped buses. Very slick.

You've got a fair bit of room on the buses, more than when flying anyways. Even with the chair in front of you pushed back, the comfort is still there. This overnight bus I'm currently on seems to have a form of black lights serving as low lights for the bus while people try to sleep.

This is a very popular way to travel for Turks. Gas is so expensive that it's hard to go on a roadtrip. The first night bus I took, I was surprised at how many people were on the road through the middle of the night and how many huge busloads of people would be at the rest spots.

I'm happy to be travelling this way. The only downside is I tend to get a pain in my bad left knee, the condition of the highways can be really poor, and I don't sleep very well on them, especially when I get stuck with an aisle seat.

Well, my eyelids are getting heavy so I think I'll try to sleep for a bit. We may reach a rest stop within the hour, in which case it may be a very short sleep; they flash the lights on to get everyone prepared for the stop.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

"It's plain to see you're just curious"

Oh my. I just realized my last update was about a week ago. Sorry about that, dear readers!

So, I'll try to keep this relatively brief. I arrived in Marmaris around 7 pm on Friday after waiting at comstruction for two hours (the only road into Marmaris was closed), and then spent a stressful hour seeking a hotel. Finally I found a decent one, which was not quite as clean as I had originally thought after closer inspection. Marmaris was extremely busy with tourists and was very loud into the wee hours of the night. I quickly decided I didn't want to stay another night there.

On Saturday morning, I contacted a friend, Tina, in the neighbouring city of Içmeler asking her for a recommendation of where to stay. She, very kindly, had me go to her husband's restaurant where he called some contacts and got me a very nice room, or rather, apartment like room, to stay in for the next four nights. I was invited to join Tina and her daughter for dinner once I was settled. We had a great meal, with great conversation, and afterwards we went back to Tina's where we were joined later by Katya and Charlotta, all three of them being women I had met in Turkey back in 2007. The conversation was excellent and very interesting and completed the fantastic evening.

Sunday, I was very sick. Diarehha, horrible stomach pains and I threw up once (sorry for the details if you didn't want to hear them). It made for a very quiet Sunday. I slept most of the day, though with constant runs to the bathroom. There was definitely a few times where I wondered whether I was in enough pain to have to go the hospital. Praise God though, I was feeling much better by around 10 when I went to bed.

Monday, I took it easy. I was still weak from the night before. I went swimming at the busy beach, wandered around town but generally found I was already bored with Içmeler, Mostly because the town is very tourist centred this time of year, and mostly catered to English tourists. Everything was English. It was like England except In a hot place. And one thing I have to say about Europeans in general: they are not ashamed of their bodies, which is a good thing. But there's a difference between not being ashamed, and letting it all hang out. Sometimes literally. At one point, I averted my eyes from the topless, older and rather large woman on the beach only to be disturbed by the topless, older and rather large man on my other side who's bosom was nearly as big. Yes, disturbing.

Tuesday morning I met the same three ladies again for breakfast at a neat restaurant that overlooked Marmaris, and showed it's beauty, as well as it's ugliness. Again, we had a great visit and I was sad to say goodbye, but said I'd return soon. The rest of the day was rather uneventful until the evening when my hotel had some entertainment lined up in the form of break dancers, a belly dancer and traditional Turkish folk dancers. I was able to enjoy the entertainment from my balcony since I was already in my pajamas. As a side note, although the staff at the hotel were really friendly to me at first, I think in the end they didn't really like me. I ate out instead of eating at the hotel and buying drinks there. I think they were hoping to get more money out of me while I stayed there. Too bad for them.

Wednesday morning I left early, caught a bus to Marmaris, then bought a bus ticket to go out along one of the peninsulas to Datça. I was hoping for some quiet here, and to get away from the huge amount of tourists. And it worked. This town is small and relatively untouched when it comes to big fancy hotels. The past two days I've stayed at a lovely hotel in a room that overlooks the Aegean. I've gone swimming twice, spent some time wandering along the harbour and on Thursday I ventured by bus out to Eski (old) Datça and took many photos of the old town with ots small and winding cobbled streets.

I had been planning to stay here in Datça another day, but yesterday it started growing on me that I should go to Bodrum and there I'd get to visit the amazing underwater archaeology museum. So, plans have changed, and I'm heading to Bodrum tomorrow by ferry before I head to Izmir on Saturday. I'm quite excited about going there, and taking the ferry. We know a woman working at the museum so hopefully I'll get a chance to see her.

Also of interest to note is I was hit on by another waiter. The waiter asked if I had a boyfriend, and when I said no, he said that was too bad. He then said "I know how we can fix this. You come back later and I'll take you out. We'll go to a disco bar." I politely declined. At least he was closer to my age this time. There was a waiter at Tina and her husband's restaurant however that I would have had a lot more trouble declining if he had asked.

Well, I'm off now to catch the ferry to Bodrum. Sorry for any spelling errors!


Thursday, July 22, 2010

4 Days in Antalya

There's so much to say about the last four days spent here in Antalya. It's actually felt like I was on vacation here. I was
very comfortable and had very little stress and anxiety here. These days were a break in the labour pains.

Sunday night I started looking online about flying to Istanbul and then homeward. But when I saw the opportunity with the same airline to fly to Antalya, nearly in the opposite direction, I clearly knew God was calling me there and I knew that my journey was about to get longer. The next morning I was at the airport early, purchsed a ticket to Antalya, and was fortunate enough to see the crew from Oklahoma and Texas again since they were flying out to Istanbul. The flight was about an hour and 15 minutes and I arrived in the Kaleiçi (Old Antalya) by around noon. I was soon settled in a pansion owned by a kind Dutch woman. After getting quite naseous from the first room I was in, I was able to switch into a big room with a king-sized bed and my own bathroom (the first room had a shared bathroom).

I didn't waste much time in getting out and seeing some of the old town. It was great to be in a place that I had been before. I joined a lovely British family on a boat tour of the harbour and had a great visit at the front of the boat with the grandmother. I ate supper at a beautiful restaurant that overlooked the harbour.

On Tuesday, I headed to the Antalya Museum which boasts a number of Roman statues from the nearby site of Perge and a lot of artifacts from other sites in the Antalya region. I thought the museum was fantastic, and I ended up taking a lot of photos of statues and the many lithics they had on display. So once I get pictures up, just skip through those ones if you aren't interested. In the the afternoon I headed to Paul's Place, a coffee shop of sorts, also located in the Kaleiçi. I had a great visit there with two of the workers, in particular Missy from New Mexico who was serving there for a few weeks. That evening, after eating at the same restaurant as the day before, I then went for a swim in the Mediterranean at a private beach. So within two days, I had swum in the Black Sea and the Mediterraneam Sea. Now when I swim in the Aegean Sea, I will have swum in every sea Turkey touches. The awkward part of this day was the waiter at that lovely restaurant who took an interest in me, and nervously asked me if we could tale a walk around the harbour together the next evening. The worst bit though was that he was at least double my age. That was the last night I went to that restaurant.

On Wednesday, I decided to head out to the site of Olympos, both to enjoy the ruins and go for another swim in the Med. It was an exciting trip out of Antalya and into the mountains. The highlight was definitely sitting next to a young french woman who was also an archaeologist! We then spent the entire hour and a half journey talking about archaeology, sites to visit and about her master's work. The site itself was packed with a steady stream of people paying the 3 Lyra site entrance fee to utilize the beach for swimming. Once I had explored the site as much as my energy permited, I had trouble finding a spot to leave my stuff on the beach. The most exciting part of the swim was getting entangled in a kids fishing line. Yes, as busy as the beach was, there was a group right smack in the middle fishing. In total, I spent 35 Lyra, rode 6 different buses and spent 6 hours on buses. But it was worth it, just to have run into another archaeologist and have a great archaeology based conversation.

After Wednesday, I decided to extend my stay in Antalya another day. Thursday I stuck close to the Kaleiçi and did a bit of gift shopping. I got a Germany Podolski football jersey and a long sleeve cotton shirt for myself and the rest of the purchases were for family and friends.

Today, I'm sitting on a bus (using their free wifi) on the way to Marmaris. It's been a beautiful drive and it was particularly exciting the few times it's rained during the trip. Also offsets the current 35 degrees.

While I'm on the topic of heat, I would like to point out how very hot it is here (now it's 36 degrees). I've been dressing somewhat conservatively, not showing shoulders or a ton of skin because I don't want to offend any Turks (some care, some not so much). Unfortunately that adds to how hot I get. It's quite regularly 34 degrees, and about 37 degrees with humidity. At temperatures like this (which I'm sure some of you can relate too) you are constantly sweating when you're not in an air conditioned room. Without the air conditioning, if you freshen up your face by washing it, within a minute you are covered with a sheen of sweat again. When you are out in the heat, you are covered with sweat and you can't really do anything about it. Honestly, there hasn't been a whole lot of times where I have actual drips of sweat running down my face, but here, it's very common. But the thing is, you get used to it, and you venture out into the heat anyways. Just have plenty of water.

Okay, I'm sorry if this is full of mistakes, but I can't bear to edit this post on my iPhone.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

A new week

First off, I'm sorry it's been so long since I last posted. It's not that I've been busy, more that I've been weary.

On Tuesday I visited the Amasya Museum, which was small but had some interesting artifacts nonetheless. The funny part was being questioned by six, 6 and 7 year olds what my name was, where I was from, etc. They also told me all their names and I struggled to pronounce them without a hope of remembering them. The visit ended with them signing that they wanted me to take their picture and then having one of their moms come over and take a picture of the kids with me.

On the way back, I walked past a store I stumbled upon a few days before that sold guitars and I decided to check it out. The owner showed me the collection, but of course there's no browsing in Turkey so we were shortly joined by four young girls who had been in the midst of a lesson until they saw a strange foreigner come in. I was then pulled in to watch some of their lesson, most of which was spent asking me questions in the little English one of them knew, and the rest was talking to me in Turkish and laughing at me not understanding them. All in all made for a fun day.

On Wednesday, while still in Amasya I visited the archaeological crew that were working at the citadel in Amasya. Unfortunately not much English was spoken so I couldn't really understand what features were exposed. I did understand when someone found a scorpion however. I also made the mistake of trying to walk the several kilometres through the town and up to the top, which was a huge mistake given how hot a day it was, how long a walk and how much of a climb up the mountain it was. Fortunately for me a kind Turkish family stopped and offered me a ride when I had maybe a fifth left of the hike.

On Thursday I checked out of my hotel and waited for several hours at the train station before catching the 3 hour train to Samsun. What a beautiful journey, at least the latter part was once we were into the mountains and their heavily forested vegetation. While I was still at the train station in Amasya, I had a call from Zeliha, the sister in law of Pastor Orhan who is my contact here. They very kindly told me I could stay at the church here in Samsun and that is where I've been since Thursday. They also picked me up at the airport which was so great to have friendly faces to pick you up as you enter a new cityın a country who's language you don't speak.

It's been excellent staying here. I've been very comfortable and I currently have a whole living space to myself. It may be hot but it's excellent. I've been sharing the living space with the church's care taker Ukzul (that's probably spelt wrong, sorry!) who has been very kind. We don't talk much because he has only a little English and I have even less Turkish though when we do it`s largely im signs. Today I drunk coke for the first time in many months because he so kindly offered it to me and I had refused so many other times.

On Friday night I was invited to join Orhan and his family for a visit to the beach. They had a lovely table booked that looked out over the Black Sea, and there I smoked a nargile (Turkish smoking pipe) for the first time. It tasted like chocolate. Orhan and Zeliha were smoking it and offered me a try and Orhan's son took a picture so I'll have to try to get that photographic proof at some point.

Most of Friday had been pretty rotten, I was pretty anxious and unhappy and was very close to booking a flight home. But Saturday turned things around. I had a long walk along the beach around noon, and when I came back to the church, much to my surprise and delight, there were westerners!! I joined them for a bible study and then I asked them if they could pray for me since the last couple of days had been pretty rotten. They did pray for me and I felt so much better for it. I am so thankful for God's timing in putting Brittany, Lisa, Katie, Emily, John and Chad from Oklahoma and Texas in my path when I so badly needed an interaction like that. After church today I was able to spend more time with them as well as some other English speaking members of the church and it was so lovely. Chad and I both had iPhones so we tried to exchange contact information through the application "Bump" but unfortunately were unable to. The Turkish people at the table were very confused what we were trying to do.

So I'm thinking I will leave Samsun tomorrow, but at the moment I'm not sure where I'll be heading. There was a contact between here and Istanbul to make but unfortunately as of yet we haven't heard from them. I may be flying into Istanbul tomorrow if nothing comes up. I'll just have to wait and see for now.

Also of importance to note, the music of Mumford and Sons has been very important to me the last couple of days, with so many of their lyrics reflecting my current state. If you haven't heard of them, check them out. Though don't check out Little Lion Man if you are adverse to the f-bomb.

"Oh these are my desires and I will give them up to you this time around
And oh I'll be found with my stake stuck in this ground
Marking the territory of this newly and fashioned soul!"


Monday, July 12, 2010

Keep calm and carry on

Well, maybe I was a little naive when I thought everything would turn out as planned.

On Sunday morning, my friend Ilkay picked me up outside the musem in Amasya and took me out to the dig house. The drive out there was beautiful and I was feeling excited and nervous. Upon arriving at the dig house, I soon was introduced to the director of the project. The problem arose when he asked me if I had a work permit. I didn't have one. I had thought since I was volunteering, I wouldn't need one. So, long story short, it's looking like I won't be joining the team at Oluz Hoyuk and unless we can get a research visa for work at Ulucak Hoyuk (which is pretty unlikely), I won't be joining that team either. The upside is that if I come back next summer I will know better what I need to join an excavation.

So at this point, it seems my adventure over here will not last the three months that was originally planned, but that I'll spend the rest of this month (possibly longer, possibly shorter) travelling around Turkey on my own, but having the oppurtunity to visit with some friends who I met on my trip here in 2007 and visiting with friends of my parents.

Apart from the occassional panic attacks, I am generally optimistic about this change of plans. Things may be rough, but with my trust in God, he'll take care of me. Prayer would be good though as I try to understand where I'm going next, and as I struggle against my anxiety.

"Hello hurricane, you can't silence my love"