Musings on my adventures around the world and my ties back in Texas as well as some of the the ideas I have to adapt and create to keep those places close to home.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


If you love popping bubble wrap you'll love this link I came across today. Have fun, and don't procrastinate for to long...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Is it odd?

Is it odd that my washing machine seems to have a soundtrack? It makes it sound as if its swishing water around, making my clothes clean, when in reality its spinning them dry. How odd is that? It's not as if I don't believe its cleaning them...are sound effects really necessary? Some things here just make me shake my head...

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Quote of the week

In the absence of conviction, I've come to terms with the fact that uncertainty is an inescapable corollary of life. An abundance of mystery is simply part of the bargain - which doesn't strike me as something to lament.

Jon Krakauer Under the banner of heaven: a story of violent faith

Finding jeans

If you're anything like me you have a horrible time trying to find new jeans. The last time I tried I think I tried on something like 40 or 50 pairs before I found some that would work (not great, but okay). I recently stumbled across a link which purports to help you find what brand and style of jeans will fit you according to a fairly simple set of questions. Now, since I'm not in the states this isn't so useful to me right now, but you can bet I'll be testing their recommendations the next time I am. Check out just might help you out.

Another blog

So I've been playing around with the idea of trying to get one of the photo alphabet books I made for my niece published - quite likely by doing it myself. Taking a page from my brother in law I've decided to try to blog my thought process and steps in accomplishing this. So now I have another blog. I have a feeling this may be a long process.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Not all bad

Realizing that my early post made it seem like my long weekend didn't go well I felt I'd be remiss if I didn't admit that it wasn't all bad. I had an experience which was probably my most authentic Turkish night out while in Bursa. After wandering around the area by our hotel Saturday night D and I couldn't find anywhere that looked like it would be good for hanging out, getting a drink or two and just relaxing. So we headed back to our hotel to ask the man at the front desk if he could give us a recommendation. He did better than that. He asked us to wait a few minutes and then came out with a friend and proceeded to take us along on his Saturday night out. This is typical of the warmth of the Turkish people. We ended up at a live music lounge with him and about 5 of his friend (included one other desk clerk from the hotel - the third was still at the hotel on duty). We listened to 3 or 4 performers, got a sense of excitement when a "famous singer from Istanbul" (their words - I still don't know who she was) was spotted and brought up to the stage for two songs, bounced up and down to peppy Turkish music when they pulled me to my feet...Really, just felt like I was getting an authentic experience as the room was filled with Turks, and in fact I'm not sure there were any other foreigners in the place. A pleasant evening that was everything we were looking for - and a much better end to our brief sojourn then expected. (Those are our hosts - Erkan and Alessandro - in the picture)

Monday, October 15, 2007


This weekend I became convinced of something that I had realized a while back…that minibus drivers in this town are masters of multitasking. They have so many things going on at one time, and yet seem to be completely in control of them all. To start with, they’re driving (yes, a necessary part of the job). Often times this accompanies smoking a cigarette out the window and/or talking on a cell phone. That’s three things, (and yes sometimes all three are ongoing) but that is just the start. When the bus leaves a starting point (like in Pendik) the drivers are also keeping track of about four other things. Money is being passed up by people in mass (I still am amazed that this honor system works so well here) so the driver is keeping track of how much he received, where they said they were going, how much change he needs to dig out while at the same time separating the coins by type. He is often handing back change and collecting the next amount at the same time, with one fare in the middle stage. They also seem to have an amazing idea of how many people they’ve crammed into their bus and will prompt more to pay with a shouted “Ba┼čka?” “Other?” if they don’t feel like they’ve received enough yet. All of this is going on while driving along the route (cigarette in hand). At the same time a driver is shouting out for additional riders, honking the horn to check and see if anyone needs to get on, and paying attention to where someone says that they need to get out. It’s amazing that they can keep it all straight. I’m in awe at these men’s ability to multitask, and even more impressed with the fact that I feel safer in one of their minibuses then I often feel in a taxi. (Perhaps that means you don’t want to hear about the taxis…) Driving a minibus in Turkey definitely requires more than the skill of just driving.

A series of unfortunate events

A series of unfortunate events. That's exactly what our trip this weekend seemed to be. Not that anything went seriously wrong, just that things didn't seem to go quite right. And really, all I'm talking about is the transportation. I expected there to be issues - Seker Bayram is one of the big holidays in Turkey (the end of Ramadan) but it wasn't too bad in terms of crowding until we were making our way home on Sunday. But the story starts early Friday morning. We got up and out before 7 in the hope that we would make it to Pendik in time for the 8:15 ferry. After waiting over 45 minutes for a minibus in front of the school we weren't holding our breath anymore. So imagine our surprise when we got to the ferry terminal and could still see the ferry. Rush, on out....oh - the ferry just pulled away. So close, and yet so far. At least there's no real schedule for the rest of our transportation. So we waited for an hour and a half for the next ferry, at least there was no way we could be late for it! The only part of trip that worked out exactly as it should have was the bus ride from the ferry in Yalova to Bursa. No problems there. Arrive in Bursa, easily find the bus that our book said we should take into the area our hotel is in. Things are looking up, until we ride the bus directly past where we were supposed to get off. No signs made it apparent that indeed this was it. Eventually we made it back to our hotel, just a bit later then it could have been. Afterwards we chose to walk a bit more - seemed safer...or not...definitely took the long round about route. It was a bit of a trying day.

Day two: hopefully this will be better. Or not. We went up to Uludag mountain, fairly pleasant and a lovely view of the autumn leaves. Only there isn't really any way down. We start walking, get on a minibus which takes us where we are *supposed* to be able to get a minibus back to Bursa. Not so much an option. Instead we end up heading back up the mountain to the town we just walked down from. Tried to get a hotel to call a taxi for us, seemed to be a miscommunication (not so surprising with my bad Turkish), finally the doorman took care of us and we had a minibus entirely to ourselves back down. Thinking we had learned our lesson we took a dolmush back to our hotel area...better then walking in the rain. Only we end up in the rain anyways since it didn't go quite where we were expecting and dropped us a 30 minute walk from our hotel in the pouring rain. Completely soaked upon return (and we even tried to do the smart thing that time!). That is it for today!

Sunday we had to get back to campus, and while nothing really went wrong (unless you count our bus in Bursa just stopping on the side of the road for 20 minutes for no apparent reason - the driver just thumbed the wheel several times, waited, did it again, and then unexpectedly got back in and drove the bus off again. Still don't understand that one) it was just a long trip. The way there took us 4-5 hours, coming back was more like 9. Lots of traffic, a 3 hour wait for a ferry since the other ones had already sold out, a long wait in the cold for the minibus back to campus.

There's a certain sense of satisfaction in having made all these things work, but also a sens that we were definitely under a transportation curse this weekend. I just hope it doesn't last much longer!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

mafe tiga

I had a few extra hours this afternoon (we're on a short holiday thanks to the end of Ramadan) so I decided to make mafe tiga (peanut sauce for those of you who don't know Pular). I've been craving a taste of Guinea and right now I'm thrilled that the bubbling on my stove means that the scent of peanut sauce has permeated all of the corners of my lojman. All I have to do is close my eyes and I'm back in my concrete and dirt village watching the 7 year old next door as she teaches me the proper ingredients for peanut sauce (which vary depending on what is available). Somehow in the two years I was there mafe tiga became one of my comfort foods - guaranteed to warm my body and my soul.

What's in my mafe tiga today?
onion and garlic sauteed
all natural peanut butter (which I made this afternoon by grinding up roasted, unsalted peanuts with no skin on it - normally I'd buy this but you can't get it in Turkey) mixed with water
3 tomatoes
2 magi cubes (or vegetable bouillon as that's what I found)
a dash of tomato paste
2 peppers
2 eggplants diced
some pumpkin (found it in the market and seemed like a good replacement for potato and cassava)

Now I just have to let it cook and cook until everything is done, while I dream of the taste that takes me back.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Quote of the week

Try to understand that you are here, and that the things that surround you change you - in the same way that you change them.

This business of looking at the horizon...It seems as if...I don't know...I can't explain if my soul has grown...Before, I looked in the distance,and things in the distance seemed really far, you know? They seemed not to be a part of my world. Because I was used to looking only at things that were close, the things around me. But I got used to looking into the distance. And I saw that besides tables, chairs and objects, my world also included the mountains, clouds, the sky. And my soul - my soul seems to have eyes that is uses to touch those soul seems to have grown.

...look at the horizon.

-Paul Coelho, The Valkyries

Recent Reads

It's been a bit of an eclectic reading month. Here's my recent list of books. Finished The Valkyries in one day, spent over a month during summer vacation reading A Room of One's Own, sped through Dreamland for fun, and am still working on The Broken Crown and Sex Slaves: the trafficking of women in Asia.

props for my alphabet book

I was quite excited to find that the market alphabet book I made in scrapblog got mad props from the creators in their blog as one of their Friday Favorites. Check it out!

Saturday, October 6, 2007


Originally uploaded by ccarlstead
One of the things I love best about living abroad is the experience of shopping in a market. I'm not talking about the commercialized locations like the grand bazaar, but the local weekly markets. I love to wander into the streets which have been converted from a car roadway into a tarp covered aisle of sales. While the number of people squeezing into the significantly narrowed street occasionally gets overwhelming I love the experience of being in the middle of it. Of shopping the way that many of the locals do (others use the grocery stores for convenience but admit they don't feel like they get the same quality of produce). I'm not going to say that you can buy everything in a market, although sometimes it seems like it, but you can't beat the produce. My weekly market is in the suburb of Kurtkoy, a mere 10 minutes from school. I try my best to go every week, and always laugh and wrinkly up my nose as I go past the stalls of fresh fish. Not the most pleasant entrance, but the site of bright oranges piled up, tomatoes stacked and other tables filled with fresh produce keeps me going. I usually stroll the entire market (this one is only about 3 streets) before getting down to the business of buying. I like being able to consider what is available, and actually being able to compare produce to ensure I get what looks to be the freshest and ripest selection. Its a treat for my taste buds, a chance to practice a bit of my Turkish (after more than a year some vendors are still surprised I can communicate my desire), and an almost overwhelming riot of color and shapes. What's not to love?

autumn arriving

The mornings are crisp and I've even noticed a few trees changing color. I'd say that autumn is arriving, in a much more casual and progressive manner than last year. To celebrate I've fired up the stove and am making my own applesauce. I couldn't resist the piles of apples at the market last week, and they've been sitting in my fridge just waiting for me to do something with me. Homemade applesauce just seems like the right thing for this season. It brings back memories of going to Vermont with friends during October and picking our own apples then bringing them back to make applesauce, apple strudel and apple pie to take back to college. The little homemade things that make you feel like home. Fitting then that in another hour I should have my own applesauce to throw in the freezer and fridge just waiting for when I need a taste of home.

In case you don't realize just how easy it is, here's all that I do.

core, peel and eighth enough apples to fill the bottom of my casserole dish (that was about 6 today)
Put enough water in the bottom of the pan to come about half way up on the apples
Throw the pan in the oven (about 350F or 125C - that's what I cook everything at)
Flip the apples once, after about 20 minutes
Cook until the apples are mushy
Throw them in a blender and mash'em up!
You've got applesauce.
I sometimes add cinnamon before putting it into containers just for some variety.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Cem's back!

I guess you could say my personal connection to the sage of military service in this country had come to an end. Cem is back from his obligatory service (and we're all so happy to have him back in the office) and while I feel like I'll still be picking up on random bits of information about what his service entailed until the end of the year (info which continues to flabbergast me) I do doubt it'll be at the front of my mind for very long. So what have I learned in the day and a half since he came back? I'm pretty sure that every man who goes to do his military service begins by going through something like basic training - learning to deal with a gun, long marches etc. That doesn't mean that they will all be placed in situations where they need to be able to do so. I think this part is so that if Turkey ever needs to it can call up a large number of individuals who at least have a small clue about what they are doing. And no, Cem's placement had very little to do with the military (as far as I can tell). They asked him if he could teach math (well, duh - he is a math teacher) and when he gave an affirmative reply they put him at a dersane (one of those schools that prep kids for the OSS - the large exam the kids take after they finish high school to try to get into university). I'm not quite sure if he was teaching math lessons or managing the whole place. One thing for sure though, this didn't require a gun!

Monday, October 1, 2007

A Turkish market alphabet book

I've finished (the hard part of) my next alphabet book for my niece. It's an ABC book illustrated completely by pictures I've taken in the market here. Check out I went to the market and let me know what you think. Of course I still have to get it printed, laminated, bound and sent to her, but progress is progress!