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, January 30, 2008

A White Jerusalem

No matter what I tried, it seems I was doomed to fail in my efforts to outrun the snow. I left Amman this week partly because I just couldn't handle the idea of snow on my vacation. Only looking out the door this morning I see a pretty heavy snow falling in Jerusalem. Go figure. I guess it will make for pretty pictures, and ones you wouldn't be able to get very often. Now I'm just going to have to work a little bit harder at convincing myself that I am going to stay out all day to explore the old city.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Quote of the Week

Say not, 'I have found the truth,' but rather, 'I have found a truth.' Say not, 'I have found the path of the soul.' Say rather, 'I have met the soul walking upon my path.' For the soul walks upon all paths. The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed. The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.

Kahlil Gibran
The Prophet

Desert Castles

Desert Castle
Originally uploaded by pollhup
Each of the desert castles east of Amman in Jordan has its own unique characteristic to make it worth seeing. Yesterday Nathan took me out for the day to explore three of these castles - Qala'at Al-Azraq, Qusayr Amra and Qasr al-kharana. I have to say that the first was by far the most fun to explore. One of the joys of traveling outside of the "Western world" is that you are not as limited in where you can go within a particular location. The rule seems to be just don't be stupid enough to get yourself hurt or into trouble. I must admit that Al-Azraq provided plenty of places where I could have easily fallen to the ground, but luckily the gods of balance were with me yesterday. Al-Azraq is an old castle that is built entirely of black basalt. And I mean entirely - roof included. I'm often amazed at the constructions earlier period could complete. Natural stone arches supporting a fully stone ceiling. Oftentimes it appeared that the ceiling stones could just to come dropping down at any moment, but I guess that there enduring placement is proof enough that they are well wedged in. The highlights of this fort? The basalt door at the main entrance. Each side constructed from a single stone, they had rudimentary hinges comprised of an extra protrusion on the top and bottom which fit perfectly into shallow bowls and on which the door could swing. I found myself surprised that I could move such a heavy door with a single hand (of course the more modern addition of grease probably helped a bit). What a piece of work! More fun though, were the staircases on thin air. Seriously. I felt like I was walking up to the sky with very little support. The ingenious construction involved long pieces of stone anchored into the construction of the wall, jutting out over the ground. Each step separate from the others, and often a bit of a long reach, the reassurance of the wall to grasp was an appreciated presence. But clambering up them did make me wonder if perhaps this is what a stairway to heaven would look like. In any case, the desert castles of Jordan are well worth a day trip to see.

Friday, January 25, 2008


There's nothing like the last bell of the last school day before break. It just makes you feel so free. I've made it through two of the most hectic and crazy weeks I've had in recent months and now, in less than 24 hours I'll be in Jordan for two weeks. How lovely is the start of break. Free! No school, no students, no lojman for two weeks.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

one chic great-grandmother

I love this picture of my great-grandmother taken while she was in Panama. Sometimes I just wish I had inherited 1/8 of her style.


Kiva is back up and running...okay, not that the site was broken or anything but when I checked back today I found that they have managed to find some new individuals and loaning agencies in new countries to solicit funding for. I'm happy to have made me second donation from a Christmas gift to a woman in Niger who is running a phone shop (I know from experience in Guinea that there is definitely a market in this). My partiality towards West African women happily fulfilled I was also interested to realize that there were also several new countries represented in the list including Azerbaijan and Tajikistan and Uganda. Its neat to watch this organization grow and succeed.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Family Pictures (2)

I've decided to continue along the theme of old family photos. This is one of my great-grandfather from shortly after he became a cook in the Army.

Weekly Quote

(back after a long hiatus...)

"After all, all human beings are the same - made of human flesh, blood, and bone."
-Dali Lama

Sunday, January 13, 2008


A while back I was intrigued and excited when someone sent me a link to Kiva. Its a company that basically works to connect people who want to give aid to individuals in developing countries without just providing a handout. One of a handful of companies dedicated to microlending, its been fun to watch two of my loans slowly being repaid on time and knowing that its a way I can still make a slight difference in the developing world (my past experiences lend me to donating to women in West Africa). I was quite excited to receive a gift certificate (thanks Ben!) for Christmas that would allow me to make four more small loans. When I checked back to the Kiva site this evening to see if anything new was up I was shocked to find that there is nothing, NOTHING, left of their projects to fund. Apparently Kiva has been getting quite a bit of publicity and there has been so much traffic to the site that individual loaners have managed to meet the requests of every loan they had posted. That's a pretty cool testimony to the number of people that are interested in trying to help in such a way as to enable change. I just hope that the increased availability of funding doesn't change their methods of ensuring that loans are going to people in developing countries who really are planning on paying them back. I have a feeling that it is going to give them an interesting line to walk in the near future. I am quite pleased by this growth in microlending, especially as it is a force that I do believe can bring positive change to communities in developing countries.

A different type of mall

Originally uploaded by ccarlstead
Friday evening found me heading over to the European side of the city with friends for an evening out. I didn’t have any idea where we were going, or what our plan was. I was just content to be along for the ride and get off campus. I didn’t expect the sight that greeted me when we got out of the car at Kanyon Mall. Think modern architecture meets the Jetsons. Picture a central, rounded, tall business park with a four story mall swirling around the bottom. All curved lines and openness. It was so modern it made everything I’ve seen in Texas look old and boring. You could tell we were in a ritzy part of town by the shops that were there (and the number of students that we saw flitting around relaxing after three days of exams) and just the general atmosphere. I was surprised to find this was one place in Turkey where when you enter a store a salesperson didn’t immediately attach themselves to you and follow you around (I’ve been working on convincing myself this occurs because they get paid a commission, not because they are concerned you will shop lift). Frankly with the increased price of things here (we were looking at dresses in the 2000ytl range) I was surprised that we were left alone. Perhaps because they figure very few people actually buy things here, and I’m sure they are much better at reading who those people would be. Even the movie theater was impressive. Large undulating walls with messages and movie times scrolling past, small screens showing ads and trailers in the bathroom, and by far the most spacious seating I have yet to experience in Turkey. When you throw in the lighted tree sculptures out front, the ice rink and even a fake river with light swans floating around it really felt like I was somewhere completely unknown. It is images like this that continue to befuddle me and make me question just how Turkey is developing. It’s hard to reconcile this level of development with the situation I know exists in smaller towns farther east. Istanbul continues to be a fascination mix of Europeans and Asian, developed and developing.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

I'm a travelling fool

I found this neat widget as I was wasting time today and trying to figure out where I wanted to go during my two week break that is coming up soon (Morocco maybe?). It makes me feel like I haven't been to that many places after all.

Get Your Own MapView Larger Map

New Year's Superstitions

When I arrived back in Turkey Christmas Trees were lit, people were busy thinking about presents and in some households Santa was getting ready to visit. Confused yet? No, Turkey does not celebrate Christmas, but they have whole-heartedly embraced many Christmas traditions and incorporated them into their New Year’s celebration. Returning to my office to discover a bag full of New Year’s good luck, including a pomegranate and some black-eyed peas (in honor of those of us Americans who understand that Southern tradition), made me start wondering about what some of the other New Year’s superstitions are in this country. I began asking, and heard more then I ever dreamed.

From the package at school I discovered that:
You should smash a pomegranate on the threshold of your door as soon after midnight as possible in order to invite luck into your home.

You should turn on all of your facets; the flowing water will make “the New Year flow smoothly, without any problems.”

Turning on all your lights as soon as you get back from your celebration will insure you have a bright and happy New Year.

For those who love to travel and what more of it in the next year you should get out and take a walk to the nearest street right after the start of the New Year.

Talking with friends I heard a few more superstitions:

Patting your pockets will encourage the accumulation of wealth for the New Year.

You should wear new red underwear to meet the New Year, and experience good luck in the New Year.

It is important to celebrate the New Year with friends and family if you want to continue to experience their company the following year.

Whatever your beliefs I hope that you celebrated a good start to the New Year and that you’ll find many blessings and happiness.

my photo being used

It's been interesting to see the random places that the photos I have under a creative commons license are being used. I recently got an e-mail that one of the pictures I took in Prague last New Years is being used in an online map guide to the city.A widget of the map including my picture of the Pinkas synagogue is below. Or you can check out Schmap Prague.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

First snow

First snow
Originally uploaded by ccarlstead
There's something magical about the first snowfall of the winter. Most of today it seemed as if we were in the middle of a snow globe, with fat lazy flakes floating down outside the classroom windows. Several hours has been enough to make it stick, and let me walk home through a winter wonderland. Quite a change from Texas last week (and if I can't be warm at least its pretty!). Its a debate as to who is hoping more to have the day off from school - the teachers or the kids. It would definitely help my week...or maybe I should say end my week. I'm not holding my breath though, as there is no word yet. In the meantime I'll just enjoy the piles of snow on the bushes outside my window and remind myself I chose to come somewhere that has winter.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A review of 2007

My Year 2007
Originally uploaded by ccarlstead
Or at least in a series of photos. I've put together a collage of the photos I took during my project for picture every day (at least). All in all, I'm pretty pleased with how this turned out and the way it forced me to be a bit more creative about my subjects for photos. I can't really believe I've done it! At least I accomplished *something* during the year 2007.

Perhaps the pictures can be better appreciated in the badge at the top of the side column. I'll leave it up for a while, as I can't seem to get it embedded into a post. (technology still beats me sometimes)

New Year's Resolutions

So I'm not a big one for New Year's resolutions, but for some reason this year I feel like I need a bit of a goal to start my year off. It comes down to three simple things, all to do with photography (since my one resolution last year went so well - take a picture for every day of the year....soon I'll the final few uploaded and will provide a link then). So here are my resolutions:

1) Participate in the 52 blessings project. The idea - take 1 picture a week of something that you are thankful for and count as a blessing in your life. I figure this will be a good way to help keep me positive and appreciate the many things that are truly amazing in my life.

2) Similarly, complete the Rainbow Project. This will involve me taking a total of 140 photos with a color theme - 20 in each color of the rainbow. ROYGBIV.

3) Make some significant progress on my Austin Sights Alphabet Book. Not quite sure I want to quantify it anymore than this, but I'd love to be close to be publishing by the end of the year. As a side attempt I may try to figure out a way I can get copies of the I Went To The Market Turkish alphabet book to all the people who have expressed interest.