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, February 20, 2008

I had to laugh

Many of my students call me Ms C, as my full last name is a bit of a mouthful for students that are not native English speakers (as well as for some native English speakers). I had to laugh though when I received a paper and the student had written my name as Ms. See, I guess that is what it sounds like, but it strikes me that he was missing the point a bit.

Monday, February 18, 2008

How much does it take?

My snowy backyard
Originally uploaded by ccarlstead
How much snow does it take to turn my world into a white winter wonderland? Not quite as much as it takes to close school, but we’ve managed to get enough to do both in the past two days. About 11 inches by last night, which I guess shouldn’t surprise me since it snowed pretty much non-stop Saturday and Sunday. As I gaze out of my window this morning I find its still snowing. Needless to say we have quite a bit of this white powdery stuff on the ground. I’d forgotten just how beautiful snow can make even the most familiar of landscapes. I feel as if I’ve been transported to another location. One where lines are softened, dark colors based on contrast and the biggest necessity is to fulfill my desire to go out and play in the snow. Winter has definitely come to Istanbul, and this warm weather girl is trying to embrace it (it’s much easier when you get a snow holiday and an unplanned break).

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Quote of the Week

We know truth, not only by the reason, but also by the heart.

Blaise Pascal

Keeping in touch

I ran across this project (thanks Photojojo!) which is how two friends are keeping in touch from 3191 miles apart. They each post a picture taken each evening, they're put side by side and are a neat testament to the everyday aspects of life.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Recent Reads

Vacation is always a good time to read, and even more so when you get stuck in a an apartment for several days for various reasons. I read quite a bit while I was in Jordan including: The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, The Zahir by Paul Coelho, The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, A complicated kindness by Miriam Toes, and I started A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson but had to leave it behind when it was time to fly back to Turkey. The great thing is that I would actually recommend all but one of these book (a complicated kindness was my least favorite)which means that I was quite lucky that the landlord had such good taste in books!

Of course with so much time to kill I also managed to watch a couple of movies: The Golden Compass and Lawrence of Arabia (fitting for the location I was in)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

New smoking ban in Turkey

As I was strolling through the airport in Istanbul I walked through the food court. I had to make a very quick pass due to how smoky the entire area was. During that brief time I noticed that the seating had a special non-smoking area, set aside by a barricade, and holding perhaps eight tables. It struck me as being the polar opposite of what one would see at home (if there would even be a smoking section). Not that it really surprised me as so many Turks smoke (what was surprising for me and my colleagues was to realize how few of the teachers in my office smoke). What is interesting about it is that this visual representation of the acceptance of smoking in Turkey is directly contradicted by a new law that was passed banning smoking in public places (with a fine) come next year. What I want to know is if they are really going to be successful enforcing the law when I’ve noticed Turks smoking directly under non-smoking signs (most frequently on the ferries) multiple times since arriving here. It should be interesting to see what type of protests come from this, and if they will be able to successfully implement the new law.

For more you can check out this article.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Ways to keep occupied on a car trip

I find that taking public transportation can be both a lovely way to see some of a new country and also one of the more monotonous parts of a trip. To keep myself from nodding off and accidentally landing on my neighbor I decided that I'd use the trip back from the Israel border to try to learn what the Arabic numbers look like. This was only doable because many of the license plates have the plate number written in both forms (I get so confused trying to figure out what to call each type of number as technically the US uses Arabic numbers and Arabic uses ??? Hindi ???). By then end of my hour and a half drive I was pleased to be able to say that I knew the symbols for all the numbers except for 4 and 6 (which Nathan quickly filled in for me). Now I just need to learn to count to ten out loud so that I can add another counting language to my repertoire.

For pronunciation
For writing the numbers

Quote of the Week

What we need to learn is always there before us, we just have to look around us with respect and attention in order to discover where God is leading us and which step we should take next.

Paul Coelho
The Zahir

A new food

While in Jordan I've been introduced to a new food that I've discovered I quite like (thanks Nathan!). It's called labneh. I had to go online to find out exactly what it is since the only ingredient listed on the package is cow's milk. Basically labneh is an extremely soft cheese (about half way between yogurt and cream cheese). It's light, fresh and a bit mild. I found directions on how you could make it, but I'd be much happier if I could actually find it in Turkey or the US. I highly recommend you try it if you ever get the chance!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Karak Castle

One of the things I love about exploring sites in non-Western countries is the utter freedom you have to explore. Sure there might be a fence around some portion of the place, but just as often a guardian will lead you through a hole encouraging you to explore (just as happened with us at the "closed" Lot's Cave). Karak Castle, south of Amman in Jordan was another one of those places. We were free to follow all the small dark stone staircases we found, occasionally arriving into a lower cavern often lit with only a few small holes of sunlight. No where was off limits. Sure, there was an area with some barbed wire around it, but then another path just led right around that (makes one think that they weren't so serious about the barbed wire). We scrambled up onto the keep, climbing until we were on the very top - literally looking down over a hundred feet to the city below - and could enjoy the distant view of the Dead Sea (or the Died Sea as a few signs proclaimed). Having such freedom to explore really makes you feel like you are discovering a site. That even though it has been excavated and cleaned up there is still enough of a sense of adventure to allow you to make some sort of claim of the spot. After all, as the pristine snow we tramped through revealed, no one else had been there, at least not that day. I can definitely say that I saw (or experienced?) Karak Castle, and all the side rooms, dungeons and tunnels it contained.


The more I travel, the more I seem to be surprised by the little things. When I'm in a new country the big new sights are things that I expect, are in fact a good portion of why I chose to go to that place. But it always seems to be the little things that make an impression on me and stick in my mind. I'm currently sitting in a friend's apartment in Amman, Jordan and except for the snow, things are pretty much how I remember from my brief trip here last year...except for this one thing that I seem to keep noticing. In the dead of winter there is a truck that rolls around the streets of Amman playing music that reminds me of an ice cream truck in the US. What??? Surely not. Why would people be going out to buy ice cream when there is at least an inch of snow on the ground (snow that they normally don't see)? Well it turns out that the truck is announcing its presence for those who want to buy gas. It cruises the streets waiting for patrons interested in changing their gas canisters. While it seems a bit of an odd way to deal with it, I have heard it often enough to think that a house wouldn't be too long without gas if they were waiting. And it does seem a bit more welcome in the middle of winter then ice cream would be.