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.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Running or Swimming?

This past weekend I completed my third 15k as part of the Istanbul Eurasia Marathon. It is something that I've done every year I've been in Istanbul partly because it is just really cool to be able to say that I have (1) run across the Bosphorus bridge and (2) run from the Asian continent to the European continent. I can't think of many places where you would have that opportunity. I have to admit though, that this year was a bit of a downer. I didn't even marvel and smile at the signs that say "you are now entering Europe/Asia." All because it was raining the entire run. And I don't mean a nice drizzle that just keeps you cool. No, we had so much rain that some of the stairs we passed looked like waterfalls, I splashed into numerous puddles that were ankle deep, and the whole view was greatly missed due to the heavy clouds and dark weather. So the best that I can say is that I finished the run this year with a slight improvement to my time (not as much as I had hoped, but that too I will blame on the weather). In the three years that I have run this race I've gone through snow, rain and sun. I hate to think what I could face if I do it again next year. Perhaps a wind storm strong enough to blow me off the bridge? As for this year, I am still deciding if I was really running or more like swimming.

*I do have to give kudos to the marathon organizers, who despite some of the normal nonsense did manage to give us dry t-shirts and cheap rain ponchos when we finished running. That is the only reason that I didn't freeze on my way back across to catch the bus back to my land of a hot shower.*

Friday, October 24, 2008

Succes in a long day

Some things are the same...
Originally uploaded by ccarlstead
I went into town today to run two, just two, errands. And while I did manage to get them both accomplished it also took me close to 7 hours to do. And not because the errands were that hard. Because of the joy of 9 forms of public transportation and a bit of waiting in between. Lets just say I'm glad to finally be home.

So what did I do? I went to drop of my pictures for the Istanbul Photo Contest at Les Arts Turcs and ended up having a really nice conversation with Nurdogan about his project and the competition. It turns out that this is the first year they are doing the contest and he has some pretty lofty goals for the competition. He expressed that part of why he had chosen to only hold the competition for foreign photographers is because there is a fair amount of photos out there by Turks, but he hopes that consolidating a collection of foreign pictures will give some insight into how foreigners view the same places differently an open a dialogue of understanding. He seems to have gotten quite a bit done with just three people and not much money (it is a non-profit organization). I'm curious to see how everything turns out. He does seem to have some hope for future years: there is a chance of the city putting up a display of the photos outside of Hagia Sophia for the 2010 "European City of Culture", he has plans to extend the competition to include Turkish photographers and lead to dialogues between photographers of many nationalities, he even has Turkish celebrities clamoring to be judges next year (a testament to how much coverage he's gotten by the press). When you combine it all together with his graciousness, energy and conviction you get a combination that is bound to succeed. (If you've ever been to Istanbul and taken some photos I encourage you to make a submission to help this man on his mission).

My second stop of the afternoon was in Fershane to pick up my race number. That's right, it is time for the Istanbul Intercontinental Marathon (ok, 15 km for me). Sunday I will take advantage of the one time of year that we're allowed to cross the Bosphorus bridge on foot. Even though I had to go a bit farther out of the city center to pick up my number and chip I have to admit that they were much better organized this year. I'm pleased at least to have my stuff, including a t-shirt and the bonus bag this year. They seem to be going all out for the 20th race. I just hope the new route goes as well.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Quote of the week

Inside, all of my dreams become realities, and some of my realities become dreams.
-Antwan L (?)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


It is Blog Action Day 2008, and this year's theme is poverty. Now sometimes I think, what do I really know about poverty? And then I remember that (1) this is something that affects all of us and (2) not to long ago I was living in a country that was ranked in the bottom five of the world. Right now Guinea seems a long way away from my current life in Turkey, but I know that my experience there not only opened up my eyes but also changed how I look at the world. So I'll share a few observations.

Often times the reason that people live in poverty is something that is almost beyond their control. Relocation due to war, being born in a country where it takes 18 hours a day to cultivate enough food to exist on, a lack of infrastructure and incorruptible public officials. Despite all this, do not ever think that this means that these people are somehow worse than you. Often times they are putting in more energy into subsisting then you would ever dream of putting into your job. I had students who would get up early to go draw water for the family, cook breakfast, wake up their siblings and get them ready for the day only then could they think about getting ready for school. After 4 hours in class they returned home to fix lunch/dinner for the family (very time consuming when your tools are 1 knife, 2 pots and a wood fire), go to the market, take care of the siblings, clean the house, wash the clothes, and just maybe get to their homework. All of this had to be done before the sun set, as there was no electricity and candles were to expensive to use. The only light came from the moon on a clear evening. And some of them were only 12. They were doing all of this for the chance to possible get out of the village and be the first to go to college. I must emphasis chance, because in my two years in Koundara at most 4 of the 70 students who graduated earned places at a university. Why were youth responsible for all of this? Because parents needed to be working full time all day in order to earn enough to buy food, or in order to grow enough to feed the family. Times were not easy. Yet these individuals always had a smile and could find joy in their life. Cooking became a game. Families sat and talked once the sun set. Poor, perhaps. To be pitied, definitely not.

As I finished up my two years in the Peace Corps in Guinea I realized that I was leaving a country that I had actually seen go more downhill in the years I was there. Things were not improving in the country. The price or rice, and thus the cost of feeding a family, was increasing. Roads got worse. Fewer students were managing to stay in school through the end of high school. What to do? As a teacher I firmly believe that education is the key, and I don't necessarily mean the education you get in school. This is why I trained a group of my students to talk to others in their villages about how to avoid contracting HIV/AIDS. Why I lend money to struggling entrepreneurs through Kiva (a microlending company). It's not enough to give things away, no, we must help people to learn how to improve their own lives. When they have responsibility for it, then that is when the true changes can occur. The sad thing is that even though I watched Guinea deteriorate it has gone up in the rankings. How misleading is this? What it really means is that now there are just more countries,and thus populations, that are in a worse situation then Guinea. We need to do what we can to address this.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Making a calendar

I've been looking around at getting a calendar printed using some of my photos. Not quite sure if I want to do this or not, but I thought I might as well look at what my best options would be. It looks like the cheapest way to go online would be either with Vista Print which runs $12 a calendar + shipping and handling (but seem to have a 25% off sale going on right now) or Lulu which would run $12.33 for the number I'm looking at (not sure about shipping and handling). Of course who knows if they'll ship internationally, or how much that would add on to the price. I'll have to think a bit more about this.

Friday, October 10, 2008

National Breast Cancer Month

October is National Breast Cancer Month, and while I'm not big on donating money to companies or charities when I'm not sure how they use it, I have two ways that those of you who have a bit of time can help out. Your click at this site will help to fund mammograms for needy women. Also for every pink themed photo submitted to the flickr Pink 2008 group this month, yahoo will donate a euro to breast cancer charities. Two ways you can make a difference without it costing you a cent.

An odd surprise

Returning anywhere when you've been gone for a while always brings its own surprises. Whenever I head home to Texas I am always shocked by the development that has sprouted up in our small town. I'm not sure it can be called a suburb anymore, more like a suburb of Austin. I may have to call it quits the time when I go back to find houses in the field that faces our house and has always been full of steers and sunflowers in the past. A time I suspect will be quite soon.

Coming back to Istanbul was no different. Only I would have never been able to anticipate the surprise that awaited me at school. It seems that we have acquired our very own Trojan horse. Yes, that's right. They redid the elementary school playground and we now have an extremely large wooden horse (taller than either of the two story wings of the elementary school)in our side garden. I'm just not quite sure why it is necessary. It's cool, in an unexpected sort of way. Although I have to admit the red slides coming off the two sides spoil the look a bit. I wonder if teachers will take their students inside of it when they are discussing the Trojan war?

Excursion Day

Despite having just gotten back from vacation, and there being no class on Monday due to it being Istanbul Liberation Day, on Wednesday we took off for excursion day. This is one of those things that is mandated by the Turkish Ministry of Education, which while a great idea does not always achieve the goal. "The goal?" you ask. Well that would be to take students outside of school and show them how what they learn in school is related to real life. This year we took our set of students (about a third of the 10th graders) to Buyukada, the largest of the Prince's Islands. In the past we've attempted to do a navigation activity which has been somewhat loosely organized and never ends up working out to well. This year we actually paid a company to run an orienting course (at least that is what they called it - not quite what I expected). Basically it was a treasure hunt for information that required students to plan a course, read a map (no compass needed), and participate in some activities (like donkey riding, bike riding, rappelling and darts). What I can say is that this year at least our students seemed to actually participate (which is more than I can say for previous years). I had a good time, as we entered one teacher team so that we could analyze the course and see how it worked and if we liked it. Along the way I did get to go a down small cliff, and was pleased to see a side of island that I had missed in my previous three trips there.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Recent Reads

I read two books while I was on vacation and highly recommend both of them. Was thrilled to have packed two (!two!) good ones by chance.

The first was When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin. A somewhat serious novel about a heart transplant doctor and his return to practice. Has also made me reaffirm my decision to be an organ donor if it ever comes down to that.

The second was The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. A lighthearted futuristic detective novel that takes place partly guessed it Jane Eyre.

Quote of the week

Our dreams in Action

Dreams give us hope.
Hope ignite passion.
Passion lead us to envision success.
Visions of success open our minds to recognize opportunity.
Recognition of opportunities inspires far-reaching possibilities.
Far-reaching possibilities help us enlist support from others.
Support from others keeps us focused and comitted.
Focus and commitment foster action.
Aciton results in progress.
Progress leads to achievement.
Achievement inspires dreams.
Dreams give us hope.

-Debbe Kennedy

And a bonus quote for the week (you have my grad school readings to thank for these).

It isn't the time you put in, but what you put into the time that really counts.


Help me please

Lanterns in the Grand Bazaar
Originally uploaded by ccarlstead
I've been invited to submit photos for a contest. The theme is photos of Istanbul (taken by a foreigner). I need to pick five to submit. I've gathered my options (about 30) in a set on flickr, and would love for you to help me by commenting on the five that you think are the best. Thanks!