Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!

This was the first major holiday we have celebrated since moving to Adana.  When S was in training back in DC, several FS veterans talked about how living overseas, far from relatives and grandparents, causes you to become a closer, more insular family.  We heard stories about how it's important to create new memories and traditions as one smaller family unit, and bid a fond farewell to the old, large group gatherings consisting of cousins, grandparents, and even your Great Aunt Edna.  Because, let's face it--while celebrating holidays with extended family is awesome, the reality of this lifestyle is that more often than not, you're far from those you love and even the best Skype conversations in the world can't bring you closer. 
That's where the new family holiday traditions begin. And Easter was our first.
Easter celebrations started on Saturday with egg dying.  A new friend and her young daughter came over to enjoy the festivities, and the kids had a blast.  But as much fun as egg dying was, it quickly lost it's charm, so we took the crew outside for a little water-table play on the balcony.
"I have a blue egg to match our funky blue cabinets."

Still holding on to the blue egg... 

"Ah! Now I can really make a mess!"


Then today, E woke up to find that the Easter bunny had brought him some goodies.  Because I am not quick on my toes at 7am, I forgot to take photos of E's basket o' goodies, but I did manage to snap this blurry pic of him blowing some bubbles.  The Easter Bunny knows how much E loooooves bubbles and included some with the Easter loot.

E and his bubbles.  And a serious case of bed head.
Once Bubble Fest 2013 was over, we got dressed and headed to brunch.  A local American hotel chain hosted an "Easter Brunch" but we quickly realized it was just a typical Turkish breakfast with a few added treats like dyed eggs and cookies in bunny and egg shapes.  In other words, no ham.  Not that I expected it, but I did hope. 
The food was still good though, and S and I even indulged in a glass of champagne while E stuffed his face with sugar that he knows he's usually not allowed to have.  You could practically see the wheels turning in his head as he shoveled a chocolate Kinder egg into his mouth.  Like, "I need to eat this fast before they realize their mistake and try to take it from me!"  No mistake buddy.  Eat your chocolate and enjoy.  That's what holidays are for. 
After brunch we strolled along the river and a very kind woman offered to take a few photos of us together.  All in all, it was a fun day.  Here's to new family traditions!
The bridge in the background was built by the Romans circa 384AD. 

Sabanci Mosque (or Merkez Camii) in the background

I think the sippy cup adds a little "je ne sais quoi" to all these photos, no?.

Look! No sippy cup! Just me and my sweet boy.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Road Trip: Karatepe

Yesterday, a group of us took a drive about 80km northeast of the city to the ruins of an ancient Hittite fortress called Karatepe. 
Karatepe was built in the 9th century BC on a hill overlooking the Seyhan River, but it wasn't discovered until 1946.  Archaeologists uncovered ancient lion statues that were believed to have served as two entrances to the fortress, stone tablets carved in Hieroglyphics and Phoenician languages, and numerous clay pots, urns and bowls.  Relief carvings depicting scenes of hunting and figures of gods and sphinxes were also discovered, and according to guide books, the style shows influences from a number of other cultures like the Assyrians and Egyptians. This leads historians to believe the king at the time, King Azatiwatas of Adana, recruited foreigners to do the work.  Whoever did it was talented, and the artifacts were very well preserved considering their age and the fact that they were buried for so long.
The drive up took longer than expected, namely because we had to make several stops to allow farmers to shepherd their livestock across the roads, and because the roads were mostly gravel, which is an automatic cause for slowing down.  The site was tucked away in the woods overlooking a man made lake and surrounded by several picnic spots.  We set up our lunch spread when we arrived then set off for a hike through the woods. 
The first thing you come across is a small, indoor museum which features many of the smaller objects behind glass, and signs displaying a brief history of the site.  The rest of the artifacts were scattered throughout the grounds in what is considered an open air museum.  Some of the stone statues have since been covered to protect them from the elements, but the rest are just there for all to see and touch.  And climb on, according to E.  Do you know how hard it is to keep a toddler from climbing on 3,000 year old statues that just look like a big rocks to him?  Very hard. But we enjoyed every second of it. 

The man made lake

Stone lions from 9th Century BC

Artifacts discovered at the site in 1946

Urns from the Iron Age

A stunning piece of clay tile

Overlooking the lake. 

Relief artwork with hieroglyphic carvings

More hieroglyphics

All the kiddos from our rowdy, yet fun group

Friday, March 22, 2013

A Photo Home Tour

Hello all you voyeurs out there.  As promised, the grand tour of our apartment.  No I will not show every room, because frankly, they didn't change all that much except for some fresh bedding and a wall hanging or two.  Since S and I moved from a tiny shoe box to this grand palace, we had to go out and buy new...everything for the guest bedrooms.  But here are some of the best and biggest changes we made.  For those FS families out there wondering what housng in Adana is like, all the apartments are 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom with open dining/living rooms and large balcony(ies).  So, here we go.
E's Room
E's room is my favorite.  We brought his old crib, his toy box, alphabet rug and all the other decorations from his old room back in New York. We had gone with a "world travel" theme when I was pregnant, way before we knew the FS was a real possibility, but now that world travel is a reality, it seems to be a perfect fit.  The painting above his crib is the alphabet with a different world city for every letter.  S and I joke that we want to take him to visit all the cities.  So far we've only managed to get New York (the letter "N") under our belts, but Istanbul is the letter "I," so we're getting closer!

 Not pictured is the world map hanging on the right.

 E's Play Space

Next, we carved out a little nook in the living room for E to play.  The living area is massive, so there was plenty of room to make this happen. Now we can be entertaining guests or S and I can be enjoying a movie or TV show while E plays right there near us without making a complete mess all over the apartment.  And it leads out to the balcony where we have his water play table set up, so it works out perfectly.



Living/Dining/Lounging Spaces

We set up a nice reading space in another alcove off the dining room that originally had lone yellow couch.  Since I thought a couch looked weird sitting in the dining room, I tried to create a reading area with two chairs and a couple book shelves.  The before and afters are a bit off, but you get the idea.


After: chairs and books replace couch
Those chairs were moved from the formal living room (see below) which opened up the room a bit more.  And before I start to sound like an HGTV host, I will let the photos speak for themselves.  

Living room before

After (one side)

After (other side)
The den is where we spend lots of our time either watching TV, reading or playing with E. We shipped our comfy recliner with us, and S and I tend to fight over who gets to sit in it.  Even E loves it and can sometimes be found lounging with a sippy cup in his hand.  Unfortunately, I don't have a very good "before" shot, so here is the final result.
Side 1

Side 2 (with dining room in the distance)
So there you have it!  Our home for the next two years.  Hope you enjoyed!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Language of Suffixes

I have been taking weekly Turkish lessons since we moved here two months ago, and I can now officially say this language is hard.  And I mean hard.  I'm not naive enough to think there aren't more difficult languages out there, but this is truly giving me brain drain. 
Unfortunately, I don't speak any other languages fluently besides English, but I am very eager to learn.  I am quite aware that I am the epitome of that annoying joke that ends, "what do you call someone who speaks one language?  American."  But I want to speak another language, so I am trying my hand at Turkish.
I took four years of high school French followed by one year of college French, so I can hold my own in francophone countries.  But I am by no means fluent.  And having known S and his Venezuelan step-mom for the past 6 years has helped me pick up some basic Spanish. But again, I'm a complete novice.
I don't kid myself into thinking I will be fluent when we leave here in two years, but if I can just learn the basics to get me through the day-to-day, I will consider it a success.  So far, even the basics are proving to be more difficult than I imagined. Learning French was easy in comparison.  Picking up basic Spanish was even easy because if you know a word in French, you can recognize it in Spanish.  Or some words, at least.
And although Turkish does have some similar words to French or Spanish (i.e. bilet/billet/billete = ticket), it's the suffixes that really make the language hard to learn. 
For example, In French "Je suis" means "I am" and if you want to say "you are" informally, it becomes  "tu es."  Just like in English we say "I am," "you are," "he is," etc. But in Turkish, the subject's suffix determines if it means "I am" or "you are" etc.  So, "I am a teacher" becomes "Ben öğretmenim."  Teacher = öğretmen, but the "am" is the suffix, "im."  But if you want to say "You are a teacher" in the formal way, it becomes "Siz öğretmensiniz."  And if you want to say "you are a teacher" in the informal way, it becomes "sin öğretmensin."  See how the suffix changes?  But wait, it gets more confusing.  Suffixes change for my, your, his/her/it, ours and theirs, too.  So to say "your teacher" it becomes "Senin öğretmenin,"  or just "öğretmenin."  See, a new suffix. 
All this is to say that my brain is swimming in suffixes right now and I just left my tutoring session feeling like a total idiot because I keep forgetting the difference in "my teacher" and "I am a teacher."  But learning a new language is hard and I will just keep trying, I guess.  Baby steps, right?
Oh, and to any of you fluent Turkish speakers out there, I apologize if I screwed up my explanation above.  I was confusing myself as I typed this!
Now I get to tackle my homework.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Christmas in March?

Our HHE arrived last Friday, and boy oh boy, Christmas in March doesn't even begin to describe the excitement.  Our household effects took longer than expected because of a freakishly freak incident that happened with our diplomatic passports (an incident I obviously can't blog about) so when we got word that our stuff was finally on it's way, my heart did a little happy dance. 

Waiting for the truck to be unloaded.
Sure, sure, I know our HHE are only things, but it's those things that make a house our home.  And well, this place just hasn't felt like a home since we got here.  For starters, this apartment is three times bigger than any place S and I have ever lived in, so the open space combined with the empty bookshelves and barren white walls made it feel all the more empty and lonely.  Don't get me wrong, I love this place.  It's amazing and I am so grateful to live here.  But I am so, so happy to finally have all our stuff so I can put the finishing touches on it to make it OURS...for the next two years, at least. 
The unpacking and organizing is about 90% complete, with just a few minor things that still need to be done.  One of the most important is getting our art work hung throughout the apartment.  Someone from the consulate will be coming to take care of it next week, so I need to figure out where I want to hang everything before they get here.  Apparently we aren't allowed to do it ourselves (I did not know this!) but since the walls are thick concrete and we don't have tools to deal with concrete anyway, we wait. Patiently...

The first load hauled up over the balcony.
But, new bedding has been purchased for the guest rooms, new dishes are put away and E finally has his old crib back, which will soon be transformed into a toddler bed.  Oh, and his toys.  I can't forget about the toys.  For some reason I don't remember him having so many when we moved, but there they all are, begging to be played with. So far he is loving it and has actually been doing a lot of playing.   Curious George and Caillou are on the back burner for now.
And S and I have our books!  Want to know what happens when two book lovers fall in love, get married and move in together?  Their books move in too.  S and I have been purging our book collection since we met 6 years ago.  At first it was because we were trying to cram everything into a tiny, one bedroom apartment.  Then after we moved into our two bedroom place a few years later, our "library" needed to become E's nursery, so we purged again.  Then we found out we were moving and disposed of even more books.  And yet we still have so many.  Just how many books did we ship all the way from New York you ask?  Twenty-two boxes full, that's how many.  Yes, I counted.  When your movers keep saying "çok kitap" (lots of books) as they haul yet another heavy box through the door, you tend to get a little self-conscious.  But opening those boxes and seeing the books we haven't seen since July was heavenly. Just like Christmas.

In the process of putting away...a few rogue books that hadn't made it to the bookshelf.
Of course we did make a few funny discoveries during the course of our unpacking.  We can now say we shipped an empty coffee can, a baby wipes canister with exactly one, dried up baby wipe inside, and not one but two take-out menus from our favorite Thai and Indian restaurants in Brooklyn.  I can see all that coming in handy while we're here, don't you?
I will be posting some before and after shots of our apartment once everything is 100%, so stay tuned.  Or not, up to you.  I just know that I love being a voyeur when it comes to this sort of thing, so I figured I would return the favor to all you other voyeurs out there.  And because Mom, I know you're dying to see how clean we're keeping the place.  Don't worry, the mess in the above picture was picked up in no time.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

For The Sake of Education

We have had a couple of very important visitors these past two weeks.  S and I have doted on them and given them the VIP treatment.  E has played with them, laughed with them, and even given them sweet hugs and kisses.  They have had the privilege of traveling all over Adana, which has been great fun for us all.  But sadly, our guests will go home this week and we will miss them.  However,  we will always remember the wonderful times we had. 
Who are our very important and distinguished guests you ask?  Well, Flat A and Flat B, of course. 
Allow me to explain.  My twin nieces, A & B, are learning about Flat Stanley this year, which means their 2nd grade class is participating in their very own Flat Stanley adventure. 
For those of you unfamiliar with the Flat Stanley story, it is about a boy who becomes flattened by a bulletin board and then gets mailed all over the world while taking photographs of his travels.  For the school  project, each kid in my neices' class made their own Flat Stanleys and mailed them to friends and relatives all over the world.  Those friends and family members in turn took pictures of the "Flat Kids" in their exotic locations and then sent the photographs back to the class.  Some kids went to California, others went to Alaska.  My neices' Flat Kids, Flat A and Flat B, came here to Adana.  They were the only Flat Kids sent overseas, so their adventures will be extra special and informative, we hope. 
First Flat A took a little time to read the Turkish newspapers...
Then Flat B took a stroll over to the park (Merkez Camii) and Sabanci mosque to look around...
Then they both headed over to the Consulate to see what work needed to be done.  They had important meetings with the Prez and Vice Prez...

Then they sat in on meetings to discuss Turkish and American relations...

The next day, I took them to the market for a bit of shopping.  They bought some yumurta (eggs)...
Negotiated the price of some marul (lettuce)...
And then took a snack break to enjoy some Aryan and simit.  Yum!

We had other adventures, but I'll save those photos for their class.  In the meantime, check out that view!  I think they had fun and I know they can't wait to tell the class about their trip!