Sunday, September 28, 2014

Freak Storms

The weather here in Adana has always been pretty predictable.  At least it always seemed that way. Summers are blazing hot with nary a rain cloud in sight.  Winters are mild, with warm days and cool nights.  Then there is the in between phase around mid-October where it starts to rain again, particularly in the afternoons.  A strong thunderstorm crops up here and there, reminiscent of storms where I grew up in the Southern US.  They can be strong and quick, and will sometimes flood the streets temporarily.

But the storms started earlier this year.  We started getting (very welcomed) cooler temps in early September.  But those cooler temps brought on the rain too.  And yesterday's strorm was a real show stopper.

Around 3:30pm I noticed that it had gotten really dark outside.  D was in his exersaucer in the kitchen while S and I prepped for the dinner party we were hosting later that night.  E was watching cartoons in the living room.  Our kitchen window was open and a breeze was coming in. Then my ears popped.  I made an off-hand comment to S about my ears popping and said, "if I didn't know better, I would think there's a tornado coming."  Then the lights flickered.  I went in the den to check on E.  From the front window I could see that the sky was green.

I'm no expert, but I know a green sky is bad news.

The wind picked up.  I stepped out onto the balcony and this is what I saw in the distance.

Yes, folks.  That would be a tornado.  

I shouted for S to come look and he and E followed me out onto the balcony.  We were a safe enough distance away but all of a sudden, the rain started coming in sideways, the wind started hammering everything around us, and we bolted back inside.  E was giddy but also a little nervous as S and I stared out the window and watched this monster move quickly across the sky. 

I texted our friends in the building and told them to look out the window.  One friend responded and said she was taking photos as well.  The other, unfortunately, was at the air base and could not see it. I say unfortunately, because that tornado was quickly headed in her direction.  I texted her the photo and told her to get prepared.  I received a text from her ten minutes later with a picture attached.  It was her van, completely covered by a fallen tree with two windows smashed out.  The base had been hit (indirectly or directly, I still don't know) and trees were uprooted and tossed around like toys. Luckily, no one was hurt.  

As quickly as it started, it was over.  Less than five minutes later there were double rainbows.  

Pictures and videos have started to surface online.  Someone posted a video to this Facebook page this morning and I find it to be absolutely amazing yet terrifying at the same time.  Mother nature is truly a powerful thing to behold, no matter where you are in the world.  

It's raining again today.  The thunder and lightning woke us up.  Lets just hope no more tornadoes crop up!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Walking the Red Carpet

Last Tuesday a group of consulate ladies and I attended the opening ceremony for the 21st Annual Altin Koza Film Festival here in Adana.  Altin Koza is an annual week-long event that show cases the talents of film makers and actors from around Turkey.  From what I have heard, it is dubbed "the Oscars of Adana" and many famous people were in attendance.  Of course, I am not fully up to date on my Turkish pop culture, so I didn't know about 99% of the celebrities there, but I am told they are very popular.  

Of course, in a sea of every day people, celebrities tend to stand out, so even though I didn't know who they were, I knew they were a big deal when a) they arrived done up to the nines, complete with fancy dresses and professionally applied make-up, b) people started screaming and clapping and c) people nearly climbed over one another to get a photo.

We were given tickets as a thank you gesture for helping the festival's director find an American film maker/writer/director to attend. The public affairs officer asked me to help because of my "connections" in NYC and L.A.  (Full disclosure: I really don't know anyone.  I just know a lot of people who know people, and thankfully they were willing to help a friend out). Anyway, I helped the consulate get in touch.  Of course, a lot of them had to turn it down due to previous commitments, but one guy--a friend of a friend who I had actually never met, but who writes scripts for major Hollywood productions--agreed to come.  He was originally going to present an award, but he ended up walking the red carpet and sitting in the audience with us.  He later taught writing and film workshops for the rest of the week, which he found quite enjoyable.  In fact, he had a blast.  We all did.

We were told to wear formal(ish) attire, so a few of us went shopping earlier that week.  We discovered this great little boutique near our apartment that sold the absolute cutest and stylish dresses at unbelievable prices.  We all bought dresses and I even found something for the Marine Ball in November.  Then we showed up, walked the red carpet and even fooled the photographers into thinking we were American celebrities.  That was funny because they kept telling us to pose and we just went along with it.  Why not, right?

The outdoor ceremony lasted about 2 hours and then we all filed back to the nearby hotel for the after party.  All the celebs were there and even an American celeb was randomly there.  She was a certain actress from The O.C. who I had to Google later because even though the name sounded familiar, I couldn't place her.  Turns out, there was a reason why I didn't recognize her---she looks completely different than she did during that show!  I forget that people grow up and mature.  She was no longer a spindly teenager, but a grown woman.  

Our Turkish friends ogled the Turkish celebs and even took the time to explain to us who they were. A famous porn star (!!), a Sophia Loren/Jane Fonda type lady who I was absolutely fascinated by (this woman oozed class, I'm telling you) and an actor who became well-known for always playing the villain on-screen.  We got a photo with him because my friends thought it would be hilarious. Judging by the reactions they received from their friends after posting the photo to Facebook, they were right.  

So, after a fun-filled evening of rubbing elbows with Turkey's finest celebs, we called it a night.  And what a fun night it was.  I wish I could go again next year, but alas, we will be in Bogota.  I just might have to get tickets to a Colombian film festival instead.  

Right before we hit the red carpet.  

The red carpet.  I did not realize this photo was being taken, lol  

After the ceremony.

Posing with the evil villain

Friday, September 19, 2014

Half-Marathon Complete!

S and I ran the Incirlik Air Base half-marathon last Saturday.  This was the race I had been training for since giving birth to D back in May.  My goal was simply to finish, and preferably not dead last. And I am happy to report, I reached my goal!

The race started at 6:00 a.m., which meant we had to be out the door and on the road by 5:15.  Our nanny, God bless her, arrived at 5:00 a.m. to watch the boys.  I knew the turnout would be small because the air base itself is rather small.  But I did not expect it to be so small.  I didn't get a complete count, but I would estimate there were only about 30 runners out there.  And some of them were doing the relay, so therefore not running the full 13.1 miles. 

We started on time and I set off on an easy pace.  S gave me a quick peck on the cheek and then promptly left me in the dust.  But no bother, I'm used to that during races.  He and I love to train together, but when the time comes to really do your best, S goes for it.  I settled back with a few other ladies who were about the same pace as me.  One lady was this amazing Dutch woman who I swear was part camel.  As I veered into the first water station at mile 3, she kept on running, stretching the distance between us a good bit.  When she breezed right on through the second and then third water station without stopping, I knew she was going to out-run me.  I mean, seriously, who can run that far without stopping for water?  Part camel, I tell ya.  Pretty soon she was so far ahead of me that she was out of my eye line, and I don't know for sure, but I think she finished about 15 minutes ahead of me.  I out-ran the other girl who had been pacing with me, though, so that felt a bit rewarding.  

There was a turnaround at the midway point.  I saw S running toward me, a good 40 minutes ahead of me by my calculations.  Then, later on, I spotted his colleague and our dear friend, J.  I did a quick estimation in my head and figured he was about 1.5 miles ahead of me.  He had jokingly told me at the start of the race that he would be embarrassed if I beat him because "you just had a baby!"  When he passed me at the turnaround, he yelled for me to slow down because I was catching up.  I thought, there is no way I can catch up to him, he's a good 1.5 miles ahead of me.  So I just zoned out and continued to run. 

Then, with about 3.5 miles left to go, I spotted J's blue shirt in the distance.  "Wow, I've really closed the gap," I thought.  But I still wasn't sure it was him.  So, as I cruised through a water station that he had just been through, I asked. "Does that guy have on a blue shirt with George Washington on the front?"   "Yes," they replied, "And he said he's trying to beat you, so get going! Catch him!"  

So, I picked up the pace.  I could see the gap getting smaller and smaller.  He was within shouting distance, so I yelled, "I got you in my sights, J!  You better get a move on!"  He was struggling, I could tell, but he was determined to not get beat by a girl.  And a girl who had just had a baby, at that. So, he picked up his pace.  I picked up mine.  Then, we both realized we were about to throw up, so we dialed it back a bit.  

About 1 mile from the finish, I saw S walking toward me.  He had clearly finished the race and had doubled back to find me.  He stopped to taunt his buddy a bit, "Dude, my wife is right at your heels!" And then he ran with me the rest of the way to the finish.  At about the 600 yard mark, I started to pump my legs faster.  I was determined to beat J.  But of course just as I pumped it, he pumped it too. He was really moving fast and I was trying desperately to catch him.  S was coaching me, encouraging me to keep going strong.  In the end though, I did not.  I dialed it back for fear that I would puke my way across the finish line.  But what had been a good 1.5 mile/15 minute gap at the mid-way point, turned into a barely 30 second victory for J.  "Next time, I will catch you!" I shouted as I crossed the finish and saw him collapsed in exhaustion near the water table. 

My final time was 2:22:30.  It was my slowest half-marathon, but it was not as bad as I was expecting.  I was quite proud of it, actually.  The weather had a lot to do with my time, though, as it has been getting cooler here (finally) and a 6 o'clock start time meant that the sun was barely up nearly one hour into the race.  And I didn't finish last.  There were about 6 ladies running together who came in about 30 minutes behind me.  Oh, and S finished fourth.  Overall.  His time was 1:41 and some change. Damn over achiever. 

Now it is time to just focus on the joy of running without the training pressure.  Then, once we are back in the states, we may just sign up for a race in NYC while we're on home leave.  S and I used to run for New York Road Runners in Central Park, so we are itching to do another race while we're there.  We shall see!

ETA: Yes, I do realize camels really don't store water in their humps.  It's just an expression.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Horseback Riding at Guney Binicilik

Saturday, we rounded up some friends and went horseback riding.  I had read about this place recently and we wanted to check it out.  

Guney Binicilik (South Horse Riding) is located about 25 minutes from our home, down a long, dusty road that runs parallel to one of the many canals in Adana.  We drove through fields of cotton to get there--I never even realized they grew cotton here--and arrived at the ranch just in time for lunch.  This place recently opened within the last year, and for a decent price, it offers lunch with a view of the horses, stables and riding area.  We got to pet the horses when we first arrived.  

E was loving this guy--Light was his name.

Then we ate a pleasant meal, which was quite enjoyable with a warm breeze and ice cold lemonades. This was our view from our table. 

The adults in our group could have sat there and chatted for hours, but the kids were growing restless, so after lunch we promptly headed out to ride.  For 10TL (about $5) the kids got to ride a pony around three times, and the adults got to ride a horse.  Not all of the adults rode, but all the kids did.  

First, we tried to get E on the pony.  He was so excited and absolutely wanted to go first.  Oh yes he did!  And this is what happened when we tried to put the riding helmet on his head.  

Then we thought, "okay, just put him on the horse then put the helmet on."  But this is what happened when we tried that.

Clearly, in all his excitement to ride a pony, he didn't quite think out the reality of it.  It was high up, it was scary and he was not. riding. a. pony. Nope.  Not gonna do it. So, we let the other kids go instead.

Of course, after seeing his friends out there riding like pros, E decided he wanted to try again.  And again, there were tears and screaming.  I was trying to push him in the nicest and most nurturing way possible, but he wasn't listening to mommy.  And juuuust as we were about to call it a day, our friend swooped in with this little gem, "Hey E, if you ride that pony, you get to go back to school on Monday and brag to all your friends about it." And that, dear readers, was enough to end the drama and get that kid to ride.  Here is that moment, captured below.

Our friend in the green shirt, and a smile starting to creep across E's face.
E loves to tell stories, so I'm sure the idea of going back to tell his friends all about his pony ride pretty much eliminated his fear.  So, up he got and off he rode. With daddy by his side, of course.

Look at that wave!
Of course, in an effort to show E that there was nothing to be scared of, I had purchased a ticket to ride the horse.  I was hoping he would forget once our friend calmed him down and he was happily riding, but nope.  "Mommy, come ride with me!" he cried out.  So, I did what I had to do.  Despite my obviously inappropriate riding attire (shorts and sandals, hello), I mounted the horse and rode off behind E.  It was quite fun though, and I'm glad I did it. 

Then I let D get his crack at pony riding.  I kid, I kid.  But I did let him get up close and personal with my horse for this cute photo op.

We ended up having a great day.  All the kids are begging for riding lessons now, though.  We'll see how that turns out!

Friday, September 5, 2014

My Boys

These boys are getting bigger every day.  It feels like just yesterday we were finding out that I was pregnant with D, and now here he is at four months old.

E was just a sweet little guy still in diapers when we moved to Turkey, and now here we are with four months left go, and he is suddenly a little boy.  He talks like a grown man, saying "actually" this and "actually" that all day long.  "Actually, I think I have a better idea."  Where has the time gone?  And when did he become so grown up?  

His latest obsession: space.
I have since ordered him a more age appropriate book from Amazon.

And D? Well, someone needs to tell that kid to slow down.  Where E was always a very verbal and vocal baby, D is very physical and active.  He's been rolling over since he was eight weeks old, which I originally thought was a fluke, but nope.  And now here he is scooting forward and trying to crawl y'all. I can't leave him alone on his play mat for even a minute before he's rolled himself over and pushed himself onto the tile.  Slow it down guys.  Mommy wants to treasure these moments!  

As for brotherly love, these two are beyond adorable.  E insists on having me wait to wake up D every morning so he can get his stool and be the first to peak his head over the top of the crib to say good morning.  The smile on D's face when he sees him is priceless.  D loves to watch his brother play, and E even sometimes, when he's in the mood, shares his toys with him.  I love these two kiddos.  I can't wait for the teenage years when they're all angsty and annoyed with each other and eating me out of house and home.  Oh wait, yes I can.  I absolutely can. When that happens, I'll just look back on these photos and remember how sweet and adorable they were.  

"Mwuaaahhh, I'm going to eat your face!" 

"Come here kid.  I'm still bigger than you."