Category Archives: Explore!

Travel Tips Ep: 1

Wow, where has March gone? I wasn’t expecting it to go quite so fast! The weather in Istanbul is AMAZING this week! It is absolutely gorgeous and is making me want to break out the summer clothes and go on an adventure! Which . . . by the way is what this month’s blog posts are supposed to be about, but apparently they have been off adventuring as well!

I love to travel, and I have been blessed with the opportunity to travel to some cool places. Sometimes we travel because we want to, and sometimes we travel because we have to. But regardless, we generally always love it, whether it is for work or pleasure. Along the ways, I’ve learned a few things that have helped me enjoy traveling even more. Today, I’m going to share a couple of “Before You Go” tips for traveling.

blog2Before You Go:

1. Packing: okay. So, I don’t really think you need a whole lot of help in this department, but my biggest advice is to go light, especially if you are traveling outside of America! Once you get outside of the States (in my experience, anyway) you dramatically increase your amount of walking and carrying and changing transportation!! So, I have found a rolling suitcase that rolls, has handles, and also has backpack strips that zip into the back. I love this, because it is a good size (the size of a carry-on rolling bag), but it can expand and it is so easy to carry. I also recommend packing light, and packing more tops than bottoms. Jeans are versatile, and tops are what you notice more in pictures!! Don’t forget to put your liquids and toiletries in appropriate bags according to the guidelines of whichever country you are traveling in.

2. Planning: What I like to do when traveling to a new place is to look up all of the attractions in the area, and then consult with your fellow travelers and rank that top 3-5 things you REALLY want to do. One thing that Jeremy and I have done before that was helpful was to make a list of all of the attractions and then make notes about the price of entrance and what was there. We then marked our top 3 or so and made sure to hit those, but then we could easily see which other things would suit our schedule and budget and do those as well when we had free time. By planning this way, we were able to feel like we got what we wanted out of our trip without either wasting time or not enjoying attractions because we didn’t have enough time.

*Side note: If you have a mobile device, you should definitely search in your app store for the city you are visiting. You may be surprised at how many free app guides there are out there!!

3. Preparing: This is a huge thing that can totally change how much you enjoy your trip. Jeremy and I love this stage!! When we figure out where we are going, we like to find ways to learn more about the history, culture, and people of that area. Some of our favorite ways to do that are to read novels or books about the area and listen to podcasts. One of our favorite podcast series to find little known facts about different places around the world is Stuff You Missed in History Class.

*Another side note: Although this tip was geared towards ways to mentally prepare yourself to really enjoy your trip, I’d also make a point to check out how to get around the city where you are going. If you come to Istanbul, for example, you need to have a travel card or it is going to be ROUGH! So, I would check into these things before traveling: 

  • currency and conversion rate
  • cultural expectations (are their rules that you must follow?
  • travel – how can you get around?
  • learn a few travel phrases! My top suggestions: “Please,” “Thank you,” “Hello/Good morning/Good afternoon,” and “Excuse me.”
  • check to see if where you are traveling has a consulate or embassy and whether or not you should register with them. (For example, there are some places in the world that are currently more dangerous for traveling but you can sign up for updates from the embassy and also let them know that you are in the country.)
  • check whether or not you need a visa, if you can buy it at the border, and how much it is. (Also keep in mind that a lot of times you will have to pay for visas and other documents with your home country currency, not the currency of the country where you are traveling.)

Okay, and finally, my top two sites to help you out in the preparation stages of your traveling:

  • momondo.com: This is my personal favorite for finding plane tickets. 
  • tripadvisor: This site has lots of information about hotels and activities to do almost anywhere in the world.

Where are you going next? I’m going to Vienna!!

The Culture of Public Transportation . . .

I’ve been considering ways I’ve changed since moving to Turkey recently. I guess part of it is just being reflective, having a lot of standing and thinking time on the bus, and one of my Master’s classes is focused on culture this semester. So, I thought I’d share some of these things with you . . . perhaps someone will find them interesting.

My current observations have to do with public transportation since I have spent a substantial amount of time recently utilizing it. I must say that when I was growing up, I never envisioned myself running down the road, flagging a guy driving a short bus and desperately hoping he would wait for me. And since moving here, I’ve been surprised that this morning he did wait for me!

I also never really foresaw getting my foot shut in the door of a minibus and my shoe falling off in the process.

But what started all of these observations about my new public transportation using identity was the other day when I got onto a bus and was absolutely thrilled that I got a “good standing spot.” That is definitely something I never anticipated. I hadn’t really prepped myself for standing for an entire 45 – 60 minute trip to school, and since adjusting to that, I have now categorized all the different places in the buses by their degree of ease for the stander. This usually includes whether or not there is something to lean against, or a waist high bar to grab onto as opposed to have to reach 2 feet above your head to hold the rail. There are a couple of buses that have these select corners by the windows, and those are the absolute best, because you barely have to hold on, you can just lean into the corner.

So, I will say that there is quite a culture to public transportation, and I am not native in it for sure, but I think I’m getting there.

How do you get to work each morning?

A Fire-Eater Sat on my Lap . . .

Well, we head out again tomorrow. This time to Texas, then from there driving to PA through a series of pit-stops. Should be lots of fun!! We’re excited. But, in the midst of all of this, I have realized that my aspirations of posting regularly and of good quality have not been coming true. I’m not sure if it is due to lack of time or motivation, or just not feeling like I have much worth writing about at the moment. Whatever it is . . . it is.

I do however have a short story to share with you. I had planned to share it on Friday, but then I posted a review for Tyndale on Friday, and I started realizing that even with some stretching my story wasn’t going to be very long. So, here it is.

Basically, a fire-eater sat on my lap and ate fire.

That’s the gist of it. We were enjoying an awesome cultural evening during our time in Senegal which was complete with traditional music and dancing. Then, all of the sudden, out comes a fire-eater (which I have only ever heard tell of and have never witnessed before). He began with some dancing with fire, then a little bit of blowing fire, then rubbing fire up and down his arms and legs. My teammate got to hold his little bowl of coals while he was doing something early on in his show, and I thought to myself “Wow, cool, she got to be a part of his show!” (read: a little jealous).

Next thing, Mr. Fire-eater has two long sticks with what looks like flaming marshmallows on the ends (but, they weren’t marshmallows, just for the record.) He dances around a little and then goes and sits on some lady and starts eating the flaming things off of the stick. Then . . . next thing I know . . . he is sitting on MY lap, eating flaming things off of his stick! So, please, any of you with similar experiences – what reaction does this warrant? I was not completely sure what to do, but I guess that was okay, because sitting there looking terrified seemed to be sufficient.

Jealousy was gone. A little bit of awkward giggliness was in its place. But it was one of the coolest experiences of my life.

Too Long . . .

It has been far too long!! I’m sorry for the delay. Things like family vacations, African fevers, and directing summer camps have gotten in the way of blogging recently 🙂

I’m going to try and jump right back into my normal schedule, and I’m excited to share a book review with you on Wednesday of a book by a Turkish author. I’m planning on finishing it tonight or tomorrow, and then will be able to review that one and there are a few other good books that I am excited to share with you over the next couple of weeks.

And on Friday . . . oh boy, have I got stories to share!! I think that most likely I will share the story of the fire eater this Friday. That was a new experience for me! The past few weeks have been amazing and crazy and busy and fast and . . . yeah. I can’t fit it all into a little blog post, but I’ll give you the quick overview.

July 9-16 – we conducted an English camp and teacher training workshop in Senegal. Many stories and memories and friendships to share about that in the coming weeks! That was an incredible journey, and I am so glad to have been a part of it!

20120730-160803.jpg

The next week was a lot of travel and both of us contracted a bug somewhere along the line, so we would like to just forget those few days. I don’t think much of consequence took place . . .

Last week we had the opportunity to spend the week with my family at a beach house in the Outer Banks. We really enjoyed the time to chill, spend time with my young nephews, and spend some time in the water. It was a great week, and reminded me how thankful I am for my family.

Right now we are spending a couple of days in Greenville, and tomorrow night we head to Denver to spend some time with Jeremy’s family. This summer time is always really exciting though really busy for us, but it is so good to spend time with people who care about us and miss us when we’re away.

Well, that’s all for now!! Fingers crossed . . . I’ll be back by Wednesday!! Have a great week!

What Have I Been Up To?

Well . . . I’ll tell you.

1. Rejoicing greatly in the resurrection of Jesus Christ!!

2. Adventuring in Thessoloniki. Beautiful! Good food, beautiful sea, really chill people. Great vacation.

3. Getting slightly (read sarcasm, please) hooked on a pretty amazing book series. But . . . you’ll have to wait til Wednesday for that!

4. School.

5. Shopping.

6. Loving being in love with my best friend!

Memories

Sometimes, memories are my worst nemesis, and sometimes my greatest ally. But, recently, I’ve gone through some memories since my husband and I got married, and they always make me smile. Memories like climbing minarets, climbing mountains, swimming in the Mediterranean, getting major upgrades on airplanes and hotels because we smiled, wandering into soccer games on multiple continents, floating down the Euphrates watching shooting stars, almost missing planes, climbing towers wherever we can, drinking a little bit too much coke, watching the sunrise in Africa, and the sunset in America . . . pretty much enjoying life. I thought I’d give you a little peek at the some of the adventures we’ve had in 2011.

Have a great Sunday!

Back from the holiday . . .

So, we just got back around 2:30 this morning from our holiday in the Aegean region of Turkey. It was gorgeous!! It was so nice to be able to travel around, see some different landmarks, and enjoy the beautiful seaside. We had an amazing time. But, I will say that I’m a bit tired, and hope that tomorrow will be a relaxing day as I head back to school on Monday.

I just wanted to share a few pictures here, but you can see more on Facebook.

Also, I wanted to send out one more reminder about the $10 Amazon gift card giveaway. It’s open until Sunday night! Just click here, and you can find all of the rules and such!


I’m excited to be able to start posting again, and hope to get into a regular pattern with some of my posts. Leave a comment with anything you’d like to read about/see on here. Looking forward to writing for you soon!!

Life Lately – August 11th

So . . . I’ve mostly been posting poems lately as part of my 30 day challenge. That’s been good and all, but usually they are late at night and I am using up the very last ounces of my creativity to churn one out and then hit the sack. 🙂

Well, I realized tonight that I haven’t actually written about life recently. So, here’s a quick update on what’s been going on.

Well, we’ve been out here in Colorado for the last three weeks with my husband’s family. It has been a good time. I love Colorado, and we’ve been able to enjoy quite a bit of it! Jeremy and I went up to the mountains just the two of us a couple of weeks ago, then we went to Colorado Springs with his parents and two sisters, and just this last weekend we went camping with his brother, sisters, and some friends. It’s been great!

Other than that, we’ve been mostly running errands and gearing up to head back to Istanbul in just 11 hours now! I’m super excited to be headed back and get back into teaching. I’m starting to get anxious to get back to some responsibilities!

We’ll be starting our journey at 12:50 on Thursday, and we should arrive in Istanbul shortly after 5:00 on Friday evening. So, it’ll definitely be a long day or two, but it’ll be nice to get “home.” The pictures in this post are all from our camping trip up near Boulder, CO. We had fun cooking out, four-wheeling, and just hanging around the campfire trying to stay warm.

I probably won’t be posting for a couple of days, but I’ll be writing my poems for my challenge anyway and will post them as soon as I can. And, hopefully I’ll have some pictures and stories for you coming up in the next couple of weeks.

In the meantime . . . check out my book over in the Amazon store!

Life Lately

So, what have I been up to while I haven’t been writing? Oh . . .

just hanging out in the mountains . . . swimming . . . reading . . . eating fish ‘n’ chips . . . climbing a mountain . . . teaching my husband how to eat heads or tails Oreos . . . exploring a cave . . . finishing a sewing project . . .

you know . . . stuff like that.

see the summit? we climbed up there!!
snow!!
made it!
hmmm . . . super cool trail hiking guide

Columbine
he got that one while driving . . . i was under a polo trying to ward off a headache
in the Cave of the Winds!

They Know No Love

I posted this picture yesterday and asked if anyone knew what was going on, or if you were even curious. Sadly, I do not remember this boy’s name specifically, but he might have been Samba, Amadou, Oseina, or one of the scores of other little boys I met in Senegal, West Africa. One thing I do remember for sure, though, is that this little boy is a talibe boy. I remember that he has no one to hug him when he is sick or to wipe the blood off of his legs when the sores open up. I remember that he runs around the city finding people to give him their leftover food. I remember that he always asked me for money every time I walked by him. I remember that older boys beat him if he was not doing what they wanted him to do.

Senegal, like many countries in Africa and the Middle East, is an Islamic country. Therefore, it is of a very high value for the children to study the Koran and learn to recite it in its original language. These are very noble pursuits. I am not Muslim, but I respect someone who is striving to learn what they believe and who takes their faith seriously. In Senegal, therefore, it became very popular and good for children to go to Koranic school to memorize the Koran. This practice has been happening for years. Where this practice becomes a problem is when the shift changes from studying your faith to exploiting your children. Boys from villages all over Senegal are sent by their parents to a big city in order to study the Koran at a Koranic school. However, there are so many boys that it is believed the Koranic schools cannot afford to pay for all of them. Hence, the boys that are sent to the Koranic schools are put in rags, given buckets, and sent out to beg for hours at a time. The rest of their time is spent memorizing the Koran. People claim that it is good for the boys to learn how to beg. It is good for them to learn how to make it with nothing. But, what good is it really when a high percentage of these boys run away and end up on the street or in jail?

The highlight of meeting these boys for me was to get them to put down their buckets and play football or keep-away – remind them to be kids again for a while. I loved seeing them smile, and having them pile around my shoulders when I taught them a few words in English. I loved seeing their eyes light up when I gave them a wet wipe to clean off their faces, or when we handed them some leftover gumballs. I loved tickling them and hearing them giggle, and then turning around and catching them right before they tickled me. They are kids. They need love.

Some Links about the Talibe:

Irin Global: Senegal

World Vision Canada – Questions and Answers

Sustainable Development Group International: Talibe Trailer

Jollofnews: Human Rights Watch scolds Senegal over Talibe