Tuesday, February 28, 2012

An Economic School Assembly

At 12:55 today I learned that I would not have my 4th graders for class. Grades 3 - 5 were meeting for an assembly at 1:00 p.m. in the Conference Hall on the 5th floor. Many thoughts raced through my head: 1) Yeah, now I don't have to write lessons plans for tomorrow...2) Maybe there will be some fun music or dance to entertain us... 3)Maybe the principal is finally going to crack down on discipline... or 4)Maybe something really bad happened and that's why we learned about this assembly 5 minutes before the start...Whatever the reason for the assembly, I was happy that one of my most difficult yet cutest 4th grade boys invited me to sit beside him. I wouldn't appear "unpopular" among the sea of noisy students.

I settled into my chair, pulled out my notebook to jot down words to look up later and prepared to have fun. Seated at a table on the stage were 2 men and 1 women. (No puppets, musical instruments, science experiments, nothing.) However, there was a Power Point slide open on the screen and I thought to myself, "Oh good. Some visuals." They really help me with my comprehension. I slowly read through the paragraph of text (way too many words for a title page I thought to myself ) but I was able to pick out the word "economik". I figured that its meaning might be close to "economic" or "money" or something like that. Then I looked around at the 300 + students ages 10 - 12 who were throwing spit wads, pencils, water bottles (a teacher finally stopped that one) and paper, and I tried to imagine what could possibly be interesting about "economik" to this particular audience..My mind drew a blank but I was keeping an open mind because I'm never sure about my translations and I didn't have my dictionary.

Several minutes later, the woman rose to speak. She welcomed the teachers, the students, the staff, the friends, the principal, the business manager, the assistant principal, etc. to the presentation and thanked us for being there...relatively short and sweet and to the point. And, I understood it all.

Then speaker number two began to speak. He welcomed all the same people for being there in the same order and with the same amount of graciousness but he read everything from a well- used, dog eared notebook. And then he continued to read from this same notebook for about 15 minutes. I was feebly trying to do the international ssshhh sign to the understandably bored students. Most of the teachers were texting on their cell phones and the principal was struggling to be the lone disciplinarian. As soon he passed, they started up with the noise, the throwing, the kicking again. Speaker number two, even though I understand little of what he said, was a really bad, really boring reader. I don't think his nose ever left his well-loved notebook. After he finished with his "thank you, thank you very much, again, thank you" we, the audience, struggled to wake ourselves up with clapping.

Next to the microphone was speaker number three. Things were looking up. He brought along the remote control for the slide show and advanced the slide to our first picture, a collage of transmission lines, bridges, parks, and buses. OK, so I'm trying to relate "economic" to "public works" and my brain is thinking 1) this is a Rotary Club presentation by the city managers or 2)this is a Kiwanas Club presentation by the city managers or 3) both clubs already have speakers for today, so why not stop by a school.

At this point the speaker is fast forwarding through all the financial slides (there are no more pictures) until he comes to a slide with some big numbers. Don't quote me on this but it was something like 3,499,000,000tl to 4,500,000,000tl. Based upon the order of the numbers, I would guess that there might be a shortage of about 100,000,000 tl. And based upon the one word (taxes) that appeared on every slide and the dates (27 February - 9 March) I think the assembly was to tell kids that it is National Pay Your Taxes week and that the students should go home and remind their parents to pay their taxes so that they can drive across the bridges, use electricity from the power lines, and play in the parks. And he was really polite about it: thank you, thank you very much, again, thank you and thank you all. (in Turkish, or course.)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Review of a Turkish Blockbuster

In celebration of the Academy Awards, which I won't be able to watch live, I thought I'd try my first Turkish movie with no English subtitles. I chose Fetih 1453 because it's the biggest budget, biggest blockbuster in the Turkish film industry and I thought it might be fun to be part of this history. It opened last weekend and it's been a sell out on about 14 of the 18 screens in town and today was no exception. In preparation for seeing this film I read a brief five page history of the Battle of Constantinople hoping that would give me enough background of the battle to get the gist of the film. The cinematography, the handsome actors and beautiful actresses, and the scenes of 15th century Istanbul (then Constantinople) made the 2:45 minute film a worthwhile Sunday afternoon escape.

Watching this pre-battle preparations, especially the process of making the world's largest canon at that time in history by melting of the donated coins, pots, and broken shields of the Sultan's followers was very interesting. Seeing the thousands of arrows of the Sultan Muhammed II's 90,000 troops flying over the city walls to attack Constantine's 7000 soldiers plus 700 knights was epic. Considering the grossly outnumbered Byzantines it's pretty amazing they held on to the city for over 50 days.

For the hopeless romantic there are plenty of handsome, talented swordsmen with beautiful women at their sides to keep your attention. The Sultan's best swordsman/fighting companion spends the entire movie scantily clad in only chain mail vest or shirtless to show off his big muscles and sweat during the fighting scenes. He has a beautiful, intelligent woman at his side who just happens to also be coveted by Constantine's best knight. They both pine over her from different sides of the city wall. This girl is so intelligent that she cuts her hair beautiful, long hair so she can work by her father's side designing and shooting the amazing 27 foot long canon that pierced the canon walls. Her short hair doesn't get caught in the furnaces. The addition of the love triangle is actually one part of the story that I think strayed a bit from historical accuracy, especially when her swordsman dies at the end but she rubs her stomach to indicate she's probably pregnant by him, and I don't think they were married.

The scenes of 15th century Constantinople (now Istanbul) are beautiful and really put into perspective the ruins I've been seeing for the past five months. I didn't realize the city walls were actually three rows thick and had successfully defended the city for over 1100 years. As a matter of fact, they were holding up pretty well in this movie too and I think that's why the Sultan has to devise the good plan to have some of his 90,000 troops carry his ships across land and attack from the back of the city where the wall is less heavily guarded and he might have a better chance at winning the battle.

I was really enjoying the film until the director took a little too much artistic license at the end. First, the Sultan's handsome swordsman battled Constantine's best swordsman's for about 7 minutes. It was a good, albeit a little long, fight and they both survived more strikes than is humanly possible. But when the Sultan's swordsman finally prevails and then runs up to the rampart with the Sultan's flag, takes six arrows in his chest, and gets one glimpse of the beautiful female canon maker which, in turn, gives him enough energy to raise the flag and hold it up with his dead body, I stifled a giggle. And then at the end when the Sultan Mohammed II walks into the Hagia Sophia and finds thousands of women and children cowering in the corner but he reassures them that everything is going to be OK and he kisses a little girl and she kisses him back, I think there is some propaganda going on here. My history sources say that Turks actually went "berzerk." There was looting and pillaging, the 50,000 remaining citizens were enslaved and Eastern Christianity fell after more than 1,100 years.

So, if you like epic battles with handsome actors and actresses, great scenery, and a twist of history, then this film is for you. I give it 4 out of 5 swords.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Notes from my Turkish Kitchen

Choosing to cook or to eat out pose equally challenging problems but I usually opt for eating in to avoid the stares of a single woman dining alone in the almost entirely male dominated restaurants (except for the food court at the mall). But cooking presents its own problems.

Here are a few I've encountered in the past week:
1) Saran Wrap - It's like a nightmare trying to find the edge, cut a piece because the box doesn't have a metal strip, and to keep it from sticking into a giant snake before stretching it across a container.
2) Nesting containers with lids - Due to problem number 1, I bought a set only to walk home and discover that one of the lids is missing. I don't have time or the vocabulary to explain the problem and I know for a fact I took the last box on the counter.
3) Coffee Press - A random lid fell out of my cabinet and broke my Istanbul Starbucks coffee press the day after I bought 1 kilo of coffee. (2.2 pounds). And, the man who sold me the coffee was incredulous that I would buy a kilo of coffee for myself. I never thought it would be a problem.
4) Coffee Press # 2 - Found a coffee press at a designer kitchen store and splurged today. It would be a shame to waste the coffee. Walked the 45 minutes home from the mall only to discover that the pot in the nice gift pack they gave me is broken.
5) Baked my first chicken today in my little oven. (I usually cook on the stove top.) It sure made the house smell good. It still smells good. So do all the walls, the windows, the carpets, the door, the two drip pans in the oven, my clothes, the computer..you name it. Not only is this NOT a self-cleaning oven, I suspect that it's not properly vented oven either.
6) Cabinet door knobs - or lack thereof. The bolts are stripped so I just leave all the drawers cracked open.
7) Dish pan hands - Getting worse due to a)no microwave which leads to many extra pots to wash. b) no dishwasher c)empty bottle of hand lotion and lack of reading glasses (this is another story) to read the fine print at the store to find a new bottle of hand lotion.

But, behind every cloud there is a silver lining and here are today's:
1) Found some delicious brown bread at 5 Migros (Turkish Walmart) that will make excellent toast for breakfast tomorrow.
2) Have been gorging on delicious winter vegetables, broccoli and brussel sprouts ( I wonder if they're from Brussels?)
3) Have plenty of leftovers so I won't have to cook for several days.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Saying "No" Never Felt so Good

The quote "Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part" popped into my head when I said, "No, tomorrow is not possible." (Yok, yarin, in Turkish) to the director of the preschool when she hopped on our bus as it was heading home for the day, handed me the little kindergarten lesson plan form, and requested March's lesson plans be on her desk tomorrow.

Don't get me wrong. I don't mind completing the lesson plan form. And I could just copy word for word what is in the front of the kindergarten English text book like some of the other teachers do and call that a "plan." And they would probably be happy because the form had words on it and, as I often feel, the content really doesn't matter.

But, here's the deal. Last month I was given this same lesson plan form via email while I was on vacation between semester breaks and was asked to complete it (while I was on vacation) so the director could send the monthly letter out to the parents before the start of the new term. Heaven forbid the idea of factoring in a school vacation with an earlier due date. But, the old Penny, who never said "no" jumped right to the task. I spent over three hours writing those general (not even specific, yet) plans with weekly themes, planned vocabulary, support material, etc. and emailed them back on the same day.

On the Monday we returned to school, I walked in with detailed plans for the first week based on my rush-gotta-have-it-now order only to be told by the principal that I had been reassigned to kindergarten (because he had promised the parents that their children would have a native teacher). "No problem, " I said. "Are you @#$%$^ kidding me?" I thought. And hours of work went down the drain.

Later that morning I walked into a brand new class and punted. So... write lesson plans for March? I'm less than eager to get started. And, I have some real problems. First, I can't follow the book just yet, because the children have been taught English in Turkish, if that makes sense. Therefore, they know their colors but they have no classroom vocabulary. For example they can shout "green" but if I say "stand" I'm met with blank stares. Don't even get me started on the words "listen" and "look." Because they don't know classroom words in English, I can't say "open your book" until they know what a "book" is. This means the next couple of weeks are all about teaching English commands and nouns and direction words: "circle, line, sit, stand, glue, crayons, listen, jump, etc."

While writing this blog I been thinking about some of the traditional American kindergarten March ideas: 1) St. Patrick's Day (I could really enjoy a green beer). There are a couple of problems with this theme: shamrocks (shape of a cross), beer, and a saint to name a few. 2)March comes in and goes out like either a lion or a lamb..Now that could work. Tie that into "come in" and "go out" of the classroom as in, you can't "go out" of the classroom when the teacher locks the door from the outside. Or the English teacher can't "come in" when the door is locked. (These are real problems and real "safety concerns that I've voiced but nothing has changed.) Add to that a "lamb is a baby sheep" (family unit: big, little, mom, dad, baby) and I've almost got a month of plans.

OK, so I've got some ideas. But, just because I'm feeling a little annoyed, they won't get the plans tomorrow. "No" won't mean "no" if I cave in now.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Warm Drinking Water

I've noticed many of the people here (probably most) don't like cold drinking water. For example, if the store clerk pulls a water out of the cooler, he or she will roll the bottle between their hands to warm it up before handing it to the shopper. Then, the shopper does the same thing for a good few minutes. When the heat was off at our school and the water was REALLY cold, (and yummy, I might add) teachers would call down to the canteen, order a large tea glass full of boiling water, empty about 1/3 of the icy cold bottled water into the trash can, and pour an equal amount of boiling water into the bottle to warm it up.

I didn't think much of the quirk of warming the water until a conversation with one of my Turkish friends revealed that the people in Malatya are taught (and believe) from a young age that "cold water makes you sick." They also generally don't eat ice cream in the winter for the same reason. So on Saturday, when her son wanted an ice cream cone, she made him drink a sip of warm water after every bite of ice cream. However, she mentioned that her brother married someone who does not share the same concern about cold things and his kids drink water directly from a cold pitcher from the refrigerator and don't get sick. But that's because, she says, "their bodies were trained from a young age to accept cold water. My kids would get sick." Did I mention she is a doctor?

What made me decide to write about warm water was that sometime over the last five months, I've quit putting my water pitcher in the refrigerator. I wasn't even aware that I left my water on the counter until my American dinner quests, while helping me clean up the meal, headed straight to the 'frig and put the pitcher inside. Then my mind flashed to the rolling of bottles, adding of boiling water, and fear of getting sick. Come to think of it, I've never made an ice cube and now I drink warm water...In truth, I'm just being lazy.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day in Turkey

Today I filled my pockets with the Turkish equivalent of M & M's, pinned a homemade heart that read "Happy Valentine's Day" on my uniform, and plastered a smile on my face determined to make Valentine's Day fun and enjoyable. Here's how the day panned out:
1) Hopped on my school bus and said "Happy Valentine's Day" to the English teachers. I was met with blank stares so I made a heart with my fingers. "Oh" they replied. Then, "I don't believe in this day," and "I don't have a dear. (Turkish for boyfriend or sweetheart.)" and "Oh, I forgot."
2) Walked into the teacher's lounge. Looked for teachers wearing red or pink, gave my holiday greeting and got a couple of "thank yous."
3) Walked into my first, and least favorite, 2nd grade class. They were in the middle
of handing bundles of liras to their homeroom teacher and were very difficult to get under control. Tried some songs, Valentine vocabulary, repetition stuff, and it wasn't really working. Gave them the project to make a Valentine's card for their parents and rewarded every child who spoke in English with an M & M. The class got better and one kid was so excited about saying "Mom, I love you" with his Valentine that he ran down to the cantine where his mom was sipping tea and gave her the card.
4) Headed to kindergarten. This was only my 3rd day with this class and first day trying an art project: crayons, scissors, and glue. I way underestimated the time to color, cut, and understand a foreign teacher so they left a big mess of paper scraps, glue sticks, crayons bits, and scissors in the classroom and headed to their chess class...Oops..:)

5) Picked random kids in the hallways to say "Happy Valentine's Day" to and get them to repeat. All were rewarded with candy, of course.
6) Perfected my Valentine presentation and had very good classes for the rest of the day. One girl figured out that she wanted to say "I love my family, my mom, my dad, my cousins, my friends, my grandma, etc. very, very, very much. Happy Valentine's Day!" I love this girl!
7) Rode home on the school bus with a different teacher who was excited about meeting her boyfriend for dinner to celebrate Valentine's Day.
8) Read cool emails from my family. I love you guys!
9) And the BEST part of the day was helping my friend Sema celebrate her Valentine's Day birthday by taking her out for her first ever (drum roll for her....) bi
rthday cake. She was so happy that she cried and then I cried and then she said she would remember this day forever and she would save the card with her special treasures and she was so happy and it was so fun....
Valentine's Day does not have the same "vibe" here in Turkey. As a matter of fact, I might get phone calls from religious parents who don't like me bringing it up at all. But I focused on love of friends and family. And, it was fun.

Friday, February 10, 2012


I just finished reading Room by Emma Donoghue. It is the story of a woman who is kidnapped and imprisoned in a small gardening shed by a crazy man for seven years. She has and raises a child named Jack in captivity for five of those years. Because Jack knows no other life, he feels completely safe and loved by his mom. He develops an excellent imagination, a rich vocabulary and solid reasoning skills. He appears to have a comfortable, stress free demeanor. His world is very small but, to him, very happy and secure. I see many parallels between the boy's life and the women in Malatya. From my outside eye, the women appear to be locked in cages. They cannot be out unaccompanied in the evening. They cannot be alone with men who aren't their male relatives. Even though many hold full-time jobs, (some are the primary bread winner) they still do all the cooking, cleaning, child care, etc. I struggle with watching what I perceive to be confinement and domination. When I first came, I wanted to show them that the world can be different.

But from what I sense from conversations, many (not all) feel safe, secure, happy and loved. Many women go directly from being ruled (they might use "cared for") by their fathers to being ruled/ "cared for" by their husbands. I have met women who have studied to be doctors in Istanbul but return to this city because they don't want to leave the safety and security of family (often the husband's family). Like Jack in Room, the women are happy in the security of the known and both wary and scared of the unknown.

My observations also lead me to believe that some of the unhappiest women are those who have had a taste of freedom and then return to the structure and "confinement" (my word) of this part of the country. Although some of the men appear to be understanding of this confinement, they are unable or unwilling to relax their standards because the social norms are so strong for the men to dominate. Even though Jack thinks he wants to go back to the security of Room, he knows he has experienced some amazing new things like the ocean and rain. The women who have lived other places want fewer boundaries on dress, household duties, and relationships and do not want to be stuck in a place where the men make all the decisions.

Thanks to my parents for taking me on vacation, encouraging me to read and participate in discussions, and showing me the bigger world, I've known since I was about 14 that I had to see and experience more than my town could offer. Even though some changes have been difficult, I've always been eager to see what's around the next bend; I've always grown from each new experience. Although there is a tiny part of me that wonders if "ignorance really is bliss" and if staying in one place or a small room would make life more simple, I'm glad I don't have to find out. However, after reading Room, I wonder about the wisdom of showing women how their lives could differ. I'll leave the revealing of male/female relationship equality to Turkish soap operas. In the meantime, I am thankful that I am afforded the freedoms that I am. (Although it's still awkward to go to a restaurant alone...)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Snow Day

It snowed off and on all day yesterday. There was not a lot of accumulation but the roads were pretty slick on the ride home from school. There was some whispering among teachers that we might have a "holiday". I didn't want to get my hopes up, but about 5:30 p.m. several texts came across my phone announcing the closure of schools for not just one, but two days! Yippee!

This morning I decided to make the 5 km walk to the mall, my typical "day off" activity, to enjoy the beauty of the snow, to get some fresh air, and to meet a new Canadian friend for coffee. The sun had come out and melted most of the snow on the street and sidewalks, so instead of a beautiful white walk, it was a muddy brown walk dodging puddles and cars whizzing down the road, both spraying brown slop on my pants. But I did see many things that made me curious....

First I saw an ambulance rattling down the snow less road. Instead of running on tires it ran on four triangular shaped treads similar to those of a tank. I saw a dump truck filled with pebbles. A man was standing in the bed of the truck throwing pebbles out onto the sidewalk. (Remember, the snow had already melted.) I had to stop mid-stride to avoid being attacked by pebbles. Then, I saw 25 city workers dressed in orange jump suits shoveling the sidewalk of an empty lot with wood bladed shovels. Next, I saw a large water truck, the type used to spray water on dirt roads at construction sites, spraying water on the muddy, wet streets. I'm trying to guess if the intent was to use water to melt the snow or use water to wash the streets. As far as I could tell, the only thing happening was the flooding of the storm drains with the addition of excess water. Finally, I saw a van rattling down the street at about 40 mph in full chains. I guess it's just too muddy to get out and take those chains off.

As snow days go, we probably didn't need one and we definitely don't need two. But I'm not complaining. I made a new friend and finished a great book. I wonder what fun tomorrow will bring.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

School Vacation Conversation

Monday was the first day back to school after a two week semester vacation, so I wanted to use some class time for the students to learn to answer this question, "What did you do on the holiday?" Like all good teachers, I modeled some possible answers to this question. "I went to the cinema," "I flew to Istanbul," "I rode my bicycle," "I made a snowman," etc. They could draw pictures and I could supply vocabulary if necessary. Things were going well. Students were speaking English and learning some new words and past tense. I was feeling pretty proud of myself.

Then, one of the cutest little second grade boys came to the chalk board, drew a picture of himself on a bed, drew a doctor, pointed to his private parts, and made a cutting motion with his fingers. Because he and his friends had already been discussing this event before the holiday break I knew where he was going with this picture. I had a quick mental debate with myself and realized he just wanted the English word for this very big life event. I remained calm and matter-of-fact and said, "Oh, you got circumcised."

Monday, February 6, 2012

School Basketball Game

Our school has an 8th grade boys basketball team. I've been asking the boys for a schedule which they didn't seem to have, but one of the tallest boys on the team informed me that they had a "big match" today. (I'll work on the incorrect use of the word "match" later and, based upon the balloons on the ceiling, I think it was actually a "tournament" with several "games"..) The most important thing is that they spoke to me in English and invited me to their game. I was going.

I walked with trepidation into Ataturk Stadium. There were few parents, no cheerleaders, no boy-crazy girls, and very little sound...As a matter of fact, I was the only woman in the entire stadium, and the only noise I heard was from an occasional referee whistle, a coach shouting directions, and the bouncing ball. There was no chatter among the players, no music, and no screaming parents (actually that part was very nice). I took a seat and glanced at the scoreboard. I did a double-take. Was I really that late? Was I reading time remaining instead of points? Do they keep score a different way in Turkey? The score read 73 - 10 (my school's boys in orange were ahead) and there were 4 minutes remaining in the first half. They were playing 8 minute quarters. I don't think I've ever seen a middle school basketball game with a score that high.

I turned my attention to the game. Sure enough, my school made another basket. The score was now 75-10. Then I realized that neither team played defense. The game was all passing and shooting. Plus, each boy on my team was about 12 inches taller than each boy on the other team so a rebound was simply matter of holding up a hand
and at the last moment and catching the ball....no effort or pressure.(It almost looked like 8th v. 6th grade the height difference was so great.)

The whistle blew for the end of the first half. The coach ran onto the court and lined the boys up for pictures. (This confused me, too. I thought the game might be over..) The whistle blew for the start of the second half. The coach put 5 different boys on the court. The score jumped to 3 figures...something like 125 - 18. Obviously the teams were very mismatched. But, I never saw any defense on either side, so I don't know how my school's team would stack up against an American middle school. One thing I can say... they know how to pass (sometimes 3 or 4 good passes) and shoot. But would they be as accurate with pressure?

The buzzer sounded. No clapping, no cheering, no sad faces on either team. Everyone seemed to have fun. Game over. Everything was very pleasant, quiet, polite, and kind. I miss the adrenaline. I needed to cheer and yell tonight. Oh well, I'll blog instead...

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Mass in Istanbul

After a quick Internet search I was able to locate a handful of churches in Istanbul with English masses. I chose St. Esprit because the review described it is a nice, small cathedral preferred by popes. What the internet didn't fully explain is the difficulty to find it. Thank goodness for the nun in her habit walking down the street. I figured she might be headed in the cathedral's direction. I cautiously approached her with a "Do you speak English?" When she shook her head no, I took a chance with "Parlez vous Francais?" because of the cathedral's French name. I was met with a friendly smile and pleasant conversation. We chatted for several blocks until she led me through an unmarked gate, into a secret courtyard, and through the beautiful cathedral doors.

It was so nice to be in a place with God's peace and beauty for quite prayer. Although Mass was in English strong Filipino accents from the congregation and a French accent from the priest, made day dreaming impossible. (a good thing!) The songs were familiar and, when we sang "Holy, Holy, Holy....blessed Trinity," I almost thought I was in an Anglican church. I guess that makes sense because the British Embassy is only blocks away.

This was a special church filled with joyful people from many corners of the world together for one hour. Being surrounded by beautiful artwork while listening to an inspirational homily was a nice addition. Imagine all this in the center of Istanbul!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Turkish Baths

One of my favorite Turkish traditions which actually dates back a long, long time...let's see... the Ottomans had them ( Those Sultans knew their importance and built like a gazillion baths in Dolmabache Palace) and the Romans had them (most ruins make sure to point out the bricks and foundations of the baths) and now modern hotels and houses (Parade of Homes even has the best bath award) have them... the hamam or Turkish Bath. As a matter of fact, every hotel we've stayed at on this trip has some version of the marble steam room and separate sauna. From a simple visit to the steam/sauna room to warm up and relax weary muscles to the full blown massage, scrub, or many variations thereof, the Turks really know how to relax together in a warm room.

I have to admit I was really nervous to visit a hamamm including the sauna and steam rooms the first time. As a matter of fact, I was so nervous that I didn't even go the one time I really could have used it..after skiing. There is so much cultural etiquette that I don't understand and there is no guidebook to explain. Not being able to speak much Turkish is also a big problem. For example, when do I use the thin hamam towels and when do I use the thick bath towels. Is the fresh fruit on the table for everyone to enjoy including the cheapskates like me who use the free steam rooms and saunas but don't want to pay for a full blown massage or bath? Does "mixed" sauna really mean "men and American tourists only"? (I only see Turkish women when the hamamms are single sex.) Why, in today's hotel, is the shower that is located between the steam room and the sauna called the "Adventure Shower" or is that just a really poor translation for the Turkish word? (Why not call it what it is: the "ice-cold-take-your-breath-away-brain-freeze shower". There is no adventure about it!)

All kidding aside, these hamamms have become part of my daily vacation mode ritual. They are spotlessly clean, peaceful, beautiful, and wonderful places to unwind after a hectic (OK..not so hectic...I'm on vacation...but you get the gist) day. I can't wait to come back!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Let's take a Hike

Yesterday Eric and I were oscillating between a hike or a visit to some famous ruins. Luckily we found a win-win solution. Described as one of Turkey's prime attractions, Termessos could be both a hike and a tourist attraction. Situated in a beautiful, pine-laden national park, these ruins were fun to discover hidden among rocks, tree, and hills. The ruins are well preserved probably because they are too far from anything and too steep of a climb for only but fittest of foragers to carry off the giant stones left in the village.
Termessos was probably settled by some warlike tribes who found a niche in a mountain where they could collect customs from weary travelers heading to the beach for a nice warm swim and annual bath.
Who knows. Maybe they arrested those travelers who couldn't pay and made them carry stones to build the large ancient imax theater (see photos) and the Odeon (small theater).
Whether my stories about the ruins are true or not, the point is that visiting them made for a fun hike.