Thursday, March 29, 2007


The "field" in Ortaköy

One day Alex and I were walking across campus and we saw some guys tossing a frisbee. This was the first time I'd seen a frisbee in over 6 months. We talked to them and ended up on the St. Patricks' Day saturday afternoon, after visiting the organic market in Sisli, at a dirt field just to the left of the mosque in Ortaköy under the first bridge.

A group of mostly foreigners - young teachers from the international school, a former marine, a church artist, students, Germans, Americans, Irish, Turks - play ultimate frisbee every saturday. So we joined them for a riotous three hours of awesome ultimate. It was the first sunny day in weeks which added to the joy of running around outside, despite my dearth of skill with a frisbee.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

ive done something crazy...

In Seattle for the weekend!

So, I was staying over at a friends house on the Tuesday night of March 6th, and at appx. 4 am Wednesday morning, March 7, I was awakened by an unusually loud call to prayer right outside the window. After reading for a bit, I got onto iChat and started talking with Bryan - around 6 am my time. He mentioned that he was going to be a panelist at a Conference over the weekend. On a whim, I jumped onto and searched ticket prices to Seattle from Vancouver. When I discovered a suprisingly cheap ticket on the esteemed British Airways leaving at 9:10 am, Wednesday morning, March 7, from Istanbul, Bryan and I had 5 minutes of rather hurried discussion regarding a quick trip. I decided to see if I could even buy an airplane ticket less than 3 hours before the flight was to leave.

I guess you can because at approximately 6:39 I was throwing on my tennies (still in my pajamas at this point) and jacket. After writing to B - "im coming" I threw my computer into my backpack, told Mary I was going to the States last minute (her bleary eyed comment, "That rocks!") and literally ran out the door. I careened down the hill to the Bosphorus skirting the edge of the cemetery, my shoelaces flying. Upon reaching the coast road, not a car/person/thing was in sight, so I turned and starting running for Bebek, about half a mile away. As I ran, a bus running curiously early for being driven by a Turk drove up and pulled over to my wild gesturing. I jumped on, disheveld and I'm sure bewildering to the occupants of the bus.

At the next stop I jumped off of the still moving bus (time = 6:51 am) and ran towards a taxi stand. All the drivers were hotboxing in one of the cars, but one of them got slowly out and got into his car. We had a quick conversation after which followed the absolutely slowest taxi ride I've ever had in my life, let alone Istanbul, and I only wanted to go a mile or so. The quickest road was closed so we had to take a winding detour up the steep hill. When we reached the dorm gate, I jumped out and ran all the way in and up three flights of stairs past the suprised door watchman.

I entered my room at 7:01 am. By 7:09 I was completely packed and changed and back out the door. As I ran out the door past the door guy, I asked him to call a taxi, which drove up to the gate just as I ran up and jumped in. The nice and chatty taxi driver took off as I took the time to finally tie my shoes and double check that I had my passport. I didn't think to double check my sanity. No time.

He got me to the airport in a little over half an hour, a trip that usually takes me over 2 hours. I walked up to security around 7:46 am, went right through, walked up to the ticket counter that had no line, got my ticket, walked to customs, no line, went right through with a smile and had time to go to the restroom to brush my teeth before going to my gate and walking pretty much straight onto my plane.

When I got to London I figured I should probably tell Mom what I had just done, and double check that B knew I was nuts enough to actually be coming, and not just joking.

When I arrived in the States, B suprised me and met me in the airport, saving me the bus trip over the border.

We had an awesome weekend - skiing at Whistler, shopping, going to an awesome SS workshop, feeding lemurs and giraffes - and all before my flight took off 7 pm U.S. time on Sunday, approximately 98 hours after I had arrived, to finish off my more than 40 hours of total travel time.

It was a pretty quick trip, but I would do it again in a second - it was so much fun! I'm not sure my bank account would like me to do it again too soon though... :)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Culture Night

Traditional headress in the dress-up corner

A whirling dervish in front of some Ottoman singers

(Part of) The world's largest hand woven carpet, in Yıldız Palace, Besiktas, Istanbul

The city of Istanbul put on a culture night for foreign students in the city. Included in the evening were: a palace tour, traditional meal, singing and music shows, multiple traditional dances, a whirling dervish demonstration, and calligraphy and ebru (paper marbling) demonstration. It was interesting, and free, to say the least.


As a thank you to the family that Bryan stayed with over the break, we found a huge bean bag from the Istanbul soccer team Besiktas to give to the kids. It was awesome!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Greece: Day 7

A dock in North Harbor

Sun setting over North Harbor

Part of the coastline of the island Lesvos

Bryan on a collapsed watch tower

The side of a fortress overlooking the harbors

Bryan top deck

Our first view of Mytilini, Lesvos from the ferry in the harbor

Top deck before the rain

Bryan after his luxurious night trying to sleep refugee-style on the floor of a stairwell

The top deck looking towards a coming storm

The very top deck (about 10 stories up) of our ferry to the island

The floor where we spent much of our 15 hour ferry journey trying to sleep.

Greece: Day 6

Greece: Day 5

Greece: Day 4

Bryan and Hannah in front of the Parthenon on the Acropolis.

Bryan overlooking Athens from the Acropolis

Looking down on an ancient Roman theatre... more old stuff.

The Parthenon

We stayed in a backpacker's hostel in Athens, in dorms. At around 6 am sunday morning some guys came back and began snoring so loudly we got up and left. On Sunday, all the big Roman ruins have free entry (rather than 12 euros) so we hit the Athens streets, and we were able to see most of the ruins before many other people were out. Also - before it started raining around noon. The Acropolis was very cool - but by the end of our visit in Greece Bryan declared, "I don't want to see another old clay pot ever again." I definitely agreed with him.

Since it started raining around noon - HARD rain - we grabbed some souvlaki for lunch, and set off to find the highly acclaimed planetarium. After a metro ride, and a confused bus ride spent counting stops, we made it to the Planetarium. We saw a very strange show that sent us surfing around planets in an iMax theatre... I fell asleep. But Bryan said it was strange. Thanks to an abnormal bit of foresite, we'd purchased return bus tickets so after becoming thoroughily soaked we made our way back to Athens proper. We wandered around for a long time before discovering somewhere to eat (we ended up with spare ribs), we returned, still wet, to the hostel.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Greece: Day 3

Bryan sitting at the Thessaloniki train station waiting for our train to Athens

Part of the waterfront of Thessaloniki

Rose garden at yet another church

Reading the guidebook, again

The White Tower of Thessaloniki - apparently the Turks did bad stuff here when they took over things so the Greeks whitewashed it to erase the memory of the atrocities... how friendly.

Inside the "Little Aya Sofya" which didn't look anything like the original. I know. I live by the original

Outside of the Little Aya Sofya with it's one remaining minaret

The oldest church in Greece

Very large candles for very big prayers

We arrived in Thessaloniki on the train at 5:30 in the morning. At this point, Bryan had closed his eyes for about 20 minutes in over 24 hours, and Hannah had slept about for about three hours. Needless to say, we were both pretty tired and as we walked out of the train station - we had no where to go and not much of a plan. We walked past a bakery open miraculously early at 6 am and Bryan was so delirious he thought he smelled maple bars (later it was confirmed they didn't exist).

We finally found the hotel we were looking for, but they only had one room until noon. We decided if we went to sleep now, which is all we wanted to do, we wouldn't be able to wake up by noon. So we wandered around badly signed Greek roads past Roman ruins and finally, after some delusional-translational confusion, we managed to find somewhere to sleep for the next few hours.

Refreshed around noon, we ran around Thessaloniki on LP's walking tour - mostly seeing some old churches, some older churches, and some ridiculously ancient churches. We spent some time looking for a ferry office to try to catch a ferry to the islands. We found out they all left that night, Friday night, and that was the only time that week.

Thwarted, tired, and starving we wandered our way into a street fish and chips shop. The waiter came out and started speaking so fast in Greek it was hilarious. He quickly figured out we were completely clueless, sat us down, and just said, "two pieces?" So he brought us out a newspaper sized piece of wax paper, LOADED with a mound of the greasiest french fries I have ever seen in my life (if you picked them up, the grease would run down in streams) and two huge pieces of fried fish. Now, Hannah doesn't eat fish, as a general rule, but she was so hungry she managed to eat most of half of one piece and she stopped eating not because she couldn't eat any more fish, but because there was so much oil and grease in it everything had clogged up. We had to walk a fair bit after that meal and it was the first time we couldnt' finish all the food we'd gotten.

The next morning, we woke up and walked to the train station, to find that trains to Athens were packed until late evening, so we bought some cheap tickets and wandered off to figure out what else there was to do in Thessaloniki (answer: not much). Every single museum in Thessaloniki was closed that day. We did meet up with the waiter of yesterday, and he offered us sodas, but otherwise we didn't do much. We had managed to make hostel reservations for Athens, the first prior planning we'd done all trip. (Big progress!)

Bulgaria: Day 2

On the half-an-hour long gondola ride from the village of Bansko up to the slopes.

Bryan being a trooper and waiting for me yet again on the ice sheets of Bansko ski resort

Lots of ancient soviet vehicles on the tiny, cold, wet, dark, smelly streets of Bansko

Having arrived in Bansko in the late evening, we then spent several hours wandering around looking for a rental shop that we found out didn't exist.

The next morning we got up and hiked through town to grab some rental skis (Bryan skiied alpine! Not good ones however... I really missed my beautiful skis back at home... ) and then went to get on the gondola up to the lifts. They recently redid the resort so everyone carries an electronic pass, and to get onto all the lifts you have to ski through a huge block of turnstiles and get beeped through or you smash your legs on the bars. A less than graceful system.

The weather was not quite ideal ... and the combination of ice sheets for runs, howling winds, and skis with edges like sausages made the ski trip memorable if nothing else. We had fun though, my first time skiing in Europe!

We booked it early to catch a bus to the capital of Bulgaria, Sofia, to make the 10 pm train to Thessaloniki, Greece.

The rode coach on the train to Greece - which was just normal seats in a compartment. We happened to be with some Romanians who were nice fellows, but because everything was open we (Bryan) stayed awake to watch our stuff. We weren't sure how long the ride would take, but we had estimates from 10 to 14 hours.

We hit the border to leave Bulgaria around 2 am. The gaurds came through, took our passports, and about a cribbage filled hour later we motored on. At the Greek border 30 minutes later, they came and took our passports. This time, however, we started moving before we had our passports.... worrisome until we started going backwards again. We got our passports and made it into Thessaloniki... in 7.5 hours!

5:30 am in Thessaloniki.... what are you supposed to do at 5.30 am?!