Saturday, June 27, 2009

In Ankara + Circumcision Party...

Well we left Armutlu Vacation Village and went by ferry back to Istanbul & spent the last night there at Orhan's friend's Mehmet's house. His parents were there too & the kids tried to play together but not very successfully - Mehmed wanted to use AbdulMejid's toys and Abdul Mejid didn't want to share. They were kind of fighting a few times and finally somebody hit him back! He didn't like that at all. Unfortunately it didn't teach him any lessons either - here in Ankara he kept on hitting the son of Orhan's cousin (aged 7 & 1/2) who wouldn't fight back and in fact went out to the store and bought Mehmed a lollipop even after he kept hitting him. He also took me "secretly" aside just to tell me that if I needed any help with my Turkish I should come and ask him & his mom. LOL, so sweet.

The next morning we got up at 7 & went by taxi to the bus station & took the bus to Ankara. Mehmed was mostly well behaved for the bus ride except when he randomly decided to flick the head of the man in front of us, and towards the end when he started to get really bored (it was about a 5 hr bus ride) and his crashing noises started to get way too loud - the bus host came back to see what he was doing. Oh and the head flick reminded me of when we were in Istanbul walking around the park of Sultan Ahmet (Blue Mosque) & Aya Sofia when he randomly decided to kick the dangling foot of a man who was sitting with his leg crossed on a park bench. Ummmm... can anyone say embarassing? I'm hoping some of that impulsive stuff really stops now that he's off the medication.

We arrived safely at Orhan's sister's place last Tuesday afternoon (June 23?) and the last 2 weeks have been hectic which is why I haven't had any time to open the computer until now. His niece's wedding was on Friday June 26th and there was a parade of guests constantly coming and going and she was always feeding them all. You should have seen the quantities of food they bought and prepared. Wow. Canadian Weddings are definately easier to host.

Mehmed is warming up to hearing Turkish all the time and he does make little efforts to speak. As long as he's in an agreeable mood he will copy what you prompt him to say as long as it's relatively short. If you try to make him say a long sentence he usually just screams and then cries that he can't speak Turkish yet. But when he's in a good mood he says he already knows Turkish but that he only speaks English to me because I don't know it yet. lol. Everybody tells me that my Turkish is getting a lot better but man does my tongue ever trip over words so easily. And Turkish words can be so similar to each other so sometimes I mean to say one thing and I say something completely different. I also have to be really careful not to use the word "Sick" out loud here because in Turkish it's the "F" word only with a vulgarity factor 10 times worse than the F word. So I either have to remember to whisper or use the word "ill" which kind of sucks because Mehmed really doesn't know that word. And the poor boy has been sick a lot so I'm sure people around here are wondering why on earth Orhan's wife & son have such foul mouths....

Anyways, on Wednesday night, Orhan's friend Nihat (who lives in Canada) called for us to come to his son's circumcision party. Islamically all men are obliged to be circumcised and over here they usually do it for boys who are around 6 years old - they are old enough to understand what is going on and also to appreciate the big fuss that is made over it. Nihat's son is only 2 & 1/2 so he is a bit young but I guess they did it because they probably don't know when they are coming back to Turkey and it is definately easier to do here than in Canada.

This is Nihat with his daughter Jayda & son Alper (the boy whose circumcision we were celebrating). Incidentally, Jayda is also the girl who Mehmed thinks he's going to marry when he grows up, even though she has already made it clear that she's going to be a Doctor and has no intentions of getting married. LOL.

Anyways the circumcision party was interesting. It was just in the middle of the street and they had speakers up with a DJ playing music. People were just dancing in the street and during the entire night I think only 1 or two cars wanted to pass by.

Mehmed LOVED it - once he got used to the loudness of the music (it was REALLY) loud, he was running all over the place trying to dance. I guess it is just his type of thing & a great way to get out his overabundant energy. He was also greatly amused by a man who was dancing and doing some little tricks - he danced with a watermelon on his head, a glass of water on his head, and they placed the glass of water on the ground & he got down and drank it without using his hands (except to hold himself in a push-up position). He was very entertaining.

They also fired off a gun into the air several times. I guess it's something people do at some parties. I am certain that not everyone does it because nobody did it at either the Henna night or the wedding for Orhan's niece. But the gun was definately real, here are the casings to prove it....

I also made a video of little clips from throughout the night. Most of it I already talked about - dancing in the street, Mehmed loving it, firing guns, etc. There is also the Henna - that is a tradition which is done when celebrating something. The Henna here was supposed to be first given to the little boy who was circumcised, although I have no idea if they actually got any onto him. Then they spread it on the hands of the guests to symbolize the celebration and having fun. The video is kind of long but might be interesting to see some traditional Turkish dancing (albeit not very crowded), the Henna tradition and Mehmed having tons of fun....

Monday, June 22, 2009

Armutlu Tatil Koyu (Armutlu Vacation Village)

So we are staying at a big vacation village, actually we are just waiting for the ferry to leave which is why I have the laptop with me at the internet cafe. This is the view from the balcony on our apartment.
It's been a lot of fun, today Mehmed spent the day playing in the arcade with his dad while I went to the Hamam. The hamam is like a huge hot tub but it comes from a natural hot spring. There are many all over turkey so they are very popular. They are supposed to be very healing for a lot of health conditions. The water is so hot you can't stay in it for very long. I think the most I stayed was 10 minutes sitting in it up to my waist, after that you get out and lounge on a chaise-longue, you can go into the steam room or sauna, and at the end you go to the Hamam room, which is made of marble - there are little marble sinks with copper bowls and you can turn on the taps for hot (spring) water or cold (refreshing!) water. The ladies usually clean themselves with a hard cloth to sluff of skin. After you feel so soft and smooth and clean. Very nice.
I cant show you any pics of that though its actually forbidden to take photos of course since most of the women are Muslim and cover themselves after leaving the hamam.
Some photos of the facilities here can be seen here:
Mehmed has been a bit cranky this week as I decided to take him off the medication.... I really noticed a huge jump in the hyperactivity and impulsiveness and I just couldn't handle it any more. Hoping that once he's done withdrawing it will be easier to reason him through his temper and whining....
Ok, well gotta go catch a ferry now....

Mehmed in Sultan Ahmed / The Blue Mosque

Sultan Ahmed Mosque, some of the interior, on the right is a huge pillar supporting structure, at the top is one of the smaller domes and some of the calligraphy - probably not clear enough on the blog photo but hopefully we will post more clear photos on
Mehmed prayed 2 rakas at Sultan Ahmed and made a little supplication after. Very cute.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

No ınternet

So for now Im stuck wıth no ınternet whıch means that I have to use an ınternet cafe * very weırd the turkısh keyboard has a few extra characters whıch means some of my normal characters are mısplaced and hard to fınd.
I also have no pıctures to post wıthout havıng access to ınternet from the laptop....

Saturday we spent the day on a tour of the Bosphorus on a ferry. The weather was beautıful, ıt was a really great day. Sunday we went to Orhan`s frıends Mehmets ın-law`s cottage about 45 mınutes north of Istanbul. It was a beautıful place a lıttle vıllage and theır home was overlookıng the Bosphorus. Hıs father ın law ıs apparently CRAZY about fısh so we ate fısh for dınner freshly caught very yummy. (Thıs computer ıs buggıng me every tıme I go to press the comma I get one of these Ö so forget the commas youll have to fıgure out my punctuatıon as you read along....)

So young Mehmed actually started to make an attempt to speak Turkısh ıt was kınd of cute actually everybody was enjoyıng hıs efforts. Im hopıng thats a sıgn that he wıll actually pıck some up by the team we leave ın August.

Monday was our last day ın Istanbul so we actually went a lıttle bıt sıghtseeıng crazy. We managed to fınd a Prıvate clınıc to gıve Mehmed hıs allergy shot and ıt only cost 15 Turkısh Lıra per needle * but they charged us 2 needles because the Dr dıdnt mıx the 2 dıfferent kınds of serums. Anyways we fıgure ıt wıll only be hard untıl next week because by then well be ın Ankara and Orhans sıster can set us up properly.

So yesterday after gettıng hıs needle we went to do some shoppıng and I dıd fınd a dress that I can wear to hıs nıeces weddıng. We prayed at the Fatıh camıı and Mehmet saw the grave of hıs namesake * Fatıh Sultan Mehmed Han * the conqueror of Istanbul. He prayed wıth us ın the Jamıı but the Jamıı was under constructıon (for restoratıon) so we dıdnt stay long. After that... where dıd we go ıt was yesterday and I cant even remember the order we vısıted thıngs

I know we dıd go to Eyup Sultan Mosque and I thınk that was next * then we took the teleferıque (what ıs the name ın Englısh?) up the hıll to enjoy the vıew from the famous Pıerre Lotı cafe. I cant belıeve I cant post pıctures rıght now because what a beautıful place to have a çay. Then Orhan dıdnt quıte have hıs fıll of panoramıc vıews so we took a cab to the Galata tower. That one raıses up quıte hıgh and you can vıew the world below at 360*. I needed a dıaper up there though because the balcony was quıte small and completely open - lıttle raılıngs dont do anythıng to calm my fear of heıghts and plus Mehmet was not afraıd at all so ıt was everythıng I could do to just follow hım around the cırcle whıle tryıng very hard to force myself to enjoy the beautıful vıew. I defınately prefer to enjoy that vıew from Orhans pıctures though.

After that we wandered the streets around Galata and ate some DELICIOUS baklava at a lıttle pastry shop called şırın (whıch means smurf) - so there were lıttle smurfs ın the wındow * but omg so delıcıous..... Streets ın Istanbul are so tıny you always assume they are supposed to be one way but they never are * cars just beep and honk at each other ın a most polıte way and sometımes they have to back up to get around each other. I could never drıve there. After that we got hoodwınked by a cabdrıver who convınced Orhan that the Rumalı Hısarı (the Fort buılt by Fatıh Mehmed Han ın 1450s) was stıll open - even though ıt was already after 6pm * so we wound up payıng a hefty cab faır to go there and ıt was closed from 430pm.

Orhans frıend Mehmet met us for çay over there so we hung out and he took us back to our hotel and took away some of the bags that we dıdnt want to brıng wıth us. Today we spent the day around SultanAhmet camıı agaın and took a large ferry boat to thıs Armutlu koy that we are ın now. Its lıke a vacatıon vıllage ıt has everythıng prıvate pools for women and a fun arcade for kıds * Mehmed ıs playıng there whıle I type and runnıng back and askıng me for tokens every few mınutes. Cant waıt to go swımmıng after thıs.....

Friday, June 12, 2009

Sleep, visit friends, get sick, sleep again...

Well, we haven't done a lot of sightseeing in the last 3 days, mostly because we've either been sleeping, sick, or visiting friends.
After our midnight walk the other day, we came back to the hotel and had breakfast on the rooftop patio. The view is pretty good, which you can't entirely tell because this picture seems to pick up more haze than the land at the opposite side of the Golden Horn - but it's quite nice. And the breakfast is really good too.

Here Mehmed was doing his usual strange flying objects and crashing noises. A normal boyhood craze or a symptom of Autism... I have no idea, people tell me their kids have done that sort of thing too, but I have never seen a kid obsess over it as much as him. I see it everywhere, all the time. It's just as ever-present in Turkey as it is in Canada. Normally I don't mind it but when the knives and forks in restaurants are constantly being spun around in the air it's a bit disconcerting, not to mention embarrassing. Oh, yeah, you say, just take them away - well, the embarassment of the spaceship knives is slighly less than the embarassment of the screaming 5-who-looks-like-8 year-old-in-Turkey when they're confiscated. (Note to self; REMEMBER to bring his harmless big plastic egg-spoon with us to restaurants so that nobody pokes himself and loses an eye.)

Following our Dawn adventures & early breakfast on Wednesday, Mehmed slept in the Hotel room from 10 am to 4 pm, and I napped on & off with him. So Orhan went to visit an old friend from France & when we woke up we went to see him too. This is him at his travel agency. They were neighbours there and went to school together. We went to his house for dinner not the same night (Wednesday night) but the following night (Thursday night). His family was very friendly but I don't have any pictures to post of them since they are probably saved in Orhan's other camera.

He took us downstairs in the travel agency and showed us the historical floors - they are preserved and another floor has been built about 4 feet above them - with glass panes so that you can walk on top and view them. It's quite an ancient mosaic.

We actually saw some small scorpions down there - which freaked me out because I would never imagine them to be in Istanbul, but sure enough they are here - kind of scary because we sleep with the windows open, it's BOILING hot (30 C and very humid), and the windows DON'T HAVE SCREENS. Is that the weirdest thing ever or what?

Our first hotel room had a broken shower, and the air conditioning was pretty much a glamorized fan. It also had a broken shower head, which, if you tried to take a shower, popped out of the wall and turned into a gushing waterfall. And we're told that this is a really good hotel. I'd really hate to see a bad one. Today we finally managed to bump into the maid as we left our room and asked her if we could just see what the other rooms were like - so we asked to switch rooms and are now in a much smaller room (no more attached suite) but omg so happy to have a functional shower and a real breeze coming from outdoors. So I'm just praying that scorpions generally don't venture above the humid sub-terranean world all the way to 4th floors, and also praying that the lizards I've seen climbing walls have a natural fear of hotel rooms. Is it too much to ask?
Anyways, after viewing the scorpions on the ancient mosaics, he took us down another level and inside was this ancient, very tiny church. I'm not sure why it was so small, and I don't actually know how old but it has to be older than 600 years, and my guess is quite a LOT more than that.
Pretty cool stuff.

After visiting with Orhan's friend Musa (the travel agent), his friend Mehmet (used to live in Canada) came to pick us up. He's the one who picked us up at the airport and we went to have dinner with him and his family on the Asian side of Istanbul (we are staying in the SultanAhmet section, which is in the European side). It's the only city in the world that sits on two continents.

The disadvantage to that would be the major traffic problems that we had to get through. Mehmet said that at the right time of day this drive only takes 20 minutes (to his house) but it took us about an hour and a half to get there.

Part of the delay was this bridge that crosses the Bosphorus - too many cars get bottlenecked as they all want to cross over. There are presently only 2 bridges and several ferries servicing a city of 17 million people. Needless to say, that's not enough. Apparently they are planning to build another one in the near future.

But this is a view of that same bridge from Mehmet's balcony. It's quite a beautiful view really. It is lit up like this at night and the lights change colour.

This is Mehmet with his daughter Sueda (pronouced soo-eh-da) (7) and son Abdul Mejid (soon to be 6). They are very sweet, mashAllah. Mehmed had a hard time at first because he really wanted to be able to communicate and neither one can speak the other language. After a few hours, they finally figured out that dinosaurs is a fun game to play - it requires a lot of roaring and stomping but no words. And the word dinosaur in Turkish is Deen-o-zaur.
Later that night, Orhan and Mehmet went out for a long walk, old friends getting caught up - and they stopped for a puff of Nargile (nar-gee-lay) - which is basically a bong for tobacco. We were there so late that we just wound up sleeping over, & got up early to come back to our hotel.

This was the daytime view from Mehmet's patio - on the right. On the left you could see the bridge (below).

The view of the bridge actually looked clearer than this, but for some reason, orhan's camera seems to be a magnet for the haze. Although maybe it does paint the story of exactly how hot it was that day (Thursday).
The night before I had started feeling nauseous, and when Mehmet drove us back the next morning, little Mehmed suddenly started to feel it too. By the time we got back to the hotel he was full on sick & vomited all day.
While Mehmed & I stayed bed-ridden all day Thursday, Orhan took advantage & did some sightseeing. He got tons of pictures of the Topkapi Palace, which I didn't care about visiting but now I'm suddenly jealous and want to go... anyways, hopefully I'll post those another time - but he also met this sweet little old man who knits & sells hats, and this was the same sweet little old man we met here 9 years ago! I guess Istanbul's historic monuments includes more than just buildings ;) JK
Mehmed finally passed the illness after one last big... let's just say hoorah... and then we took a chance that maybe some fresh air would do us some good - which it actually did - he made some Turkish friends at a local park who were quite thrilled to practice their English, and later we went to Musa's house for dinner (Asian side again - only the commute was way faster without a vehicle - we took the passenger ferry and a cab the rest of the way). Had the first normal night sleep Thursday night, went to visit Orhan's cousin Serafettin Hoca (he's an Imam) & his family today. Very nice visit. Tomorrow we're planning on meeting with Serafettin's 18 year old son who will accompany us on a boat-tour of the Bosphorus. Looking forward to that! Now I will try to sleep, listening to the sounds of miauling cats & worrying about whether or not a lizard will creep into my room....
Until the next time.... Peace / Selaam.....

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Midnight/Dawn walk

So, we're still a little jet lagged and our body clocks are off.... after our long & slightly sleep deprived travels, we were hoping that by putting off going to bed until about 9pm, we would sleep well through the night.... but Orhan woke up about 12:15 am, I woke up about 2 ish and then Mehmed woke up at 3 am. We were all wide awake, still trying to adjust our bodies to a change in time zones... ironically, 3 am is about 8pm Canada time so technically, we were waking up as we should have been winding down in Canada but I guess that's how it is when you are travelling.

We were all wide awake, with really nothing to do in the hotel room except watch Turkish TV, so we decided to go for a walk and wait for the Dawn prayer at the Blue Mosque. It was great. The streets were almost empty. It is nothing like the busy-ness of downtown Toronto which is basically 24/7. We could walk on the cobblestone streets, and only move aside once in a while when a car came, which you could hear a LONG time before because it was so silent. It was a much more enjoyable walk than earlier in the day because it was easier to let Mehmed run free without worrying about him running into traffic, hurting himself or disappearing in a crowd.
We were able to drink in the fact that we're here in Istanbul and enjoy that a little bit.
(The mosque in this picture is the Blue Mosque - this was the view of it as we walked up the street from our hotel, the birds were flying all over it and Aya Sofia, but nowhere else).

There were a few people out here and there, a few garbage men cleaning up, some shopkeepers taking care of their shops, one or two Tea Gardens with a few patrons, but other than that, extremely peaceful.

We wandered around, Orhan took lots of pictures, & we met a very friendly (but possibly a little bit crazy) Turkish guy talking with a Sudanese guy. Orhan found him very entertaining - he predicted that Mehmed would marry a Turkish woman from Denmark and that I would have 2 sets of twins. LOL. Highly unlikely. He did correctly guess that have problems in that department, but that's not usually rocket science - you see a slightly older couple with only one young kid, it's out of place - plus infertility issues are as common in Turkey as they are everywhere else these days. Anyways, we had some Turkish coffee with the two of them and we petted a poor little kitten living in around the Tea Garden. It seemed to have an eye infection, and was happy to have a warm lap to snuggle into.

It purred when the Azaan went off (the Call to prayer) even though it had been snuggled happily in my lap for a long time before that without purring, and it cried when I put it down. The cats around here break my heart. There's so many and they're all wild. People just feed them scraps of food, or they pick from the garbage.
This picture is so small, you can't see, but there are actually 5 cats in it, all of them were rummaging in this garbage pile (which was picked up by the time we got back to the hotel 3 hours later).

The prayer in the Blue Mosque was also really nice. It's hardly at all crowded at that time of day and it's so quiet. Mehmed was running free while we waited for the Imam to lead the prayer, but it wasn't bothersome like at a busier time of the day. He also lined up with the men and followed along nicely during the prayer. I found it much more peaceful than yesterday, and I even realized that amidst our fatigue and worries, I had forgotten to look UP when I went in there to pray yesterday. Well I did this morning and wow... The architecture and art are just as magnificent to behold as they were the last time I was here.

Orhan got lots of pictures as we slowly walked back to the hotel. I have to say it's probably the best time of the day here. Nobody is up, and you can enjoy the sights & sounds in absolute peace.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Energizer Bunny is in Istanbul!!!

Oh boy, we're here at last! Our planes were all on schedule but man does it ever seem like a long journey when you can't sleep comfortably.... We got on our first flight last night around 8pm, and right now it only reads 1 pm on my computer, but here in Istanbul it's actually 8 pm, so it feels really long. The journey was uneventful except for the rocky landing we had in Istanbul - the plane circled the city for about 20 minutes, then as we descended you could see the wings rocking back and forth. And then, when the wheels touched down, it almost seemed like the pilot had slammed on the breaks and we were screeching along on a country dirt road. But once he came to a stop, we are all fine - maybe he thinks driving a plane is the same as the way people drive their cars around Istanbul (man, that's scary).
Anways, yesterday (Monday) we got up at 4:45 am, slept later for about 1 hour (about 7-8 a.m.), cleaned all day (my bad, shoulda done it on Sunday, instead I was still packing on Sunday), then got on the road from home about 3pm - and travelled all night. I slept for about 15-30 minutes maybe 3 times during the entire trip. Mehmed slept from about 11:30 pm our time until we got off the plane in Munich, around 4 am our time. I carried him part way, but the movement really woke him up and he's been going strong all day.... VERY hyper, VERY inattentive, driving Mom & Dad both a little insane. I reached a boiling point at a shuttle bus in Munich, but Orhan reminded me that we are all very tired, blah blah blah.... then of course Orhan reached his boiling point at the Ataturk Airport.
Imagine travelling with the Energizer Bunny, only the Energizer Bunny doesn't travel in a straight line, he bounces from left to right and spins at random (highly unpredictable) intervals - and it's your responsibility to keep the Energizer Bunny safe and sound, only the Energizer Bunny cannot be programmed to move in the direction you want it to!
Anyways, we've been here for about 4 hours now, settled into the hotel room, freshened up, little walk around the very old section of Istanbul (called SultanAhmet), had some nice kofte (Turkish meatballs) for dinner & went to pray in the SultanAhmet Camii (The Blue Mosque). Then we had tea at a "çay bahçe" ("tea garden", pronouced chai bah-chay) & marvelled at the fact that we actually can't believe we're here. I guess it's taking us longer to drink in the pleasure when the Energizer Bunny is still distracting us from the sights & sounds.... so far the only injuries he's caused to himself are a fat lip, skinned hands and maybe an extra new bruise or two.... Anyways, I'm hoping that with a good nights rest tonight, and a proper schedule tomorrow, we might have a more co-operative day from our little man.... Plus we'll have the cameras around with us tomorrow so hopefully I can get some pictures posted!!!!
Well, that's all for now, I'm going to gaze out my window at the Bosphorus!