Thursday, November 26, 2009
Autumn snuck up on Izmir, hitting it with it's sharp light and long shadows, but it couldn't take it by surprise. The cold air sparks the coal furnace and the air begins to thicken with black smoke. The lights glow dim now and sometimes they can't be seen from across the bay. Some evenings when the pressure is low, the air is so think in the streets, it is difficult to breath. - "get used to it" is the expression. So we sit cozy warm in the apartment and hope for the winds to blow out the exhaust by morning. But, It does make beautiful sunsets every night!
Rena is in the groove of school and getting more accustom to the Turkish curriculum. The Ministry sets the curriculum, with little room for creative educational exploration. It's the way it is and she is accepting this role in this educational system. Other than that - kids are kids -and it seems not too different from the states; good days, bad days, loving and amazing kids and little stinkers. Some days she's home by 4:30, other days, maybe be a meetings, or works late etc. but never past 6.pm. Which means dinner is on the table and we enjoy the evenings together. A great change from our Seattle life, when a week would go by and we would only see each other for "good night" and "good morning". It's been nice spending our lives together. Oh, and she loves her commute-a few minute walk or 1&1/2 song in her ipod !
I am finding my groove here as well. I visit my new one year old friend, Gulse, 3 times a week, for an hour. She is adorable. We look at books, roll balls around, discover little things like tape, and open/close, up/ down ...that sort of thing. It is a blast and the girl is hilarious. I often feel like a sports commentator giving an English play by play to Gulse's play. After we finish our hour of early childhood developmental English education. The family serves me breakfast. Over beautiful food we talk, trading stories and language. This one hour session usually takes most of the morning due to breakfast, tea and conversations. They are wonderful folks and enjoy the mornings with the family.
After that I have the day. Often stop at my new pal Veysi's Tatlilar (dessert shop) and we sit for more tea and trade language. It's sort of a barbershop setting. Familiar faces usually stop in for a hello, tea, and they share the news of the day over some bakliva or börek (layered pastry w/cheese/egg). Yesterday was interesting. It was the before the holiday(Bayram) and a lot of people coming to order. I sat with 2 other guys and put small boxes together for the bayram orders. We must have put 100 packets together for orders that were ringing off the hook and we talked about religion, local strike, family and football. It was good to be working and I gained the nickname Kutulı Bey (box man)
Other days I have errands to run, books to read, journals to write or whatever. I started writing a story or I 'll work on drawings or get lost on the internet. All I know is time moves at different paces and soon I'm in the kitchen chopping something and exploring the Turkish kitchen cuisines getting ready for an evening with Rena.
Now we are safe!
Our next adventure starts with a visitor! Cuz'n Patty won the first visiter's award- Free unlimited stay in Turkey w/ bus pass. Congrats Pats- it was so great to see you!
Next blog: Cuzn'Vistit................... stay tuned.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
October 29, 1923, the Turkish constitution was amended and Turkey became a republic. This formally declared the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. Essentially it's "4th of July". Fireworks and parades mark the celebration and on every balcony the Turkish flag flies high. Schools were closed, so we took the opportunity to travel for the long weekend. Our Destination was to the Greek Island of Chios.
We went by bus to the sea town of Cesme, about an hour from Izmir and caught an afternoon ferry to Greece. It takes about 45 minutes to cross the Aegean to reach the island. We arrived in the evening as the sun set on the island and rented a car for the weekend. Five of us squeezed into a Renaut Clio and headed for the grocer. One of the first major differences in Greece is the alphabet. Not knowing the language is one thing but not recognizing text and sounds is quite odd. Here are a few different Greek letters that I can't pronounce- ΣΘΠΣΔΦΓΗΞΛΨΩ. Not to mention learning Turkish has conditioned my pronunciation of English letters. So the grocery store was quite an "egg hunt". Shopping lists in hand we stocked up on bacon, pork sausage, peanut butter and some booze, and had a blast looking at the labels and packaging, especially the candies and cereals. Now the fully loaded down Clio took us to our pension called Mouzaliko (http://www.mouzalikohotel.gr/). I'd recommend the place.
After checking in John and Michelle (friends from school) knew a great local hillside resturaunt above Chios. We weren't sure of the name and were relying on their memory for location. It took a few u-turns around the blocks to find the place, and finally the memories clicked and successfully found it.
This was well worth it! A great family resturaunt with one guy running the place. Literally running with loaded dished up and down the stairs to the basement kitchen. In the states this would have taken 4 server minimum and this guy did it all, and did it well! We ended up eating mostly appetizers; cheese plate, teziki, Greek salad (of course), calamari, fresh bread and a few bottles of ouzo.
The next day we hit the road and traversed over the Southern part of the island. Along the roadside there are these "God mailboxes". We seem to notice they often occured at a windy curve. Looking inside you'll see alters with religious icons, trinkets and candles, and offering. They are beautiful inside with hammered silver reliefs of patron saints, mosaics, or fresco's. There are many along the road of all different miniature replicas of churches. Thankfully one did not have to be built for us on one of these narrow cliff roads.
Driving between towns is not far, but may take some time due to the mountain road and photo opportunities. As we headed towards Pyrgi, we ventured up the hill and stopped at the remote Monastary of Παναγία Σικιελιά. The impressive door was locked but the ancient key hole was big enough to get a generous peek of the beautiful interior.
The next town to divert our travels was Mesta, just to take a peek, look at the center bell tower and drive though the streets not made for automobile. We were then delighted to be squeezed in the small Renault. Anything bigger and we just wouldn't have fit.
We arrived in Mesta which still stands as it was built. The city is built for defense. Narrow passages, some leading to dead ends. Built behind fortified square design with a defense tower at its
center and only a few entrances with huge steel gates. No cars allowed here. Here we sat and had a fabulous lunch- Gyros- What else!
Then we headed for Pyrgi. This is a town know for the decorative facades on every building with the unique black and white geometrical decor of the outer walls of the houses. -The "xysta"(scraped graffiti) -are the things which enchant the visitor. Again narrow roads, the innumerable churches, and amongst them the 13th century Byzantine church of St. Apostles. We loaded the camera with photos and enjoyed a snack in the town square.
Then we hit the road an circled the southern part of the island. Stopping here and there for snapshots, collecting rocks and had to pull over to visit a potter. After a long road we enjoyed a quick to-go meal (you guest it Gyros) and back to the hotel for an evening of games.
The next day we headed north along the east coast Just north of Chios is Vrontados which lays claim as the birthplace of Homer. Its connection to the poet is supported by an archaeological site known traditionally as "Teacher's Rock" (Δασκαλóπετρα). So here is a few more teachers for Homers school house rock!
The Island is famous too for it's cultivation of mastic. An evergreen shrub or small the of the pistacio family which is harvested and hand processed for its aromic resin. Here you can get mastic soda, mastic gum, mastic taffy and even a liquor of mastic, and you'll see people sifting and preparing mastic just about everywhere you go. You'll have to try some.