Friday, June 25, 2010

Ayvalik and Istanbul

Since the last time I've written I've settled in with the family and the culture a bit more. Two days after I arrived we traveled down to the west coast to a place called Ayvalik. The mom, Sinem, the kids, Sevket and Ayse Naz, the nanny, Nurdan, and the driver all went down for five days. We spent the day swimming and eating and swimming and eating and went into town in the afternoon. The last couple nights Sinem and I took a walk down the beach and swam in the ocean after the sun set. It was definitely a relaxing few days of staying up late and waking up even later. The last two nights we had thunder and lighting storms, which were awesome to watch off the back patio. By the fifth day it took us nine hours to get back to Istanbul after we missed two ferry boats. Woops.

The last two days I've spent playing with the kids during the day. I still have a hard time getting them to speak English with me, but it's getting better. We've been doing a lot of dancing, dressing up, coloring, and playing soccer. Yesterday I successfully got three balls and one shoe stuck in a tree. Don't worry, the pool man came along and got them all down. Today I met the other American au pair in the complex. The two kids she looks after, Mina and Melda, came over and all the kids played together. It was nice to talk to someone and tonight we're going to go walk down the marina or up on the main street with all the shops. Yeah!

Pictures will come soon. And if not here, then Facebook. For whatever reason they're not uploading...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Welcome to Istanbul!

Man oh man. I had one heck of a journey to get here, but I made it! I woke up at 4 am on the morning of the 15th and Colin was nice enough to take me to the airport so early :) I first flew to Atlanta. My flight was delayed by almost an hour because of thunderstorms. Once we got into the sky I saw lightning out our window. Ah! And we had some MAJOR turbulence. The worst I've ever been in... But luckily we made it to New York and I BARELY made my flight to Amsterdam. Within the first hour of our flight the flight attendant made an announcement asking if there was a medical doctor on board. A woman behind me was sitting in her seat looking as if she was about to faint. The woman she was traveling with was trying to rub some color back into her lips. It was quite crazy. But they ended up moving the people sitting next to her and let her lay down the entire flight. We made it to Amsterdam with no problems. My layover was 8 hours ad 40 minutes. I slept on and off for three hours up in the cafe. After I changed some money I ended up meeting someone from Washington! We hung out for a while and passed the time. He was on his way to Israel to dig up some cool stuff. I took a picture with him and his stuffed traveling turtle, Pickles. I went to my gate as they were boarding and flew the last 3 hours of my journey. It was when I landed that the real fun began...

I got off the plane and headed towards customs. I had to buy a 90 day visa for 35TL or $20. Going through the passport line the woman simply scanned my passport and I was on my way. I headed to baggage carousel #6 and of course, my bag was missing. I went and filled out the claim and headed out the airport. There was supposed to be a driver waiting for me with my name on a sign. But as I walked out, there was no driver. I walked back and forth double checking, but still, no driver. I had no phone and even if I did I had forgotten to write down Sinem's address and telephone number. I went into a place where you book hotels to use their computer. I had some difficulties signing into my g-mail, where all my information was, but luckily I figured it out. I tried to call Sinem with their phone, but it was so muffled I couldn't hear her. I lost some hope and set out to look for another phone. These two men had seen me walk by multiple times asked me what I was looking for. I explained the situation and the younger of the two let me use his cell phone. I got finally got ahold of Sinem. She was so apologetic explaining that she thought my flight came in the next day at 12:20, not that time in the middle of the night. She told me she'd pay for a taxi and had me put her on the phone with the driver. After they hung up the older man asked me to go in to the Duty Free shop and buy him some whiskey for the next day (since you need a passport to buy it in there). I told him I would if he gave me a cheaper taxi ride, which he did. He gave me money and I legally bought alcohol in a foreign country! When I got back the man ended up passing me off to a different taxi driver (yeah, he just used me for the whiskey) and I was on my way yet again.

The driver was really friendly and didn't speak a lot of English. I tried to make some conversation with him and he said I was very nice. We drove through the old city of Istanbul at night. Seeing all the mosques lit up on the hill gave me such a calm feeling after the hectic journey. Once we made it to the house Sinem came and let me in the house. She was very apologetic once again. She got me some water then her and her husband and I sat out on the balcony. Their house is lovely. The second floor of this development. It's a flat with 5 rooms, a large kitchen, kitchen, and dining room. They sent me off to bed since they had to get up for work and I had to rest. I slept on and off from 4am til 2pm the next day. I hung out around the house, writing and reading, until the family came home. I met the house lady, Nordan, and she made me some breakfast. The little girl, Ayse Naz, came home first. The Sinem and the boy, Sevket, came home next. The afternoon was spent walking around outside and driving around the neighborhood. This part of Istanbul is very modern and very European. For dinner we all went out to sushi, conveyer belt style. Once we were back I read the kids some books before bed. I then got onto the internet and spent the night talking and updating and whatnot.

That's the adventure so far. I'll get pictures up sometime. Probably once I get my bag with the cords... But that's all for now :)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Pre-Departure Thoughts

Tuesday is coming soon. My mind has been filled with the requirements of my summer class, weekend excursions, and trying to see everyone before I leave. It's a somewhat kind distraction from the uneasy thoughts that come up right before traveling to somewhere new. I know come Tuesday morning at 5am when I'm arriving at the airport, my mind will probably be in a different place. Luckily my travel writing class has given me the opportunity to talk and listen to the beauty of traveling. It puts this trip into perspective again. I also recently talked to a family friend that has been to Turkey quite a few times, so I'm ready with the best cities, restaurants, and sites to visit.

While I'm gone I will be sure to write in here since it will be hard to send everyone an individual update. Now of course, here are some pictures of where I'll be going :)