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    A Parking Garage Full of Camels

    You never know what to expect in Turkey. During our recent trip in Bodrum, we were at the bus station about to head back to the house. Some of us went to find a restroom, and we followed the signs until we got to a parking garage. Right before we rounded the corner to the bathrooms, we came upon a sight we never could have imagined. Sitting in the parking garage were… camels. A whole lot of camels.


    (Hover over the video and click the sound icon to hear:)


    We knew there was a camel wrestling festival in town, but we never thought we’d stumble upon the camel motel. The camels were dressed in rugs with their names draped over their sides. The owners were grooming, chatting, and comparing camels as we walked through the parking garage of humps.


    Camel in a parking garage


    This big guy put his head down for Kendall and me to pet. He seemed to love the attention and leaned to the side as we scratched behind his head. However, someone promptly warned us camels can lunge forward and that we were in the striking zone!


    Petting a camel in a parking garage


    Bo counted 58 camels within sight:


    Camel in a parking garage


    If I owned a camel, I don’t know where I’d put it. But I guess a parking garage works.


    Camel next to a truck


    Seeing all of the camels only got us more excited for the camel wrestling event the next day!



    Coaching Volleyball

    This post is a bit overdue since our last game was in October.… But one of my favorite times of the school year is volleyball season. This year’s team was made up of boys from seventh to twelfth grade. This was my second season as an assistant coach. I enjoy coaching because it gives me a chance to connect with some of the secondary students I do not have in class.


    Cheerleading sign

    Leah’s cheerleaders made this sign. They hung it up in the school on game days.


    Jumping up for a block


    We had a strong season and won all of our matches but two. We had a solid starting six that worked well together and were good leaders on and off the court. We came in second place in one tournament and had two players named to the all-tournament team. This was an exciting time for our guys and they played great.


    Team huddle


    This year I felt more comfortable in my role and was able to contribute more during practices. I have enjoyed learning more about volleyball. Before coming to Turkey, I liked to play pick-up games. Coaching has made me more interested and excited about competitive team volleyball. There were several practices where I stepped in and played with the guys as we ran drills. I often found myself working to better my own skills and become more educated in order to be a better coach.






    Volleyball was an exciting and rewarding beginning to the school year. Although I was very busy, I enjoyed forming relationships with the students and other coaches.


    Volleyball team



    Istanbul Marathon

    Running a marathon was something that was on my never-to-do bucket list… then I gained 30 pounds.

    Before we moved to Turkey, I only dabbled in running. The summer we moved overseas, I was near 210 pounds at 5′ 9″… and by near I mean greater than or equal to.

    After we moved to Turkey, I started losing weight primarily from the change in diet (smaller restaurant portions/less preservatives/fresher produce). To complement this, I decided to start running again. I soon realized that when I stopped running, so did my metabolism. Before last year, running was never something I loved and it is still difficult to motivate myself. It is a small price to pay to keep healthy.

    I am goal and statistics oriented. I think that is why the Nike+ app was such a motivator for me. I loved tracking my average pace and how I compared to others my age. I also loved logging personal records. As my running strength and endurance grew, I became interested in long distance. In the spring, I experimented with several long runs to see my pace, including several ten milers and a half marathon. Sometime around then I decided to participate in the İstanbul Marathon. I thought it would be a good challenge to encourage me to run.

    After a couple of minor injuries last spring, I spent a lot of the summer biking and trying to keep my metabolism going without the high impact on my legs. However, the marathon was always in the back of my mind. When we came back to Ankara in August, I started running again.

    It took me a while to register for the marathon. I actually started training for it before I registered. I don’t know why I held back. I think I secretly hoped I wouldn’t have to run it. I finally registered and made travel reservations, so I was committed.

    Training was difficult and unlike anything I’ve experienced before. I was running 40+ miles some weeks. At times, I despised running. It cut into my schedule and school become more stressful, not to mention I was helping coach men’s volleyball through several weeks of training. I found myself trying to come up with excuses not to run the marathon, but they were ruled invalid each time.

    There were two key people that encouraged me throughout my training. A dad of one of my students has run multiple marathons and Iron Man competitions. He gave me a lot of encouragement and taught me exercises to help prevent injury when I had some weak spots in my legs. I credit a lot of my race technique and injury prevention to him. The second person that encouraged me throughout training was Leah. I knew that she wouldn’t let me give up. Three weeks before the race, I had my longest training run and was super nervous. I had burned out on my long run the week previous and I had resorted to walking. Leah’s encouragement helped me work through this tough time in training when I was about to give up.

    Fast forward three weeks and I was in Istanbul with Leah and friends. We stopped by the marathon expo where I picked up my number, shoe chip, and race bag. There were several vendors and booths. I even ran into the dad previously mentioned and he helped talk me out of some pre-race jitters.


    Marathon Expo


    There were two of us running the marathon and two that ran the 15k:


    15K and Marathon runners


    Leah and three of our friends registered for the fun run. As you can see, they were really enthused about getting their numbers:


    Fun Runners


    The morning of the race was crazy. We lined up in Sultanahmet Square to get on buses that shuttled us to the start of the race. I feel like I had a higher risk of injury getting on the bus than the actual marathon. People climbed and clawed onto the bus like rabid cattle.

    Finally at the starting line, we made last minute preparations and paused for a few pics.


    Shoe chips


    We met up with one of our Turkish friends and spent some time getting pumped up together:




    The place was hustling and bustling. There were vendors selling çay (Turkish tea) and coffee:


    Crowd at the race start


    Other vendors sold simit (Turkish bagel):


    Simit bread


    Leah decided to support our home state by wearing her Michigan Awesome shirt during the fun run:


    Michigan Awesome TShirt


    The Istanbul Marathon is the only trans-continental marathon. We all crossed over the Bosphorus Bridge from Asia to Europe.


    Bosphorus Bridge


    Bosphorus Bridge


    Here’s Leah with the Welcome to Europe sign:


    Welcome to Europe sign


    While I spent the next four and half hours running in the marathon, Leah and our friends enjoyed the beautiful sights of the fun run and the trek to the marathon finish line. They even stopped for milkshakes and coffee.


    Istanbul Marathon




    My goal was to finish the race. I relaxed and didn’t push too hard my first 15 miles, then tried to pick up the pace for the last half. At about 30 kilometers, I was pushing about all I could. I am quite pleased to say I did not walk as much as I thought I would, probably less than a quarter mile (I know I keep switching between metric and standard – such is international life). I knew that I had given almost everything when I thought about the finish line and almost started bawling. As I drew nearer to the finish, the cheering crowd grew thicker and I pushed harder.

    I ended up finishing on a dead sprint, passing several people in the last three hundred meters. I think I finally realized how close I was and the adrenaline gave me an incredible rush. I heard Leah and my friends calling my name and took off:


    David and his medal


    At the marathon finish


    The relieving beep of the chip being detected and my name being announced over the loudspeakers was almost more than I could bear. I had done it. I finished my first marathon. I was excited, covered with salt (see above), and exhausted.


    David's Marathon Certificate


    I had a lot of fun at the marathon and enjoyed the challenge. There were times where I felt like giving up. I remember praying throughout the race that I would have the strength to finish.

    I can honestly say that I plan to keep on running. I may not always enjoy the training, but the end result is definitely worth it. I think this race will encourage me in future situations, both athletic and not.

    Philippians 3:12–14.

    You can search my name on the Istanbul Marathon results page to see my time splits and stats!



    Ireland Part 3: The Cliffs of Moher

    When we first started researching things to do in Ireland, we knew we had to see the Cliffs of Moher. The cliffs are located in County Clare and are Ireland’s most visited natural attraction. After spending the day driving through the countryside, we finally arrived at our destination. It was a breezy and cool day. We bundled up and eagerly headed to see the cliffs. (Since we got there a little later than we had originally planned, we opted out of browsing the exhibit in the visitor center.)


    Cliffs of Moher sign


    The first view was breathtaking. I had seen pictures of the cliffs before, but they did not do justice to the amazing landscape.


    Cliffs of Moher


    Leah and David at the Cliffs of Moher


    We hopped over the "safe walking route" barrier and started down a trail that ran along the very edge of the cliffs. I was a little nervous at first, especially with strangers passing by on either side. The highest point on the cliffs is 702 feet! But the view was definitely worth it. It was awesome to peek over the edge and get a look at rocks and waves below.


    Brittany at the Cliffs of Moher


    Leah surprised me by climbing up on this rock to get a picture. I decided to join her for a Titanic-esque picture, which turned out to be more of an awkward pic because we were afraid to move.


    David and Leah at the Cliffs of Moher


    Bo took advantage of the opportunity to point towards home...


    Bo looking over the Cliffs of Moher


    Everything was so green in Ireland, which added a whole other dimension to the cliffs. The moss and grass covering rocks was beautiful. We said many times during our trip that the country is comically green. It's hard to believe the depths of green covering everything.


    Cliffs of Moher


    I slipped...


    David falling off the Cliffs of Moher


    ...Just kidding. But there were several awesome dips near the edge that allowed for some fun pictures. Bo and I had fun goofing off.


    Cliffs of Moher Boys


    Cliffs of Moher


    Another thing that intrigued me about Ireland is that there are old buildings everywhere. And by old, I mean centuries old. I think I annoyed Leah and our friends by pointing out every single old building I saw. We walked along the cliffs to O'Brien's Tower. The tower was built in 1835 to promote tourism in the area. Although it's not quite as old as some of the other buildings we saw, it was still fun to walk around it. And the view was great!


    Cliffs of Moher Castle


    The land surrounding the cliffs was covered by lush green pasture.


    Cliffs of Moher pastures


    Leah said these cows must be the happiest on the planet, getting to eat this grass everyday.


    Cliffs of Moher cows


    Cliffs of Moher cows


    I wanted to stay for the sunset, but the girls got too cold, so we headed onward to Galway. We highly recommend the hostel we stayed at called Snoozles. We only had a night in Galway, then we drove to Cork!


    » Ireland Part 1: Dublin
    » Ireland Part 2: Driving in the Countryside
    » Ireland Part 4: Blarney Castle
    Ireland Part 5: Kilkenny and Dublin



    My Sixth Grade Classroom

    And so another school year has begun. Just before we traveled back to Turkey, I was informed that due to a smaller class size (16 students vs. my 22 students last year), I would be moving classrooms. Last year I wanted a fun looking classroom, but didn’t know what decorations fit the age of sixth grade students. Now that I have a year under my belt, I felt like I have a much better idea of what to put in my classroom.

    On the first day of school, I had all of the teachers from my hall sign a white board welcoming back the fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students.


    Upper elementary hallway


    I was excited to move to the new room because there is a separated nook for centers. I also use this space for Bible class. It is nice to have a more relaxed part of the classroom where students can read or work in pairs. There are many different books that students can borrow when their work is finished. Recently, the favorite books have been the I Spy books by Jean Marzollo. These books are especially great for my ESL students because they learn new words as they identify objects.


    Sixth Grade Classroom


    I also dedicated this section to hold my craft supplies and supplemental work for students who finish early. There are several small games, pattern blocks, and a section where students can buy school supplies.

    I spent a lot of time creating a theme. I finally decided to call the classroom The Sixth Grade Lion’s Den @ Oasis. I thought that this was a simple enough theme, while still sticking to a laid back atmosphere.

    The pencil hanging from the ceiling was given to me last year by two teacher friends. It’s made from a mini wooden fence post and has worked well as a name plate for my room. I have many gifts from students in this section of the classroom that make it a unique atmosphere, including a crown (from a Spanish student), Dutch flag, and a catapult left over from a science fair project.

    The birthday wall is still a work in progress, but it should be finished by the end of the week. I printed bricks onto A3 paper and put them up to make it look like a brick wall. I have some birthdays coming up soon, so I’m having my student assistant help me with the board.

    This is my favorite part of the classroom. I think it is important for students to feel comfortable when they are participating in the learning process.

    As of now, this is my bulletin board for important information. I created a table cleaner schedule for the whole year and put it on this board so that the students can have advance notice of their duties. I also post the monthly character trait and other pertinent information here:


    Sixth Grade Classroom - character board


    This year, I thought I’d take a chance and get a class fish. After a series of elections, the class decided to name our new fish Shark Bait. I found him at a pet store in Cepa mall. The owners gave me a great deal that included the fish, bowl, and the food. This was a big hit with my students, especially my lower elementary Bible students.


    Class Pet Goldfish


    To give the students ownership of their classroom, I hung a flag for the countries represented in my class on the bottom of the paper lanterns.


    Sixth Grade International Classroom


    I have the classroom set up with two whiteboards and a walkway down the middle of the desks. Having that walkway has been great for proximity control. I also really enjoy having two whiteboards. It is nice to be able to write on one whiteboard, while the projector is being shown on the other.


    Sixth Grade Classroom


    Each of the colored paper sections are dedicated to a different subject. My goal is to hang the objectives here as well as extra notes and tips. I bought the mirrors at IKEA and placed them so I could see when someone walks through the door:


    Sixth Grade Classroom - subject board areas


    The bulletin board near my desk is covered in schedules and other paperwork. The students thought that the lamp mounted sideways was really neat:


    Sixth Grade Classroom - teacher's desk


    I had a teacher friend give me these superhero parts of speech posters. They are a great decoration for sixth grade and a great teaching tool as well.


    Sixth Grade Classroom


    I am really enjoying teaching this year. It’s great to back to a routine, and I am excited about the smaller class size.


    Running Club’s 10K to Panora

    During the last two months, I trained with the running club. The running club met once a week since last fall. It is a group of sixth grade students led by two friends of mine. After running in the ActiveWater 5k, the running club set a goal to run 10 kilometers from our neighborhood to Panora Mall.

    The two boys that ran with me are both in my sixth grade class. I enjoyed the opportunity to connect with them outside of the formal classroom setting. As we ran, we worked together to find a reasonable, but challenging pace.


    Running Club's 10k race


    Panora Mall


    Because we live in Ankara, the first 6 or 7 kilometers were pretty much uphill, with over 600 feet in altitude gain. We were fortunate to have a good downhill finish.


    Nike Run Info


    Running towards Panora


    When we reached the finish, there were friends waiting for us with water and congratulations.


    Approaching the finish line


    I am proud of all of my running partners. They demonstrated hard work and perseverance throughout the race. I’ve had a lot of fun and am thankful for the conversations we’ve had on the trail.


    The Running Club