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    17,000 Miles

    It’s been almost eight weeks since we last updated here. A lot can happen in two months. A lot HAS happened in the last two months. Nearly 17,000 miles has happened.




    After we finished the school year, David’s family traveled to Turkey and we toured them around the central and western part of the country for two weeks. We loved showing them our home and visiting a couple of new places as well. It was a goodbye tour of Turkey for us. After the family left, we returned to Ankara to pack up our house and say our last goodbyes. A few days later we flew to Michigan for a week, drove to Arkansas for a week, drove back to Michigan for a week, sorted and packed everything again, flew to South Korea, and landed on Wednesday.

    We’ve been in Seoul for almost 48 hours now. We spent our first night in a hotel and stepped foot in our apartment for the first time yesterday. The weight of it all is still sinking in.

    For now, we’re unpacking, moving furniture around, and getting acquainted with the city and David’s new job. We’re making lists and planning shopping trips for things like tupperware, and pillows, and toilet brushes, and picture frames.

    Please pray for us as we settle into this new place! There are so many things to learn. We know that no matter the challenges that lie ahead, we can trust that:

    Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentations 3:22–24

    I will share soon about our transition and first impressions and our travels this summer!



    Ottoman Bridges and Hagia Sophia Trabzon

    After a cozy night by the wood burning stove, we left our cabin, said goodbye to Ayder, and stopped by three more bridges on the way back to Trabzon. Our flight was supposed to leave that afternoon.




    Cow in the road


    Rize river


    Sunny day and Ottoman bridge




    Turkish cay fields


    Because we were in the mountains, we drove through a lot of tunnels. The Ordu Nefise Akçelik Tunnel is the longest tunnel in Turkey at just over 2.3 miles:


    Rize tunnel


    This bridge wasn’t as old as the Ottoman stone bridges, but the wisteria was so pretty:


    Bridge with wisteria




    Broken bridge path


    David walking on an old bridge


    David and Leah on a wisteria bridge


    This was the Taskemer Köprü. People road zip-lines under its arch!


    Ottoman bridge path


    Girls on a bridge


    Bridge with Turkish flag


    Drying plants


    Back in Trabzon, we made one last stop at Hagia Sophia. One of our friends visited the 13th century church a couple of years ago. We were disappointed to find that it had been converted into a working mosque. Large panels covered the majority of the frescoes.


    Hagia Sophia Trabzon


    Women were not allowed to enter the prayer area:


    Hagia Sophia Trabzon


    A few of the frescoes were still visible. I would have loved to have seen the church without all of the panels.


    Hagia Sophia Trabzon


    Hagia Sophia Trabzon art


    To add to our adventure, we received a text that our flight had been canceled. After walking around Hagia Sophia, we headed to the airport to drop off the car and figure out a new flight. Three other flights had been canceled and there was a mob of people by the Turkish Airlines desk. We finally made it to the front and found out the next flight didn’t leave until the next day, Monday. We didn’t think our boss would appreciate five teachers being out.

    We decided to rent another car and drive the 10.5 back to Ankara. Fortunately, our original flight was early enough that we left Trabzon at a decent time of day and made it to Ankara by midnight. (And even though it added extra time, we ended up saving money from the flight refunds!)

    I will never forget our mountain adventure with our wonderful friends!



    My Farewell Speech

    We attended our end of the year staff banquet last Saturday. It is typical for teachers who are leaving to share a word with the group. It has been a hard few weeks thinking about leaving our home in the Middle East. I thought it would be appropriate to share some of the things I’ve learned while living in Turkey the past three years. Here is the abridged version.


    David and Leah dressed up


    Things I’ve Learned While in Turkey:

    1. Goodbyes are the worst.
    2. Assumptions can ruin a fresh perspective.
    3. Humility is best learned where you are totally uncomfortable.
    4. Vegetables in America are not as good.
    5. Plastic forks in Turkey don’t taste good.
    6. Wash your veggies.
    7. Eggs don’t have to stay refrigerated.
    8. The milk that’s sold at room temperature won’t kill you.
    9. Everything at the bakkal costs iki buçuk.
    10. When teaching Bible, it’s good to establish the proper pronunciation of condemnation: “There is no now constipation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
    11. The world is not such a small world after all. There are many lost who need to hear the word.
    12. The best way to get rid of a dog that is chasing you is to kick it in the face.
    13. Travel is my refresh button.
    14. Establishing a good work/home balance is important.
    15. Camel köfte is a little bit tough.
    16. European football isn’t all that bad. American football is still awesome.
    17. The librarian is a hotty.
    18. Some students who appear to have it all would rather spend all of their time at school because of the love shown there that they can’t access anywhere else.
    19. Be prepared for the shock that ensues when a student asks you if his cat is asexual.
    20. Tear gas really does make you cry.
    21. It is selfish to worry about my students as I leave. It is beneficial to pray for them.
    22. I spend a lot of time in the car in America.
    23. Speeding laws are enforced in Turkey.
    24. Intestine cooked on a rotisserie is actually not that bad.
    25. Just give in to the personifications of the school printers. Also, both Fred and Wilma have staple functions.
    26. Greg won’t go to the hamam.
    27. Short on the sides and long on the top means a mohawk.
    28. Usually, conflict starts with people hearing the same thing, but having different interpretations. Talking about these interpretations can solve a world of problems.
    29. The Turkish Airlines cheese sandwiches are awesome.
    30. Snow tubing with me is dangerous.
    31. Sometimes when you play soccer at recess, a bicycle kick results in torn pants from your knee to your belt.
    32. 20 seconds of awkwardness could make an eternity of difference. Take advantage of every opportunity.
    33. Family and home are relative.
    34. Goodbyes are really just see-you-laters.


    Friends at the banquet



    Fırtına River Stone Bridges

    After visiting Sümela Manastırı, we drove through Rize towards Çamlıhemşin and the Fırtına Valley. This Black Sea region is filled with winding roads, lush mountains, and fresh air. Everywhere we looked – even behind buildings in the city – we saw çay field after çay field. (Turkey produces over 6% of the world’s tea!)


    Çaykur sign


    Çay fields


    Rize mountains


    Our goal was to see Ottoman bridges. We weren’t sure how to find them, but it ended up being super easy! We just followed the road along the Fırtına River. The bridges were built in the 18th and 19th centuries, but some may be older. The 1700’s are nothing in comparison to other historical sites in Turkey, but we still got a thrill out of finding the bridges and walking across them. There are around 20 bridges still standing. We stopped at three on our first day and three more on Sunday.

    Every bridge felt like a scene out of Narnia or Lord of the Rings. The bridges had high arches and most of the them didn’t seem to lead to anywhere in particular. It was evident herders still used some of the bridges to take their animals over the river.

    This was the Kadiköy (Özenkit) Köprüsü. The sign said it was built near the end of the 19th century by Ahmet and was repaired in 1999:


    Ottoman bridge


    Ottoman bridge with David and Leah


    Plant growing in bridge


    Bridge path


    Randa in cay plant field


    Girls on a bridge


    Dale on a bridge


    I missed the sign for this bridge… or maybe it didn’t have one:


    Ottoman bridge


    Arching bridge


    Bridge path




    Several of the bridges had mini cemeteries near their bases. We wondered if perhaps the builders were buried close to their bridge?


    Gravestone by bridge


    The third bridge we stopped at was called the Şenyuva Köprüsü and was built in 1696:


    Bridge 3 with steps




    Bridge plants


    Rusted bridge


    Rize mountain house


    The people in the area made their living from rafting tourism, forestry, farming, beekeeping, and herding animals. There were a few roadblocks along the way:


    Goats in road




    Just before dark, we drove to Ayder, a small tourism village within a national park. It was a strange little town set in the middle of the countryside. We did not see any other Westerners – most visitors seemed to be Turks or people from countries east of Turkey. We stayed at Dolunay Guesthouse, which was way overpriced for what it was. However, it had a wood burning stove and an amazing view. (Bring your own towels; they do not have any even for rent.) We ate dinner at Zümrüt Restaurant, which included the most amazing Black Sea cheese fondue called mıhlama. It was SO GOOD!


    Ayder clouds


    Ayder cabin


    More on our day trip to Georgia and a few more bridges soon!



    Sümela Monastery

    Though our blog may appear otherwise, I promise our life is more than travel excursions! Things have been crazy here as we prepare to close the school year and our time in Turkey. I’ll try to share some of that soon, but our travel photos are a lot more fun and I want to write about these memories before I forget the details.


    Sumela Monastery


    We had a long weekend the first weekend in May. David and I traveled with three friends to the northeast region of Turkey on the Black Sea. (The area is called Pontus in the Bible and is mentioned in Acts 2:9 and 1 Peter 1:1.) It was an incredible weekend away in the mountains. We love to explore cities when we travel, but there is something so refreshing and special about the countryside, especially in Turkey.

    We left Ankara after school on Thursday and stayed the night in Trabzon at Anıl Hotel. Another thing I love about Turkey: there is always someone looking out for you. We booked two rooms for the five of us. When we arrived, there was some confusion about sleeping arrangements. They apologized not having the correct room configurations. After some back and forth in our limited Turkish and their limited English, I realized the hotel man was trying to put the four girls together and David in another room (which would have been fine if a 4-person room was available). I told him David and I were married, and all was made right. It was sweet of him to consider our virtue.


    Trabzon at night


    Even though Trabzon has over 1.2 million people, it was not a super modern city. We didn’t spend much time there. After breakfast at the hotel, we drove to 30 miles south to Sümela Monastery. The drive along the Altındere valley was gorgeous. We loved all of the green and the mountains!

    The Greek Orthodox monastery was first built into the cliffside in 386 AD. The hike up the mountain was just over a half a mile long with a rise of 820 feet. Whew! Entrance cost 15TL or was free with the Müze Kart. Only a small portion of the monastery was open to the public. The views were incredible and the Rock Church frescos (dating back to the 1300’s!) were amazingly well preserved. After exploring the monastery and hiking all the way back down, we drove up a winding road to a lookout point.


    Black Sea mountains


    Purple flower


    Steep walking path


    Sumela Monastery


    Sumela Monastery stairs


    Sumela Monastery


    Clay roof


    Sumela Monastery


    Leah at the Sumela Library


    Friends in Sumela




    Rock Church frescos


    Sumela frescos


    David in Sumela Monastery


    Plants growing out of rocks


    Sumela Monastery


    After Sümela, we drove back through Trabzon and then east through Rize towards Ayder.



    Adventures in Ankara

    On a recent Saturday, a couple of friends and I visited the Anadolu Medeniyetleri Müzesi (Anatolian Civilizations Museum). The museum is located inside of the castle in Ulus.

    I took the opportunity to renew my Müzekart. By the way, if you are living in Turkey and have a residence permit or Turkish ID, the Müzekart is the way to go. I purchased one for 50 Turkish Lira (about $20 USD) and it grants me access to over 300 historical sites in Turkey. Given that the Anatolian Civilizations Museum costs 15 TL (General Admission) and the Hagia Sophia costs 30 TL, the Müzekart is quite the deal if you plan on traveling during your time in Turkey. If you don’t have a residence permit or Turkish ID, there is now a Museum Pass Müzekart available for Istanbul. There is a three day pass (72 TL) and a five day pass  (115 TL). Both of these passes are good for many different sites and attractions around Istanbul.

    All of the artifacts at the Anatolian Civilizations Museum were rather interesting. This painting of a deer was from the village of Çatalhöyük, not too far from Ankara. This is thought to be one of the first agricultural villages known, dating back to around 6,000 B.C. I really liked this piece because of the deer. I like to think that one of my fellow country boys painted it thousands of years ago.


    Painting of animal on rock


    One of the displays I found most interesting was the terracotta tablet exhibit. While the display itself was not very big, I was intrigued to see all of the detail that was put into these tablets. This specific tablet is a property donation deed. Sometimes when I think of early civilizations, I think of them as unsophisticated grunting human beings. However, all evidence points to the contrary. Although they didn’t have all the tech gadgets we do today, it seems like they had sophisticated and set ways of doing things. Based on the detail in the tablet below, it appears lawyers were just as meticulous about the wording of legal documents thousands of years ago as they are now.

    One tablet that stuck out to me was a letter on terracotta from Naptera (wife of Ramses II, Egypt 13th Century). She wrote to Puduhepa (wife of Hattusili III, King of the Hittites) about relations and politics between the two nations. Super cool!


    Donation deed


    Sun discs were used by the Hittites for celebratory and religious ceremonies. I have become accustomed to seeing these Hittite symbols around Ankara. This particular design with the deer, is one of my favorites.


    Hittite stand


    Hittite artifacts


    This is a statue of King Mutallu, a king that was reliant on Sargon II (King of Assyria). It’s hard to believe how well some of these relics are preserved, this one dating back several hundred years B.C. I particularly like the ceiling in this section of the museum. Cylindrical and made of brick, it reminds me of certain parts of the Grand Bazaar.


    Kral Mutallu statue


    Maybe it’s a little weird, but I found it super interesting that the Phyrgian King Midas’ (8th Century B.C.) skull is kept in the museum. His tomb has been found in Gordion, Turkey and this skull has been used to do a facial recreation of Midas.




    After we finished at the museum, we walked down to the Pazar to get some lunch. Turkish street food has become one of my favorite cuisines. I love to eat a fish sandwich fresh off of an open grill or a delicious döner dürüm straight off of the rotisserie.

    One of the street foods I’ve been wanting to try is kokoreç. Kokoreç is lamb intestines cooked on a rotisserie. After the intestines are cooked, they chop a delicious array of spices into the meat, before putting it on bread. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. I think the fact that the delicacy is lamb intestines put some unfair presumptions of kokoreç in my mind. Mixed with all of the spices, it kind of tastes like a delicious sausage sandwich.

    Click the arrow below to play a video of the kokoreç  stand:



    Kokoreç stand




    After I payed for my kokoreç, the cashier gave me this small orange ticket. Since Ulus is busy during lunch time, I had to (as I tell Leah) “shoulder up” to get my order in with the chop masters. After kokoreç, we walked by a fish sandwich stand and I couldn’t resist the temptation. I had to get an alabalık ekmek (trout sandwich) as well.


    Kokoreç token


    Belly full of lamb intestines and trout sandwich, I headed to Anıtkabir (Leah visited Anıtkabir without me in 2013). Anıtkabir  is a memorial and mausoleum for Turkey’s founding father Ataturk. It definitely does not lack grandiose and honors Ataturk well.

    Anıtkabir  was built in a way that it can be seen from almost anywhere in Ankara. Consequently, it offers some awesome views of the surrounding city.




    The mausoleum reminded me of the Lincoln memorial.


    David at Anitkabir


    Anitkabir Mausoleum


    One of the things to do at the mausoleum is watch the changing of the guards ceremony. There are guards that stand watch over the mausoleum throughout the day and they periodically change. We got there just as the relieved guards were marching off the grounds, so we did not get to see the actual change.


    Anitkabir Soldier


    It was definitely a day of adventures in Ankara. I hope to explore more of this beautiful city in the months to come. And I have every intention of stopping by Ulus again for a delicious kokoreç sandwich.