Monthly Archives: November 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and it pains me to be away from home for the third year in a row.  I love every dish, but more than anything, the joy, traditions and festivities that surround this special holiday. I miss friends and family, the laughter and the stories, the surprises and the excitement.

I also have so much to be thankful for…

The top 5:

1.) The love and support of my wonderful friends and family in Istanbul.  My boyfriend came home with a beautiful bouquet of flowers in honor of Teacher’s Day. My co-workers greet me every morning with hugs and kisses. My Turkish family wants to host a special holiday dinner for me.  We have established a special Thanksgiving and Christmas tradition of our own with our closest friends in Istanbul.

2.) My ability to travel and see the world! Currently, I am planning a trip to Vienna, Prague and Paris!

3.) The support and encouragement of my friends at home.

4.) My health and the health of everyone I love.

5.) Endless opportunities and options to consider as I brainstorm the upcoming year and my next endeavor…



With pictures of New York City covering the walls, oldies music playing in the background and the very familiar smell of bagels filling the restaurant, I felt instantly at home at Tribeca. As I looked at the menu I saw all of my favorites: poppy seed, cinnamon raisin, sesame seed and my personal favorite: the everything bagel.

With over 12 different types of bagels, and a menu of every type of bagel sandwich or topping you could crave (even lox cream cheese!), I was thrilled by the satisfaction and joy of this discovery. With locations in Akatlar, Yenikoy and Nisantasi (less than 20 minutes from our apartment!), the restaurant is strategically located to attract foreigners and any Turk with a particular fondness for New York bagels.

The owners of Tribeca lived and worked in New York City, and returned to Istanbul to share their love and knowledge of bagels. They succeeded. The bagels are authentic and satisfied my craving. I am hooked.

The success of Tribeca was featured in a New York Times article that shared the owners intention to sell a slice of American culture, along with a bagel breakfast. While I am not sure if I agree with some of the things they assert, I was fascinated by the power and influence American movies were given in their explanation.  The owner claims that ”maybe people in other countries don’t understand what a bagel is, but they saw Bruce Willis eating one in ‘Die Hard’ so they want to eat the same thing.” He reassured us by saying “Turkey will stay Turkey. France will stay France. But that American daily culture will become the world culture because Hollywood is so powerful. It is a huge power”. I was surprised to hear the connection between the allure of bagels and the allure of American daily life…

My most memorable bagel breakfasts will always be the magical mornings from my childhood following my dad’s return from New York City…with two bags of H&H bagels. The suspense surrounding the content of the bags, and the excitement around the cream cheese and other toppings ensured that it was an event that lived up to every expectation.

Bagels in Istanbul!

Beauty and the Beast Bewitches a New Audience


My class recently earned a popcorn party for their excellent manners and behavior at lunch time. The school-wide lunch competition deserves a post of its own, but the movie party is today’s topic. After a passionate vote, we selected Beauty and the Beast, one of my absolute favorite movies when I was a child. In fact, I was probably the same age as my students when Beauty and the Beast first arrived in theaters. I remember requesting to go each weekend the film played at the funky old theater near our house in West Seattle. The free-spirited character of Belle, and her love for books appealed to me. The music and the characters thrilled me. And, all of this came rushing back to me, as I munched on popcorn with two adorable girls fighting for my lap. The boys covered their eyes for the kissing scenes and the entire class was captivated whenever the beloved characters broke into song. While the entire film was dubbed in Turkish, memories from my childhood filled in the gaps, providing me with the opportunity to enjoy every minute of the film with my students.

Curious to see Beauty and the Beast with a Turkish twist? Here is the scene for ‘Be Our Guest’  We devoted 30 minutes of our evening to watching various disney songs in Arabic, French, Turkish, German and Spanish. In every language, the magic and meaning still comes through….

See for yourself…

Globalization Extends its Reach to the Grand Bazaar


MAC Cosmetics and the Vakko clothing company recently opened stores in the Grand Bazaar. I am shocked and appalled. More than anything, I am devastated to learn that none of my Turkish friends and coworkers are bothered by this frightening development. Yes, the Grand Bazaar claims to be the ‘oldest mall in the world’, and with over 20 malls in the city of Istanbul, it has certainly been established that Turks love their malls. But, I remember what happened when chain stores and restaurants brought an end to locally owned businesses and shops throughout the United States, and across the world.

With over 4,000 shops, and 64 covered streets, the Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world. Opened 550 years ago, it struggles to maintain its significance in the midst of a historical, albeit tourist-dominated area of the city. The Grand Bazaar  attracts herds of tourists to its maze of wonders and trinkets. While many of these shops no longer serve  Istanbul residents, they offer a wide array of Turkish goods and products to the masses of people who pass through the bazaar each day. It is a must-see experience and a top shopping destination for anyone who comes to the city.  Turkish salesmen speak 3-5 languages to catch the attention of tourists and lure them into their shops. They sell their ceramics, soaps, gold, leather and jewelry, as well as many other tourist trinkets and souvenirs. Selling is an art, and major purchases are bought after rounds of tea, small talk and bargaining. The streets are narrow, the shopkeepers are friends, the stores are small and cozy (imagine the size of a stand at your local farmers market). What will happen as more and more international shops attempt to enter the Grand Bazaar?

What currently stands as 2-3 specialized shops could become one larger and standardized store. The owners will no longer be ordinary middle class Turkish citizens, but large corporations, without a particular stake in the community, the history and the future of the bazaar, the neighborhood or the city. Rents could skyrocket and the merchants that once created the lively atmosphere of the bazaar could be replaced by sterile and sleek stores that can be found in any mall, in any city. I hope this does not happen, and the current atmosphere and shops are preserved, and the merchants maintain their stake in the bazaar.

Take a look for yourself. Don’t these shiny new shops seem to be out of place?

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Lycia Tour: Day 3 and 4


While it has been over a week since we returned from our trip, it has taken me this long to sit down and conclude my efforts to document our trip. Back in the fast paced world of Istanbul, with the daily dramas and intensity of work, traffic and the early darkness that descends upon the city, I have found it difficult to sit down and reclaim the joy and excitement of each experience. After a big breakfast and two cups of strong coffee, I have finally found the energy to do so.

Our third day of the tour was spent in Fethiye. In the morning we drove to the elaborate tombs that sit above the city. Fethiye was established on top of the ancient city of Telemessos. Telemessos was the son of Apollo. Much of the ancient city is underground, below the modern city that now stands. At different times in history, it was a Greek, Lycian and Byzantine city. The ancient temples and theater that once stood have been significantly damaged by the numerous earthquakes that have plagued this region throughout history. The tombs were strategically placed on the eastern side of the ancient city’s acropolis. We hiked up a steep set of stairs that criss-cross through the steep hillside above modern Fethiye to see the tomb of Amyntas up close. It is modelled after a temple of the Ionic order as a means of paying respect and showcasing the prominence of the King that once ruled over the city. It was pretty spectacular to see up close, but sad to see the damages to each and every tomb and sarcophagi throughout the city. As civilization upon civilization conquered these lands, every tomb was raided in efforts to find the wealth and treasures buried with the dead.

After hiking up and exploring the tomb, we hiked down again and headed towards the waterfront to board the boat for our tour of the surrounding islands off the coast of Fethiye. Memories of the untouched islands and caves, and the turquoise waters of Croatia rushed into my mind.  The vivid blues and greens of the water, and the warm sunshine bewitched me and gave me a taste of summer (that many do not have the opportunity to experience in November). We spent the day laying on the top of the boat, reading and chatting. Every 45 minutes we would dock in a new abandoned harbour and dive into the cool water (yes! We swam in November!). We saw wild rabbits and chickens, we feasted on fish and we sipped beer, as the day passed in perfect harmony and ease. The beauty of these islands linger with me, and the tranquility of their inviting bays and beaches stay in my mind. We left at 10 am and did not return until 5 pm. It was an extraordinary day.

Day 4 exceeded all expectations. We started in Oludeniz,  a beautiful beach and national park along the coast.  Afterwards, we drove through windy roads that maneuver through farmland and greenhouses, small villages and mountains, we stumbled upon the ancient city of Tlos, that sits neat the top of a rocky hillside, seemingly hidden from the rest of the world. There is record of this city as early as 1200 BC, and it was still inhabited throughout the Byzantine and Ottoman period. The ancient city consists of an arena, a theater, numerous tombs, ancient Roman streets, the foundation of Roman baths and an old aqueduct. There is a Byzantine fortress and church built on top of the ancient Lycian city. Farmers led their goats through the ruins. It was amazing to see how the ancient city sat frozen in time as village life moved slowly around it.

After wandering through Tlos, we went to an amazing restaurant situated in the hillside, surrounded by trees. It is called Yaka Park. It has water flowing all around you. There are tree houses situated above everyone and everything. There is a large trout pond, and ducks wandering around. The leaves were green, red, orange, brown and yellow. There was a buffet of salads and other treats awaiting us. We sat on a small elevated deck covered with pillows and ate our lunch. It was absolutely beautiful.

After lunch, we boarded our bus to see Sakli Kent. This was one of the most spectacular places I have ever seen. It is the second largest canyon in Europe and has been shaped by the rapids and streams that pass through it. There is a pedestrian foot bridge that hangs along the opening of the canyon. The canyon is 18 kilometers long and 600 meters high. It contains 16 caves. Several old tools have been discovered  which suggest that man took refuge in Sakli Kent in prehistoric times. While the rapids were to strong, and the water was too cold to go very far, I am determined to go back. In the summer people can hike into the canyon as far as they have the courage to go. I have been told that at times the water reaches your neck, at other times you must swim under or over certain rock barriers. It sounds exciting, and it is now on my list of things I must attempt before I die….

Our trip ended with the ancient city of Xantos. It was the capital of the Lycian League, and known for its noble battle against the Persians. There is a black layer in the foundation of the city which proves that the entire city was burned down sometime between 475 and 450 BC, only to be rebuilt again. The city was rich in history. Brutus, Alexander the Great and Mark Anthony all had ties to Xantos. The city was built and rebuilt after various wars and battles. In 1838, the city was discovered by an Englishman named Sir Charles Fellow. The rich historic treasures of the ancient city of Xantos were sent to London on a war ship, and many important structures from the city are showcased in the Lycian room of the British Museum. This is obviously a point of great tension with the Turks, and the Turkish government is currently in negotiations with archaeology museums around the world in efforts to bring everything back to the historical sites in the country. I will leave that for another post…

Lycia means ‘Illuminated Nation’. While the civilization thrived over 2000 years ago, its tenets of democracy, order and honor still shape nations and societies today. We wandered through the ancient ruins of 3 major Lycian cities, in a region that once contained around 40 cities that came together to form a republic. The natural beauty of the coast, the mountains, and the small towns captivated me, and will certainly lure me back in the future. I hope everyone seizes the opportunity to explore Southwestern Turkey, and the ancient land of the Lycians.

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Lycia Tour: Day 2


After 10 hours of sleep and a big breakfast, we felt rested and ready to explore. We boarded our bus at 8 AM, and began the day. We past small villages, and numerous farms and a series of greenhouses with ripe tomatoes ready to fall of the vine. We stopped briefly above Kalkan to take in the view and catch a glimpse of this popular vacation town. This town was transformed after the majority of its population left and returned to Greece following the formal population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1925. The relocated population moved to Greece and founded a town with a similar name, ‘Kalamaki’. It is a popular stop for yachts and sail boats, and due to its location, it is also a good base for those interested in exploring the ancient cities of Patoon, Xantos and Letoon. It also had one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen: Kaputas Beach. With steep stairs hanging off the cliff, you are led to a small cove covered in smooth, white stones to catch a glimpse of the turquoise and blue water.

After this brief stop, we continued our trip to Kekova, where we boarded a boat to tour the surrounding islands. There are Lycian tombs scattered on the hillsides. We looked at the popular vacation town of Kalekoy, which is situated on the ancient city of Simena. At the top of the hill, beyond the village is a castle which was built in the Middle Ages. In the same area is a theater, a Roman wall, and the ruins of the public baths. After passing Kalekoy, we travelled close to the shore of Kekova Island, which is protected island which is 4 miles long and contains the historical ruins of a Lycian city. Below the water, you can see the foundations of old shops, the ruins of sunken houses and various stairways the descend into the water. The ruins of an old Byzantine church can also be spotted from the water.

After the boat tour, we ate lunch at a restaraunt near the harbor and wandered through some of the stands selling tea leaves, handmade clothing and jewlery. We boarded the bus once again and headed towards Kas, a waterfront vacation town everyone predicted we would love. It is a beautiful town, full of vibrant colors, cobblestone streets, lively cafes and bars, and eclectic shops and boutiques. The town was established over the Lycian city of Habesos (in the Lycian Language) or Antiphellos (in Greek). A theater from the Hellenistic period remains on the western side of the modern town. It has 26 rows, and once held 4,000 people. With a beautiful harbor, cute cafes and seaside bars, and nice boutique hotels, I am determined to return to Kas to explore more of the surrounding region.

Patara was our last destination of the day. It is the famed birthplace of Apollo, as well as Saint Nicholas. The ancient city of Patara was one of the most significant cities in the Lycian Leaugue. It was one of four cities to hold three votes in the legislative body, and served as a port city.  The city opened its doors to Alexander the Great, and it was the capital of Lycia (and home to the Roman Provincal Governor) during the Roman period. Unfortunately, the sun began to set shortly after our arrival, so we did not spend as much time as we would have liked wandering through the ruins of this significant city. However, we walked all around the enormous theater, which once sat 5,000 people. Excavations of Patara began relatively recently. Much of the city remains underground. It will take at least 20-30 years to understand and see the true significance of Patara. It is expected to hold the same importance of Epheseus and Pergamon.

As the sun began to set, we ended our day wandering to the beach that is a part of this national park and historic site. There is a boardwalk that leads to a beautiful sandy beach. On this beach we witnessed one of the most amazing sunsets I have ever seen in my life. It was the perfect end to day two of our Lycia tour….

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Turkish tea (chai) is served frequently throughout the day. We sip on tea during breaks at work, during long breakfasts and at the end of dinner feasts. There are ‘chai gardens’ throughout the city, and numerous warm cafes to sit, sip chai, play games and smoke hookah. The Turkish tea glass is unique and dignified. Every household (including our apartment) has a set of at least 6 Turkish tea glasses that can be ready at a moments notice to offer any guest. The Turkish tea glass is small. Some say it is shaped like a tulip, others declare it is the silhouette of a woman’s body. Either way, a steamy glass of chai can be held at the tip and enjoyed amidst any social setting, and after every meal.

Recently, Pasabahce, a Turkish glassware company released a commercial highlighting the diverse designs and models of the Turkish tea glass. The music and the images linger in my mind. As a result, I thought it would be the perfect introduction to Turkish chai. The commercial is titled ‘Çaya Şeklini Biz Verdik’, which claims ‘We gave you the shape of the Chai glass”. Whether it is true or not, the company is the largest produces of the chai glasses and certainly an innovator in contemporary design. 


Turkish Tea Glasses

Lykia Tour: Day 1


Our day began in a panic. It was 4:05 AM. The airport shuttle was leaving in 10 minutes. We frantically got dressed, threw the last items in our bag, and ran down the stairs to the closest taxi station. Miraculously enough, we made it. The shuttle arrived and several other half awake individuals moved like ghosts on to the bus. We slept every change we could. Closing our eyes on the 45 minute drive to the airport, in the airport waiting room, and immediately after we sat down on the plane.

We arrived at Dalaman airport around 7:30. It is a very small airport that serves the southwestern region of Turkey, and holiday travellers. We met our guide, and by 9:oo we arrived at our first location: Dalyan. This was once a small fishing village, that is now a famed tourist attraction and summer residence for many British families. The Dalyan river flows into the Mediterranean Sea near a long sand spit that separates the sea from the internal march. This sand spit is called ‘The Turtle’s Beach”, one of the last remaining locations in the Mediterranean area that has the right conditions for Giant Loggerhead Turtles to reproduce and lay their eggs.

Now, most fisherman make their living whisking tourists through the beautiful Dalyan marsh, past the famed Lycian tombs carved into the rocky hillsides, to the natural hot springs and mud baths, ending the trip at the famous ‘Turtles Beach’. Bare in mind, while the allure of the turtles brings numerous people to this beach throughout the year, June is usually the only month where any turtles are spotted. Some people wait hours to simply catch a glimpse of a turtle. We arrived to this famed beach on a cold November morning and found some crab fisherman playing with one of these turtles just off the shore. It was astounding to see a Loggerhead Turtle up close. It dived around the boat as the fisherman fed it crab meat. It was a beautiful creature that swam playfully through the marsh, inspiring ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ from the other boats that encountered it on their way to the beach. After ordering some crab from the ‘crab boat’, we were dropped off at this beautiful sandy beach for an hour. We wandered up and down the beach, sharing the shore  with only one other boat of Russian tourists. We searched for signs of a nest without luck, but enjoyed feeling the cold sand under our feet, and hearing the waves crash upon the shore. After stopping for some tea, and taking in the entire scene, we boarded our boat again (this special beach is only accessible by boat), and returned to the boat of the crab fisherman to pick-up our order. As we made our way back to Dalyan, we nibbled on the meat of the small blue-shelled freshwater crab. We returned to the port and indulged in a lunch of grilled fish and various Turkish salads. It was the perfect way to start our trip!

After our meal and a short trip to the hot springs, we boarded the bus to Gocek, a small vacation town that serves as a home base and docking point for many yacht owners. There are many private boat tour companies located in Gocek. It seems like it is the perfect place for anyone with fantasies of a boat trip around Southern Turkey to begin their search for a boat operator or rental company. It is a beautiful town, full of lovely cafes and even a wine bar. We walked along the waterfront, and watched as locals zoomed past us on their vespas, and children played near the water.

By 5 PM we were exhausted. It had been a full day of sightseeing. It was the perfect first day to a comprehensive tour of this historical and beautiful region. We were excited to see what would come next…

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I’m Back!


It was Kurban Bayram earlier this week. It is one of the most important Islamic holidays, and a national holiday in Turkey. We took full advantage of these 5 days of freedom, and booked a Lycia tour with Touristica Tours. It was a whirlwind tour. We spent 4 days on boats and busses seeing the unbelievably beautiful mountains, islands, and ancient ruins of Southwestern Turkey. Some highlights include:

1.) Seeing a giant sea turtle swim around our boat
2.) Walking through the amphitheater of Patara, the ancient capital of the provence when it was part of Rome and a major port city of the Lycian League
3.) A boat tour that took us in and around the 12 islands that surround the coast of Fethiye
4.) Wandering through Saklikent (Hidden City) Canyon

I look forward to discussing my favorite places and experiences in more detail. Until then, I will share a few pictures..

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Snapshots of my class


There are many people who have asked about my school. Finally, I have some pictures. My class is composed of 19 five-year old students. They are spunky, energetic and smart. I am constantly amazed by their observations, vocabulary and artwork. I have included some photos of the students which I took before the official class photograph (you can see their happy and surprised faces), as well as some pictures of the classroom and our most recent hallway boards. Enjoy!

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