Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Busy, busy, busy!

I have been too busy for  my own good.  I apologize for the lack of posts since leaving for Turkey.  Upon my return I have been going non-stop:

1.  Final tallying of the commitment forms from the Turkey event.
2.  Helping a friend edit and write a book.
3.  Writing curriculum on the side for a zoo down in California.
4.  Developing a lesson plan for Friday's Sozo Kids (which I am teaching this week).
5.  Getting my yard under submission! (read: weeding the whole thing, mowing and weed wacking)
6.   Unpacking from Turkey and re-packing for my trip to Chicago next Monday.
7.  Starting a new workout routine with a personal trainer.
8.  Oh yeah, just normal working hours, church, and friends too.

Phew, that's a long list.  I have meant to update on the rest of the Turkey trip, and, as you can see, just have not had time until now:

After the conference got started, I did not see much of it!  I spent a LOT of time for the conference in our "bunker room" where all of the photocopying, printing, powerpoint-making, and detail finalizing occurred.  My time was spent, finalizing the workshop times and rooms, making sure the rooms were stocked with what they needed, getting sign-up sheets in the rooms for the workshops, photocopying workshop and plenary session materials, helping check in participants, arranging speaker transportation back to the airport, tracking payments and budget for the event with the tourism agent/travel agent we worked with to plan the event, helping pass out materials, developing a powerpoint for the final day, and just general troubleshooting for the event. 

The final day of the event was my birthday.  Praise the Lord, the event was over by 1pm, and we were cleared out of the hotel and on our way to downtown Istanbul by 4 pm.  As a "thank you" for helping, Martin, the lead coordinator paid for my taxi into Istanbul, one of my nights at a hotel in Istanbul, and bought me dinner that night.  He, a friend of his named Roedolf, and I shared the taxi into downtown Istanbul and had dinner in town that night.  We walked around downtown Istanbul a bit after dinner (which was AMAZING...really the food as a whole in Turkey was absolutely delicious) and had coffee and apple tea (basically apple cider) and some Turkish Delights.

The next day I woke up and took a tour bus for the morning to see some sites around old town Istanbul.  We stopped by the Haghia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Obelisk (where four-horse chariot races used to be run), a rug-making factory, and spent an hour and a half in the Grand Bazaar (basically a big giant outdoor covered mall).  I met a gal on the tour named Toby, who turned out to be in town for just a day on her way to Israel. She was an Orthodox Jew from London and we made a plan to meet back up later that afternoon at the Grand Bazaar to do some more shopping.

I went and grabbed some lunch: grilled chicken kebabs, and then headed over to the Archaeological Museum for two hours, which was just heaven for a history buff like me.  I then met back up with Toby at the Grand Bazaar for some more shopping.

The Grand Bazaar probably deserves a whole post on its own, but I will say this, Turkish vendors are NOT shy about luring you into their shop!  As a whole, I felt Turkish culture slightly more aggressive and "in your face" than America.  Yet, there was not any outward anger and at no time did I ever feel like my safety was in jeopardy.  Turkish culture is also a bartering culture.  Once you step up to a booth (or even just glance that way) it's kind of like the shopping process has begun.  For sure once you ask a price, you are expected to buy, unless you really can't come to an agreement about a price.  For example I saw a vase I just adored, and the price (while jacked up to accommodate the bargaining process) was WAY too steep for me. It was pretty clear by the look on my face that there was no way I was going to be able to afford this vase, so the bargaining process ended pretty peacefully.  However, my friend Toby could not seem to figure this whole thing out and was pretty stuck on the western way of shopping....ask the price, browse the merchandise, no negotiation, etc. 

At one point she stepped into a vendor's jewelry booth and proceeded to look at probably 6-7 pieces of jewelry, asking the price on each piece, not bargaining, and then putting it down.  I think the vendor finally figured out that she wasn't probably going to buy and basically shoved us out the door.  He began yelling at us in Turkish and then in English "if it's free you like it!  If it costs money, you don't!"  We hustled out of there. 

Some of the lines we heard to try to lure us over to their booth were pretty comical: "Ladies, I can help you spend your money here!" "Leather, you want leather?  I have NEED some leather!"  All in all, it was pretty fun.  I managed to bargain my way into four cashmere and silk pashminas, a box of Turkish Delights, a "Turkiye" sweatshirt, and a Turikish tile for my kitchen.

After shopping, Toby and I headed to a Starbucks and chatted for probably an hour.  I asked her lots of questions about being an Orthodox Jew and in turn shared the gospel with her.  I'm not sure if anything will come from this, but we are now "friends" on facebook and I continue to pray for her.

I went out to dinner by myself that night, wandered around old town Istanbul a bit, then went back to my hotel to pack as I was leaving at noon the next afternoon.

The hotel, which had an amazing view of the Bosphorus and lots of other cool sites, had a free breakfast, which I ate the next morning. It was an amazing breakfast and puts our hotel's continental breakfasts to shame.

I negotiated a ride to the airport with a taxi driver (I told you it was a bargaining society...even taxi rides are up for negotiation) and headed home...purchasing some Turkish coffee at the airport.

I arrived home at about midnight on Friday night, May 1 after being gone 10 days....and woke up at 6 the next morning for work.  It was a trip that was a lot of hard work, but so worth it.

I'll post pictures later!

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