Saturday, July 25, 2009


So there we were on the ride home yesterday, proud of ourselves for having found the right bus after venturing out on our own to the other side of town where we're going to take our teaching certification class. The bus was pretty full, so we had to stand, but Sarah got a seat after a while. When an old Turkish lady got on the bus though, Sarah gestured and volunteered her seat while the lady thanked her in Turkish. When the seat next to the lady opened up, Sarah sat down and endured the awkward silence next to the lady (when she probably would have conversed very amiably if she had known Turkish). The lady was very nice and even used her piece of paper to fan Sarah because of the heat, but not a word passed between them.

As we got closer to our apartment, we started craning our necks out the windows to try to spot where we would get off. You see, this was our first time taking the bus home and we didn't know where they would let us off, and at the time every street looked similar. In our obvious nervousness we unknowingly started a chain reaction...

**NOTE: I will attempt to retell the story putting English words to what I think all the Turks were saying to us, but I will keep our responses genuinely Turkish.**

- The nice old Turkish lady tries to help first: "Oh, do you need some help finding your stop?"
- Sarah: "Bilmiyorum." ("I don't know.")
- Lady: "I can help you. What's the name of the stop you're getting off at?"
- Sarah: "Bilmiyorum." Sarah's hands also give the half-"I surrender" posture to reinforce the "I don't know." At this point the ladies in the seats in front of Sarah also turn around and chime in...
- Other Ladies: "Who are you meeting?"
- Sarah: "Bilmiyorum. Turkce konusmiyorum." ("I don't know. I don't speak Turkish.")
- All the Ladies: "C'mon. All you have to do is tell us what stop you're gonna get off at. What's the name of it?"
- Sarah: "Bilmiyorum."
- All the Ladies, to me now: "Do you know?"
- Me: "Bilmiyorum."
- All the Ladies, plus the guy across the aisle: "Oh, you probably can't say it, but you can write it down. Here's some paper and a pen."
- Sarah, with the "I surrender" hand posture: "Bilmiyorum." Meanwhile I'm still standing, holding on to the handrail, and craning my neck out the windows to notice anything familiar. By now all 27 passengers on the bus are looking at us. The bus driver stops the bus, opens the doors, and turns around. The ticket taker looks at us.
- Bus driver and ticket taker: "What stop are you getting off at? What's the name of the street? Can you describe what it looks like to us?"
- Sarah and me: "Bilmiyorum. Turkce konusmiyorum." Thankfully the bus starts moving again, but people keep trying to help us in Turkish while we spit out every single Turkish word we know. Sarah steps it up a notch and tries to say that the stop is near a bakery.
- Sarah: "Ekmek. Burada." ("Bread. Here.")
- Everyone: "Oh, you want some bread? You're getting off here? You want to go to a bakery?"
- Us: "Bilmiyorum." At this point it looks like we'll never get anywhere talking with these people. But we can't just stop talking and look for the right bus stop. THEY KEEP TRYING TO HELP. We have no choice but to try to talk with them. Sarah then gets the idea to say it's near the train station.
- Sarah: "Train station." (yeah, in English)
- Everyone: "Oh, the train station. That's over there."
- Sarah: "Bilmiyorum."
- Lady in front of Sarah: "Wait, do you want the train station or the tramway? There's a difference you know."
- Me: "Evet. Tren!" ("Yes. Train!") Apparently that thread goes nowhere. So Sarah throws "train" into her string of Turkish words...
- Sarah: "Ekmek. Burada. Tren. Burada. Ekmek... Bilmiyorum. Turkce Konusmiyorum!" ("Bread. Here. Train. Here. Bread. I don't know. I don't speak Turkish!")
- Everyone: "Uh, are you guys even on the right bus? Do you know if you're supposed to go to Zeytinburnu? 'Cause this bus is in Zeytinburnu now." (Zeytinburnu is our neighborhood)
- Us: "Evet. Zeytinburnu."
- Lady: "Okay, here's that paper again. You know you can just write down the name of your stop for me."
- Sarah: "Bilmiyorum." Then Sarah remembers she has Allison's cell phone and we can call for some backup. She hands it to me and I speak with Eric, who tells us exactly where to get off. Duh... we could have done that 20 minutes ago. I tell Sarah I know where to get off, so we awkwardly ignore everyone's comments and stares for the next 3 minutes until we spot our stop.
- Us: "Burada! Tesekkurler!" ("Here! Thanks!") And yes, it was the right stop. We got off right next to the bakery (of which there are hundreds throughout the city) and got home safely.

Whew! Our first major language adventure with a bus full of Turks!

**Sarah's note: As the situation increased in awkwardness, I noticed Jonathan smoothly fade into the background and look out like the window, trying to avoid any sort of affiliation with me due to the fact that I was making a fool of myself. This isn't the first time he's hung me out to dry. He also abandoned me to the mercy of the bread man a couple of days ago. I looked to him for support when I couldn't understand the bread price, and I saw him a good 20yards away, watching from a safe distance. He confessed to me yesterday he saw the man trying to follow me with my change, but I just walked off. Good thing I'm used to these things happening.**

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Our Commute

We spent a couple of days this week working with Coffee Haus, the coffee roasting business where Eric and Allison work.

Jonathan assisted in roasting the coffee and helping to create a blend made specifically for the Four Seasons Hotel in Istanbul where they just started supplying coffee. Allison and I spent most of our time reorganizing and decorating the office so it looked like a professional office and functioned like a coffee roastery. Unfortunately I didn't take any before and after pictures, but there were some vast improvements.

The best part about this is the commute. Istanbul is split in half by the Bosporus Strait. The right side is Asia and the left side is Europe. The smaller divider to the left of the Bosphorous Straut is called the Golden Horn and is only an inlet. North of Istanbul is the Black Sea and south of the Sea of Mamara is the Aegean Sea which then becomes the Mediterranean Sea.

View Larger Map

That said, we live on the European side in an area called Zeytinburnu (the bottom left of the map). I guess in English, Zeytinburnu means "olive nose." Hmmm.

So, to get from our apartment to Coffee Haus takes a little over an hour and looks something like this:

This probably isn't the best picture, but I'm sure there will be more soon.

We leave our apartment and walk along the brick/cobblestone streets, past the stinky fish market to the train station. The train curves around the Golden Horn and takes us to one of the main downtown areas, and also the train station that was built to be part of the Orient Express.
Here are some of the best views we get from the train:

I don't know who this statue is of, but I'm guessing Ataturk, since most things are in honor of him here.

From the train, we cross the street (like Cairo, it's more like playing the video game Frogger) and wait for the ferry. We always make sure to sit outside to enjoy the wind and water and take the 20 minute ferry across the Bosphorous Strait to the Asian side of Istanbul. (This is my favorite part because of how much I love bodies of water!) We also get an incredible view of Istanbul from here.

From the Asian side looking to the European side.

The Bosphorous Strait up ahead.

Sometimes we wonder about the clearance of those boats if there's a big wave.

The Turkish flag is also everywhere! It's hard to get a picture without it!

Look how green-blue the water is!!!

Here's our ferry stop on the European side.
From the Asian side, we cross the street, walk past the "orange guy" up some hills, past a sculpture of a Bull, and down a hill to Coffee Haus.

And the best part is, to get home, we do the same thing all over again! I'm bummed we won't have more to do on the Asian side in the future!

So, if anyone feels bad for us because we live overseas, you don't have to because we pretty much live in the most beautiful city ever!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

First Day in Istanbul

Our first day full day in Istanbul was perfect. From the moment we got out of the car and on the 1/2 block walk to our apartment, saw Turks, Greeks, Kazakhs, Afghans, and Turkmen, we knew we would love it here!

Due to jet lag, we got to experience the morning call to prayer. Oddly, the call to prayer makes me feel at home here.

Call to Prayer from Sarah Pascual on Vimeo.

Jonathan and Eric spent the day doing coffee tastings for Coffee Haus, and Allison and I hung out home and while I unpacked. We met up with the guys at Sultanahmet (one of the big tourist destinations) to meet an acquaintance of Jonathan's who is vacationing in Istanbul.

Allison and I took the train to meet them. I LOVE public transportation, so that was fun already, but parts of the tracks lead us right next to the water, so it's beautiful as well.

Here's the Aya Sofia behind us--church turned mosque turned museum.

Last time we were here, the street vendors were selling roasted chestnuts. This time, it was grilled corn.

We ate on the roof of a restaurant that overlooked the city.

Here's my vegetarian sandwich I ordered.

Apparently, at some point during our meal, the building we were in had a small fire and tons of fire trucks came and everyone stood around and watched what was happening. Our server didn't seem alarmed, though we were 4 floors up and the only way down was a narrow windy staircase. So, we just enjoyed our meal. Eventually the fire trucks left and everything went back to normal again.

After dinner we walked around the city a bit.

Around 10, we headed home. The station we caught the train in is the same station that was constructed for the Orient Express. Apparently, long, long ago, Istanbul was considered the Orient.

As Jonathan and I walked through the city together, we just drank in all the sights and sounds, loving every second. Oddly, I already feel more comfortable and at home in Istanbul than I ever felt in Atlanta. Jonathan's response to Istanbul in relation to Cairo was, "Take Cairo and then remove everything that's bad about it, and you have Istanbul." We couldn't ask for anything better!

This coming week we'll be devoted to 35 pages and 50 tasks of pre-course work for CELTA. It looks like e'll have to save the rest of our adventures for September.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Up, up, up, and away!

In two hours, Sarah and I hop on a plane bound for Turkey. The Atlanta chapter of our lives has come to a close for now. And what a ride it's been! We thank the Lord for the many ways he's blessed us and grown us up in Himself. We will forever cherish the times he's given us in these past two years with family, friends, and church here in the States. Though it will be sad to miss all the upcoming milestones in our loved ones' lives - weddings, babies, etc. - we know without a doubt that we're following the Lord in this next step in our journey in Turkey.

In a couple weeks we'll be starting our CELTA certification in Istanbul. For a solid month we'll be in an intensive program to learn how to be English teachers. It will be so involved that we'll probably not have much time to explore the city or to learn Turkish -- but that will happen eventually. Sarah and I invite you to come to Turkey to visit us if you ever get the chance! And we'll be keeping in touch through email, Skype, and this blog.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

I Heart Colorado

A few weeks ago, I spent a few days in Boulder visiting family and friends. I wish I would have had a bit more time because I didn't get to see everyone I wanted to, but the times I did have were sweet.

I didn't really take any pictures of people, but couldn't resist trying to capture the beauty of all of the walks and hikes I took.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Owl Sweater

The day has finally come and I finished my owl sweater! All of the hours were definitely worth it for this! I really enjoy knitting now, which is a great thing since I'm not taking my sewing machine to Turkey. Hopefully they have yarn stores in Istanbul!!!! (I'm sure they do since they did in Cairo, and Cairo seems to have a lot less than Istanbul.)

Check it out!!!!