April 21, 2015

Weekend Adventure in Cappadocia

It's Tuesday morning and I've just finished a double Turkish coffee. My colleagues gave me a hard time because Turks usually drink coffee in the afternoon, following a big meal. The luxury of time for such a treat is only available to me in the morning, before my teaching day begins. I'll take my buzz now, thanks.

Anyway, I want to write a little about my weekend. The best I've had in a long time. Maybe ever--in some ways.

Alan and I ditched complicated plans to visit a waterfall with friends in favor of a self-directed hike in Cappadocia. We went to the other side of a valley we had previously visited, and wow. It was spectacular. Cappadocia's whimsical forms look good in every season--but on the first day of warm sunshine after a month of drab gray winter-ish weather--I mean, g├╝zel (beautiful). The wildflowers were blowing, the bees were buzzing, and Alan and I were happily strolling a dusty trail together. We nibbled on sandwiches and skipped over small creeks. We explored ancient caves and marveled at the sheer cliff faces rising from the landscape.

And then...we found the staircase.

Alan found it. I was pretty satisfied NOT going in, but Alan pulled out his flashlight, and got on hands and knees to enter the three by three hole leading into complete darkness. He illuminated a staircase leading upward into an abyss of blackness with a cool breeze rushing out. "Come on," he said.
The staircase (the opening was just tall enough to crawl through)

"No thanks, I'm good."

"No, just come in and look up. That's all."

I did, and then somehow he convinced me to keep climbing in the darkness, no doubt passing spiders and crawlies and ancient omens. My hands were covered in the ancient dust as I searched for the handholds on the walls, hunched over, but climbing.

A precarious turn in the stairway held us up a little, but through the dusty cavern we could see the sunlight from a window above. Alan urged me on, and somehow we made it to a look out, about six stories up.

Alan got really nervous about climbing back down the stairway. He was really worried that I would fall because of the worn away steep steps. "If either of us fall," he warned, "we are in big trouble."

Somethings I wish he'd consider before we are at the top of a dangerous stone tunnel staircase.

Anyway, Alan worked his way back into the staircase, wedging himself precariously as to create a block in case I slipped. I cautiously scooted my butt inch by inch down the ridiculous stairs. Once I got close, Alan descended a few more stairs and blockaded again. The descent was admittedly WAY worse than the climb, as the steps were narrow and angled downward, not to mention covered in an inch of powered rock. A perfect recipe for slipping down a 30 foot shaft of rock.

Somehow, we made it to the bottom safely. I think my positive out loud self talk really helped. "Jena, you're doing great. One at a time. One at a time."

I emerged, dusty and a little shaky from adrenaline, but accomplished.

We hiked for several more hours before deciding to reward ourselves with a cold beer on the roof of our favorite cafe. The waiter has seen us every two weeks for the past few months, so he greeted us warmly and proceeded to dust me off. It was pretty funny. He asked whether we would be ordering our usual hot, spiced wine. This guys knows us too well. "Two beers, please."

We even got to see our buddy "Long Dog" (Corgi and German Shepard hybrid) and meet two new friends, "Mop Dog" and "Big Dog" (like the Beast from Beauty and the Beast) on the streets of Goreme.

It was a great day.

April 11, 2015

Self-Cheerleading. Driving, Turkish, Volleyball...

Today I've got a lot to be proud of, and a lot to be grateful for.

This morning, I wrote messages to not one, but two Turkish friends in Turkish. My proficiency and confidence has really changed in the past three months. I'm proud of my progress.

Last night, I drove our manual transmission, crazy-time post-factory-rigged Hyundai by myself for the first time. No stalls, no accidents, no peel-outs. I even had to deal with construction, and as always, Turkish drivers. You bet those line lanes didn't constrict my movements.

I even drove a student part of the way to her house after our VOLLEYBALL match. I finally got more than 4 people to come to volleyball at the girls dorm. Interestingly, the co-ed archery team was also practicing in there at the same time. Sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen, right? I also think this particular combination of danger and trying to do my normal thing is particularly indicative of my time in Turkey. Be careful where you run, there might be someone learning how to use a bow and arrow! Be careful where you drive, "one-way street" is only a suggestion! Et cetera.

I've been feeling pretty down lately based on the never-ending winter temperatures and grey skies and also a new teaching assignment that has me teaching the same five chapters (for the third time this year) to students who failed this material in the previous quarter. I'm trying to approach it with grace, but it's not always easy. I survived the first week. I'm also proud of that.

Alan and I have decided not to renew our contracts for next year, so we are on the job market again. We are looking to Thailand for our next phase. A little more tropical and more pad thai (delicious noodles). If all goes as planned, you can expect lots of posts from Southeast Asia in 2016.

I am grateful for what I have here in Turkey. A well-paid job, wonderful friends and colleagues, a car, Cappadocia. Our first year of marriage. Good health (knock on wood). Good wine.

On that note, I'll start my Saturday. All my best to you and yours.