Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Florida Wedding

At the beginning of October, Erin and I were lucky to be able to travel home for her brother's wedding. It was a stretch to do it, and we were happy that our school allowed us a few days off for this marathon trip back home.

When you live overseas, it's easy to make an excuse for these family affairs, and let them slide by the wayside. After all, Florida does seem like a long ways away when you are sitting on your porch in Turkey, watching the sunset and listening to the evening's call to prayer. However, that's just the point. Our home will never cease to be in America, and if we stop taking part in family affairs, then we risk losing it. It's our choice to live overseas, and we firmly believe that that choice does not equate with abandoning our home; so when weddings and other family celebrations occur, we feel it's our job to be there. And so we were.

The wedding was a grand American-Italian affair. We loved meeting Vanessa's NY Little Italy family, and with the added bonus of my parents coming down to take part in the festivities. I was even able to take a dip into the Gulf of Mexico and down some peel and eat shrimp at Sloppy Pelican's on St. Pete beach.

A personal highlight for me, was my new Canon 10-22mm lens that I bought on Craig's list and had my Dad bring down to me. Most of these pics were taken on this crazy lens, and I love it.

Three cheers to the newly weds. We can't wait to see you again this summer:)


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Olympos. Redux

I love Olympos, Turkey. Turkey isn't much of a backpacker's haunt, and I miss that after living in South America for two years. In Quito, if I ever wanted a touch of home, I could go down to the Irish Backpackers bar, and check in with any of the dozen or so expats rolling though town. It was fun to hear their stories of travel, and I got to return the favor by passing on hints about Ecuador. Nothing like this exists in Ankara. But, Olympos, now that's a vagabond's heaven.

We spent four days there this past September with my sister who was visiting from Washington D.C. Between relaxing on the beach, swimming in warm blue water, and sailing around to swimming holes and sunken cities, we managed to fill our days. The highlight may have been the outrageous Orange Bar disco, an outdoor affair set back in a canyon that hosts rock climbing during the day. The music is still thumpin' in my head, and images of Turks with mullet haircuts drift in and out of my dreams....

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Rewind to the Black Sea

The week before Megan showed up, we all piled up into Buddha, and journeyed North to the Black Sea. I'd never been before, and Khadijah had worked out a camping spot right next to the beach. It was still hot in Ankara, and so we were looking for an excuse to get out of town. Four hours North, we pulled up to Amasra, the biggest town on the coast near us. And a little ways down the beach, we found our camping spot in the cute little town of Cakraz. The camping was little more than a parking lot, but, it was directly in front of the beach, so we couldn't argue too much with the location.

It was our friend Layla's first time camping, and so we had a good time teasing her about bears and making smores over the campstove. One highlight of the weekend was how much sea glass was in the water. Erin spent most of the weekend collecting it, and came away with a huge bagfull. I wonder what she'll do with it? Another highlight happened while Erin was getting something out of the car. She heard Uriah's voice coming out of the car, and realized it was his girlfriend's phone--which had an automatic alarm recording of Uriah's voice set to go off every morning. I can't remember the exact recording, but it was sufficiently embarrassing, and went something like "It's time to wake up and kiss your husband sweetie pie!"

Anyway, good stuff. Great weekend. I highly recommend the Black Sea, just watch out for the jellyfish.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Marathon of a weekend in Istanbul

Friday, September 3
8:00 to 4:00 Work
4:00 grab taxi to bus station
4:15 grab shuttle bus to airport
5:00 arrive at airport, consume beer
6:00 leave for Istanbul
7:00 arrive in Istanbul
7:30 take bus to city center
9:00 arrive in city center
9:30 drink cocktails with my sister, who arrived 3 hours earlier from Washington D.C.
11:00 Turkish appetizers on Istikal Street
1:00 Go to bed

Saturday, September 4
9:00 to 12:00 Tour Cistern, tour Haghia Sophia Church, drink beer, eat lunch in Turkish "diner" tour Grand Bazar, walk to Golden Horn Bridge, drink beer, visit Spice Bazar, eat Ramazan Bread, drink beer, talk to pilot about flying Jackie O. in the 60's, learn how to play Backgammon, get beat by Megan, walk back to hotel, take tram to Ortakoy, have dinner at fancy organic restaurant, take bus to Taksim Square, end up at Cuba Bar salsa dancing at midnight, back to hotel

Sunday, September 5
9:00 Wake up to rain, tour Topkapi Palace in the rain, have lunch, depart for airport, say goodbye to Megan, will see her again in 24 hours...
3:00 Save dumb tourists from going to the wrong airport for their flight to Bangkok
3:15 Private taxi to airport
6:00 Fly back to Ankara
7:00 Arrive in Ankara
8:00 Arrive home, eat take-out Chinese with wife

Monday, September 6
8:00 to 4:00 Work at school
4:00 grab taxi back to bus station
4:15 grab shuttle bus back to airport
5:00 arrive back at airport, consume more beer, this time with wife and friends: Uriah and Layla
6:45 leave again for Istanbul
7:00 arrive back in Istanbul, this time at Ataturk Airport
7:30 begin taxi ride from hell to U2 Concert
9:00 exit taxi in gridlock and walk the last 2km
9:45 find seats, missed opening act (Snow Patrol)
10:00 U2 takes the state
11:40 decide to leave before encore to avoid traffic, must make 1AM bus back to work...
11:55 hire Itallian Race-car driver to drive us to the bus station
11:56 arrive at bus station in record time
1:00AM board bus back to Ankara, this time, with Megan who me us at bus station
7:00 AM, Tuesday, arrive in Ankara take quick shower
8:15 AM, Begin work
4:00 PM, Begin vacation

Wed - Sun to follow in another, perhaps more descriptive, post.


Photos should speak to the above madness :)

Working on some photos and stories for the blog....

Here's a little idea of what's coming up. Two big items happened this month. Megan, my sister visited us in Turkey. And, she brought me a new 50mm 1.8 prime lens. Very cool on both accounts. More to come soon.
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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Carpet Bagger

Middle Eastern carpets are works of art, I understand that. They take many months of tenacious weaving to create, I get it. They are historical representations of the cultures and time periods they have stood (or I guess laid) witness too, impressive, for sure!

But I don't like them.

It's not that I don't appreciate them, I'm just not enamored enough to spend thousands of dollars on one. Truth be told, I probably wouldn't even spend a hundred dollars on one.

But plenty people would, and plenty people do.

Turkish carpets are a huge industry. Their showrooms dominate every street corner in the Sultanhamet district of Istanbul. Their touts shout at you as you pass, inviting you for chai and to take a look at their wares. No thanks, I say, I just don't like them.

For the sake of information, I attended a carpet workshop a few months back. Hosted by our school, it was a low-key, informal affair with wine and appetizers. No pressure to buy, and no haggles for the sales price, the price they offered was their lowest price. I liked that attitude, and this plus the wine kept me around to hear more about carpets and their history.

They showed us lots of different types, traditional patterns favored by various Sultan's. New-age styles for the up and coming Istanbulites. Persian rugs, Afhghani Rugs, Kazahki Rugs, Pakistani Rugs; these guys had definitely traveled the region. Some of the most amazing carpets were those made of silk, which changed colors depending on the viewing angle. I learned that Turkish carpets are some of the most durable in the world, as they use a double knot to create the carpet, instead of single knot. And, interestingly, carpets get better with age--an older carpet costs more than a new one. They even showed us a few flying carpets, well, at flying in the sense that they tossed them into the air.

By the end of the show, I had gained an appreciation for this art form. I even sort-of, kind-of, liked one type of carpet they had that used all natural dyes. The earth tones in this style were more appealing than the deep burgundy colors that are more typical. I asked the man for a quote on the carpet, just to feel out the prices. $800. Yeah, just what I thought--too much for me to even think about it.

The house we've rented for the last three weeks has several Turkish carpets in it. I practiced some homework from my photography course on these, offering some abstract takes on the typical carpets. Let me know what you think.

Friday, August 6, 2010

A day on Turkey's premier alpine rock route, Parmakkaya

Yesterday I spent a great day with my new friend Adnan on Turkey's unimaginatively named "Rock Finger," or, in Turkish, "Parmakkaya." Certainly my hideous climbing partners in Colorado could summon up better names, but, no matter, it was a great route. Parmakkaya was first climbed in 1971 by John Waterman, from Colorado, and Dennis Mehmet. In my guidebook from 1993, the author calls it "Undoubtedly the most committing and hardest route to date." Well, that's not really a good description since the Euros arrived. Now, the spire has 4 routes, with grades up to 7c(.12d), seven pitches, and "nerve wrecking bolt distances." The nerve wrecking part scared me off the new routes, but I was soon to find out that the classic route was not a walk in the park.

Adnan and I set off at 4AM from our village, with the idea that we would climb light and fast, and thereby avoid the intense mid-day Turkish sun. We took the jeep road up the beautiful Apple Valley, and parked Buddha as high up as we could take her. From there, it was a 2.5 hour hike up to the spire, perched at 2880m(9,448ft). It hadn't rained in the Ala Dag for three weeks, so of course, at about 7AM, it started to rain. Adnan and I took shelter under a boulder in the scree slopes below the spire, and prayed for it too stop. Allah was on our side, because with a half hour the rain had stopped, and by the time we reached the base of the route through some steep talus, the rock was dry.

Adnan took the first pitch, and he wound his way up past rusty pitons and sharp limestone to a hanging belay off of a single thread through. From here I took the crack pitch up the face to the shoulder of the spire. The climbing was good, and I even sunk a few jams in the sharp rock. There were lots of fixed pins, and I only had to place a few stoppers between them to feel good about not ripping all of them out in the case of a fall. Once on top of the shoulder, we decided to extend the belay upwards 5 meters to cut down on the rope drag for Adnan on the last, and crux pitch. So, again, we found ourselves at an airy belay, perched on top of a detached pillar. Adnan styled the crux, though he said he was cussing his whole way through it. I didn't hear him because the wind had started howling, and dark clouds were steadily building in the valley next to us. Following the pitch, I did a bit of swearing myself....10a moves above old pitons through a roof and around an EXTREMELY exposed and windy corner to me to the safety of a crack, which I quickly followed up to Adnan and a very black looking sky.

Tagging the summit, the first thunder rumbled ominously and echoed down the valley. Over one shoulder was blue skies, and over the other it was completely black. I freaked out a bit, and made Adnan hurry off the summit...we still had at least two full length rappels and limestone is notorious for catching ropes up during the descent. Adnan tried to assure me that the weather would not come over to us, but that's not how it works in the mountains I know. So, off we went in a hurry.

As we tossed the ropes off the summit, I instantly regretted not coiling them up into bowling balls, a common trick for windy days. The ropes blew back up towards us, tangling themselves in an impossible nest. Adnan took 20 minutes rappelling and sorting them out, while I sat on the summit, trying to focus on the slowly dissipating blue sky, not the growing black sky. Finally rappeling down from the summit, thunder roaring more and more consistently, I happened upon a midway station. With a few wits still about me, I realized that I should stop, pull the ropes from there, and break Adnan's long rappel into two smaller ones. It would, of course, extend my time exposed to the weather up high on the spire, but it would also insure that the ropes would pull cleanly. It was a good choice, as even pulling the ropes from my mid-station was a struggle. As we pulled the ropes, they whipped around the tower, commanded by the a higher source of power than us--the tempestuous winds, but slowly we were able to retrieve both ropes and I instantly calmed as we tossed them off our second rappel and I saw them both graze the ground. Our long ropes had broken two final rappels into one, and I didn't care if my rope got stuck once I was on the ground.

Five minutes later, there I was. Done with Parmakkaya, chased off by a thunderstorm, but not without tagging the summit.

Hiking down and back to the car, Adnan and I were struck by the sun, which had positioned itself behind the spire, and sent light streaming down either side of the rock. Clearly this rock had a better name in mind for itself than "rock finger."

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Climbing in Turkey's Ala Dag Mountains

A good week here in central Turkey, hot, but good.

You can see our house in the middle of the photo, just above the trees and to the left of the road.

Last weekend the climbing crew from "Team Ankara" showed up for a second weekend in a row. It's almost felt crowded with about 25 climbers here, but everyone is so friendly in Turkey, more people just means more folks encouraging you to climb hard. And we did. I reached a big climbing goal, finally pushing myself out of the 5.10 rut I've been in for many years. My reward? A Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA that we found and bought in Finland this past June. Erin has also been doing well, climbing several 5.10's without falling.

We also tried climbing an alpine peak, Eznevit 3560m; but obscene heat, no shade, and a serious lack of water left us retreating from the false summit at 3,000m. Still, it was a nice climb of 2nd and 3rd class slabs up to our high point.

A couple good photos of our friends climbing routes in the Kizikli Valley.

Mostly, we've been saving money by cooking meals here at home. But, with friends in town, we decided to splurge by going into town and getting a home-cooked meal of Turkish Pizza "Pide" and Chicken Kebap. The meal was 8 dollars, so, I guess it's an okay use of some extra money.

Here is Erin's lamb, egg, and cheese Pide

And of course, afterwards you must have your chai.

Finally, a couple more of my homework assignments from photography school. First, an open "bulb" exposure of the moonrise above the Ala Dag mountains.

Next, a black and white photo, with a red filter to intensify the colors in this sunset photo of Demirkazak, the tallest mountain in the Ala Dag at 3756m.

And, finally, a photo from the inside of our house, purposefully underexposed to let in the light of the shutters.

As it's a rest day before my friend Adnan and I try to climb the alpine spire of Parmakaya, I've also spent some time uploading more photos to facebook. You can see the gallery with this public link.

One more week before we are back to Ankara, I can't say I'm excited to leave the Ala Dag, but it will be time to start another school year.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Finally, some photos of what we have been doing in the Ala Dag

This weekend our friends from Ankara showed up, and I was finally able to take my hand off the belay rope and get some pictures of some of the climbing here in the Ala Dag, and, specifically the Kazikli Valley. To non-climbers, these are probably pretty boring; but I tried to spice some of them up so that they aren't all just about people hanging onto rocks with their fingers. As is my goal this summer, I'm trying out all sorts of photographic techniques, both in my composition, and in the post processing of the images. Any feedback on this is more than welcome!

More photos from the Ala Dag can be found on my facebook page, for some reason FB loads quicker than blogger.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ala Dag Part II

It's hard to take action photos when I'm just climbing with Erin, but until a crew of climbers show up this weekend, here are a few more landscapes and such from the amazing Ala Dag mountains.

For more info. look up Ala Daglar Camping on google and facebook.

Erin hiking out from Kizikli Valley, the climbing area near our house. Followed by a random shot of a climber on the "Karnaval" Wall and another beautiful alpine landscape.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Ala Dag Mountains

Erin and I found a stroke of good luck when we discovered a beautiful vacation home was available at the foot of the Turkish Alps. The Ala Dag mountains are about 5 hours South of Ankara, and are the Western most reach of the Himalaya. We arrived two days ago, and plan to stay for three or four weeks. Bali, our cat, came with us and we're looking forward to some time climbing, running, reading, and writing in our little mountain retreat.

The house we've rented is amazing. It's set up for rentals, and has 7 fully furnished bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, an (empty) swimming pool, a cherry and apricot orchard, a huge kitchen, Satellite T.V., a grape-vine covered veranda, and huge Turkish Carpets that Bali adores rolling all over. Since it's just the two of us, they are renting it to us for $200 U.S. a week, which seems like a steal. Hopefully some friends will come and join us, but we aren't holding our breath--we are way off the grid. The closest town is an hour away, and there isn't any bus service to the village we live near. But, more importantly, the climbing area is a five minute drive, and the entrance to the National Park is 15 minutes.

The climbing here is obviously excellent, but we are also going to work on preparing for school next year. I've got 4 new curriculum to plan for, and Erin has a revamped Psychology curriculum to contend with.

I'd post more pictures, but I'm running the internet off my mobile phone, in the middle of nowhere, Turkey. So, it takes a bit of time to upload. I'll work something out and see if I can compress the images to upload quicker.

Okay, ciao, it's time to go climb!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The New Camera

So, I've been bouncing around to some pretty incredible places in my life, and mostly that bouncing has been accompanied by a shitty little point and shoot camera.

I thought about replacing it, but as soon as I was about ready to get a nice film camera, in came digital.

And, nice digital has been pretty expensive until just recently.

I went with the Canon D550, also called the Rebel T2i in America. Amazingly, it was cheaper to buy it, after my tax-free refund, during my recent trip to Finland than getting it in the States. So, we went for it, and the results are astounding.

However, as my friend from Ecuador, Caroline, advised me, "don't skimp on the glass." So, I'm waiting for a trip home to purchase something decent for the light to go through on the way to this bad boy's processor. Until then, here are a few of the first results from around the Ankara, Turkey area. None of these have had any post processing, and they are all taken with the kit lens, so, give me a bit of slack. I'm a newbie at this.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

A Week on the Turquoise Coast

Last week Erin and I packed up Buddha, our 1998 Nissan Terrano, and headed down to the pine forest and blue bays of Turkey's famous Turquoise Coast.

We spent six days traveling West to East, settling in at campgrounds along the way. We started our trip with the amazing calcified cliffs of Pamukkale, a phenomenon of hot water pools and deposits that continue to stream down a mountainside. From there we moved on to the ruins of Aphrodisas, where more than a few of the placards in the ruins made reference to "the rituals of lovemaking" that went on in this aptly named Roman town. I think that's probably putting it mildly, the town sure sounds like an orgy-fest to me.

Taking a day and a half to make it to the coast, we finally coasted all the way out into the middle of the sea (two, actually) with the Mediterranean on one side of the Datca Peninsula, and the Aegean on the other. We found some great, beach side camping at the Ilica Campground; complete with hot water, beach chairs, umbrellas, a fridge, and a TV with which we were able to witness USA's devastating loss to Ghana.

After two nights in Datca, we hit the road to the lagoon of Oludeniz. Here we found Sugar Beach camping, full of topless pasty-white Brit's who apparently were unaware of a thing called sunscreen. I guess you don't really need it in the UK. At any rate, Sugar Beach had a nice collection of human lobsters, as well as more great camping, hot showers, bar, bacon burgers, pina coladas, etc. etc. Pretty nice, but also pretty touristy.

We only spent one night amongst the Lobster Brits, I was scared their screams of sunburned nightmares would wake me. Continuing to the East we found the amazing Ptara Beach, with 18KM of white sand dunes, and a complete reversal in beach culture from the private lagoon--here we saw the Burqa-inis that the new Sex and The City movie made famous. Mmmmm, sexy head-to-toe bathing suits. Yeah baby!!!!

Our last two nights were spent in Kas, a town that straddles the line between being too touristy, and truly local. The camping was splendid, just two tiers of sunchairs separated our tent from the water. In town the walking alleys were full of boutiques, bars, and restored Ottoman homes, where we finally gave in and had a meal that wasn't cooked over our campstove. Perhaps the most amazing site in Kas was in the harbor, where we found the Bristolian super yacht, discreetly docked at the end of the bay. Click the link to check out the boat, it is an engineering marvel.

Thanks for checking in, I posted the best of our pics from each leg of the trip below. If your going to the Turquoise Coast, drop me a line and I can point you in some good directions.


Blue Bay

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Kas Camping

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Ptara Beach (Plaj)

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