31 August, 2013

40 Days Until 40

Can you believe it? I can't. 

Sometimes I feel so ... young. Still unsure of what I want to be when I grow up. But then how can I also feel so capable? 

When I was younger, I thought that I would know EVERYTHING by the time I was 30. Didn't everybody else? By the time I was 30, I had more questions than ever. And it was very hard to find the answers that I needed in the midst of our crazy, wonderful, busy life.

Our adventure has provided the opportunity to let go of a lot of things. Stress and worry up at the top of the list. But, also for the first time I can actually understand meditation in the moment - truly giving over all thoughts and just experiencing ... eating, cutting vegetables, folding clothes, washing dishes, walking in the hot sun, holding my daughter's hand, listening to my son's laugh, looking at my husband across the table.

It all seemed liked good advice before, but I was never truly able to empty my mind and appreciate the moment that I was in. I couldn't let go. There was a million things to do, all at the same time. And even if I couldn't possibly do them at the same time, I could do some of them and worry about the others. 

This space that I've found is sacred. It comes upon me at the weirdest times as if to say - "Look, don't miss this. It is important."

I'm not sure once "normal" life creeps in if I will be able to hold onto this in its entirety. But I am hoping that I will at least be able to see a glimmer of it throughout my days.

In 40 days I will turn 40.  Hurray!

Here I am holding a baby leatherback sea turtle on it's birthday.

21 August, 2013

Let the SlugFest Be Over!

I think we have hit a downward spiral. It must be a culmination of having too much fun and not enough structure. 

We have turned into slugs. 

It is driving Courtney CRAZY!

We get up, staggered between 8:00am until 10:00am (yes, I'm usually the last one); eat breakfast and try to figure out what we will do for the day. Unfortunatly with the heat we are somewhat limited on when we can go out and do things. And even though we are in the middle of a huge city with great public transportation, our slugdom has hindered our decision-making abilities.

That's not to say we didn't see or do anything at all. 

The weekly farmer's market each Monday was amazing - and just a block away! I was able to go shopping there twice - fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, melons, carrots, figs and more. 

Beaches! We went first to Edam Beach because it was the first beach stop the tram arrived at. The tram was crowded and it was hot. So we got off.

The next time I asked the advice of a mother and her adult daughter on the tram (who were so smitten by Chayton they scooted over to squeeze him into their seat). This time we went to Ble Beach (sounds like blah beach). Yes, we all made blah-ing sounds all the way from the tram stop to the waterfront. It was a good recommendation (minus the pulsing techno music that didn't stop that came from the bar). We rented chairs and and umbrella, plus Courtney and the children played on the inflatable beach toys. They swam, jumped, climbed and slid. 

Tram ride home:

Then there was the Acropolis! During the day and at the Full Moon event. 

The Acropolis Museum, the National Archeological Museum, Ancient Angora, the National Gardens, Zeus' Temple, Hadrian's Library and what might have been Socrates' prison. Plus the flea market area and lots of souvenir shops. Lots.

Acropolis Museum

Ancient Angora

Socrates' Prision

Hadrian's Libray

Zeus' Temple

National Gardens

As of tomorrow, our slugdom will officially be over. Tomorrow night we will meet the Vurals at the airport in Instanbul and begin a wonderful two weeks together! All ten of us together again, plus Hakan's family. It is going to be a loving mass of chaos. And I can't wait!

16 August, 2013

New Thoughts on Athens

Up until today all I had thought about Athens is that it is hot, crowded and it's streets were the worst to try to pretend to be navigator of the car.

That was, until we went to the top of the Acropolis. 

From there Athens stretches out before you as if it is touching the sea. The rooftops on those rather small, one-way, over-packed, without rhyme or reason streets look quaint. Quite different then what I have got used to looking at from our balcony or the steaming walks from museums, the hop on - hop off bus and other old things that we have been looking at.

Which makes me feel much better. You see, I have always thought of Athens in the most romanticized of ways beginning with my first forays into the literature of Greek Mythology. In my mind it glowed. It pulsed with the beginnings of thought, of philosophy, of the great stories. I have to admit. For the first few days here I had been a bit disappointed. 

It probably didn't help that our schedule had gotten more on the late side of things; which meant that we didn't get out of the house until eleven in the morning. And that meant we were walking around or sitting on a bus during the heat of the day. Add that I don't think I drank enough water. Add to that having children that were also hot and didn't drink enough water. And our air conditioning in the apartment is a little on the wimpy side.

But then we made it to the Acropolis. Thanks to my morning person, get up and go husband, we were out of the house by 9:00am. This made the walk to and up the Acropolis in bearable heat and without too many other tourists next to us. (Did I mention our apartment is within walking distance of the Acropolis? Even with all my complaining, that is just too cool.)

First we passed the New Acropolis Museum (which we visited yesterday), next the Theatre of Dionysus, some other old remains and then we walked through the Propylaea (which is the actual entrance to the Acropolis). 

After stumbling around tour groups you finally arrive at the Parthenon. 

Seeing this in front of me I could really imagine just how big that missing statue of Athena (was 13 meters tall) really was. Quite amazing and awe-inspiring. Even with the crowds of people standing around there is a special feeling up there. Unfortunately you can only walk around these wonderful buildings, unlike the Temple of Zeus where we could get quite close or in the Vatican where you could actually touch some of the antiquities. 

Of course Kaija and Chayton found a furry friend. 

The Erechtheion (we saw the statue-columns up close in the museum):

Theatre of Dionysus:

Which talking about the Temple of Zeus ...

The New Acropolis Museum (which has a great Family Backpack adventure kit):

I'm glad that we went to the museum before heading to the Acropolis. At the museum you were able to get a little closer to the statues and murals. Plus you could see the relations of what the pieces actually looked like to give you a better sense of proportion. And in some cases what the statues might have looked like in their original paint colors. All of this helped in imagining what the Acropolis might have actually looked like back in the day. 

We still have eight more days left in Athens until we leave for Turkey. I wonder what we'll discover next?

09 August, 2013

Beach Bums - Kalamata, Greece (27 Jul -10 Aug)

This might sound funny to those who know what we are doing ... but these past few days have felt like a vacation. 

Our days have been slow and easy. Wake up, breakfast, beach, lunch, rest/school work during the heat of the day: then it's tea time and maybe beach and dinner or dinner than beach. Some nights the children have stayed in the water until after 9pm. 

It is heaven. 

Of course, that is after out-fitting the apartment with some plastic plates, silverware, etc. But even the apartment has started to grow on me. 

In the mornings the water is flat as glass and just as transparent. 

This is my favorite time. The water is warm and soft; the sun is not at it's hottest yet; the sand is hot on the top and cold down under; and the beach itself isn't too crowded. 

When we come back later in the afternoon, the wind has usually picked up. That's when you see all the kids taking their sailing lessons. The sun is getting ready to set and starts to turn everything a glorious golden then rose color before darkening for the night with sparkling stars. Now is the time when the sand is cold on top and you dig your feet into it to reach the warmth. 

The other day Courtney and the girls swam out to this island/lighthouse thing. It was a good 15 minute swim out to it, then it took another 15 minute to convince both girls to jump off it. If you look closely, you can see them. 

First Courtney. 

Then Kaija. 

Then Nazeriah. 

Chayton and I were lazily floating/ snorkeling/ diving for rocks. 

Game of monkey in the middle:

Tomorrow we leave for Athens. 

05 August, 2013

Journey to Greece

The most un-seafaring family took off for Greece on a ferry yesterday from Brindisi, Italy. 

Not just any ferry ride, but one that lasted 21 hours. 

I think we have to write a thank-you letter  to whomever invented Dramamine. 

Our cabin on the ferry was quite adequate for our family of five. Wefit quite   comfortably in the four beds - thank goodness that Chayton is still so tiny.

What Courtney and I wasn't prepared for was the way quite a few of the travelers traveled. They came prepared with blow-up mattresses, sleeping bags and tents to spread out along the floor of the decks. There were people EVERYWHERE you looked. And not just the young backpackers you might expect, but families of all ages ready to spend the night and enjoy a cost-effective way to travel.

Dinner was the sandwiches that we brought on board plus a special drink from the bar (peach tea for the kids and a breezer for Courtney and I - can you imagine they didn't have any wine?). After a few trips up top to see the sun and then the stars, plus plenty of time spent reading, it was time to be lulled to sleep by the slight rocking of the boat.

Breakfast was coffee and a tasty danish from the ships kitchens. A few more trips up to the decks and by 2:30pm we were at Patras, Greece.

It was HOT as we got off the boat. Very hot. Thank goodness the port terminal was air conditioned. The kids and I hung out there while Courtney caught a taxi to the car rental place. Chayton entertained himself by coloring; the girls had a bit of attitude and didn't want their pictures taken.

After a four hour drive from Patras to Kalamata, we were finally at our new home.

Going into this, Courtney and I knew the apartment was going to be basic - no WiFi, but air conditioning and minutes away from the beach

But we weren't expecting it to be THIS basic. No towels (not so out of the ordinary). No pots. No pans. No cutting board. Not a spoon to stir with, a bowl to mix with, or a mug to put coffee in - but there was a brand new coffee pot. Nothing in the cupboards that would enable any human being to cook a meal - not even ramen noodles in water. You couldn't even make a bowl of cereal!

Everything is part of our adventure and this one will include an extra trip to the store tomorrow to find plates, bowls, cups and other  items to cook with.

But now I am sitting on the beach outside our restaurant in Kalamata, Greece after a delicious dinner and too much wine to finish. 

The sun has set and it is dark. The lights are blinking off the mountain to my left. The waves are soft on the sand. And my kids are happy building sand castles. 

What remains of Nazeriah's dinner. She was brave enough to try the shrimp - just didn't think they would come with eyes. :-)

Life is good.