Churches, Canyons, and Donkeys: A week in Ethiopia

Ever since Akasha taught students from Ethiopia in Apple Valley, Minnesota, she has had a fondness for its culture and food. When we are visiting Minnesota, we often make a point to have dinner at her favorite Ethiopian restaurant, Fasika on Snelling. Looking at the travel sites only made us want to investigate further. So with a week off in February, we booked tickets and asked our friend Kristen to join us, and our whirlwind tour of Northern Ethiopia was in place.

Lalibela
We started early Saturday morning and we landed in Addis Ababa, late at night. We were there only long enough for a five hour nap, then we went back to the airport for a quick flight to Lalibela, an ancient capital best known for its 11 churches that have been carved down into the earth from solid stone.

These churches were built 900 years ago by King Lalibela. His citizens were spending 3 months walking  on pilgrimage to  Jerusalem each December. So he consulted with bishops, built a pilgrimage site, and had it ordained. Since then, it has been the center of a vibrant Christian community and it remains a holy site for the country’s Orthodox population.

Our paths kept crossing with a family dressed in elaborate clothing who were celebrating a recent wedding.They were enjoying the sight seeing and taking wedding photos.  Later, Akasha met up with he family and  found out the bride lives in Worthington, Minnesota. She had returned home to marry her sweetheart. It really is a small world.

Lalibela slide show:

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We had an amazing hike among the churches and through the landscape. It is still a mystery how they were carved down into solid rock hundreds of years ago. There isn’t evidence of where the rock they removed was taken to, though the king explained it was the divine work of angles. Our guide explained that it took 24 years, with men working all day and angels working all night.

Because they are below ground, the path to many churches lay along narrow grooves carved into the stone. There were also tunnels linking the complexes together. One of them, ‘the road to hell,’ took us ten minutes to walk through, in total darkness. It was a bit scary but we came out alive!

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The top of St. George’s cathedral. The best known, St. George’s Cathedral, was one of the last to be built. It’s an impressive slab of stone with a huge set of crosses carved into the top. The ground near St George is also home to a troop of monkeys, who had no problem cavorting about on the churches and were happy to pose for pictures.

The legendary friendliness of Ethiopians was on display that evening, when we met a young man named Timothy, who offered to bring us to a local bar to see how Ethiopians enjoyed the evening. He brought us to a restaurant that served tej, the local mead made of honey and sorghum. The Tej House was off the main street and down a flight of stairs, and inside was a room lit with strings of red LED’s.

Dancing in the tej house.

It was the day before observant Orthodox began fasting for Lent, and the mood was a bit like Mardi Gras. A man strolled around the room playing a violin-like instrument with a single string called a Masinko, and a woman sang along while others danced and clapped. One of them coaxed Akasha and Kristen onto the dance floor to try out the shoulder-shaking, hip swaying moves of the locals.

After a while we were joined again by the wedding party we’d met at the church, so it was quite a day of meetings and festivites. When it was time to leave, Timothy walked us back to our hotel, and though we kept expecting him to ask for a tip, he just hopped into a tuk-tuk taxi and left. It was a wonderful night, thank you Timothy!

Hiking the Canyons
Then next morning we went on the road to hike among the canyons and farmland of the region. We took a tour that gave us three nights and four days in the farm country of this beautiful area.

We should also mention our guide, Getnet, was a wonderful resource and good friend for the three days we knew him. Good-natured, knowledgeable,  and friendly, we spent many hours chatting on the trail, and many nights exchanging stories around the campfire, and after our four day hike were sorry to lose his company. He was full of riddles and stories that he had collected from the travelers he met as a guide and we enjoyed sitting with him around the fire, trading and comparing adventure tales.

Hiking Slideshow:

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Most of our hiking was over stony paths that bordered fields being tilled for the next season’s planting. The ground here is rich but full of stones, so the farmers have to work hard. They still plow the field behind a pair of oxen, persuading them to turn with a whip that sounded sharp as firecrackers. Everyone was very friendly and eager to shake hands and say Salem (hello), and the children all rushed out to greet us. The whole trip children ran out to us, waving and calling goodbye until they couldn’t see us any more.

On our first evening, Kristen was lucky enough to spot a troop of baboons. Our guide, Getnet, led us down down to the valley floor, where the baboons congregated in a big troop to forage for grass roots. We watched them dig and walk, the babies riding the backs of the mothers while others played on the edge of a mostly dry waterfall in the golden light of the setting sun.

Here we are, chilling on the canyon edge.

The community lodges were amazing. Made of stacked stone held by straw and mud mortar, they all stood on the edge of huge canyons with spectacular views. We had huge beds and big windows that opened out to beautiful vistas. When we arrived sofas made of eucalyptus wood and leather were brought out for us to enjoy the view and relax while we drank coffee. Even the toilets had a great view, though if you took a mis-step you’d have a much faster trip to the valley floor than you wanted! And the people taking care of us were warm and friendly. They cooked dinner at night and breakfast in the morning, even roasting the coffee over a flame, right before they brewed it. We signed the guest book at each lodge and it was amazing to see the names and comments from people going back to the first guest.

One of the guest books

We took some pictures of the coffee-brewing process and made short video. Enjoy:

Akasha in an Acacia tree.

Akasha in an Acacia tree.

On our hike we enjoyed the trees and shrubs, from the aromatic sage to the noble thistle and the cutely named ‘monkey farts.’ One of our favorite trees were the ones that branched out to form a big canopy of ground cover, and Akasha was delighted to find out they were Acacia trees. So she of course had to climb one, and now we have a photo of Akasha in an Acacia tree, which makes the world that much more complete.

And at night the sky was incredible with stars – we spotted Orion right away but had trouble finding the Big Dipper, usually the easiest constellation to find. It wasn’t till Mike played with SkyMaps for a while that we realized we were so far south, the Big Dipper was below the horizon, which never happens up north. It feels like a big world when even the stars change on you!

Gonder
A few hours drive from Lalibela, in the northwest corner of Ethiopia, kings of the old Ethiopian empire built castles. They were inspired by the Portuguese and the castles have a distinctly western feel. Built from 1606 to the early 1700’s, as a series of emperors built their own castle on the grounds,  it has become a compound of great stone structures. We spent several hours here, in the old bedrooms and dining halls, saunas and courtyards. Although for us it was a brief stop, it’s a worthy goal for any castle-hunters looking for something off the beaten path, and like nothing you’d expect to see.

Gonder Slideshow

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Bahir Dar
South of Gonder is Lake Tana, the largest lake in the country and the source of the Blue Nile river. Here, we took a boat trip into the headwaters of the Blue Nile, where we saw more wildlife than we could imagine. Fish Eagles rested in treetops, cormorants stood on rocks, and hippopotamuses wandered in the shallow water. It was amazing to see them in real life, outside a zoo, even if we were only able to see their heads. One of them had a baby that poked its cute little head out!

Then we crossed the lake, which has two islands that hold monasteries – one for nuns, the other for monks. On the far side we hiked around to see more churches. This was the hometown of our guide, and he happily showed us the local plants – ferns that curled up when you touched them, bean pods that made great spinning toys, and wild coffee plants, just starting to bloom. We only had a few hours in Bahir Dar, which was a shame. Our guide invited us to meet his family and visit his village, but we had a flight to catch.

Bahir Dar

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Addis Ababa
After all that, we had a day to spend in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. Addis has a population of almost 4 million people, and it seems like they are all on the street all the time. Every road is lined with pedestrians, and ad hoc marketplaces are everywhere. Even the road up the mountain to another royal palace was filled with people carrying loads of eucalyptus, donkey caravans, and tourist vans.

Fruit for sale, Addis Ababa

We visited the fabric market, then drove through the Mercado, and stared in awe at the always-on bustle of an unfettered free market – you name it, you can find it in this sprawling landmark of the city.

Addis Ababa slideshow:

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Well, it was a fantastic trip – we even saw Lucy, the 3.3 million year old human prototype (or a plaster cast of her bones anyway) – in the national museum!

And this was just a small part of Ethiopia – there’s the whole southern section, with the Great Rift Valley, that we haven’t even gotten to. And of course there’s the entire rest of the African continent to find adventure in. So stay tuned, we’re not done yet!

Wroclaw: City of Murals

There are lots of obvious charms here in Wroclaw, including the architecture and food. But one of the more fun thrills is the unexpected one of Wroclaw’s abundant murals.  Blank walls here have been painted, many with whimsy, some with sardonic wit, others with more blatant messages (yes, there are also advertisements.) Here’s a quick rundown of our favorite murals in this fun, dynamic city.

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Accordian Pig: Just down the block from our house, this musical pig kicks back in red boots, serenading someone we can’t see. Or perhaps just making a joyful noise?

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Moneybag Pillow Sleeper. This guy is doubly clever – his eyes are actual windows, making him look sometimes like he sleeps with one eye open. The better to guard his money, I suppose.

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This lovely lady is on the side of a building on Sand Island, overlooking a park. She’s wearing a dress made of locks, and swallowing a key. The symbolism is obvious, yes?

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Right next to the Lock Lady is Sad Handcuffed Gorilla.

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This mural hangs over a large plaza near a major tram stop in our neighborhood, known as Nadodrze (pronounced nad-ord-jah. Or something.) It shows off the classic architecture and energy of this up-and-coming neighborhood.

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Muddled symbol hoodie man

This piece, also in our neighborhood, seems to be telling us something but I’m not sure what it is.

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Shy Dinosaur

Here’s a cute little tromp l’oel: pulling aside the skin of the building and peeping out to see what the weather is like is a cute blue dinosaur! Several gnomes stand on the wreckage offering encouragement for him to go out and have a good time.

Jaunty street scene

Jaunty street scene

Tucked into a narrow building is this festive collection of street scenes rendered in bright colors and simple shapes. Against the bright blue sky it’s a very cheerful sight for weary passersby.

 

Painting of a painter

Painting of a painter

Another splash of bright color, this one goes meta, showing a painting of a painter splashing color on the side of an otherwise colorless city scene.

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City of Meetings

A man relaxes, and above him images churn: a woman, a bird, an angel. City of Meetings, says the banner. This is one of Wroclaw’s slogans, which describes the city’s origins as a crossing of two trade routes, and its future as a place where international corporations have headquarters and manufacturing plants.

Welcome to Watson

Since Remi left us last June, we had a dog shaped hole in our hearts. Every time we saw a dog on the street happy with its person we knew a dog would be with us again. We’ve found that Polish dog culture is very friendly, dogs are allowed on trams (with their own tickets) and in most restaurants, and it seems like there are pet supply stores on every block. Dogs here are also very well behaved – many is the time we’ve seen little dogs waiting patiently outside stores for their owners to return.

We asked our landlord if it would be okay to adopt a dog. He replied that as long as we got a dog that is suitable for an apartment, we would be okay. He then sent us bus directions to the shelter.

So we decided to go out to the local animal shelter with our friend Karolina just to ‘take a look.’ The shelter is just outside the city so the animals have a taste of country life. The kennels are big and clean and the staff was friendly with us and the animals.

The shelter is lovely and we met all kinds of dogs. Big dogs, purebred dogs, huskies, spaniels, shepherds. Dogs that barked and dogs that cuddled. They have all sorts of animals. There were cats in their own play areas, a collection of birds, and even goats in a shed behind the main shelter.

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On the Rynek and ready for action!

We were just looking, of course. Then we were just asking a few questions. This one was bad with cats, another one was a little bit aggressive. But then they suggested we meet one they were calling Wookie. A fifteen kilo dog with a shaggy face and brown, silver, and black fur.

They told us he was a Polish Lowland Sheepdog (now, we are not so sure), great with kids. We remembered seeing him on our walk. He was a dead ringer for Benji, the super-cute animal star of the 1970’s, and when we met him he was quiet and friendly and cuddly, all prerequisites.

We put him on leash for a trial walk. He kept pace with us, and ran alongside, and stopped to sniff other dogs but didn’t give anyone a hard time. We even walked him by the outdoor cat play area, and he paid them no attention. We considered taking a night to think it over, but Karolina helped us remember that if it was a good fit we shouldn’t wait, someone else might take him home first. It wasn’t long before we realized he was a keeper, so we borrowed a leash from the shelter and took him home.

And while we did ask our landlord for permission, we forgot to ask our cats. Ching took to Watson pretty quickly, allowing herself to be groomed with some serious head-licking action, but Clark spent much of the first week sulking around the house and hiding in the bedroom closet. Eventually, though, the new roommates warmed up to each other, and now they often nap on the couch together, though sometimes they have sibling rivalries for our attention.

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Watson and Akasha in Krakow.

It took us a few days to think of a name. There was Wookie, of course, and Benji. There was Muppet (he’s totally a muppet!) and Charlie and a few others. But he started turning his head at Watson, and he’s a pretty good investigator, so that’s the name that stuck. Since then, Watson has settled in to domestic life. He sleeps a lot, plays with his hedgehog doll, and likes to play fetch at all hours. He’s something of a ball aficionado – squeakers are his favorite, but anything that rolls is worth a chase.

We have taken him to training. Polish dogs are very well behaved, so we wanted Watson to fit in. Training takes place in one of the local parks, and our trainer is very helpful and kind. After a few sessions where we struggled with motivation (Watson isn’t very food motivated, but does respond well to catch), Watson finally figured out what sit means. Since then he progressed to stay and stop. He’s even an obedient enough walker that he doesn’t usually need a leash – he just needs to know there’s a ball nearby and he’s happy to walk next to us. He keeps his eyes on us and stays a few inches away.

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Training Time!

He’s also a good traveler. He’s come with us by car to Krakow and by train to Warsaw, and he’s a pretty brave adventurer, happy to sit on the floor and keep us company. To travel by train we just buy him a dog ticket for about 5 dollars. We hotels and airbnb both welcome pets, and Watson has received great reviews after our stays. Watson doesn’t go into museums, but he does like to look at the monuments, go to cafes, and play in Poland’s luscious parks.

Watson has made friends on the tram, they sniff politely and pass on by. We have yet to have an incident. Amusingly, we have also seen cats, wearing harnesses and leashes out for walks and on the trams.

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Above all else, he’s a people dog, eager to sniff and be cuddled. He’d love to meet you, so come on by and welcome him to the furmily!

 

 

Welcome to my classroom

Sorry that we have posted so little since we have moved to Wrocław. I’ve been focused on settling into my classroom.  While this is my 10th year teaching, I’ve co-taught every year but my first.  It is a new thing to plan every aspect of my day solo.  While it is overwhelming, I’m enjoying it.

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My room is a cute little attic with a slanted ceiling and four support poles that I’ve turned into trees.

We are a very small school, in addition to being in my room for core classes, the students also take music, art, and Polish in my room.  The students who bring a bag lunch also eat with me,  in our room. We walk 10 minutes to a Tai Quon Do studio for PE  class.  Library is in the room next to our class.

We have one class for each grade level and I have 9 students. We work well together.  In addition to being from many countries, we have lived in a wide variety of countries on 5 continents. Their diverse backgrounds add to our lessons.

 

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Recess is fabulous here.  We have 15 minutes in the morning and 25 minutes after lunch. Our spaces are limited but the kids play well. Lately, cops and robbers has been very popular and I keep getting arrested.

Next year we will merge with 2 sister schools to a large campus. It will be a big change for us. My room will quadruple in size and each specialist will have their own room.

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Side view of our school

This is an IB Word School and we use the PYP transdisciplinary themes and scope and sequence as our structure.  I don’t follow a text book but I have a list of concepts that students must master (for our non -teaching friends. )

As an example: In the transdisciplinary theme, How the World Works, my unit is titled Our Changing World. In science I taught how the the world is organized into landforms and bodies of water, rocks and minerals, and how earth is organized into layers. We then evaluated how the earth’s layers can change quickly (earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanos) or slowly (weathering, erosion, and deposition.) In math, we explored units of measurement and how measurement is organized in metric units. Again, we telescoped from smallest to largest and back. We also applyed our understanding of measurement in describing the length/height of the layers of the earth and in the characteristics of the   aspects of the earth. In Language Arts, we developed our skills in comparing and contrasting as well as cause and effect. Students compared landforms, rocks, and minerals and described how the changes in our earth happen through cause and effect writing. We also developed our sentence fluency and looked at the traits and structures of sentences.
This is the closest that I’ve come to teaching as I wrote in my teaching philosophy and I am content.

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Field trip to the Wielicka Salt Mines

Field trips are also fabulous here . I try to go on one every unit. In unit I went on two. We are learning about our world from top to core. On one trip we went on a walk to identify various landforms and we went to a science museum to do a rocks and minerals workshop. We were gone all day and took the tram.
On the second trip we traveled 3 hours to the Wielicka salt mine for a workshop where we learned about rocks, minerals, and the layers of the earth. It was a fantastic experience.

 

TAD 2016 Week 1

This has been a strong start to this year’s TAD. I have started a few projects  this week.
Today Mike and I started decorating the jars.
It took a million steps. But I hope that it looks good in the end.

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I  started the softie. I am hand stitching cotton to felt so I added an extra 1/4 in allowance and am turning and edging the cotton first.

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The first piece that I finished was a simple freehand embroidery.  It was inspired by this image. I still don’t know what to do with it.

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T-A-D 2016

I am really excited for this upcoming Thing A Day. I have been participating in T-A-D since 2011. My first T-A-D was hosted by posterous, but that site has been disabled.  In 2012 and 2013 I participated on a great WordPress blog, but that person tired of managing the event. I totally understand. The last few years I have been sharing and celebrating on Google+. While the community is much smaller when we started, but it is still collaborative and fun.

I am really excited about this years Thing-A-Day. I have many ideas:
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Hand sew this cute puppy doll

Complete a free-hand embroidery based on a photo I took of the spoon bridge

A free-hand embroidery based on this tree pattern

I am eager to update my jars with this design trick.

Finally make a hollow book.

Turn a ratty old sweater into cute mittens 

Join in, you have nothing to lose. If you only make something on one day, it is one more creative thing you did this year.

The Great Mom visit of 2015!

My (Mike’s) mom is kind of a homebody. Aside from a few trips to Fargo every year, she’s content to stay in the Twin Cities, near her garden and the library. But ever since we moved abroad, she’s been hankering for an overseas visit.

The Christmas tree at Munich's town hall

The Christmas tree at Munich’s town hall

Lured by the promise of Christmas markets and European hot chocolate, Mom made the trip to Munich in December, where we met up for some winter tourism.

Munich is one of my favorite cities – it’s a perfect blend of old-world charm and new West conveniences. We stayed in one of Akasha and my favorite hotel chains – the Leonardo – which had great access to trams that led to the city center, and near several nice restaurants including the Lowenbrau beer hall. Prost!

We were fortunate in the weather – clear and cool, with a high blue sky – and spent the first day exploring the masterpieces of the Alte Pinakotech art museum. Here we brushed up against Rubens, Rembrandt, and the great German Albrecht Drurer. Mom loved the style of the Old Masters, marveling at how they painted eyes that could follow you around the room. She stopped often to sit and take in the works, communing with the painter.

Meet the new Queen

Meet the new Queen

Next day we took in the old imperial residence. This is a sprawling complex of stone towers and dusty corridors, but the treasury is a relatively intimate space filled with a hoard of silver masterpieces, gemstone encrusted jewelry, and many royal crowns. The big hit here was the ruby-encrusted tiara of Queen Theresa, an enchanting fantasy of glimmering gemstones that let mom indulge in a bit of fairy-tale imagining.

Back on the Town Square we took in the Rathus glockenspiel show – a carousel of medieval figures dancing and even jousting on a tiny platform high above the crowd.

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The Glockenspiel on Munich’s town hall

Then it was back to the markets, which were the hit of the trip. All over Germany, on the historic market squares, vendors set up shop to sell the goods of the season. It was a shame we only got to two or three of them. Mom was a thorough shopper, and as a true connoisseur of the season, she was careful to check each vendor’s ornaments for quality, uniqueness, and adorability before adding the chosen ornaments to her collection.

Near our Prague hotel

Near our Prague hotel

From Munich we went on to Prague, where the medieval architecture left mom speechless. From the great forked towers of the Lady of Tym church, to the stained glass wonderland of St. Vitus cathedral, we walked around with our jaws dropped. I’d been there before, but to see it through her fresh eyes returned a sense of wonder too easily lost by the frequent traveler.

It was here we tried haluska, a stirred-up hot dish of cabbage, pork, and potatoes, a spiritual ancestor to one of Mom’s favorite North Dakota childhood dishes, halupsi. But this wasn’t the same – it had starchy potatoes that had gone gummy over its time in the pot. “Guess I don’t need to try that again,” was mom’s one-star review.

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The Christmas Market in Prague

Wroclaw was next on her Central European excursion. We found some wonderful walking paths through Cathedral island that lead to St. John the Baptist’s cathedral. After that it was time (again!) to storm the Christmas markets, where she came away with more gifts for everyone back home, plus a few more for herself.

A week later, we took mom back to the States for the holidays, and spent ten days visiting Minnesota. That was a hectic, wonderful time too easily lost and taken for granted. But ever since her visit, I’m trying to take my mom’s example to heart, and I’ve resolved to keep trying to see every wonder around me, however common or seen before, through fresh eyes for as long as I can.

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Welcome to Wrocław

wroclaw - 11Dzien dobrie, everyone! We’ve finally settled down long enough for a blog post!

First of all, Wroclaw is a beautiful, friendly city and we’re happy and feel lucky to be here. We’ve been busy getting settled in and starting a new school year, and getting the hang of life in our new city.  It has been been a few months already, but it feels like only a few days have passed.

Here is a bit to give you a feel for our new neighborhood, home, and school.

Our Home

We get a monthly budget for housing and we could have chosen an apartment left by a departing teacher, but we struck out on our own and are very happy with what we found. It’s a modern apartment in a brand new building, but nestled into a quaint old neighborhood – the best of both worlds! We didn’t find a two bedroom apartment, but the living room has a full sized bed, a wardrobe, a door, and patio access so when you come to stay it will be your room.

We have tons of storage space and every cupboard is covered in panels that pop out. All the appliances are new and sparkly! Our cats – especially Ching – are enjoying the patio and sofa, and there are plenty of nooks for Clark to hide in. We also love the patio and the view of our neighborhood – we can even see the spires of the old gothic churches that are all over the old city.

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A street in our neighborhood

Nadordze, our neighborhood
Our neighborhood is a mixture of modern and very old buildings. It evokes a romantic spirit but also suggests a bright future. Lots of things are happening in our neighborhood. A new headquarters for 3M is right next door. Ongoing gentrification turns older, crumbling facades into beautiful storefronts with charming restaurants and bars. And last year Stephen Spielberg filmed a movie on our block, the film – Bridge of Spies, starring Tom Hanks – was released in November.

We’re very close to the center of town, the old markets, and parks on islands in the river. Lastly, we are surrounded by tram lines and bike lanes. We have found it easy to get around by hopping on the tram. It takes Akasha 24 minutes to take the tram to work and about 35 to ride her bike.

While we are on a quiet street we are near cafes, art galleries, and some beautiful murals. We have meant to go to more festivals and events but we’ve been having so much fun just exploring the twisty streets around us.

We hope you’re able to come and visit soon.

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Goodbye, Ankara: Here’s what we loved about you most

It has been an interesting two years and they have flown by quickly, due in large part to the charms of our temporary hometown, Ankara. For an international capital, Ankara can seem quaint and bucolic; the word provincial may even come to mind. But that’s not a bad thing. On the contrary, there’s plenty of fun to be found if you’re patient and keep an open mind. Here are some highlights of our stay.

Rainbow seen from our window

Rainbow seen from our window

Lojman Livin’ – Being up on a hill, away from the bustle of Ankara proper, does have its advantages. The view is consistently spectacular – we’ve watched many a storm roll in and enjoyed the rainbows (double, and triple!) afterwards, and waking up to the sun in the window has been a treat every morning. Bilkent has made the grounds very attractive, with plenty of flowers always in bloom and a constant variety of fruiting trees – spring has been a festival of scents and colors. So while we may complain a bit about being isolated in a ‘foreigner bubble’ away from the sounds of ‘real Turkey,’ overall we’ve been happy with our home away from home.

Ulus fish market

Ulus fish market

Ulus – This is the historic center of Ankara, the place where it all began. You can wander here every weekend and never see it all. The Romans were here back in the day, building temples and roads. Later civilizations would add and rebuild until today. Here you can visit an ancient castle, shop in a covered food pazaar, haggle over carpets, buy artisan jewelry, and watch craftsmen work in the metal district. Relax with a plate of the best manti in town, and before you know it you’ve had a great afternoon on the town.

On the daytrip

A rainy daytrip, with a cool waterfall

Hiking trips – Nadide Yildiz arranges some great trips. Some of them are just hiking off in a small town or wilderness reserve. Others are culturaly specific. We saw waterfalls, communed with trees and shrubs, and met great new friends. Either way, Nadide is a great hostess.

Great little restaurants on side streets – If you push out and explore you can find some great restaurants. Our favorite is a little fish place tucked between the Kizilay and Tunuli neighborhoods. It’s called Yesil Cam, named for the movie-making district of old Istanbul. Here the chef grills the fish on the street, and traditional mezes from tomato salad to lamb’s brains are brought to the table on a huge tray. The atmosphere is old Turkey. Musicians serenade you tableside with traditional Turkish folk music. If you’re there on the right magic night, you’ll see the patrons get up and dance on the sidewalk, shaking off the years with the help of the music and more than a little Raki. Akasha left a trail of her favorites on trip advisor if you want to try some restaurants off the main streets.

The Pazaars – foods, fleas, and anything you could want. We’ve been to the big food markets at Yuz Yil, Umitkoy, and many other locations in Ankara. Once a month an antique mall sets up in one of several rotating marketplaces, and you can sift through remnants of Turkey’s cultural history – comic books, movie posters, costume jewelry, vintage clothing, old tin toys – anything and everything. It’s like a pop-up museum, and everything’s for sale.

Game Cafes – scrabble, chess, backgammon, just not a lot of cards. You can play games, drink a cold beer or a hot nescafe, and play games all night long. If you are feeling like a super dork, try playing english scrabble with Turkish letter distributions.  Even without Q’s, it’s not easy – you get way too many vowels, especially u’s.

Ataturk's resting place

Ataturk’s resting place

The Anitkabir – This is a monument to the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. He saved Turkey from being divided up by western powers after WWI, and laid the foundations for the Turkey that we know today. His picture remains a fixture in every office, restaurant, shop, and classroom in the country. This complex of polished stone and granite columns features a museum of his life, a history of his military exploits, and his final resting place. A proud, somber site, one of the few must-see attractions of the city he made the capital.

Finding not-Turkish food – Because Ankara really doesn’t have a lot of food that isn’t Turkish. And because Ankara has a big mall culture, with lots of the same chain restaraunts, when you find a unique restaurant it is really exciting. Some of our favorites have been Big Bang Burger, Wu Yang, and Cafe Linz.  Wu Yang is an east Asian restaurant with Chinese and Korean food. it can be great, if your order right.  I love the house made spicy tofu.  It is similar to Sundubu with fluffy clouds of tofu in a spicy sauce. Order a side of rice and kimchi to put yourself in Korea for the evening. Definitely show up with a group of 6-8 to get the circular table, order a variety of dishes, and share family style. Cafe Linz has delicious desserts like a house made chocolate souffle and sachre torte.

Street Dogs – Ankara has them. So does Istanbul and Izmir. Everywhere in Turkey are street dogs. For the most part they’re friendly, well-behaved, and cute, prefering to spend time napping in public squares to begging for snacks. They make for great local color. Several friends adopted them for house pets, and for a sweet friendly dog you couldn’t do better.

We could go on: Cheap taxis, friendly faces, simit carts, dondurma (ice cream), doner shops, walks in the wilderness, endless shopping caverns, crafting supplies, Ankara has it all, and with its own flair. But it’s time to move on.

Thank you Ankara for your hospitality. Now, we’re heading to Wroclaw, Poland next, as you probably know. We are going to continue blogging on this site, and plan to do so more frequently.

Thank you for reading, we’re happy you’ve joined us on the web or on the road.

Remember: Adventure is out there!

Goodbye, Remi: So long and thanks for all the cuddles

June 24th, 2001- June 8th 2015

Sir Remington Rio. Houndington. Senior Muddypaws. Mr. Panty. Houndie. We had a lot of names for our dog, but mostly he was Remi. If you met him, you loved him.

Remi joined our family on Halloween, 2009. He’d led a sheltered life up to then, but made up for that with us. We took him to the Boundary Waters. He moved to Korea with us, then to Turkey. Remi was the best ambassador of goodwill the US could have hoped for. Everywhere we went people wanted to touch the black and white dog, and Remi put up with the attention like a champion.

Remi loved pretty much everything. He loved peanut butter, bread, cat food, and food the cats made (eew). He loved long, long, walks, playing in  water, chasing cats, and sniffing hedgehogs (the hedgehogs didn’t care for that too much.) Long walks with Che, Charlie, Willie, annoying his cousin Rosie, chasing his sister Ching and brother Clark, waking Mike up by breathing too loud, sighing that Akasha should go to bed already, and eatting.

Things he did not love include broccoli, celery, getting a haircut, and being alone.

Things that shouldn’t have gone into his mouth include: half a bag of cat food, a pound of grapes, a rat (dead), Tanci and Kat’s steak dinner, Akasha’s falafel, an entire bag of bagels, rat poisong (twice), Jenni’s caffeinated energy bars, Mopko pig jowls – We’re sure there’s more.

He had a good 14 years on earth and saw more of it than most. Yesterday, while out for a walk, age finally caught up to him, and he couldn’t finish the walk. Our vet came and took him back to his office, where he determined Remi’s liver had failed. The vet made him comfortable, and he passed on just before dawn. He will be missed by all who knew him.