Monday, June 28, 2010

The Black Sea Coast

Four girls. Four days. Four loungechairs on the beach.

The day after our last day of work, four of my girl friends, Olivia, Shauna, Wowie and I, headed north for a Black Sea vacation. It was my final Turkish roadtrip with Shauna and Wowie as they are leaving Turkey to move on to new countries and adventures.

The drive up to the Black Sea involved a lunch stop at Safranbolu. We noted how U.S. roadtrips usually involve lunchstops at fastfood restaurants, but we got to stop for lunch in a UNESCO World Heritage town, both ways. Here's the view from the restaurant of the cute little town preserved in its Ottoman style

After Safranbolu, the drive to Amasra reminded me of New Jersey. The forests were verdant, lush, and created a green archway over the winding country roads. The Black Sea region gets more rain than any other part of Turkey, and even though I saw the Black Sea last year when I visited Trabzon in the eastern part of the country, it was still very exciting to arrive at our first glimpse of the sea.

We stayed in the town of Amasra for two nights. This port town used to be called Semasus, and was mentioned in Homer's Iliad. Our pansiyon was located inside the old citadel walls, and overlooked the sea.

For a mere 2.50 turkish lira, we rented side by side beachchairs and enjoyed the sunshine...

...until the rain came. But then it got sunny again. And then it rained again. And then it got sunny... The beach attendants laughed at us as they set up umbrellas and we huddled up under our towels, and then soon after moved our chairs in and out from under the umbrellas as the weather oscillated between blazing hot sun and a cold drizzle. Seems the current trend of daily thunderstorms in Ankara followed us to the Black Sea, but I was happy because I got to whip out my favorite Snoop Dog joke (Why does Snoop Dog always carry an umbrella? ... fo' drizzle!).

Not many foreign tourists travel to the Black Sea. The weather is temperamental (thank goodness, because that gives it its green color), so unlike the Mediterranean Sea, there is no guarantee for endless hours of sunbathing. But since this is a true vacation spot for Turkish people, and even a more conservative lot than you'd see on the Med. where some foreigners sunbathe topless, there was a very different feel to this beach. For one, as Westerners we were totally intrigued by all the women who were swimming in their headscarves and totally covered.

The local foods Amasra boasts include a tiny fried fish called hemsi, and a beautifully arranged green salad.

Our next stop was Cakraz, a smaller town 15km east of Amasra. We arrived on an overcast day, and the weather turned cold and rainy so we never even got in our suits in this town. But the beach was smaller, less crowded, and even more beautiful. Our hotel rooms' balconies overlooked the sea, and the sound of crashing waves provided the lullaby for a great night's sleep for all. This beach reminded Canadian Shauna of Nova Scotia and Filipino Wowie of the Phillipines. I love how Turkey has the potential to remind everyone of home, as every single ecosystem is present somewhere in the country.

On our last night, we walked in the rain up to a fish restaurant overlooking the sea.

This last supper was a great ending to a relaxing beautiful trip with good friends who are leaving Turkey to move on to new adventures.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wrapping up the Schoolyear

Ankara is starting to get that relentless summer haze that amplifies the already intense Anatolian sun. My classroom feels like a sauna. Students look sweaty and tired. My focus is fuzzy, as in my mind, I am already spending time with friends and family I haven't seen in two years, eating foods I haven't tasted in just as long, swimming in rivers, hiking mountains, and climbing on crags I haven't enjoyed in two whole years. My trip home to the States is so close on the horizon, it's hard to stay focused as I wrap up the schoolyear. This post will present a very spread-thin Carrie; it's a montage as I am doing a little of this and a little of that, not delving into anything too deeply as I do the last of everything...for now. I have every day planned, day and night, until I leave for the States, whether it be spending time with old students, friends who are moving away, or friends I just won't see again until September. I recently had my last tango class, my last poetry group meets tomorrow night, my last girls' roadtrip with Wowie and Shauna is next week, I taught my last class today, will go climbing at Karakaya for the last time this season this weekend, etc. Oof-yah, it's a lot of fun but I'm a bit exhausted and looking forward to the simplicity of sitting by my mom's pool in NJ for a couple weeks.

Here's a brief overview of my recent runnings-around.

A few weeks ago, the English Dept., namely Tim's 7th graders, organized the first BLIS Poetry Slam, which was a total hit, and we'll likely host several next year.

I had my last tango class a few weeks ago. My teacher, Hakan, had been commuting every Saturday from outside of Istanbul, and even though he was a great teacher and we have a great community of tango dancers at Angora Studio, he won't be continuing the lessons due to the commute. So we had our last hoorah at a friend's home. My friend, Cengiz, is so serious about tango that he has a wood dance floor in his living room with all the furniture pushed to the side. So we played tango music, drank, danced, and said goodbye to Hakan. I will start lessons at a different studio when I return in September, but some of my friends from this community of dancers will join me. It's been such a joy to find tango and this community.

One recent Saturday, Dale (teaching partner), Anthony and his family (my neighbor both at school and in our apartment building), Feray (Turkish teacher), and I explored Ulus on the weekend of the Castle Festival.

On a recent Sunday, Wowie and I took the fast train to Eskisehir, a city about 200km to the west of Ankara. It was a rainy day, but we enjoyed walking around looking at the Ottoman houses and the meerschaum pipes and jewelry. Meerschaum means "seafoam" in German and it is a really lightweight porous rock found only in surrounding villages of Eskisehir. Locals carve it into pipes as it has a smoke-cooling effect on tobacco. The designs on both the pipes and jewelry were intricate and beautiful. I bought the following Marge Simpson-style necklace and despite the size of those beads, the necklace is lighter than plastic. A BUPS annual tradition, the Eurovision Party: each person draws the name of a country which will be in this year's pop song contest, EuroVision, and has to dress like a person from that country, and bring a food dish and alcoholic beverage representing that country's palate. We project the show on a screen and whenever a new song/new country comes on, the person representing that country pours everyone a shot of their drink. No one feels great by the end of the night, but it's goofy fun. This year I was Slovakia, so I dressed as a Slovakian schoolgirl, brought Juniper Brandy (Borovicka), and Bryndzove Halusky (potato dumplings smothered with bacon and goat's cheese). On another night, my Turkish friend Rukiye invited a few of us down to her apartment to enjoy an Izmir meal (she is from there), and watch Bright Star, my new favorite film about John Keat's love affair with Fanny Braun. Good times with good people. The other day, Tim and I checked out Hussein Gazi, a climbing crag within the city limits of Ankara. The local climbers don't rave about it, but the basalt is o.k. rock for how close the crag is. Pretty cool to look out over a city of 6 million and still be emersed in greenery and quietness. And hearing the call to prayer from so high up is pretty neat.