Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

Hey family Merry Christmas. We want you all to know we were thinking about you today and it was fun to think of what you were doing at certain times of the day. We hope you all had a great day, we wish we could be there to celebrate with you and help you eat a few tamales and cinnamon rolls, challenged you to a few games of cards, and given you all a big hug! Thanks for being so supportive of us. We love you and Merry Christmas!


What is Christmas without a few tasty treats!

We found some Cookie Cutters in Istanbul, so we were able to make cookies in a shape other than a circle. We decorated our cookies with an impressionist style. (Actually I made the frosting a little too runny, I was afraid we wouldn’t have enough frosting if I didn’t. I had to save some powdered sugar for Christmas morning doughnuts.)

Christmas Eve we enjoyed soup in a bread bowl! Our friends who came to help us celebrate had never heard of bread bowls and when we came to the table one of them said, "Where is the middle of the bread?" We rocked their world when we told them we would be eating our soup out of the bread. By the end of the meal we they were convinced that bread bowls were an amazing culinary invention.

Today we had a feast of imported items! Chips and Dip Hummus (A personal favorite, I was so excited to find Garbanzo Beans at a local grocery store!)

AND Cheese Cake!!!! We used the cheese cake for Jesus’ Birthday Cake (we gave him our best!)

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

We picked out our tree this week and the first step was to develop some sort of tree stand, so Marvin picked up some rope and a couple of buckets and went to work. He did an awesome job, and we were able to decorate before evening. (Mom thanks for picking out a few ornaments for us, it was fun placing them on the tree.)

The day after our tree was up I started hearing a popping sound, from previous experience it was a similar sound that our extension cord made before it caught on fire several months ago. So I examined the tree and couldn’t find anything out of the ordinary or hot. I called Marvin in the living room and of course he didn’t hear anything. So the pops continued and we decided it must be the needles falling off and hitting the presents. It wasn’t until the next day we finally figured out that the pine cones were opening and the seeds were falling out. It has been fun to watch all the pine cones open up on our tree.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Oh the weather outside is frightful. Well not really but it did snow this last week and even though the temperatures make it up to 6 degrees Celsius the snow still hung around to give us a white Christmas. We are ready for things to freeze all the time; it makes it much easier to walk when you don’t have to avoid slush and puddles of melted snow.

A Holiday Home Tour of the Fortress

We realized we haven’t posted any pictures of the inside of our house. We hope you enjoy a few pictures of our home. We do have an upstairs, but we only use it when we have guest, and guests are always welcome.

Whenever we call America this is the room where we do so from, it has the best connection in the house. (There is the least amount of static from this phone.)

The Living Room
We absolutely love our couch! As with most furniture here it pulls out into a bed, but it is perfect for lounging around and taking in a good book.

The Kitchen
We have spent lots of hours in this room, chopping, dicing, baking and stiring. The pot on the stove right now serves as our hotwater supply. It actually heats up rather quickly, and we have developed quite a nice system of keeping hot water around.

Dining Room/Office

It is such a huge room we usually choose to eat at a table in the living room, unless we have company. But the table is a great place to spread out to work. It is perfect for planning lessons. I usually like to spread everything I have out so I can see it all, and then place it in order.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Language Mix

When I taught preschool we played a game called puzzle mix, we would mix several puzzles together and they kids tried to put them together as fast as they could. Well that is what I have felt like in terms of language these last two weeks, only I'm not doing so hot. When we went to France, I could understand what was being said, but the wrong language would always come out when I tried to respond. Now add Turkish to the mix and let's just say now French comes out. Hopefully when we get back to our city the language we have been studying for the last 10 months will all come back to us.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Update on Marvin's ankle

A few of you can remember when Marvin twisted his ankle in April. Well he is still experiencing some swelling and pain after he plays sports, if he is on his feet all day, and in the mornings. So Marvin made a doctor's appointment in Istanbul about his ankle. Since we weren't going to be in Istanbul long the doctor did an MRI on his ankle. He found out that it was a pretty bad injury after all, sprained on both sides of his ankle and he ruptured ligaments and damaged some tendons. His doctor's said that they are healing, but thicker and longer and that is why he is still experiencing pain. He gave Marvin more exercizes that will help and a few meds, just in case the pain persists. We are glad to know what finally happened, we thought a few of you would be interested too.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Souvenirs from Paris

These aren't your typical souvenirs, but this wasn't your typical vacation either. Other than the sights we enjoyed a few culinary treats like NACHOS (we devoured those babies in less than 3 minutes), Italian food that wasn't pizza or spaghetti, CHINESE, and cream cheese.


We had such an amazing time in Paris. We are so thankful that we were able to take such a trip. It was a good time of refreshment for us. We hope you enjoy the pictures:

Of course the first place we visited was the Eiffel tower, where else could you start. Before leaving we read that it sparkles at night. We were on our way to a big grocery store and we stopped as we crossed the Seine to enjoy the view and all of sudden it started to sparkle. It was pretty amazing.
The first day we were in Paris we visited the Champs Elysees, a famous boulevard in Paris. We stopped to rest our tired feet and took in a little French food at a restaurant on a side street near the Champs Elysees. After our meal we headed back to the Champs Elysees and we had quite a treat. All of the trees were light up, it was beautiful and we couldn’t have asked for a better surprise.
This massive Crypt houses Napoleon Bonaparte.
We loved the ambiance to the city; the buildings were all appealing and flowed together with the same general style. Spots of color were added through flowers still blooming on balconies. Every now and then we would find something pretty fun, like this door. We aren’t sure what this building is used for, but that is one big door.
Sacre Coeur is set on one of the few hills in Pairs and the white cathedral was a pretty amazing site as you look up the hill. We were looking forward to going up in the bell tower but unfortunately it was closed the day we visited. None the less we enjoyed the view from where we were located.
Montmartre was one of our favorite parts of Paris; the streets were filled with quaint little shops, places to stop of coffee, artists selling their work, as well as artists ready to paint your portrait.
Versailles Palace was only a short train ride from Paris. We enjoyed touring the castle and walking around the never ending gardens.
Au Revois! We hope you enjoyed a few of our favorites memories of Paris.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Not that Painful

To obtain a visa for the country we are in you must have an AIDS test. We are not sure why, or what happens if you are positive for AIDS but we have to have it. So we asked around and found out where you could get one done in our city. We nervously approached the hospital and all of us were a little anxious, but we were relieved to see needles in new packages. This made us relax a little bit. We were a little surprised at the proceedure:
  • The doctor who took our blood didn't bother to wear gloves, but most importantly she wore a mask. I sure hope she knows how AIDS can be spread.
  • After the bleeding stopped she asked us to put our cotton ball in a old jar filled with Vodka.
  • They aren't that into patient privacy either, as when Marvin went to pick up our results she had him look through the box and find the ones he needed and didn't even check his documents.

The great part is the results were ready the following day. The medical system here is always filled with surprises.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Turkey Day

Well we have alot to be thankful for this year. We definately feel very blessed. Here are a few shots from our Turkey day festivities. We started out celebrating Sunday with some of our local colleagues. Overall they enjoyed the meal, they loved the rolls, stuffing, and pumpkin pie. Deviled Eggs were a little too odd for them, but all politely took one.
Before the festivities we had to do a little dirty work, cut the Turkey's head off. Marvin got to do the honor of beheading the turkey.
The cat even had a little something to be thankful for. Two turkeys heads in one week.
Today we began Thanksgiving round 2 as some of our "family" in the area came down to spend the holiday with us. We had a good time eating and playing. We even had the opportunity to watch some American football, thanks Mom and Dad.

Friday, November 17, 2006

What an interesting system

Well are about to leave the country which means I must give exams. Recently we have learned a thing or two about the system here. Apparently higher institutions compete like businesses, and one of the attractions for students is the graduation percentage, which means that the institute wants most students to graduate so they can recruite more students. We were told if a student doesn't pass at one institute he will go to the next and soon his old institute will get the repretation of being too difficult and so they will loose more students.

So folks let's just say most of our students come to school for the social aspect of things, learning may or may not take place. What a system huh, just think these are the future leaders of this country!

No More Bathroom Shoes!!!

For all of those of you who have visited the "Fortress" we are excited to announce that you no longer have to wear bathroom shoes in our downstairs bathroom!!!! It has been so great not worrying about stepping in water from the leaking sink or toliet.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The 1st Snowfall

As we left the house last Sunday it was cold and rainy. As evening approached it was still raining however some of it was turning into snow. By the time we went to bed snow was collecting on the roofs of houses. We were surprised to wake up in the morning and see a blanket of snow covering the ground. It hung on longer than we expected this picture was taken around 11:00 a.m. and the snow in the shade is still there. It melted by the end of the day, but gave us a little taste of what is coming soon.

A little cultural overload at the symphony

One of my friends here is a musician and she attends an art school in our city, this past week she was playing in a symphony so she called to invite me. I rarely turn down an opportunity to go to any performance so I made my way to the theatre and arrived 30 minutes early. It was already crowded, but since I was alone I figured I could find a seat. So I entered the theatre in search for a seat. I asked every row with vacant seats if they were available and every single person told me they were taken. Then because I look young several people began to yell at me and tell me since I was a student I didn’t need to sit down. I was very happy to inform them I was not a student but a teacher. This did not help my case finding a seat so I finally made my way back to the top of the theatre and ask this old man if the seats in the middle were taken. He didn’t know so at this point I was getting frustrated and therefore my language was getting fumbled and I attempted to ask him to ask the people farther if the seats were taken. Of course they were. So I decided I had a great spot standing in the back I would just stand for the concert if I was allowed to. (Fire codes aren’t as strict as they are in America). So I struck up a conversation with this sweet old man, who asked me if I spoke German and then told me that he learned in WWII. We were having a great conversation when this sweet man told me that he would tell the people to let me sit down. Of course I insisted that standing was just fine. Then all of a sudden several pushy large women came barreling through and pushed me about 1/3 the way down the isle in search for their own seat. (I am convinced they would have trampled me.) I just couldn’t handle any more of this experience so I slowly made my way up stream to the exit, fighting back tears and decided I would wait in the lobby for the concert to be over and then I would join my friend for tea afterwards. PTL I had our Ipod with me and I found a scrap piece of paper in my purse and tuned the world out around me, for the next hour I sat pouring out my frustrations on that little piece of paper. Tea went great with my friend after the concert and I was ready to reengage in this culture for another hour. When Marvin got home from basketball and I told him that I had a really bad day and he broke out the word for Why in this language, I nearly lost it again. Apparently I was not in the mood to hear this language yet. So we popped in a DVD and experienced hearing English for a while. It is funny how something this small could be so frustrating. I am very glad now that I am enjoying communicating with the people here as well as the culture.

A Trip to the Zoo

Our friends called us up and wanted to do something with us last Saturday, so they suggested that we go to the Zoo. So we prepared our selves to be depressed at the conditions of the zoo. It was a little depressing as the animals were all held in small cages and did not have any room to run around. However we were surprised to see a few 'exotic' animals: Cows and Sheep. Our theory is someday those animals will be lunch for the predators. Another shocking find was there was a dog in a cage along side the wolves! We are not quite sure why?!?! The Bears just cracked me up. As we entered the Bear row one of them was standing up on his hind legs with it's front legs proped up on the cage as if he was saying, "Hi I'm really bored so I am going to look at you for a change." The bear we did get a picture was extremly thirsty and as the zookeeper was filling up his friends' bowls he was just standing by his waiting for his turn. As the zookeeper filled up his bowl he took the opportunity to drink from the running source.

Earlier that week our language teacher told us that 3 baby tigers were born. When we found out we were going to the zoo we figured there was no way that we could see them since they were still very young, but upon arriving at the zoo one of our friends started talking to the zoo keeper in charge of the tigers asking him questions like, How much do they eat? How do you know it is safe to enter the cage.....? When our friend mentioned the baby tigers the zookeeper told him we could see them for a little price, before we knew it we were behind the tiger cages and were able to take a peek at the little furballs. They were huddled together in the corner of a cage. We snapped a few pictures and were on our way all for about $2.00.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Pictures of Common Scenes

Here are a few sights we see everyday.........

I snapped this picture as I was coming home from work at about 5:15, it was almost dark and the call to prayer was sounding in the background. It was a good day to walk this direction down our street as it hadn't rained and this half of our stree that is not paved didn't look like a bunch of little ponds. Although there was no water on the road this day, I still had to look carefully for "land mines" left by our neighborhood cattle. You can also see a little bit of the haze in the distance from the burning leaves everyone seems to be doing right now.

This picture is of an older woman who we often see every morning while we wait on our route taxi to go into town. Lately she has been busy raking the leaves in her yard. We are glad to say that the leaves have almost all fallen from her trees. We are very thankful because she is often raking near the road and I don't know about you guys but a rack dragging across a paved road is not the greatest sound in the world. Despite her tendency to drag a rake across the pavement she is a very sweet woman and we enjoy seeing her in the mornings.

This last picture is of the street we walk up every morning to wait for a crowded ride into town. We always walk to this street because there is a better chance of catching a ride. We usually see chickens walking about along this road enjoying a the morning, and an occassional cow. When we first moved to our village we were greeted by a Donkey walking up this street every morning, but unfortunately by the middle of summer he was no where in sight.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Oh Mummy!

I had a class on creativity. Well it is important to understand that my students never have had to think outside the box so when I gave them a roll of toilet paper and told them to make a costume all but one group made some version of a Mummy, so much for thinking outside the box.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A little Halloween Fun

Holidays now have become events where we have an excuse to celebrate something. Therefore we were glad to hear that our colleagues wanted to have a Halloween Party. You must know that when we have a party here we do it right, so this meant dressing up, carving pumpkins, stuffing ourselves silly with sugar, and a few favorite Halloween TV shows.

First of all we would like to show you what we looked like this Halloween. Here we are.......
If you are wondering what we dressed up as we were PIGS IN A BLANKET!!! Thanks to Marvin this idea turned out great. My original idea was to be a snowman and a snowwoman but Marvin didn't want to get in a taxi dressed up like a snowman. Oh well there is always next year.

Since we were having a Halloween party we needed a cake, so I thought I might as well try my luck at decorating a cake. It turned out a little better than I thought, but I think I still need some practice.

Thanks to a local colleague at the business school we found some pumpkins, but there is one little difference; Pumpkins here are not orange like we have in the states but are instead green. The good news is that other than the color they are the same thing. When the lights are off you don't even notice the color. (And yes that is a birthday candle in our pumpkin, it worked quite well.)

Friday, October 20, 2006

Staying Warm

The weather turn a little colder about two weeks ago and our house has been a bit on the chilly side. Marvin actually went upstairs on Sunday and he could see his breath. It was pretty crazy. When we moved out to the village we were showed a billion things about the house and well we didn't remember all of them especially how to turn the heat on, apparently there were a few more steps that we were unaware of so we had to wait until a friend could come out and show us how to do it. In the meantime we bundled up in sweaters and wrapped ourselves in blankets at all times, we averaged around 60- 61 degrees F. So we decided to make a fire, our first attempt didn't go so well as it filled our entire living room with smoke, but we decided to try it again and it was successful. Our heat is on now, but we are looking forward to using the fireplace this winter.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Village Trip

A few students at the school we work at agreed to host our guests who came to visit, and we tagged along. The village we went to was only about 10 minutes away from town, but it took us a while to get there because the student we were with decided to be our tour guide for the afternoon and evening. It turned out it was a rainy day so we were a little cold, but we made it through and actually saw some beautiful things.

This is a picture of Blue Lake. The water is very clear and is very deep, infact they don't know who deep it is. The leaves were starting to turn and it was just goregus. I do want to visit again on a nicer day this fall.

Then our "tour guide" took us a tunnel through the mountains, which almost lead to a little nausea on my part, but PTL we were able to stop a couple of times for photo opportunities. You cannot tell very well from the picture I posted but there was literally a 180 drop off from the cliff that you could drive your car out on. I was a little freaked out, but also I was in awe at the beauty of this part of the world.

We finally convinced our tour guide that we didn't have time to visit the waterfalls approximately 40 minutes away because it would be dark there by the time we saw them, and so he took us back to his village and finally was about to meet this young man's parents. Of course they treated us to a wonderful meal with the most unbelievable hospitality you can imagine. It was a great time for all involved.

The Birthday Boy

We celebrated Marvin's birthday two weekends ago with a quiet little party, but I couldn't resisted putting up a few balloons in honor of the K-State game the next day. Marvin stayed up late to catch the end of the game and was very pleased that we squeezed out a win.

We had Marvin's favorites for dinner, all of which are our grandmothers recipes. Tacos (the real ones filled with meat potatoes and peas then fried) and Sopa (a Mexican rice dish). Dinner was followed up by peanut butter pie. FYI candles are not the best in a pudding substances, especially 26 of them. (Kathy thanks for the pudding.)

Then the next day Marvin enjoyed pizza at the best pizza place in the area while he was waiting to pick up some visitors at the airport.

We also wanted to say Happy Belate Birthday Grandpa. We didn't forget it was your big day as well. We love you and miss you!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Assalam Aleikom

We are two weeks into Ramadan here, and by the looks of restaurants in town during the noon hour you would not have guessed it. In the village it is another story, many women cover their heads, and the call to prayer is sounded 5 times a day. One interesting aspect of Ramadan here is every Thursday neighbors bring lacoom, fried bread, and candies. When receiving the bread and candies you are suppose to respond by saying, may your fast go well, however we don’t say that. On my way home from work today it was an interesting sight seeing all of the women out wearing their house dresses, slippers and the occasional robe delivering these treats to all of their neighbors. We finally learned the routine of accepting the treats taking them inside and putting them on one of our plates and then going back outside to give them their plate back. The picture is of what they brought us today, minus one lacoom as we ate one before I took the picture, sorry we couldn’t resist. (My favorite way to eat lacoom is to put a little plum jam that I made on the top; it tastes just like a toaster strudel!)


We have mentioned before the number of Remont places in our town, basically it a place where you can get something fixed. There are remont places to fix TVs, radios, anything electronic, anything in your house, shoes, cell phones, you name it they have it. So when the switch to our lamp quit working I decided rather than buying a new lamp I would try to get it fixed instead. I figured it would be easier to get it fixed than to find two more lamps that were not in the shape of a dolphin. I am really not joking it took us a while to find normal lamps.

So I ventured out with our secretary to get them fixed two hours later we were back with working lamps! Here was the process
1. Knowing that we would need to purchase a part we thought we would try to get ahead of the game and we went to a part store, then we walk to the repair man to have him install the new lamp switches.
2. The repair man looks at the switch and tells us the switch we bought won’t work, we need to go to a part store 2 blocks away and purchase two new switches. (Yes repair men here do not keep parts at their store; you must go and buy them yourself).
3. We go and buy the new switches.
4. We come back and it takes the man approximately 5 minutes to replace both switches.
5. Then we walk back to the first store and return the switches that did not work and get my $1.00 back.

With all this said and done we are glad our lamps are working and for a grand total of $2.00 we now have two working lamps, which do not look like dolphins!!!

I also discovered in this trip a place that will fix your umbrella if it is broken. Yes there is a Remont for everything.

Settlers of Nineveh

Marvin discovered this game before we left America and has quickly become his favorite game right now; I however have not discovered the fun of the game. Shortly after arriving here Marvin decided it would be great to make his own settlers game with a local twist, so he developed Settlers of Nineveh.

Here is a picture of the first local to play this game. It was the game of choice for guy’s night this past week.

Language update

Recently I have decided I will try to speak as much as I can and not worry so much if I am saying things correctly. I decided the whole grammar thing was intimidating me too much and really who cares if I use the wrong to go verb. This new attitude has actually helped me as I catch myself making mistakes and correct them the next time I say something.

Now are you ready for a story that I just think is hilarious, I hope you do too.
Well we skyped with my parents last weekend and stayed later to spend some time on the internet trying to find a hotel for our vacation in December. We decided it was getting late and we needed to call a taxi. So I do what I have done a hundred times I called a taxi, all is going well until they call back and rattle something off extremely fast, all I caught was the verb to go. So I said “K Ville 1” thinking maybe they didn’t remember where we were going. The lady was really confused and then just hung up on me (taxi dispatchers are not the most patient people in the world). So about 30 seconds later the phone rings again, I answer it and it is the same lady who says slower, why did you say K-Ville 1? I could not think of anything else to say but, “I don’t know” like I was in trouble or something. She then proceeded to tell me the taxi will come in 5 minutes. So I guess I don’t know that much language, but at least we are trying.


Thank you to all of you who sent a frosting recipe. I didn’t mention in my e-mail but she loves sugar. It really made here day special thanks, for your help.

Friday, September 22, 2006

My first day of School!

Growing up we had a tradition where we would take a picture on the first day of school. This tradition ended when we thought we were too cool. I thought I would revive the tradition, so here's to you mom and dad. My attire has changed a bit. Oh I wish I could go to school in tennis shoes, my feet would be much happier. Oh well...... c'est la vie!

Feeling Better

Many of you have e-mailed asking about my allegeries, so I thought I would update everyone. They are so much better. I have started taking Allegra-D and Flonaz they appear to be working, PLT! I thought I was doing much better, so I decided I didn't need to take it anymore and then I went outside and began sneezing like crazy. I guess allergy season is not entirely over. A big thank you to the people who helped me out getting this medicine. You have no idea how grateful I am.

Friday, September 08, 2006

When do Classes Start?

All of those who work or attend a university will appreciate this story.

After we met with the director of the school we teach at she informed us of the date we would begin to teach, Sept. 11th. So we have been patiently waiting to hear the answer to the big question, WHEN? After calling everyday this week, the person in charge of scheduling informed us that classes would not begin until the 18th because the schedule was not ready, so I guess we have another teaching free week.

I want to buy a Hamburger!

Okay if you haven’t seen the new Pink Panther movie, you have to see it in order to get a glimpse into what we look like learning a language. (If you don’t want to watch the whole thing, just find the scene where the Inspector works with an accent coach.) We laughed so hard, primarily because we knew that is exactly like we sound trying to learn this language. We showed it to our language teacher, and now everyday he comes to our lessons and says, “I want to buy a hamburger.” Uhmmm there must be some truth in that clip.

Keeping things out

We now have screens on all the downstairs windows! No more pigeons or cats in the house. I looks like we were just in time the cats caught another pigeon the other day; it’s a good thing we had the screens on.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


Do you know where this was taken? We don't either.

The trip was only supposed to take 6-7 hours, however we managed to make it a 10 hour trip. We turned 5 Kilometers too soon, which eventually lead us into the country and villages. Every time we would stop and ask someone where our destination city was their reply would be, go straight and when we asked the question, “How far away is it?” people would say, “it’s a long ways away”. We eventually made our way back to the main highway and 10 minutes from town we run out of gasoline. We called our friends and they brought us some gasoline to help us make it to town, and we get stopped at the checkpoint for crossing the line. They are very picky about that rule. Eventually we made it to town, and this will be a road trip we will never forget.