Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Spray Paint the Walls: Things They Never Told Me About Babies Part I

Hello People,

   I know.  I'm a lousy blogger.  I don't really mind this since I actually dislike blogs as a general rule.  This may come as a shock to you.  "But Mr. Strange," you may find yourself saying to your computer screen at this moment, "not only do you have a blog, it even has its own specialized web address for which you paid good ol' inflated American cash."  This is true.  Not only do I have a blog, and not only did I pay for it to have its own web address (the blog equivalent of a vanity plate, blech), but I dislike the very thing in which I find myself voluntarily involved in producing.  What madness this is.  The world makes no sense and I make less.  

Somehow this has become a travel blog which I never quite intended.  And here you say, "But Mr. Strange, you live in a foreign country, traveling is your thing!"  Let us here clarify, I live in a foreign country, which means that I have traveled.  I don't actually do much traveling.  I'm not really comfortable writing a travel blog.  I'm never sure of what to write when writing about travels and when I had the revelation that I was writing a travel blog, I ceased to write one.  Regardless, I have lacked either the time or the energy to write much of anything for the last 3 weeks or so.  Those weeks go something like this: Bess arrives, Bess and I tour the city,  Orbit is born, Hazel and I morph into baby caring zombie machines.  There you have my well developed thoughts on parenting thus far.  Needless to say, Hazel and I are quite happy.  

Babies are strange creatures.  This one is pretty spectacular, obviously, but as a general rule they are well, different.  I would like to now list some things that people didn't tell us, but maybe should have.  I will put a picture with each item on the list so that you will have no excuse but to keep reading:

     1) Stuff shoots out both ends! 
Seriously, today Orbit changed the meaning of spray painting the wall. The ever helpful Aunta Bess took him to his room to change his diaper when we heard a rather piercing, "AAAAAH" and ran into a scene straight out of a mafia movie, except instead of blood there was, well you get it..

     2) Our baby is WAAAAY cuter than your's
... and it really surprises me that not everyone thinks so.  Seriously, don't they know that the very sight of him is no less than their cue to fall to their knees in awe of the adorable being who is my son. Is it not obvious to them that my child is the cutest child of at least the years following the invention of the camera?  

     3) All children look alike, but not mine. 
This may seem similar to #2 but it is quite different.  I'm not a baby person.  In fact, I'll tell you a secret.  I, like my grandmother, kind of think babies are boring. In fact, for the past several years I maintained that though I knew as a fact that children exist, I couldn't see them.  But my kid, well there is an exception to the rule!  What a fountain (sometimes literally) of interestingness.  How well he gurgles and coo's..  What skills in the urinary arts!  Given that I can't see children this may not seem like much, but he is by far the most unique child I've ever laid eyes on. 
      4) Three words: Evil. Baby. Claws.
...Much like the Power Puff Girls were made from sugar, spice, everything nice, and a little dose of Chemical X, babies are cute, cuddly, and have razor sharp parent shredders on their fingers!  We have had to hang a sign on Orbit that says, "Warning: Sharp Claws.  Approach at own risk." He'll have to keep wearing it until we conquer our fear of clipping his finger nails. With that said, here's a picture of his wonderful hobbit feet. 

       So there, once again, are my well developed thoughts on having a kid.  To those of you who don't have kids yet, fear not.  When it comes time for yours' I will tell you all of this.  You will not be as unprepared as I was. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Its a Boy Mrs Walker, Its a Boy

Hello People,

  As many of you may know, Little Orbit was born less than a week ago on July, 26!  A little later I'll post lots of thoughts here about the joys of fatherhood, but at the moment I'm too in the middle of it all. I'm still just starting to process the fact that I am a father, I haven't started to figure out what that means. I can tell you this though, before last Thursday I did not know that such a love was possible for another human being.  I now understand God's love for us, His children, that allows Him to make such sacrifices and endure such pain on our behalf.  As soon as I saw my son, as blue and smurf like as he initially was (if you haven't seen a newly newborn, look it up) I knew that this was a completely different love to any other that I had ever experienced.  Its a love that knows no bounds.  It is not based on action, or benefit.  My love for my son is endless because of who he is.

   Hazel and I are very happy to have Orbit with us now.  Our family of two has grown and it is amazing how perfect that growth is.  It is certainly stressful. I have somehow acquired the ability to change a diaper while being so sleepy that I can't focus my vision, and I'm running on less sleep than an overstudious college student in finals week. But even with this stress and lack of sleep, God's blessing is perfect.

"My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.  From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me- holy is his name.  His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation." The Magnificat, Luke 1:46-51

More to come...

Friday, July 27, 2012

Air Traffic (Out of) Control

Hello! It is I, Bess Strange!
I will start my first post with what, in my opinion, is the best sibling picture ever.

I am going to try briefly summarize my first week with my wonderful sister-in-law and nephew to be, and my brother. My trip getting here was a very hectic, sort of funny journey. I will just preface this story by saying that I want to fly as an unaccompanied minor for the rest of my life! My plane from Atlanta to New Wark, NJ, was landing at the exact time that my plane was supposed to be leaving for Telmar. That alone is a little disconcerting for me. When we finally landed a man came down the aisle to get me and said "follow me". As we are running down stairs and hallways through the airport I find out that the airline is holding the flight for me! I am so thankful for Jerome, who showed me the way as we raced through to my terminal and down the airport in a golf cart while shouting "get out of the way!". I wouldn't have been able to handle it without him! When I got on the plane, around an hour after it was supposed to have left I didn't even feel self conscious of  the people in the aisles staring me down. I was just thankful for being on the flight. I arrived in Telamr and was greeted by the greatest welcoming party, Mr. & Mrs. Strange, little Orbit ( in the womb still) and my new friend Bubbles!

Having all that out of the way, here starts my first week and a half in pictures.

The Blue Mosque

The Hagia Sophia, I really had to stop myself from posting all the pictures from here! It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

          The light did funny things with my camera, but I thought this picture showed the inside pretty well.  


                                     I think that Mr. Strange looks particularly heroic in this picture!

I love all the mosques here, I think that they are so pretty.

This is Chorra church, which has beautiful still-intact mosaics.
Mr. Strange and I noticed smoke billowing from a nearby building.....

..... Upon inspection we found a burning building in the middle of the city!

Now I am skipping a few days and going to my favorite pictures!! Of my new nephew!

Hurray for being an aunt!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Mutlu Bayramlar

Hello People,

Its an exciting time in the Strange household.  Bess arrived safely here on Tuesday and it is great to have my sister here.  So far I haven't given her anytime to catch her breath.  We have stayed on the go since the morning of her first full day here.  I could tell you about it, but why not let her speak for herself.  As I keep telling her, I live here. Our sightseeing  is all about her so why don't I let you get her perspective.

In addition to the arrival of sister Bess, we are also expecting the eminent arrival of our newest family member, Little Orbit.  Hazel has taken to referring to him as "Baby Hulk" because at the moment his 38 week old head is measuring at 41 weeks. The rest of him is on a similar scale. Two weeks ago our doctor told us that she was going to stop telling us how big he is. It was enough to say that he is a big boy.  Maybe she was right.  We had another appointment yesterday and he's measuring 8 and 1/2 pounds.  Everything is looking good though, so expect some news  from us sometime next week!

Today marks the start of the holiday of Ramadan, or as it is called here, "Ramazan."  This city gets excited for Ramazan.  All of the mosques are decked out in lights and decorations and the restaurants and grocers are all stocked for the evening feasting.  Even though fasting lasts from sun up to sun down, I read an article this morning that said the restaurants here in the city can expect a 30% increase in revenue, around 4 billion liras (+/- 2 billion USD) during this month! Even though we are not muslim, the excitement at the beginning of Ramazan is a little infectious.  Maybe its similar to the feeling in the air around Christmas time in the States?

Recently I visited my friend Rabadash, who works at our corner bakery.  Many of the relationships I've made here are based more on smiles and goodwill than verbal communication, mostly because of my own severe deficiencies in the local language.  Rabadash, a dedicated fan of the comedy of Conan O, speaks english and enjoys using it to converse with me as well as helping me with my use of his language.  It had been a while since I visited him so when I got there we talked for a few minutes about life in general before the conversation turned to much more serious matters: Sports.  "Miami," he said, "Champions this year."  I'm not an NBA fan.  The last time I watched the NBA championship, or any other game for that matter, was the Bulls vs the Jazz in 1997 on a tiny, rabbit eared, black &  white television set at my grandparents house.  Still, I keep up  a little bit for moments like this.  "Yeah," I said, "LeBron finally did it."  He asked me if I saw it and when I told him no he filled me in on some of the more exciting details of the championship.  Talk then turned to other sports and eventually he asked me, "What is your favorite Telmarine team?"  You may ask, "In what sport?"  But if you lived here or just visited here you would quickly figure out that though most of Telmar may be in Asia, it is much like the rest of Europe in its choice of national sport. The people here may follow other sports, but for them Soccer is sultan!  Now this question, if I'm honest, was a little bit dreaded.  I've been trying to decide between two of the teams for a while now and hadn't come to any solid decision yet, so when he asked me I knew it was time for a decision.  "I don't know," I told him, "I've been kind of torn between Slytherin (the asian team) and Gryffindor(the European team), but I guess I'm leaning toward Gryffindor."  These are not the real team names, by the way, but the colors are the same.  Immediately he told me, "No, my friend. I go for Slytherin. On this side (Asia) you must go for Slytherin."  "Very well," I said, "I'm Slytherin." and we shook hands on it.  He then asked me what was my favorite NBA team.  I don't have one, but I figured, why not go for the hometown?  "Atlanta Hawks," said I.
"Very well," he said,"I'm for Atlanta Hawks." And we shook hands.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Almost Famous

Hello People,

I know, I know.  Hazel and I have broken our promise.  We have no where near given you a post a day about our life in Telmar.  I apologize, however we have been busy and I plan on using that business to make it up to you.  Last week I promised you pictures of our local market.  Today I make good on that promise.  I didn't know how it would go over taking a camera with me.  Lets face it, you either love cameras or hate them; love tourists or just want them all to go away.  Good for me, maybe a little too good for me, the market, apparently, loves them.  As soon as I arrived I was greeted with cries of "Take Picture!" and "Facebook'da!*"  At every table people were motioning me over and asking me to take pictures of, not only their produce, but themeselves as well.  I only got through half of the market and took 33 pictures.  As all of the venders were quite thrilled to be so sought out by a paparazzo as myself, and here I quote one man,"I am almost famous!" (to which I replied, I am a golden I didn't), I couldn't bring myself to edit them.  So, without further ado, I give you the uncensored record of my most recent trip to the pazaar.

Please note: because of the number of pictures I've split this post into two parts.  Don't miss the link to the second part midway through.

There are two things to know about the market.  1) Everything is very fresh.  2) It is horribly exciting, by which I mean, it is great fun going.  Believe me, its not your typical trip to the grocery store where you will stand quietly but impatiently behind the coupon user blocking the aisle with 4 carts.  No, here you jostle and bump and cut through and generally try to avoid stepping on or being stepped on and boy is it worth it. Can you see the 85 krus price tag on those watermelons?  100 krus = 1 lira.  1.89 lira = 1 dollar.  You do the math.

The stall below was my first foray into asking the dreaded question, "Take Peecture?"  You can see by the picture below that, I had nothing to worry about.

You can get just about anything at the pazaar.  From the fresh fruits and vegetables that you see above and will see again below, to the carpets in this picture and the clothing and luggage in the background, and even to vacuum cleaner bags that we had searched for in stores for over two months!

Look at this.  Mountains and mountains of fresh, handpicked cherries.  Delicious.

As a vegetarian, I approve this picture.  Eggplant galore here. All of the prices here are by the kilogram.   Two lira a kilogram for eggplant.  Wow!  Vegetarian heaven.

 More and better pictures after the jump...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

Hello People,

So here's a question for you.  Why did the chicken cross the road? I know you know this joke, but have you really thought about it? Why did the chicken cross the road?  To get to the other side.  Obvious.  Or is it? My friend Fortescue maintains that "the other side" is a euphemism for, well, "The Other Siiiiide."  He maintains that the chicken is, more or less, suicidal.  This is baloney.  The chicken is simply a busy man desiring to reach a destination on the other side of the street.  Maybe he has a chick to go see (get it?) or there is a nice deli that he likes.  Then again, if it is a deli, he may be suicidal after all.... Nevertheless, I maintain that the chicken crossed the road to get to the other side, plain and simple.  Still I couldn't help asking, "Why did this chicken cross the road?" 

Monday, June 25, 2012

White Light White Heat and Lack of Air Conditioning Part Two (Pictures)

As Mr. Strange has mentioned, we are learning ways to cope this summer with the heat.  My current methods of coping are; a steady supply of apple juice popsicles, a huge ice pack, and sitting in front of any and all fans.  You know life is interesting when you have to suppress the desire to squeal with happiness when you find an aisle of the grocery store that has fans plugged in to demonstrate how well they work. And you proceed to evaluate each one...extensively, and could possibly stayed there all day.

This summer has even done what no one who knows me could ever believe possible.  Turned me into a morning person.  A morning person! Of course my definition of morning is anything around 7 or 8, but still, that is huge for me! I am awake at 7 or 8 ready to go because I know by 3 or 4 I would prefer to be napping in front of a fan, lying on an ice pack, and pretending that it isn't the hottest part of the day.  Mr. Strange has been great helping me adjust by making our apartment as cool as possible with fans etc. but you cannot hide out forever away from the heat, especially since we have a limited time to explore before my current..ahem...generous state of pregnancy makes exploring rather difficult.

Hence the quest for the mysterious, cheap, and long ferry ride on Saturday morning.  I have a new appreciation of ferries. Someone very thoughtfully designed them so that you can ride in the open on the top, enjoying the wind but still under shade if you wish. 

This is a picture of the little town the ferry departed from.  

This is a picture of the same area, just closer up, so you can see some of the locals having breakfast and some of the fishermen preparing to go out fishing.

There is a pretty huge gap between many of the well to do and not so well off people in the city.  Many wealthy people live on the water so we saw many extravagant things such as pools by the water, yachts and even a personal lift from the water up a steep hill to someone's house (if you look closely at the second picture below you can see the lift)! 

Mr. Strange looking pensive with many yachts in the background.

Sometimes the boats pass very close to one another.  I actually enjoy it when we go through the wake of another boat, it makes a fun ride.
This is a fort that you may have seen photos of already on the blog but this was the first time we have seen it from the water and it was impressive and beautiful.  Definitely my favorite historical place in the city. I don't want to climb the stairs in my current state so it was wonderful to see it from a different angle.
We rode the ferry for the entire hour-long route and then we were riding it back when I needed a bathroom pit stop so we stopped at the coolest Starbucks in the city. The bottom  floor of the Starbucks was on the water and the inside was made of stone and had amazing air conditioning.  We read for awhile out on the terrace.
This cute little bird came to visit.

we proceeded to watch it steal the seeds off a guy's bagel.
All in all it was a successful quest for cheap and cool exploration of the city.  And we made it back by one o'clock in time for my nap.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

White Light White Heat and Lack of Air Conditioning

Hello People,

Summertime is here and Hazel has a bun in the oven. While, as I found out yesterday, heat is essential for baking actual bread, it turns out that its not all that pleasant when growing a baby. At least so Hazel tells me and well, I'm inclined to believe her. The heat has been climbing here recently. I don't mean Georgia heat. I don't mean wilt the flowers, distribute emergency air conditioners to the elderly heat, but I do mean "we don't have air conditioning and we live in a sunny place just north of Africa heat." This has left us in a what-to-do sort of situation and we've had to get creative. I've mastered the art of turning our apartment into a wind tunnel. This helps. I have it down to a science when to close certain curtains, when to open others, and where to place each fan depending on the time of day. This helps as well. Sometimes, however, these things are still not enough and then you have to get adventurous.

If you have kept up with our lives in Telmar then you know that we love the ferries. I feel the need to clarify something about this. You see, when I was a young warthog and I thought of a ferry boat, I immediately thought "Tom Sawyer's Island Disney World. By which I mean steam engine, slow moving, novelty transportation. This is not so in Telmar. If it was the case you would have a lot of ferry boats finding themselves unintentionally out to sea because of the strong current in the Strait. No, much like the double decker busses, the ferry boats here mean business. There are only two bridges across the Strait so these ferry boats are fast moving weapons of mass transportation. They move a lot of people a lot of places. Still, you can't beat sitting on the top of a ferry boat feeling the wind in your hair with the city stretching on either side of the water. With this in mind, Hazel and I set out to find a cool breeze and a day out and about to escape from the heat in our building.

The city where we live is, in a way, made up of many villages, each indistinguishable from one another, and yet completely different. There is no gap or difference in architecture. Its been one big city for far too long for any of that. Hazel and I had heard rumours for sometime now of a mysterious ferry boat that leaves from one of these little villages near where we live. Supposedly it traveled on and on up the Strait into regions yet unexplored by Hazel or myself for an hour at a go. Now remember what I said before. This is not your Disney World ferry boat. The thing moves. An hour up the Strait is a fair piece. So yesterday morning we set off in search of this fantastical ferry. I will not leave you in suspense. We found it. The rumors were true.

Hazel and I rode the ferry boat for an hour before it reached its final stop and the same thing struck both of us that keeps hitting me over and over again recently. This city is huge. I'll let Hazel post the pictures that we took, but let me tell you, it doesn't stop. Seriously, you don't believe me. I know this. You may think you believe me. You may even say you believe me. But in your heart of hearts you say to yourself, "no way." Hazel and I took this picture from just around the corner on our street. This picture shows a tiny piece of the city.

The road really does go on and on and living here is an adventure. In a city this big its easy to get caught up in the sheer size and franticness of it all. Honestly, its a really cool place to be and we really like it here, but yesterday I found myself feeling rather small. And then I started reflecting on the words of David in Psalm 8. As big as this place is, as frantic as life is, and as easy as it is to make ourselves forget, we have a God who cares about us and loves us. He has given us glory and honor and I hope that I can do the same for Him.
Psalm 8
O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth, Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens! From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength Because of Your adversaries, To make the enemy and the revengeful cease. When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him; And the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings, And You crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field, The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!

Friday, June 22, 2012


I was convicted when I read this verse at the beginning of (of all things) a Christian historical romance book.  
How many times do I doubt, even while praying?

But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. James 1:6 (NASB)

This Ain't No Case of the Summertime Blues

Hello People,

 Yesterday I was complaining to Hazel that I had nothing to write about.  "What am I supposed to write?" I asked her, "we never do anything."  I am very much an on the go person and have trouble adapting to school holidays. Plus, Hazel is still working this week and next so I'm waiting for her before I begin any summertime explorations in earnest.   In her usual calming manner, she suggested that I take the camera and go for a walk.  "We live in a foreign country," she told me, "its all interesting!"  Fair point.

I like to run. On Saturdays I do long runs that take me all over this general area of the city.  These are my favorites.  The first few miles are nothing but hills, ups and downs all the way.  I go by shops and cafes, produce stands galore, and even old Ottoman palaces.  The next several miles take me directly along the Bosphorous where I run with the salty air and the wind through my hair.  This is my favorite stretch of running.  Off in the distance I can see the Blue Mosque and the Hagea Sophia and can even look over at the Galata Tower.  I cannot imagine a better run anywhere.

My weekday runs feel by contrast, well, boring.  They're only 3-4 miles each, so I stay around the neighborhood and the scenery is much less dramatic. However, as I ran this morning I though about what Hazel told me last night and I started to actually take a look around.  The effect of this was similar to that of removing a blindfold.  How blind we become to our immediate surroundings.  There is nothing so exciting as the "dull and humdrum"  of everyday. If yesterday I was bored of the same, today I was Alice stepping into Wonderland.

I went back to my 3 mile route about an hour after my run this morning, this time in Chacos with a backpack and camera rather than my running shoes and gym shorts, ready to take some pictures.  This is one of the first things I happened upon.  A garden complete with chickens and this a block away from a shopping mall!

If you are like me, you think of double decker busses as a novelty tourist activity.  Not so in this big city.  If you hop on a double decker bus here, its because its a busy bus that needs the room.  You can and should expect it to be crowded.  Still, being essentially a long term tourist I jump at every chance to ride one and yes, I always go for the top.

If the Promised Land was flowing with milk and honey then Telmar is flowing over with fresh fruit and vegetables.  Next week I'll take pictures of the open market (Pazaar) behind our apartment where the farmers bring their produce, but these produce stands are everywhere and the fruit and veggies are SOOOOO fresh!  The Telmarines love their beef and chicken, but this place is a vegetarian dream.

This Mosque towers over all in our neighborhood.  Its brand new and though I thinks its already in use, it is still under construction as displayed in the picture below. 

Upside, the bathroom is open and free to the public.

The "W.C." as you may have guessed, stands for "Water Closet."  

Space is not as available here as it is in the States.  People use every bit that they can.  Its awesome seeing people in such a thoroughly urban environment using their resources and  living by the earth.  This fellow consented to let me take his picture, for which I am very thankful.  I'm not sure he was happy about it though...

The city is very large and very packed.  Oddly enough, its easy to forget that when you're in the middle of it, but then every once in a while the city opens up and gives you a view and all you can do is go "Whoa."  

Just up the hill from where I took the picture above was a bakery where the smell of fresh baked bread was just too much to pass by. The owner, seen below, was kind enough to let me walk all through his bakery taking pictures. 

Below is some of the bread baked freshly not an hour before I took the picture.  And get this, it only costs the equivalent of about 50 cents and is delicious!
It was cooked in an actual wood fire oven which was, I can tell you, quite warm.  I didn't know the words to ask what temperature it cooks, but I think you can tell by the picture below that it was quite a bit warmer than the average household oven, and by the picture below that, that it uses a substantial amount of energy.

They even let me venture into the back of the shop to check out the machinery they use to mix the dough etc.
On the way home I passed this playground.  What with the razor wire and all, I kept imagining the scene from Terminator 2 when Sarah Connor is hanging on to the fence and screaming as the kids get blown into atomic ash.  I don't know why.  Happy thoughts. 

And finally, a picture of the reflection of your affectionate Mr. Strange.  I actually took around 50 pictures during the course of this 3 mile walk, but I'm tired and that is a larger number of pictures than I think you want to see.  All of this to say, open your eyes and look around.  I'm sure you can find at least as much to see on your own 3 mile run through your neck of the woods.