Sunday, August 31, 2008

SUNDAY MATINEE! - by Christopher

Months before we came here, I came up with an idea for a weekly video post. We would find a funny, interesting, weird clip of a movie or tv show and then create a reenactment using our skills and whatever resources we had at hand, shooting the whole thing in our apartment on no budget.

That dream has become a reality!

I am proud to present to you our first episode in a weekly video series called SUNDAY MATINEE!

-Episode 1-

Saturday, August 30, 2008

My Drawers - by Christopher

And here's something on the lighter side, an airy slice of lemon merengue pie after the heavy meal that was the last post.

How Honest is Too Honest? - by Christopher

I want you to know that I have a lot of fun writing these posts.

I was just telling my Dad on Skype last night that we really don't have a problem with a lack of material. We could probably write four posts every day and not run out of stuff. Everything is still very new and different to us, and we are mostly happily bemused by it all.

But there are heavier things weighing on me today. And this raises a question: how honest is too honest? When does JEI cross over into TMI? And which of you will be the first to infer what JEI means?

The unspoken thesis of our little site is to make sure that you are along for this journey of ours so that the gulf between us doesn't widen any farther than it has to. And if it works, when we see each other face-to-face, it will feel after ten minutes of talking and laughing as though no time has passed between this visit and our last.

To this end, Sarah and I have been populating this space with points of interest and our own comical observations, in the hopes that you will know our lives now just like you have known our lives in the past. I even think it's working. We're keeping you in the loop, and you're writing us in response.

But you're not getting the whole story. Most of you probably know that, even if you haven't thought about it.

The truth about what we're really going through over here has not always been funny or interesting. The truth has sometimes been annoying, uncomfortable, frustrating and painful.

Sarah and I certainly wouldn't be very interested in reading your emails if what they mostly communicated was how difficult and frustrating your life was. So I promise that this blog won't become a dumping place for our gripes.

But for today, I've just got to say it. Sometimes this place sucks like a shop vac.

Maybe my whining would be more palatable in the form of a narrative analogy:

Imagine yourself standing in line at your local DMV office on a cloudless summer day. You were sweating before you came in, and as you entered the packed room and took your place at the back of a snaking line, you began to sweat even more. Because there is no air conditioning in this blank-walled, desert of a room.

You have in your hand some paperwork which is printed in a strange language you cannot decipher. You know that you must give this paper to someone, but all you can think about is how parched you are as another wave of your precious body fluids seeps relentlessly through the dank dungeon of your constantly-moist underwear.

You begin to notice, bit by little bit, that everyone in the room is speaking a foreign tongue. It is so incomprehensibly alien to your ears that at times you can't tell for sure if the speaker is making a remark, asking a question, or performing an autonomic function. Like sneezing.

Then you suddenly perceive, through the murky stench of too many sweaty humans, that there is not one line of people, but two. And both lines seem to intersect at bizarre junctions. Which leads you to wonder if those intersections might be still more lines. Perhaps five or six of them.

You glance desperately at the posted signs above your head. One appears to be a crude drawing of two dogs copulating and the other only bears the number twelve. No help. You tap the person directly in front of you in line and show them the paper in your hand, asking which line is the right one? The person smiles at you, says something in that grunting, slurring language and turns away. No help.

Quietly, you begin to panic.

You have already waited in the line for so long, that you must resign yourself to the line you're in. After all, you think, there's a good chance that you'll drop dead of dehydration before you ever reach the counter anyway.

After an uncomfortably long span of waiting, you reach the counter. The man behind smiles at you amiably and beckons you forward. But just as you hand him your paper, your bowels are gripped with an urgent call of nature.

You double over in agony, your hands pressed feebly to your waist. Through the haze of pain you're thinking please not now, just make it a few minutes more, I'm finally at the counter! The nice man is looking down at you with concern and asking you something, or maybe clearing his throat inquisitively. He points behind you at a door, as though showing you where the toilet is.

I'm fine, you say and straighten up. He smiles, and starts to write something in his strange script. He's writing so slowly, and now he's come to a part he doesn't understand, or that's been filled out wrong and he's turned away to one of his co-workers to ask a question about it, or make a comment about it, or to tell his buddy to look at the stupid foreigner who has been waiting for hours in the wrong line.

And the stabbing pain shoots into your mid-section, growing in intensity with each passing second. You've closed your eyes and gritted your teeth against it, so you don't see when the man behind the counter passes your paper to his co-worker and gestures for the woman behind you to come forward. When you look again, the man is helping her and they are speaking easily in their common tongue as though they can't see you at all.

You can't wait a second more, you stagger to the door behind you that the nice man pointed to and fling it wide. The door closes behind you and as you fumble in the dark for the light switch you desperately try to tear your soaking-wet shorts from your waist. You've only just managed to get them down to your knees when your hand finally finds the light switch on the wall and flicks it on.

Before you sits a ratty mop and a filthy plastic bucket. You are standing in a janitor's closet.

With your pants down.

Your mind reels in panic as thirteen questions all crowd their way into your consciousness: so then where is the bathroom? Why did he point to this door? Was he pointing to this door? Maybe there was another door past this door that you didn't see!! Maybe he wasn't even pointing at the door for me, maybe he was pointing at something else entirely for the benefit of someone behind me that I couldn't see who had asked him a question with gestures! Maybe he thinks I am the janitor, maybe I was given the wrong paperwork and this faulty paperwork indicates that I am the new janitor. But that would mean that one of the janitors has the paperwork that I am supposed to have, and if so, where is the janitor if he is not in the janitor's closet? Do janitors actually just stay in the janitor's closet when they aren't janitoring, and could what a janitor does be called janitoring, or janitizing, and on, and on, as you poop your pants in total defeat.

Today wasn't easy, didn't go as planned, and resulted in Sarah and I feeling frustrated, demoralized and exhausted. We had days like this in Texas, too. But in Texas you can call up John or Caleb and unclench over a Shiner and a football game, or meet the parents for dinner, or Sarah could do some shopping therapy with her girls.

Point being, we haven't found our release valve yet.

Although I can say that writing this post has been plenty therapeutic in its own way. Thanks to all of you who plow through these and tell us what you think.

You're keeping us sane.

Friday, August 29, 2008



Chris and I just finished our first Turkish school work week.

I think we were both successful in understanding the new standards and procedures, and for the stuff we didn't get, we faked it really well.

Tonight is Meet the Teacher night.  Chris will be down in the computer lab and I will be up in my new second grade home, awaiting students and parents alike.

Verda, my teaching partner, and I worked very hard all week to make class 2b feel like a home.
Chris stayed with us late yesterday to hang our high-reaching stuff and to draw us a welcome message.
We may have no idea what we're doing on Monday, but it sure looks like we're in the know.  And that's all that matters at this point.

Before coming home to change into my fancy clothes I took some videos and some photos of the school and of Chris and I's classrooms.

Please view and enjoy.  

I'm going to go get changed and meet my new students and parents.

In about two hours, for the first time in a long time, both Chris and I can say TGIF!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I Got a BooBoo

This morning while making tea I burned my hand and eye with scalding hot boiling water.

I was then given a shot in my mouth of some homeopathic "calming" spray to ease my pain.

Next I went for my routine check-up at the Turkish health center where I learned that I have both a broken big toe, and a cyst on my face.

I now have a prescription for some Turkish antibiotics, some Australian burn cream, and an appointment with the Turkish podiatrist.

Some people might see this as a bad day, but look, I came here to learn about the culture.

How are you going to know how Turkish people feel about exchanging computer parts if you don't buy the wrong ones?
How are you going to know how they feel about you riding the public bus without paying if you don't try "accidentally" getting on one.
And how will I ever know the quality of Turkish health care if I don't start breaking some stuff and growing foreign lumps on my face?

Next I will gauge Turkish reactions to a woman joining the Turkish Armed Forces.
And after that - first female Turkey plumber.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dinner and Unscheduled Stop - by Christopher

So we dragged ourselves down to Ankuva (the mall/shopping center/grocery store a mile from us) tonight so we could try a restaurant there and purchase a couple of things.

There were four restaurants to choose from and they all looked about the same except for the last one, which featured an English item on the menu labeled "Chicken Fajitas."

We both looked at each other. Sarah asked, "Feel like being totally disappointed?"

"I'll be happy if it's even just edible," I replied, desperate to have a taste of home at any cost. It turns out that the menu at Magellan is very friendly to foreigners. Yes, those are detailed pictures of every menu item in a handy fold-out insert. Oh, and it features one dessert that is either a dimensional portal to another planet, or a misunderstanding of English.

When it arrived, we were both excited to be looking at a dish we recognized. Turns out they were great! I don't think they'd stand up in a head-to-head with Chuy's or El Fenix, but for Ankara they'll do. Even the salsa was passable!

After some quick shopping we moseyed down to the bus pick-up and waited. Bus after bus came and went until finally we boarded the university bus and began the trip back home.

Then we made an unscheduled stop.

The videos speak for themselves.

First Video

Second Video

We're learning as we go, folks. Sometimes it's a dirty, uncomfortable buisness. But it's always interesting!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Beans and Ankle Restraints

Today kicked off Chris and I's first day of work week here at Bilkent University Prep. School.

I know how these things work in the States; you sit in a packed high school auditorium for 3 hours and listen to Bob Whosehisbutt talk about whatever subject in education is en vogue.  

As all the staff was to meet in the concert hall with the director, I figured we were in for a long morning of mindless listening.

The director welcomed us, and explained his vision for the year. New teachers were introduced but then it was off to the school gym.

There our principal Dan lined us up in a big circle and explained our first task.

In light of the Olympics, and the fact that we each have a Turkish teaching partner that we will be glued to us for the year, Dan challenged us to get 8 beakers full of beans to be the best school in all the world.

My new teaching partner Verda was quick to get us tied together.  We tripped, laughed, and sweated our way around the gym for nearly 15 minutes.

Turns out, Turkish work days, not the same as American work days.

Not better, not worse, just much better and a lot less worse.

There are trays of cookies, and bottles of juice everywhere you go.

The whole afternoon was dedicated to starting to set up our classrooms.  In fact, every afternoon this week is classroom prep.  For my teaching friends, you know classroom prep time is like gold.

My new second grade team consists of myself and Verda, Lara (the principal's wife) and her teaching partner Nilay, Angie (from Germany) and her Turkish partner Emel.

The whole elementary school was renovated this summer so there's a lot of work to be done in the classrooms.

I noticed Verda was putting chairs away as I was taking them out so there's definitely some opportunites for better communication there, but we'll sort it out.

For right now I'm just happy to have had success on my first day of Turkey workey.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Burke Lauderdale - by Christopher

Burke was one of the good people who responded to my plea for subscribers a few weeks back. He then wrote a comment saying that he wanted a post in his honor. He was only 1/3 serious, but I get so excited when I see someone post a comment that I must now deliver the goods whether he wants it or not.

Burke sauntered amiably into my life courtesy of Sarah's sister April. He seemed affable, intelligent and upbeat. So I was pretty suspicious at first.  But I soon discovered his most impressive trait: an incredible capacity for patience with April. 

I've never actually had any problems with April myself. But I've heard stories, and they make living in close proximity to April for extended periods of time sound physically dangerous. 

One of the first times I hung out with Burke was at a holiday gathering at the Mathis house. We were playing a game of "Family Feud" and the question was, "When you get home from work, what is the first thing you take off?" 

Burke slammed his hand down on the buzzer and shouted, "Pants!" 

It was then I decided that I would be happy to someday welcome Burke into the family. My public support for him as a candidate will probably only make his hazing by the uncles worse. For that I apologize. 

Burke lives and works in Boston, but he's an island boy at heart. He grew up on Hilton Head with his zany entourage of family. April tells me he doesn't know anything about Voltron, so I assume he was raised differently than I was. But when we get together it's mostly laughing punctuated by watching him get punched in the arm by April.

I think there is a chance that Burke may one day be my brother-in-law, and I've never had one of those before. But he's a candidate I can believe in. His platform is very straightforward, which I like.  

To every issue he has only one response: Dem's Da Berries. Everything's going to be alright. It's an attitude we share. We have to. 

We're both saddled with Mathis girls. 

Hair & Pizza - by Christopher

Some of you will recall our trip in the Spring of 2007 to the Netherlands and Belgium. An even smaller group of you will recall that I had my hair cut by a very nice, non-English speaking chap in Brussels. 

One of you (John I think) remarked that it would probably have been better to get my hair cut before I went on the vacation, as a sensible person might. 

I agree with John, that would be more sensible. So instead I have decided to make getting my hair cut in foreign countries a tradition. Sarah begged and pleaded with me to get my hair cut before we left. 

Instead, not only did I get my hair cut here I got it styled. 

But hey, I went to lunch with all of my co-workers and met the head of the IT department for the first time. The first thing I said as I shook his hand was, "I got my hair cut today, and it doesn't usually look like this." Utterly embarrassing.  

He was polite as we discussed some details of my new position, but come on. How could anyone take the person with this hairstyle seriously? I couldn't. 

Someday, after we know each other better, I will ask him what he though of my hair that day. I think he will have more to say on the topic. 

The best result of my haircut (besides firmly establishing an iron-clad family tradition) is that Sarah got her hair cut today! She has been wanting to make a change for a long, long time. Her sisters have both taken the plunge recently and Sarah has followed their lead to impressive results. 

You should also know that I tried ordering another pizza last night. Here's the result. We're getting warmer. 

Oh, and I put my first empty pill bottle to use.

Sarah is perched on a chair in the living room, painting her heart out. I'm writing this post and contemplating dinner. 

We both start departmental staff meetings tomorrow morning. Time to start earning a living again. 

PS: Can you believe the deep discount they have on this stuff? What a deal! 

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Good Night First Week

We can't sleep.

It's currently 11:51 pm and we can't sleep.

On average we sleep 4-5 hours a night here in Ankara.

This coupled with non-stop activity seems like the perfect recipe for disaster.

So far though I've only stepped in the paint can once.

I don't think either Chris or I would choose to re-live this week.

That being said, we wouldn't change anything about it either.  It's made for some funny stories and has made us both stronger.

It's hard to believe one week ago tonight we arrived here.  

It feels like one month ago.

I wish I could fully explain the weird things that time is doing over here, but both Chris and I have tried and it's seemingly impossible.
Hours feel like days and days feel like weeks.
But when you think back on the days they seem to fly by at rapid-fire speed.

I came out here on the couch to write this blog in hopes that it would make me tired and it has.

I'm going to try to lay my head down and get ready for month, er, I mean, week two.

Friday, August 22, 2008

"Buncha Other Stuff," by Christopher

The inter webs are up and running in our apartment now. And I'm between destinations at the moment. 

First thing: 

I'm watching Sarah (my wife of two months as of yesterday) stand on a rickety wooden chair and paint our living room wall. 

Nesting she calls it. Nesting for what, I ask. Just nesting she says. Is there a male equivalent to nesting? Good question, Christopher. Don't leave me hanging.

I think for me it's compartments. Sarah recently opened one of the suitcases I packed (unsupervised) and found a box containing seven orange prescription pill bottles, all empty.  

"Why the hell did you drag these across the ocean?!?"

"You know for organizing stuff, compartmentalizing," I muttered. 

"Organizing WHAT?"

"You know, stuff...heylookoverthere! " I blurted then backed out of the room.

My great desire to put my stuff in appropriately-sized containers is, I think, male nesting behavior. Because I can't answer Sarah exactly what they're for. Any little gew gaw could go in those prescription pill bottles. 

Nails, screws, thumbtacks, Turkish stamps, a strange insect, a neat rock, small specialty cables, earplugs, band-aids, razor blades, batteries, earphone adapters, fishing lures. Extra erasers for mechanical pencils. Secret messages for dead drops. Plutonium. 

When I get the little things and put them in the pill bottle, I'll feel satisfied knowing that I've put them in a place that they'll stay dry and together. 

It'll make me feel dry and together.

I spent the last four years in a hospital-white walled apartment with no complaints, so I don't claim to understand Sarah's nesting. But I do help out and tolerate it, since she tolerates my desire to have compartments for all my stuff. 

Second thing: 

Last night, I finally found out what I'm going to be doing over here.

I am the new Information Technology Intern. In this position I will assist the technology teacher at the elementary school. I will also work in a broader capacity at the secondary schools (6-12th grades) under Dennis, head of the IT department for the preparatory school. 

It turns out that this could be the best fit for my interests. I love anything to do with computers, and I'll be working with them or teaching about them eight hours a day. And if I like what I'm doing and want to keep going after two years, I've learned that the demand is huge for this skillset worldwide (including at home, Mom).      

I'm quite satisfied with this placement. Brimming with hope that I'll finally find my career, in fact. 

But let's not put the c before the h. 

I'll keep you in the loop once I start actually working.        

We Haven't Forgotten You

The inter webs on campus have been down yesterday and still are down at our apartment. I've found working internet in the staff room, but I'm about to walk into a meeting.

So this is just a quick post to let you know we'll continue delivering the quality entertainment you've come to expect at

To Burke and the rest of our awesome new subscribers: your post is coming.

Phenomenally Yours,


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

No, You Can Not Help Me

For some reason I have always had more patience abroad than I have had at home.

I'm beginning to understand one reason why.

In Texas I am constantly annoyed when I go into Bath & Body Works or the GAP or any retail store and have to hear "Hi!  How are you today?  Is there something I can help you find?  Certain color you are looking for?  Have you heard about our specials?  Do you get our catalog?  Can we sign you up for our credit card?"

"Will you please go away and can I put this duck tape over your mouth for the remainder of my visit to ensure no more noises come out of you?"  I want to scream.

Upon my return from living in Spain I started shopping in Texas with my Ipod headphones in, but even that doesn't always deter the eager stateside retailer.

I've been known to tell off the sales associates, asking them to leave me alone or just being flat out rude to them.

A few Christmas's ago when the lady at Pottery Barn asked me if she could help me find something I said, "Yes.  A husband."

I once wrote the Sur la Table corporate office and suggested they revise their approach to customer service to include a more "standoffish" attitude.

Look, I know that you work at Sur la Table because you are wearing a shirt that says Sur la Table.  If I need your assistance with anything at all, I will come find you.  I know how to do that.  I am literate and I can walk.

Another time at Hallmark I told the 4th employee that asked me for help to tell herself and the rest of her colleagues to not talk to me for the rest of my visit.

I won't even go into Hallmark anymore because I don't feel like talking to people in there.

On the shopping trip I took today I got to go it alone.
No one held my hand.  No one made sure I was "finding everything alright".  No one mentioned any specials or offered any help.  And guess what?  I got groceries and I was happy. 

I did it.

We're doing it.

Chris battled phones, downed internet, Turkish dictionaries, unintelligible menus, etc. to win this for our dinner.

Maybe it wasn't exactly what he wanted, but he did it.

Give us some credit, eager salespeople.  
We know how to pick out a greeting card.
If we need help finding a fry pan, we'll ask you.
Today was great because I found everything I needed and not one Turkish employee said anything to me.

If I can buy paint, carrots, milk and cement screws in Turkey without knowing one word of Turkish, imagine the possibilities in a store that I'm completely familiar with in a language I've spoken for 29 years!  
The opportunities are endless!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

"Turkey Trauma," by Christopher

Tuesday, August 19th
12:32 PM CST - 8:32 PM EEST

Today is Tuesday. It is the second full day we have been in Turkey. 

It feels like the second week we have been in Turkey. 

The truth is that Sarah and I are tired beyond words, beyond transmission of information of any kind. We're not tired from working too hard, or not getting enough sleep, or not taking care of ourselves.

We're tired from Turkey Trauma.

It started this morning.  
We rose with vigor the both of us, heaping not-bowls full to the top with not-corn flakes and grinning like goons. Took our showers, took turns with our only towel, dressed and left. 

We met up with our group in the high school computer lab. We listened and scribbled notes as rapid-fire technical instructions were issued to us in both Turkish and English. Then we were lined up, draped in heavy laptop bags and marched downstairs to lunch. 

The Turkey Trauma began for me in between these events, in transit between here and there, in the gaps where socialization with my group took place.  

Every gap, there is one new name to remember and one new vital piece of information to learn immediately. Hi, I'm Wes. You can check the counters on your mobile by dialing *1234#. What's a counter? It's like a minute but-

Then we're eating. 

Hi, I'm Nora. You should talk to the director about that furniture. It sounds to me like you could have the broken piece replaced. But it's best to break it all the way, first. Wait, why would we need to break it all the-

Then we're on shuttle buses to the mall. 

Towers whizzing past, no air conditioning again, all the windows wide open and blasting me with heat, the wind so loud I can barely hear. HI, I'M JASON, IT'S REALLY BEST THAT YOU ONLY BUY CERTAIN THINGS AT THE MALL. NOW I'LL TELL YOU A LENGTHY, BARELY AUDIBLE LIST OF DO'S AND DON'T'S...

Then I'm standing in a Schlotzsky's. 

There are no more things to remember, because my pupils have spread into gaping abysses and I'm nodding at everything, agreeing with anything to make the sensory overload stop. I'm slipping out of my head one frantic inch at a time and nothing is real-

And suddenly a Turkish girl is explaining to us the towels, the towels we need, we'll find them one level down, the name is Carrefour, you go three levels down and it is on the second floor of the Carrefour but if not enough selection go to Bulmasoz, or Burmashoz, or Balmashonz on the other side of the mall where the prices are higher but the selection-

Then I'm in the Turkish Home Depot.    

And I'm finally seeing it, my head is filling up with the white, dawning light of realization! It's right in front of my eyes! Glorious! I've come full circle, it's all making sen-

And a little man walks through my door. 

He's barely four feet tall with curly wisps of ebony chest hair protruding from the top of his collar nearly to his nostrils. He is a fiercely bearded Yoda. We freeze. 

"Yeshkilbeverdem hazgoolkilverdegreeb," says the little man, and he walks past me to grab our chair. He hustles it past me and sets it on the floor in the open doorway. He jumps up on it, and begins to make an intense examination of the space above the door with his back turned to us. 

My head spins like a loose hamster wheel, I can't begin to address this little thing who is in the process of laying his strange eggs above my door-

"Uh. We go, you lock?" is all that Sarah can stammer out before the little man leaps and turns at the same time, landing a foot in front of us.

He produces a long screwdriver from his pocket.

"Shej bol gyulev. Broktijva. Broktijva," he explains. And jumps back up on the chair. 

I've settled down enough by now to notice that he is tinkering with the little red alarm bell above the door. Then he hops off of the chair, presses our doorbell button and we both recoil as our previously broken doorbell rings for the first time. 

He replaces our chair, turns, and leaves without a word.

Sarah turns to me and says, "See! I told you our doorbell was broken." 

"Yes," I say as we head out the door to dinner. 

Then I stop. 

The evening sun is baking the question out of my head and through my cracked lips. I know we'll never know the answer even as I ask it. And I know I'm too exhausted, too permanently stunned to make sense of how or why.  

"But did you tell him?"

Monday, August 18, 2008

First "Normal" Day

This morning Chris and I made our first attempt at starting out the day in a somewhat normal way.  (Yes Chris is in his underwear and no it won't be the last time you see him that way).

We took lots of "before" video of the apartment, because, while very clean, I am ready to decorate the hell out of this place.  

I actually asked Jim the director tonight at dinner when and if I could start painting. He gave me the go ahead so as soon as I figure out how to say paintbrush in Turkish, this apartment is getting painted.

The kitchen - white.

The bathroom - white.

Stairs - white and beige.

After eating cereal we made our way downhill to the high school. Here we met with the secretary Gulcan and handed over our passports, birth certificates, headshots, bank account information and anything else that identifies us.

Gulcan is going to set up our Turkish bank accounts, get us our debit cards, Turkish social security numbers, residency permits, etc...And thank God, because we had no idea what any of those papers we filled out said.
For all I know we could have signed over our first born to the Turkish Labor Ministry.

(I hate that I’m having to tell this information so quick and factually but honestly we’ve been going 100 miles an hour and I can’t type as fast as things are happening, plus the internet is hit and miss so I have to strike when the iron's hot).

We ate our lunch in the high school cafeteria. Some kind of beef with tomatoes and melons. It was great.

Before we had time to swallow we hopped a bus to town and visited Praktiker, the equivalent to maybe a Target?  

We also went to the computer store and bought a router that doesn’t yet work.

After all the Turkish shopping, Chris found this to be the most fascinating item to date.

Bus back to the campus and happy hour and a BBQ outside with all our new colleagues. It’s really cool how principals sit with us and directors alike, it feels like one big family.

Back home, wrestled with internet wires, unpacked all our bags, passed out.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Arrival in Ankara

Yesterday Chris and I arrived in Ankara, Turkey.

We were greeted right outside customs by the director Jim, and two of the orientation team members, Nora and Sam.

The school had staff to load all of our bags (all 12!) onto the coach and take us to campus.

Once we arrived we learned that our lojman (apartment) is on the third floor of building D.  We're actually D-10 if you ever find yourself in the area.

The PTA left us a nice treat that I accepted with the delirium only made possible after 26 straight hours of travel.

After the nice Turkish men took all our bags upstairs we slept walked to a pizza party.  The preschool is right across the street from our apartment and we all had drinks and ate Domino's on the playground.

The jet lag slowly wore us down to two bumbling idiots (even more than normal), so we stumbled back home after staying long enough to learn everyone's names, only to forget them all this morning.

We slept from 8:30pm- 8:30am.

Lots of noise from passing cars.  Lots of heat from lack of A/C.

I'm still not feeling my smart, witty writing self, but I know it will come back after a week or so of adjustment.
Today I misspelled independent and I couldn't remember when Chris and I got married.

We very much love it here though and are eager to share more and more as we discover our new home.

We Made It!

Um, We Made It!

That's all the time we have! Join us next time on Turkish Update!


"Hooweeahhhuhhhhh," by Christopher

3:21 AM CST

We just arrived a few moments ago to Munich airport and are sitting on bench number three in front of the gate which will whisk us shortly to Ankara. 

Sarah had her biggest freak-out to date on the flight here, but then we both took three mg's of Xanax and slept for about five hours. We're both groggy and dazed, but our spirits are high.

The flight was on a 767 and was very big and spacious. I can't seem to formulate any sentences beyond one subject, factual nuggets. 

It's 10:27 AM here in Munich. I can tell you that. 

And it looks like the people are lining up for the flight. We should reach our final destination soon. 

Much love to all back home!  

Saturday, August 16, 2008

"Wife Bag," by Christopher

4:18 PM CST

We sit on the bench again, but in a different part of the country. Chicago. 

I wish that we were here for more than an hour so that we could go see Pat and Jenny's new baby. 

But I just listened for the last thirty seconds to some brat screaming his head off, so that's some consolation. 

For the next leg of the journey we gobble Xanax until wakefulness becomes an impossibility. Then, hopefully, we wake up rested and ready in Munich. 

BTW, have you ever seen the catalogs they have on the plane? You know, the ones with the strange products and low-budget photos of the "inventors" wife posing next to the Cat Toy 9000? 

We found one product in particular that discerning husbands just shouldn't have to live without. 

Please enjoy

We'll post again in 12 hrs or so. 


"Surreality," by Christopher

11:15 AM CST

Sarah and I are sitting on a bench in Terminal B at DF Dubya.

We spent about an hour waiting in the line to check in our 12 items of luggage. We were prepared to pay exorbitant prices to check in our extra baggage, but the lady at the desk made an error in our favor and we ended up saving about $800! I made no remark, paid the price she gave us and moved calmly but quickly away from the check-in counter as fast as I could.

We said our goodbyes to our families, reassured them that we would get in contact with them as soon as possible and headed to the security check.
Both Sarah and I were singled out for “additional security inspections” which we both got A+’s on. Our parents would be proud. I assume we were singled out because of our ultimate destination, but I can’t be sure.
We just ate some Starbucks pastries and drank some Starbucks beverages. Now we wait. The plane hasn’t arrived yet, but we’re not scheduled to leave until 12:45 anyway.

I’d hoped that this feeling of surreality I’ve been walking around with for the past two weeks would begin to evaporate once I was in the airport with boarding pass in hand, but alas, I am still watching myself from somewhere far away.

I am watching myself write this post right now, confident that I will soon shudder awake to the NEEP NEEP NEEP of my alarm.

Sarah sits next to me and writes calmly in her journal, recording details I’ll never remember on our way to a place I can’t imagine.

Here’s a thought that just occurred to me: going off to college, jumping out of an airplane and getting married all feel small compared to what I’m sitting here about to do.

Of course, all of those things also felt surreal to me up until the very last minute. I seem to be a procrastinator to the end, even with my feelings. When will it hit me that I’ve left all of my friends and family half a planet behind? When will all of this sink in?

Probably in two weeks, on the first day of school. When I realize that I am surrounded by screaming children I can’t understand with a wife I have never lived with before in a frozen wasteland of strange sounds, smells and shapes.

That’s when I’ll realize that ‘personal growth’ is tough, much tougher than the self-help books or Oprah want us to know.

But for now, personal growth be damned. I’ve got a video game and a three hour flight to Chicago ahead of me.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Packing Sucks

As you might or might not have noticed, we now have on the blog main page a video and a photo link.

Sometimes we get overwhelmed with all the cool things going on in our lives, and all the photos and videos we think you might we're going to dump a lot of them in these two links and let you peruse at leisure.

Just when you're bored go to and look to the right under the subscription box.
There's a link for videos, and one for pictures.
Click and enjoy our riveting pixelated life unfold before your very eyes!

We've started putting some things in there and there will be loads more to come as we begin this crazy adventure.

Going to go to bed now and get ready for a big day of travel tomorrow.

We'll keep the boring posts coming until we get settled and get our bearings on our Turkish wit and charm.

Flights LH 9317, LH 9269, & LH 3360


This morning Chris and I got our flight itinerary.  

We are flying Sat. the 16th at 12:45pm from DFW to Chicago.  Then Chicago to Munich.  Then Munich to our new home in Ankara, Turkey!

All the flights are on Lufthansa and we should be arriving in Ankara at about 4:40am Sunday Texas time (2:40pm Turkey time).

Sorry for the short and sweet posts lately, but if you could see my parents living room right now...explosion.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Visa in Hand

Chris got his Visa back from Houston just a few hours ago.  It came in at 4 lbs. 2 oz. and 18.5 in. long.

He scanned it and sent it to Turkey.

Now we both have visas and we wait to know when we fly out of here.

So far we've got 7 large bags packed.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"Insourcing," by Christopher

Sarah packs a ton of cool photos in her posts, doesn't she? 

Here, I've got a shot for you.  

Based on this photo you could surmise that this post will concern:

1. My vaguely thinning, oddly shaped hairline. 


2. My legally questionable hiring practices.

Directly after typing the numbered list above I realized that a post about my diminishing hairline really isn't a bad idea. 

But let's talk about my hiring practices now, specifically the two gentlemen amiably sharing the cab of a U-haul with me.  

In the photo above, Luis sits on the far left and stares off into a distant future we can only imagine as Raul perches directly to my left, wearing a look that begs the question: 

Why is this strange white girl taking my picture?       

I'd like to tell you that I chose Luis and Raul from among the many day laborers in the Pancho's parking lot by some strict criterion of objectivity.

The truth is that they were the front-runners in a wildly sprinting mass of men who pummeled their way into the cab of my still-moving truck. 

Three more crammed into the cab behind them. They couldn't seriously have believed that six of us would fit (take another look at that cab), but as I braked to a halt they pushed harder, smashing themselves further in. One of them was wedged in the space between the windshield and the dash, his legs hanging crazily out the open passenger door.  

Raul's head was jammed painfully into my ribs and Luis was on top of Raul, looking at me with the same pleasant smile you see above. 

"ONLY TWO," I shouted to the others and at the rapidly growing crowd outside. They dispersed quickly and Luis shut the door. 

We shook hands, said our names and I started us down the road. When I suggested an hourly wage for the day, they both agreed immediately. No counter-offer was made. 

I knew there wasn't much of a chance that Luis and Raul were legal citizens. Thus, I knowingly broke the law. And I suppose that in doing so I took the job of moving our apartment away from a much higher-priced, American-owned moving company. 

But listen, this is how our system works. 

You've read about how outsourcing is moving all the unskilled customer service jobs to India, right? Because the people there will do the same job for less? Yeah, huge corporations do it all the time to increase their already obscene profits. Nevermind the American workers they axe in the process. 

Well, this is called insourcing. It's similar, but instead the unskilled workers come to you and the money saved doesn't go to the CEO of some corporation. It goes right into my pocket and into the pocket of the unskilled workers who need it most.   

Quite a preferable option. 

Plus, these guys want the job bad. They're not moving your boxes in the middle of the afternoon heat so they can buy the latest bluetooth headset. These guys want to eat. 

And they work like it. I picked them up at 9:30, set them loose on the apartment at 9:45, and we were on the road by 10:30, I kid you not.

We dropped off our stuff, ate lunch, and I took them back to the parking lot. Raul didn't speak one sentence to me the whole day but he did cut a very loud, very rank fart on our way back. 

Luis and I shared a look, but Raul stared straight ahead like nothing happened. I think he was trying to say to us with his silence, "Hey guys, I know what you think you heard a second ago, and I know we're sitting basically on top of each other, but I've just got to say, you know, whoever smelt it dealt it." 

Luis and I both chose to let it slide. 

* * *


Just a quick status update: 

We still don't have our visas or our plane tickets. We are still being reassured daily by our contacts in Turkey that this is just how it works, everything will fall into place, just relax, etc. 

Thursday, August 7, 2008

"John Holt," by Christopher

In the time it takes for you to read this blog, you could subscribe to this blog. 

Subscribing to our blog tells us that you love us and that you're interested. It also makes it much easier for you to keep up with us, since our blog is delivered directly to your inbox right after posting, making your visits to this webpage totally unnecessary (if you want). 

Why am I starting off this post like a public radio pledge drive? Because:

1. This blog is the best, most current, most available, easiest, most interesting way we can communicate with you from Turkey


2.  We leave for Turkey in eight days.

Right now the only people reading this thing are our friends and family, and we want to keep you informed. We don't want to show up in two years with six tattoos and a camel and listen to you exclaim, "SIX TATTOOS!?! And where did that huge labrador come from? And how did you teach it to rub Sarah's feet?" 

I have big plans for our camel.

John Holt recently took the plunge. He signed up for a subscription to our blog and I just wanted to honor him for it. You may remember him from our wedding, he was the devastatingly handsome gentleman who delighted all in his vicinity with his disarming wit and warm presence. 

The main reason that I mention John here is because if anyone had an excuse not to subscribe to our blog, it was him. I would never say that John is technologically illiterate, but I would say that computers and John will never be friends. To John a computer is a tool. A tool that performs different functions, (a typewriter, a stereo, a file cabinet, a check book) but a tool nonetheless. 

And to John, there's not much need to spend time using the computer unless he has a specific purpose in mind. Surfing the web, writing emails, and reading blogs are not purposes that interest him. And I think John is like many of you, and many of you are like John. 

But after some convincing and reminding, John signed up for a subscription. Why? Because it's actually easier.  

Now, instead of having to go online and bookmark this site and click the bookmark and find the posts he missed and click on each one and wait for each page to load he just checks his email. 

Every post is delivered straight to him, he reads it, he deletes it, done.

Now, I admit, there are two hurdles to jump through. You have to type your email address in that little box to the right, and then you have to click 'subscribe.' In the world of the internet, that's actually asking a lot of an audience.

But you're not just any audience! As mentioned previously, you are the very people we want to keep in touch with the most. Our family and our friends.

What do Sarah and I get out of this? The good feeling that comes from knowing that these little notes are finding their target in the inboxes of our loved ones. We'll never know if you read them or not, but we'll assume that you do, because deluding ourselves is something we're good at and enjoy doing together. 

Let's make this year's pledge drive a success!

I promise we'll go right back to our regularly scheduled programming of babies and embarrassing videos once we've reached our goal for this hour! Your contribution can make a difference! You can choose between a t-shirt or a mug at the entry level! 

Enter your email and click now!       

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Taste of Turkey?

Last weekend Chris and I decided we had had enough of Which Wich, Sonic and Americana in general. We agreed it was high time we start dipping our toes into Turkish things.

First stop, Cafe Istanbul.

Turkish wine is delicious.

We ordered a minced meat appetizer - delicious.

Our meals came right after we had a chat with the owner, a man who is actually from Ankara.

Chris had some chicken with pistachios and I had Laidfd Kebab (or something like that).

In the middle of our meal, a Turkish belly dancer came whirling across the floor, sword in mouth and tiny clapping cymbals in her hands.

She proceeded to dance throughout the restaurant, dodging waiters and laying down under tables.
Is this normal behavior in a Turkish restaurant? Will there be more than one dancer in Turkey? Maybe a whole troup?  Will they use their swords to fight to the death?

These are questions we are eager to have answered.

We liked the Turkish restaurant so much we dragged our parents there this last Tuesday.

They humored us and ate lamb, drank our new favorite Turkish wine, talked with the owner and learned about the evil eye.

Chris went ahead and ate enough to give himself his first bout of what the Turkish call "belly, belly". Not good.

This time the owner gave us a Turkish pop CD so that we could start learning some of the tunes.

We now have first hand experience with Turkish food, music, and people, and we like what we've seen thus far.

Right now our arrogance and humor towards the culture is funny, but in a week, we're prepared to be lost in a sea of confusion.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Baby Power Lunch

Some women power-lunch with other business men and women.

This gang prefers to power-lunch with little potatoes.

Proud mama's Julie and Marissa were kind enough to let us spend our lunch breaks today just passing their babies to and fro.

Marissa and Michael are the proud parents of Hailey Rose.  She was born with lots of black hair and the tiniest head I've ever seen.

Julie and Sean are the proud parents of Bauer Alexandar.  Bauer has big blue eyes and bright red hair.

And of course little Miss Bree is still cute as ever.

Bauer with Aunt Caitlin.

Striking a model pose with Aunt Keri.

It's so great to watch my friends becoming mom's.

I don't usually do this, but I just have to brag about what a great job they are doing.
The kids are happy and healthy.  Husbands are changing diapers.  Nurseries are adorable.

I'm so glad they're going first.  
I feel like a younger sister watching on and learning.

We are so proud of the great job you're doing.  Keep it up Julie, Marissa, Sean and Michael.

(And pray that the kiddos want to go to state schools!)

Monday, August 4, 2008

Packing Day 1


We started packing.

Lots of people have been asking us what we're taking to Turkey.

Only now, today, do we have some answers to that question.

measuring cup
lawry's seasoned salt (won't find it turkey)
slotted spoon
apple corer
battery-powered candles
christmas oven mitt
used cutting board
bride and groom cookbook
dallas tea mug
wooden spoons
ankle brace
address book
camera guide
hand lotion (expensive in turkey)
hand soap (expensive in turkey)
prescription drugs
nonprescription drugs
vanilla extract (hard to find in turkey)
Rick Steves Istanbul

We also found that moving can be quite therapeutic.  

Sometimes the best value of a $1.00 IKEA glass is not in using it to hold liquids.

Stay tuned for more from our packing list and more adventures in moving delirium.

Friday, August 1, 2008


Love can let you down.  
It can break your heart.  It can inspire you to throw phones at walls.  It can make your nose all snotty and your face all blotchy and red from crying hours of tears.

Marriage is hard.

Living together is hard.

Divorce is rampant and single parents are everywhere.

So knowing all this why do we gamble our hearts?

Last Thursday, Chris and I and Mom and Dad Wehkamp took a trip to WinStar World Casino in Oklahoma.

I've never been much for gambling.  The idea of losing money for no real reason doesn't really appeal to me.

But Dad Wehkamp gave me some seed money and I decided to take a chance and play some hands of blackjack.
Chris asked me why I kept playing the minimum beat each hand and I told him that I was scared.

"The worst kind of money is scared money," the old man dealer told us.
"You have to be willing to put it out there if you really want to win big!"


So I tried with some faux confidence to push more than the minimum bet out on the table.

Not only did I win with my larger bet, but Dad W. won, Chris won, and Mom W. won too.  

We all cheered and high-fived.   

The dealer helped explain to me the "rules" of when to hit and when to stay.  Rules that only work because it's assumed you're committed to playing for a long period of time.  
The rules of blackjack are based on averages.  They don't work if you play two hands and leave.  You have to give them time and keep with them in order to yield positive results.

I took everyone's advice, followed the "rules", and was thrilled to see my pile of chips growing.

Time wore on and my pile of chips grew and grew.  I got a little more daring and learned a lot more about the game of black jack (when Chris and I were in Costa Rica I was calling it "slap jack".  I think just getting the name right yesterday was a huge improvement in my gambling shortcomings).

And then, the inevitable happened:  My chips slowly disappeared under Gary's wrinkly dealer hands, and I was left with a quarter of what I had started with.  

It felt yick.

So why gamble?

I asked Chris on Wednesday if he could guarantee me that marriage would get easier.
"Absolutely," he said.  
"I can also guarantee you that it will get harder."

Chris and I will enjoy some great times, but we're also going to lose a lot too.  We can't always predict what we're going to be dealt.

We're committed though.  We're staying at the table.  We're going to use the rules we know will work in the long run.

Maybe gambling is less of a gamble when you're committed.

When the chips are down, and we feel like we're losing everything, we're going to keep betting on us.

(Wow.  I really ended that as cheesy as possible.)

Mmmmmmhhhh cheese.