So, mom and Larry came across the world to visit us, and I’m pretty sure we exhausted them. We saturated them in all the sites and experiences we could here in the UAE, and then the 6 of us flew to Turkey for an 8 day family adventure. We spent 3 nights in Istanbul and 5 nights on the south coast in Antalya. I had a hard time summing this trip up into one or two main thoughts, so I’m sharing the 8 observations that most stood out to me after all was said and done.
Observation #1: Our kids are amaaaaazing travelers. As Dwayne has said, for this we owe a huge debt of gratitude to Steve Jobs. (Rest in peace and God bless you for inventing the iPad.) Homeschooling allows us plenty of time to prepare for our trips by getting familiar with the geography, the culture, the economy, the resources, the language, the religion, and the history of a country before we go. They’re excited about seeing things they might not have otherwise known or cared about. And we go over our trip itinerary with them so they know what to expect while we’re there, so in some ways, they are well prepared. But, things don’t always go as planned, or they take longer than we expect. Flights feel long, airport waits feel longer, and rainy car/bus/van rides feel longest. Turkey was a much simpler and easier trip, in some ways than Sri Lanka, but there were still times where we all marveled at how patiently these kiddos pass hours with no complaint. As long as we keep them well fed. But, I mean, seriously, any of the 4 Hansens with low blood sugar, as you should all know by now, is bad news.
Observation #2: I can be a real bee-atch. Is that how you spell it? Bee-aw-tch? I’m trying to avoid calling myself a bitch straight out, but let’s be honest… I’m probably the only one, but perhaps there’s another wife/mother/daughter/woman out there who can relate: traveling with my kids, my husband, and my parents doesn’t always amplify the sunny side of my nature. Even though nobody asks me to, I mentally bear the responsibility for everyone’s needs and feel I need to make sure everyone is happy. And then when I feel overwhelmed and that this has become too much of a burden, I naturally blame Dwayne… ? What? How did I get there? I’m not totally sure, but I think I resent him for NOT carrying the same unrealistic responsibility that I take on, and I get grouchy.
Aaanyway, thankfully we’re talking about my husband, my kids, my mom, and my Larry and they are all pretty used to me. So, I asked forgiveness for my grouchy episodes, and I know they’ve moved on, but on our next trip I would like to remember sooner to just chill out and be nice.
Observation #3: Abby is a Turkish superstar. People stopped us and asked to take her picture. Those who were more bold asked to take their photos with her. The boldest one gave her big hugs and kisses in the pictures and said these were going to be the best photos ever… Even the customs guy at the airport came out from behind his glass window to shake/hold her hand on her way out of the country. It’s a mystery. I guess she has found her people.
Observation #4: Our bodies are remarkably adaptable. After 7 months of living in the desert, our thick Canadian blood has apparently thinned. So much so, that we no longer feel like we’re going to wither up and die when it’s 40 degrees outside. It’s a beautiful thing, really. So, when I saw the forecast of 17-22 degree highs, I naturally thought long pants, denim jacket, scarf, and flats. This wardrobe would be more than sufficient for those temperatures at home. In fact, I’d be thinking about capris at that point.
I was freezing for 8 days.
I would have been happy to have had a toque, mittens, and a parka. Abby actually started wearing a pair of socks on her hands when we went out. I told our American friends upon our return to the UAE that I have officially become a desert pansy and I will have to return to Canada with my head hung in shame.
Observation #5: Water soothes my soul. Did you know my name even means “white wave?” I could sit for days by the sea shore and listen to the water. This was my first visit to the Mediterranean sea and it was as beautiful as I’d always imagined. This was the view from our 6th floor apartment in Antalya. I felt like I was on a boat every time I walked into this room. Love. The irony is not lost on me that I currently live in the desert.
Observation #6: Old places blow my mind. Canada is a really new country on the world scene. In Quebec I’ve seen streets or buildings that are 300 or maybe 400 years old. But this was my first glimpse of ruins from 2000-2400 years ago. Buildings still in tact. Running my hands over shop keepers stone signs and door posts. Pulling into the same harbour as the apostle Paul. Walking on roads trodden by Greek and Roman sandals and grooved by ancient wagons and chariots. Just imaging all the lives and all the stories. The day we visited Perge, Aspendos, and Side was possibly the best travel day of my life.
Observation #7: I don’t speak Turkish. But people sometimes assumed I did. Truly, this was the first time in my life that people came up to me and did not automatically assume I spoke English. In Sri Lanka, I guess we were obviously tourists. No one came up to us and spoke in Sinhalese. They all tried in their very best English. In the UAE, I guess it’s obvious we are not Arab speakers. No one ever tries to speak to me in Arabic. I am always approached with English. But on a number of occasions in Turkey I had people speaking very earnestly to me in Turkish, and when I could only answer with an apologetic, “English?” they continued on, hardly without pause…in Turkish. It made me smile, because it was the first time I got to experience what it’s like to have no way at all to communicate with each other besides gestures. Is it weird that I loved it?
Observation #8: Beautiful, hard-working people are everywhere. This has been one of the most obvious lessons of my last year. Seeing first hand the different ways in which people live and recognizing that everyone is just trying to figure out life in their part of the world, with what they’ve been given, in the time they have. We’re so much more alike than we are different.
We barely scratched the surface of Turkey, but here are the glimpses of some of my favorite parts.
Other sites around Istanbul: the ancient obelisks which our kids called “the really old poles,” the grand bazaar, the old city walls, the basilica cistern, and one of the hundreds of cats of Istanbul. I’m pretty sure Abby ooh’d and ahh’d over every cat.
Our cruise on the Bosporus River, separating Asia and Europe. The round trip ride took us out to where the river meets the Black Sea and we enjoyed a seafood lunch, a hike up to an old castle, and a lookout point. It was a beautiful, crisp day. Abby and I are enjoying some good, strong, Turkish tea, which turned out to be very soothing every day to my cold hands.
The beautiful city of Antalya. We stayed just across the street from the monument to Ataturk, the country’s founder. There was a lot of history to soak up here. The streets were windy and close and struck me as very European. Hard for me to say for sure, since those 3 nights in Istanbul are currently the only experience I have of Europe. PS. Turkish men are great dressers. Even when they’re just fishing in the harbour they are wearing nice shoes, a classy belt, and a button up shirt. I noticed and appreciated this often.
Side- the temple of Apollos. This would have been quite a site to see, back in the day, when arriving at this port by ship. Our kids were much more attracted to the crashing waves and the beautiful sea. They left a little bit wet.
We also took a cruise along the shoreline of Antalya. The clouds broke and the skies were clear and blue just for the window of our time we were on the water. We could not have timed it better if we’d tried. I wish you could hear the classic 80’s ballads playing in the background during most of these shots. Or better yet, “My Heart Will Go On,” by Celine Dion as we approached the harbour at the end of the cruise. I kid you not. I almost went to the front of the boat and started flying.
On our last day we took a taxi over to Konyaalti Beach. This was a first for all of us, as we put our feet in the Mediterranean. There were some brave souls swimming, but I’m pretty sure they were from northern Russia. I was content to put my feet in. Hey, you know what? I wasn’t cold this day. I guess I acclimated the other way, just in time.