Thursday, March 30, 2006

Total Eclipse

We have just returned from a short vacation to a city about 4 hours east of us. Brian's parents came to Turkey to visit us and to see the solar eclipse that God scheduled for the area this week. It was a cool experience. Wednesday morning we shopped in the little town for a bit and then after lunch settled on the terrace of our hotel where we had a front row seat to totality. The eclipse started around 12:40 and took about an hour and a half from start to finish. Brian had ordered some special glasses from the states that blocked out all light except a small bit from the sun. Once the eclipse started he and I walked around and handed some out to the locals who didn't really want them at first. There was a truck traveling the streets telling them that there was going to be an eclipse and not to look at the sun with the naked eye. We explained that the glasses were made so that you could look at it and that if they looked now they could see that it had already started and we had a few takers. Once one person looked at it and exclaimed "yarim, yarim!" which translates "half, half" we had many takers. They couldn't believe that the sun was being covered by the moon and only half of it was shining! After about 15 minutes of that we went back to the hotel so we didn't miss the main event! It was amazing how quickly it went from some light to darkness...literally seconds! Totality lasted about 3 minutes and was really amazing. The stars came out and everything. It was a great time!

I took this picture by holding a pair of the cardboard eclipse glasses over the lense of the camera. It actually worked better than I thought it would. This is leading up to totality. You can see how much light is filtered out by the glasses. The sliver is what we could see of the sun at this point. Without the glasses we couldn't even look at it because it was still too bright!

A picture of totality. Pretty cool! We could view this without the protective glasses on.

Brian and I modeling our eclipse glasses. Don't we look hip!

Erica and Will watching the moon slowly move in front of the sun. You can see how light it was even though the moon was covering the sun halfway at this point!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Free Stuff

When we first came overseas all we did was shop. We needed to buy all the furniture that we would need for living. We also needed to stock our kitchen with dishes, small appliances, bakeware, and other such items. After visiting the local equivalent of Walmart we discovered that we could get free kitchenware when we bought certain products. What a cheap and easy way to stock a kitchen. One of the comfort items that we bought quite a bit of in the beginning was Coca Cola. As we bought Coke we accumulated a collection of Coca Cola brand dishes. We got several glasses, a metal tray, and two large plates and four smaller plates...just perfect for our family of 6. We also tried several local varieties of soda and ended up with quite a collection of glasses from these companies as well. Over the last four years we have gotten several small glass bowls...most often taped to packages of pasta, several ice cream scoops and tall spoons taped to ice cream, a large plastic bowl and platter taped to knorr sauce and cream soup mixes, plastic ladles, spatulas, small cereal bowls, and of course other free food items. The great thing about these free items is that when they break you just have to go buy more food...something we would do anyway. There was a while when I avoided buying all food items that had free stuff taped to it. I was running out of cabinet space! Then I got smart and started giving some of the free stuff away.

Glasses from Fruko (similar to Sprite but more of a bubblegum flavor), Sprite, Coca Cola, Pepsi, Camlica (similar to 7up), and Fanta.

Some of the various free items we bought taped to our food and drinks!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Airport Security

Many of you know that my family was able to come to Turkey to visit us for Christmas. We were really excited to have all of them here and counted down the days for 2 months! When the day finally came for them to arrive Brian, a friend of ours, and I went to the airport to pick them up. We needed two vans because there were 11 people coming plus many pieces of luggage. My family was going to be coming in, going through the visa line, and then going to pick up their luggage. They were allowed two pieces of luggage per passenger plus a carry-on apiece. That makes for a lot of bags! The airport here is not designed to be "passenger pick-up friendly". For security reasons the people waiting to pick up passengers have to wait outside in a covered waiting room. The day that my family arrived was the first big snow of winter. It was freezing in the waiting room. I decided that while I was waiting I would go into the departure area to use the restroom. I had to take off my heavy coat and put it and my purse through the security screening. I walked through the metal detector and it started beeping. I went back out, took off my belt, shoes, watch and emptied my pockets into a container and walked back through the metal detector. It beeped again. I was frisked by a nice security lady who decided the metal button on my jeans wasn't a threat and then I proceeded to gather all of my stuff. After going to the bathroom I went back outside to the waiting room to wait. When I saw that my family's plane had landed I began to watch through the exit only, sliding glass door for them to walk by on their way from the visa line to the luggage pick-up area. This is not an easy thing to do because there are usually 30 other people trying to see through this door as well and to make things more difficult the door is covered with a dark mylar coating to make it shatter proof. This not only makes is hard to break it also makes it very hard to tell who the people are on the other side. There is a small clear circle the size of a salad plate in the middle of the door for your viewing convienence. It doesn't help much. As soon as I saw what appeared to be my family I thought that I would try to go into the airport to help them with their luggage and get them through customs. When someone approached the door from the other side it opened and I slipped in. There was a guard standing there and he wanted to know what I needed. I explained to him that I had 11 guests arriving from America and that they didn't know any Turkish. I pointed to my nieces and nephew and seeing small, cute, light haired, light eyed children he took pity on them and let me go help. After getting 6 large trunks, 14 suitcases plus a boxed Christmas tree we headed over to customs. The customs official looked at our many carts of bags and didn't know what to say. He looked at the picture on the Christmas tree box and asked if there really was a tree in the box. I think at this point he started to sweat. My dad had used those convenient plastic ties to "lock" the trunks so that the lids did not come off during transport but so that they were easily accesible for any inspection that anyone chose to do at any point during the trip. After explaining to the nice customs man that my family had brought a Christmas tree, gifts, special food from America, and the clothing they needed for their trip he said that he would only open one of the many pieces of luggage. He decided to look in one of the trunks, but he needed a knife to be able to cut the plastic tie. He pointed to an office about 30 feet away and told me to go ask the man at the desk for the knife in the top drawer. I was a bit confused but went over to the office he pointed to. The man at the desk said he didn't have a knife so I told him that the man at the customs booth said it was in the top drawer of the desk. He opened the drawer and pulled out a steak knife! Then he handed it to me and I proceeded to walk back through the airport carrying a steak knife. All I could think of was that the waiting room was outside the airport for security reasons. There was mylar coating on the windows for security reasons. There are very sensitive metal detectors at all of the entrances for security reasons. But, they will give me a knife once I am inside...no problem!