Thursday, July 23, 2009

Kids were always free

Another welcome aspect of the broad love of children in Turkey is that for many attractions and modes of transport, children are admitted free. It took us a couple trips in the city to realize that children under 12 were readily permitted to just duck under turnstiles onto public transport and were not charged admission to places like the Basilica Cistern and Hagia Sophia. This was a welcome budget-stretcher for a family with three kids under age 12. We traveled by tram, train, bus, boat (ferry or vapur) and enjoyed each for the cost of the mommy and the daddy.

You see, stand-by or space available is free on the pocket book only when you don't wait a day or a night to get on to a plane. On our trip to Turkey, we waited 7 hours in O'hare airport which cost meals and then we were only able to get me and the twins on to Ankara once arriving and waiting in Munich. So, the night in Munich for the daddy and G#1 was an extra cost. They arrived safely the next day, but it wasn't free.

On the ride home however, the arrival at the Istanbul airport was wonderful because we checked into the Luftansa counter and the lady gave us all seat assignments. No waiting. The lunch before getting onto the plane was a bit pricey with a coke costing 5$, but once on, we were safely onto Frankfurt for a nights stay in order to catch the first plane home the next day. We did have a bit of a cost to take a taxi in Frankfurt that was an adventure, but the ride back to the airport was cost efficient and a lesson learned.

Once getting to the final plane, the gate agent walked up to the daddy and sadly explained that she didn't have 5 seats in economy for us all to sit together and because our twins were not the correct age yet to travel stand by in business class she had to plead with the Purser on the flight to let us on all together in business. The purser, God bless him and his life/offspring, let us fly home in business all sitting near each other. I praised him the whole trip home and made sure the kids were very helpful. And they were.

And the mommy said, "

I'm bored! Can we start school yet?!"

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Absolutely no personal space for kids as everyone tousled their hair

An interesting part of Turkish culture is the broad and virtually universal love of children. Everywhere we went, we were greeted with smiles and looks of admiration at our three beautiful children. This is partially because we were obviously foreigners, and partly because of a belief that it is impolite to speak compliments out loud about someone else’s children. See ( The Turkish people have reconciled their admiration with their fear of the evil eye by their friendly smiles and reaching out to pat the kids on the head, pinch their cheeks, or patting them on the back.

Our kids quickly learned to take the cheek pinches and hair tousles as a compliment and as natural as an American handshake. This was just one manifestation of the difference in the sense of personal space that is offered in Turkey compared to much of the West. Riding on a tram or bus is an experience in intimacy when everyone just crams into the vehicle without getting hung up on providing an American-style amount of breathing room. We saw this as just an extension of a different view of personal space than we have in the west. Once you get used to it, it’s actually somewhat nice to be able to stand close to a crowd and not be hyper conscious if your shoulder happens to touch someone in the back when the bus stops at a red light.

Follow the Mommy

If travelling with children is an adventure, then taking them to a semi-exotic country like Turkey is a double dose of adventure. While we always felt completely safe no matter where we were or what time of day it was, we realized that the language difference was a concern with the kids. We had prepared ahead of time by putting our hotel information and our Ankara friend’s mobile phone number on wristbands on the kids in case they got lost only in Istanbul because it is so very crowded. Nevertheless, this was a very different place to get lost in than the mall. It was certainly helpful to have a leader who had been to Istanbul four times before and spoke the language reasonably well. I found myself giving the direction, “Follow Mom” as often as I breathed. It became almost a reflex for me since Mommy knew where she was going and could get directions most effectively if we ever lost our way.
This picture is taken when the mommy wasn't leading, but making sure that no one wondered into busy traffic along the Bosphorus sea wall. We had wondered down that way in order to enjoy a chocolate bisquit (cracker) and see the thousands of jelly fish in the water. There were also a dozen boys jumping into the water off the sea wall and swimming amongst the jelly fish and other things floating in the water. We were back to visiting mosques because everyone had pants on that day. The second picture was taken on the edge of the sea wall looking out across the sea of Marmaras and miraculously there wasn't a tanker sitting there or steaming through toward the Black Sea.

There’s always a WC at the cami

First things first, while on our exploration of Ankara with our friends from the USA with small children, we found ourselves (not surprisingly) needing to find a bathroom. The mommy immediately directed us to look for a mosque because:”there’s always a WC at the mosque”. Mosques are generally easy to find because of soaring minarets if not for the loud speaker during call to prayer. As parents of young children who can often provide only minimal warning in advance of a potty ‘accident’, we instantly burned this advice into our brains. It would serve us well many times during our visit. We did find that while the rule held, it was no guarantee of the cleanliness or the facilities themselves.
The first 2 photos are taken in Istanbul in or near the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet) and the 3rd is taken in Ankara in the courtyard of Kocatepe where G#3 is chasing pigeons. That was our first day in Turkey and we weren't entering the Ankara mosque so shorts were allowed. Flying stand by means that sometimes all five of us don't get on the same plane. That is what happened on this trip. I brought the twins to Turkey and Daddy followed the next day with G#1.

It's been a few weeks...

Well, if it wasn't the blocked kitchen drain and subsequent 300$ plumber visit, it was the new Wii game that the boys bought that distracts us from the blog. Star Wars the Saga is a compelling entertainment for brisk summer days, but still there is our own saga of travel. So, we'll commence to telling y'all the story and not share as many pictures as were taken (the pictures are free, it's the editing and purging that is not free, but time consuming). The themes are not daily, but by overwhelming epiphanies that struck both the daddy and me along the way. He'll write some of it, but I get to edit once again and pass it along to y'all. Enjoy. BTW, still no pool pass yet as the water is just too cold, but a violin lesson keeps G#3 busy and reading contests at the library and 1/2 price book store keep them occupied for 15 minutes at a time. There was the opportunity to sign up G#1 & G#2 up for fall soccer and the pursuit of tennis for G#3 who seems quite compelled. Any ideas? Did I mention time consuming? Here is the Daddy playing cards or chips with the kids on the floor at the airport waiting for the back-up flight to Germany which would connect us to Turkey the next day.