Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Garden House

Yesterday was a special day in a few ways. Firstly I got to sleep in. My sleep cycle is constantly rolling from one extreme to the other. I thought when coming to turkey I would be able to reverse my horrible habits of never having a normal sleep cycle; however, Turkey has proven me to be weak in that area. It's ok though, with all the hustling and bustling at the cafes, reading news, watching music videos, and catching up with family and friends due to the time difference; it is totally worth an abnormal sleep cycle.

With a well rested mood and peaceful mind I took my travels to the outskirts of Izmir, Kemalpasa, where my friend, Cansu's family owns a garden house. We traveled by car about an hour, to a small town, drove down some dirt roads and there laid a secret land of peace and quiet. 

The house was a one bedroom and had the bare minimums, all that are needed for relaxation and a stress-free evening. My friends stayed on the porch and began reminiscing and writing poetry and songs. I had to take advantage and explore. I could guess that the land was about 2-3 acres covered with olive trees. Everything was so green, fresh, and smelled of nature, which is a good smell, I promise. There was a creek with running water that was soothing to the ear, and gently passed right by the house. I understood why my friends chose to come here for some free-writing time.

I decided to take this opportunity to free-write and let out bundled up emotions, thoughts and opinions. This was the best part. Sitting on the ledge, looking down at the water, surrounded by fresh green grass and trees, pondering over life and where my life has come. It was pure serenity and security.

The tree on the mountain that gave me writing ideas.

As I poured out my heart with my pen and paper, I felt that I could breath again. Even though I love Turkey with all my heart, I still had a roller coaster of emotions running through my body, like any other place in the world one would live in. 

Alone stands a strong spirit.

When traveling around and Izmir, Turkey in particular, you must realize the not so obvious places. These are the places that you will hold the most memories. Yes, the Ataturk memorials are great and have so much history behind them, and the ancient mosques are absolutely breath taking, and the cafe's are full of conversation and energy; but places such as the garden house really bring you down to reality. Reality that not everything has to be full of adventure and tourism but rather you should find serenity and peace as well in the places you travel. Turkey is a great place to find these areas; whether it be a cafe on a back alley that serves the best Turkish Coffee, or on the mountain side where they prepare the best Gozleme in Turkey. These things are what bring the culture and history alive.

Stairs to ______.

On the hill lie some olive trees.

My place of writing by sunset.
The view from the Top of the hill in the garden.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Daily Pleasures!

I take a daily ferry to school, sometimes twice a day. I always notice the beauty and peacefulness of this ride. It one of the most enjoyable things for me in Turkey. One day I decided while sitting on the lower, outside part of the ferry that I would write a direct observation of my ride. I grabbed my pen, I grabbed my notebook and began my free writings:

There is a mountain with four peaks. On the second peak lies a mosque with three minarets(towers). there is one large cloud with the sun beaming from behind it. Its like there is a mist, and the many rays of light piercing them. They line the water with each beam. The water is beyond calm like a flat glass with life under it. I hear the ferries motor gently rumbling in the background and the foam of the water which is now gently rolling from the boat. The seagulls are coasting gracefully next to the ferry ever hoping to catch a bite of Simit, the famous Turkish bread. With the sun still peaking casting its orange-yellow sunset to the sea, it almost blinds/shields me from seeing the mountain of homes that lie at the base of the mountain. the breeze is just light enough to feel refreshed. The noises, the vibrating of the ferry, the sight of the rays of the sun, and the gently rolling waves, the smell of the sea salt, and bread, the sweet Turkish air, the gentle whispers from a foreign mouth beside me. Watching one land go, like a problem/idea/romance and seeing another land slowly arriving; this land, new and foreign. This my friend, the ferry, is peace!

The tall buildings on the left is where I live! ;)

Saturday, March 19, 2011


I was recently browsing on the internet and found this picture and someone's description on how irrelevant and degrading this was. Tyler Oakley,from Michigan described his thoughts:

I find a couple things wrong with this. 
  1. If the point is based on attacking people with racist beliefs, why are gay, punk, woman, islamic, jewish people included?
  2. Although I disagree with the beliefs of people with racist beliefs, I don’t question their ability to think cognitively. I think a better approach would be to have put their brain upside down. Just because someone has an unpopular way of thinking doesn’t mean that they don’t think.
  3. If people want to change minds of who they consider the “ignorant,” they need to first believe the “ignorant” are capable of change - no mind, no change. Insulting pushes them away, validating opens up options.
  4. This also assumes that black/hispanic people can’t be racist.
I agree with his thoughts and appreciate them very much. Tyler is a very outspoken and inspirational person, he can make every person think; the open minded, the intelligent, the dumb, even the dullest person. I hope that this post reaches many other people and changes the way they think. Always be inspired by others, places, and things. Never let your mind stay halted. Grow, Live, and Love!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Struttin' Through Stockholm.

During another moment of my school break I meandered over to Stockholm, Sweden. I must say that out of the 3 countries (Finland, Estonia, and Sweden), while I enjoyed Finland for its society and sociality of individuals, Stockholm had by far the best buildings, architectures and scenery. Located on the east coast of Sweden on the edge of the Baltic Sea, Stockholm is a pleasure to the eye, with many historical buildings along every water side and inner-lands.

To get to Sweden we took a cruise ship with our own cabin that lasted about 14 hours. It was super cheap, which was the exact reason we took this route. I am here to tell you though; time was not wasted and still enjoyed. I have to say that Finnish people REALLY enjoy their alcohol. I promise you that at least 75% or more of the people on that cruise ship were drunk. It was quite sad actually. No one that I ran into had any sense of themselves or respect in a way. I did however run into a very comical encounter at the ball room. While standing around, this 40 year old, very young woman came up to me asking for a drink or cigarette, I had neither so I kindly said "no, unfortunately." She continued to say that if she would have been 20 years younger she would have already had me in her room by now. This caused me so much laughter, you cannot imagine. I did however talk to her about some things, keeping her company and telling jokes while she was considerably drunk. I turned to my friend to say a few things and all of the sudden this woman falls backwards, completely ungracefully, and caused the biggest scene. The expression on her face was priceless and will never forget that moment ever. Afterwards we searched for some cheap food and came across this amazing salmon salad that was to die for, with olive oil and vinegar, anyone would say Bon Appetite!

After arriving in Stockholm I took a quick glance of my surroundings. The buildings are all well preserved and untouched, this is because Sweden was never invaded or attacked, and they typically play a neutral role in the war. However don’t be so quick to think that their neutrality as a government lives through its people. Some of the Swedish individuals are rude, cold, and not willing to lend a helping hand. On the other hand, Sweden allows many/any immigrants to come and live with a refugee or immigrant status. I could guess that 30% of Stockholm's population was of immigrants; immigrants from Finland, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Spain, Serbia, Croatia, Poland, Iran, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Turkey, and Somalia.

A prime and simple example of rudeness that I witnessed is as follows. Firstly, while in the subway station, please note that Sweden has one of the most horrible metro systems in the places I have seen. To explain, one track can have 2-3 different "colors" of trains going to different places in the city. There were four tracks, two above and two below. Mind you, there were no English signs to help, which really shocked and surprised me given their high rate of immigration and multi-cultures. All of these things made it nearly a disaster to catch the right train. One day we asked the ticket stamping lady which train would take us to the other side of the city. She said "track 1." However while remembering there are so many colors of trains (Only in the title, all the trains were actually the same color, VERY tricky and confusing), I asked which color is the train. I received a lovely death stare, she took our tickets, slammed the stamp with anger onto the stub, and she merely proceeded to tell me "The train is blue, the course is red, its down-stairs, the ground is cement, and you wait for your destination." I was thinking to myself, what should I say? I proceeded with a smile saying "I see that today is not your day, and I apologize for getting you unraveled, have a much better day!"

Anyways, their public transportation was an adventure to say the least. It also drains the pocket very rapidly. One evening my friend and I were dead frozen, so we decided to take a cab to the hostel. A 5-10 minute ride. 30 euros! This is 50 American U.S. dollars. My jaw dropped, I nearly fainted/cried to myself. I think I will leave that subject at that. Haha.

The riots that had been occurring in the Middle East and Northern Africa (but mainly from Middle East) were occurring very mildly and controlled in Stockholm. Most of them were of Arabic background and some of Kurdish and Persian background. There were a few places where they were giving big speeches and chants, but it was very safe. These did not disturb me, because I know the security and well-being of the society is protected heavily. This was very prevalent in Finland and Sweden, and something that I appreciated a lot. It is always a nice and secure feeling to know that you are safe and out of harm’s way where you are travelling. 

Overall, it was a great trip; I saw a lot of sites. The scenery was brilliant. The customer service was ok, and the people were rude. I would recommend doing some studying about their transportation before you go. However if it is warm out and you have plenty of time, you can walk to the main sites within 30-45 minutes in any direction.

Always remember that while travelling somewhere new and exciting, walk! When you walk, you are going at a pace that lets you take in your surroundings, see more things. If you take metros or buses, yes they will get you to more touristic places and be quicker. But the biggest enjoyment about travelling is nothing has to be planned. Look at a map, place your finger on the destination and start walking. You will see many more simple things; you will notice the way people walk and talk. It is these things that you will remember and appreciate more!

"Tourists don't know where they've been, travellers don't know where they're going." -Paul Theroux

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Estonia: Fairytales, Soup, and Snow. OH MY!

While I was in Finland, my friend and I decided that we should make the best of my stay and visit some surrounding countries. I mean come on, travelling is my biggest enjoyment in life and I love a good tour/adventure any moment of any day! We decided that first we would take a look at Estonia, now mind you, it has a population of a whole 1.5 million people, about half of the population of Izmir, Turkey. I was quite skeptical and intrigued, that an entire country could be so small.

I took a ferry/cruise ship to Tallinn, Estonia which lasted about 3 hours. The ship was huge and filled with Russians, Finns, and some Estonians. Now you may wonder why people choose to go to Estonia for a weekend. I mean really what is there that is so awe inspiring? I may warmly say that the landscape is gorgeous, but it is not the scenery as stated by the people I had talked to. It is the money! Finland is a very expensive place to live, and the Estonians live quite cheaply. Let me put it into retrospective:

Note: 1 euro is about $1.40
A piece of cake from a cafe: Finland: 5-8 euros Estonia: 1euro!
Souvenirs(any): Finland: 5 euros Estonia: 0.5-1 euro.
Cider at the bar: Finland: 5-7 euros Estonia: 2-3 euros
Soup: Finland: 8 euros Estonia: 2 euros

Standing around in Old Towne, Tallinn, Estonia.

As you can see there is a HUGE difference in the prices, which leads people from finland to take a mini vacation; spas, fancy restaurants, sight seeing, stocking up on their monthly alcohol(for Finnish individuals, this is a must, as I have observed). Another thing that caused these low prices was that as of January 1st of this year they changed their currency to the euro from the Estonian kroon. With the change they are attempting to change country-wide. While the kroon was quite cheap the prices were cheap, so whilst using the euro, they will most likely need to adjust accordingly.

Worlds Best Soup!
The countries most popular foods are black bread, pork and soups. And I have to say, I have never had soup so delicious as in Estonia. My favorite would have to be the salmon and shrimp cream soup! It was like the greatest sensation that cant be described, as well as very fulfilling.

The customer service, everywhere, was quite lacking and cold. At the cafe it took 5 minutes just to get acknowledgement from the waiter, the waiters in restaurants were also cold, very direct with answers and had a lack of humor. The Estonians in general from my perspective were cold and uninviting, as with any place with the cold weather, I'm sure. A huge difference from the warm and inviting Turkish culture!

The hostel, the end of the hall was our room.
This was the first time experiencing a hostel, for some of my readers, they might ponder what a hostel is. The idea is set up for youth or frequent travelers, which provides them with a very cheap stay in a hotel setting. However the main difference is everything is community shared, the room, the bathroom, and the common areas. This can strike some skepticism in an Americans eyes I am sure. Immediately you say: "Strangers, WHAT?" "Will my things be stolen?" "Can I sleep in the same room as a stranger?" "How are the bathrooms, dirty?" I'm here to say that as my first experience, it was good. The room and bathroom were both very clean, the service was .... Ok I guess. I felt secure with my things being left with the public being able to get them. The thing that I/you have to remember is, everyone else in the hostel is going through the same scenario, travelling in a foreign country, taking the bare minimum; this is why everyone typically respects everyone else's privacy and possessions. There was however a very creepy guy that was sitting on the edge of his bed just staring at me while I was "sleeping" for about 10-15 minutes. Other than the creeper, I would recommend the adventure and opportunity to anyone who is looking for a cheap stay(15-20 euro). It leaves you with much more money to spend on other fun adventures!

I love the colors of the Estonian Flag!
Estonia in overview was a fairy tale land from the scenery that lacked enthusiasm from its people. 2 days is enough to see everything there is needed to see. I am very glad I had the opportunity to visit and experience it. While the temperature was negative 30 degrees and the people were cold, we stayed warm during the breaks in cafes and buildings and shrugged off the cold individuals. Visiting and travelling places are of top concern, and this is just another place to put in "Traveled/Accomplished" list.
This is Mcdonalds even! Yumminess for 4 euros TOTAL!
I was not happy about the cold, AT ALL!
Just the usual pose! ;)
Of course I had to try some Estonian hookah/nargile! :D