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Hello!

I can’t believe my last “real” post was about America…last summer! I’m almost a year behind. I’m just going to cut the excuses and do a quick wrap-up of some highlights of the past year. If I try to do individual blog posts, I know I’ll never do it! I hope I don’t leave anything out…

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Last summer I took a Turkish course and there was a very affectionate cat who liked to “help” me.

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At the end of the summer, we managed to squeeze in one more vacation. Some friends of ours invited us to go along with them and I was a little nervous at first because we had never traveled together, but they were great to be with. Look at that water! The first picture is a place near Marmaris, in the south of Turkey, and the second picture is near Cesme, on the Aegean sea.

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The Turks really take care of street animals. Everywhere I go, I see food and water on the streets, and some people go so far as to build houses for them. The picture on the left is one I saw in a park, and the picture on the right is my recreation. Our favorite garden cat, Sophie, went right in and I swear she didn’t leave for 3 days! Sadly I think when she went out for food or the bathroom, another cat went in and neither of them like each other’s smell so no cat ended up using the boxes so they just got soggy.

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View from our living room.

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Thanksgiving at Heath and Veronica’s in Switzerland. Back in August I found incredibly cheap tickets to Zurich at Thanksgiving time, so I spent Thanksgiving there. It was so fun to be all together, and Veronica made a delicious turkey. There was also a sleepy Jenny to play with and watch.

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My little Christmas tree in Istanbul.

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This year I went home for Christmas and it was so special to be there and to partake in the traditions I love and miss – tromping in the woods for a Christmas tree, decorating it, gumdrop cookies, going to my aunt and uncle’s for Christmas Eve dinner, everyone gathering at our place on Christmas day, popping Christmas crackers…the list could go on! I’m so lucky to have such a wonderful, positive, and thoughtful family. The more people I get to know, the more I realize how lucky I am. Thank you guys!

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Sometime in January, Cengiz and I headed out to Trabzon to visit his family. I only stayed one night because I didn’t have more time, but it was nice to see them and also to see the scenery. That top picture is a Trabzon specialty, and I can’t remember exactly what is in it but it’s something like butter, a special cheese, and cornmeal. It’s so good and hearty!

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The Bosphorus

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Mom and Ellie had planned a trip to London in February and Heath, Veronica and I decided to crash it join them. February was not the best time for me to be in London because I think I was chilled to the bone for 2 days, but it was great to be there and see everyone. I think the highlight of the trip was high tea at their hotel. UNLIMITED sandwiches and cakes!! A dream come true!

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In early March, I “ran” a half-marathon (13 miles/21km) down in Antalya. It was a great course – nice and flat, and the temperature was honestly perfect. I really hadn’t trained enough so I was kind of miserable. At the 3rd kilometer, I got a horrible side stitch – any of you who have run know how awful those were. By the 10th kilometer I had to start walking. It took forever, my body ached, but it was a great experience and I’d like to sign up for one in the fall, because trying to train outside in the winter is no fun at all (or, it just doesn’t happen!).

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Ugh they are just so cute I can’t handle it! Peter and Tarcin are doing just fine, they pretty much just sleep all day and night, and clean themselves and each other, and poop. Not the most exciting animals but they are quiet and soft!

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Ahh, Badem, one of my favorite little restaurants in Istanbul. It’s a tiny family run place with very fresh and delicious food.

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I also went to a tea at the Pera Palace, a historic hotel where people used to stay when they arrived on the Orient Express. I went there with Anna and some of her friends and I was quite pleased with it, plus the atmosphere is very nice.

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Annual tulip photos!

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You can still find some old wooden houses in Istanbul, especially in Balat. This one looks like it’s seen better days. I can’t imagine what it takes to upkeep it.

Ok these are the photos I’m going to share now. That was surprising easy and painless. Hopefully there will be another post soon!


Hi!

I can’t believe you are even reading this now, and that you haven’t given up on me! To be honest, I’ve had so many other things on my mind, I didn’t even think about writing in my blog. I have a lot of stressful lessons now, so all of my creative energy is going towards that. If/when I have free time, I’d rather do something else. Not that I don’t like writing and talking about myself, but it just wasn’t a priority. So dear readers, thank you for following me this far!

As a treat, I have cute bunny photos!!!! When I was in Switzerland in the summer, I saw some bunnies and it made me think they would be a nice pet to have. Cengiz and I talked about it for a while but I changed my mind because I do travel often, and if we were to leave Turkey, what would happen to them? But a few months passed and the urge came back (and to answer your questions, either Cengiz or a little girl who lives 2 floors above us watches them if I’m not here, and I’m sure we can find someone to take them if (IF!) we were to leave) so, I have a couple of bunnies! They are pretty amusing but quite destructive, and they don’t really like to be held and they never stay still enough to sit on my lap. They are best friends though and they never fight, and they seem to be pretty happy with their life with me. The white one is Peter (like Peter Rabbit, ha ha!) and the other is Tarcin (a “ch” sound) which means “cinnamon” in Turkish.

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They enjoy eating cardboard (especially at 3am), not being brushed and shedding everywhere, and pooping, A LOT. They are pretty good about using their litterbox though, and I didn’t even have to train them. I think when they get a little older they’ll calm down and enjoy being groomed and picked up, but for now, there are rugs to be munched on and curtains to explore so no time for that! Sorry to load so many pictures but they are just so cute, I have to brag.


America

I just g

ot back from America, but for Christmas, so it is a little funny to be writing about my trip there in the summer. In the summer, both Cengiz and I went and that was his fourth time

. I think every time it gets a little easier for him, which also means it’s easier for me. We spent the first part of the trip in Virginia Beach where ALL of my mom’s siblings came together. It was great to see everyone, especially my aunt all the way from Washington state. The weather wasn’t perfect but we had some Kubb time and some sitting on the beach time.

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Cengiz and I on the boardwalk. In all my years of going to Virginia Beach, I had never really gone to the boardwalk but every year with Cengiz I go. He likes the liveliness of it, which he needs after living in Istanbul for so many years.

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I don’t know if he actually got any waves but he looks good!

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In Virginia Beach there are many gyms with Les Mills, the program Cengiz is a part of. I also enjoy the classes so we found a gym and got a free weekly pass and went there 3 or 4 times. Of course Cengiz made friends and people were impressed with his skills.

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Cengiz looking like a hipster in his kind of short shorts, Patagonia raincoat, and coffee from some independent coffee shop with a bunch of vegan cakes.

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My friend Auni and her husband came down from Baltimore and I met them in Norfolk at 80/20, a great burger place. I had quite the burger – it was the kind that once you pick it up, you aren’t putting it down. We also went to Doumars, an ice cream place that has been around since the early 1900s. It was great to see them and I was supposed to go visit them in Baltimore, but I ended up cutting that part of the trip in order to stay at home longer.

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Home!

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Trying to get a selfie with Spanky.

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Cengiz and I went horseback riding two years ago and he hasn’t stopped talking about it. Last year I didn’t manage to organize it because I was occupied with the wedding, but this year we went again. I don’t think he stopped smiling, and we had a lot of fun grooming and playing with the horses before and after. It’s also so peaceful to ride in the woods and along the creek with them.

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Dad had my rowing shell repainted and renamed (“Fuzzy”, and the “u” is with a paw print [my cat and the rowing teams sort of mascot was my black and white cat Fuzzy]) so I took her out for a spin. I’ve really lost my technique, not that I had so much, especially in the single!

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Captain Cengiz. Uncle Croxton was patient and kind and let Cengiz drive the boat while he was taking us out for a boat ride down at their place. It was a beautiful day for a boat ride.

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My annual Five Guys burger, conveniently located at the terminal where our flight always leaves from. Is there a more appropriate way to leave America?

As always, it was a great trip! This time was extra special because I got to see so many people, and I feel like we had a good ratio of relaxing time to “doing stuff”. It’s always good to be home and see my family!


Trabzon

At the end of July we headed to Trabzon for about 5 days. I’m not going to lie, I almost cried when I knew we would be be in the boonies for that long but I know how important it is for Cengiz so I put on my game face and did it. It was as expected – lots of sitting, lots of insisting I am capable of washing the dishes, lots of insisting I am not hungry, and trying to convince them I really don’t want any tea. No shower, a toilet in the ground, and a huge pile of cow manure outside of our window. That being said, it’s a beautiful place and it’s so green and and the air is so clean and refreshing. His family is so warm and sweet and I can’t complain, and I am so lucky they are so open to me. I didn’t take many pictures this time but you get the idea!

Me and the cow

Just hanging out with some cows.

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King of the forest

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King of the rock

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I have kind of a weird face going on, and I’m not really loving the beard on Cengiz’s face.

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We were there in Ramadan. His poor family cooked so much food in the day yet they couldn’t eat it until like 7:30 – I don’t know how they did it! Another issue I ran into there was the lack of refrigeration – I saw meat stew that stayed out for 24 hours. Cengiz’s mother makes butter from the cows she takes care of, and I love the idea, but the taste is very farm-y. They use it in everything (rice, soup, meat dishes…) and I had a tough time getting beyond the taste. Cengiz and his sister got really sick out there and I lost a lot of weight because I was scared to eat anything. It was good though because I knew we were headed to America soon so I considered this a detox before heading there!

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One thing we do to pass the time and get out of the house is to go walking in the woods. One of Cengiz’s sisters pointed this huge hole out to me and from what I could understand, people say Greek people used to live here a long time ago. Now I can’t remember the details – when people explain things in Turkish and it’s a little tough to understand, I forget easily what they said – I don’t even remember if there were any formal archaeology digs. I doubt it. Something about the holes are where the doors used to be in the walls…I honestly can’t remember but it was interested! I was ready to get my shovel! I recently read a book about the Turkish-Greek population exchange in 1923, and they definitely wrote about a Greek population that lived in and around Trabzon. Very cool! Next time I go I’ll try to interview more people.

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This is NOT in Trabzon. I had been talking about pretzel salad with my friends and I finally made it. There were 5 of us I think, and there was just a teeny bit left. For those that don’t know, pretzel salad has a crust of crushed pretzels, sugar, and butter, topped with a mixture of cream cheese, Cool Whip, and powdered sugar, and finally strawberry jello with strawberries. I kid you not, the recipe says it can be served as a dessert or as a salad if you serve it on lettuce with a dollop of mayonnaise. You’ll be the hit of the party, I guarantee!

I hope everyone has a happy and safe Thanksgiving. I’m sad to not be with my mom and dad but I’m now in Switzerland with Heath and Veronica and Veronica’s mom, and I’m getting my fill of pork and other goodies!


Switzerland

Back in June, my family met up in Switzerland. Not just Mom and Dad, but also my aunt and uncle and one of their sons. It was so much fun to be altogether, and Switzerland is always a nice change from the chaos of Istanbul. Heath and Veronica were wonderful hosts, and their cat Jenny was very patient with a house full of people!20140626_204351

Eating raclette at Heath and Veronica’s apartment.

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This was my dinner, but it could very well be breakfast! I can’t even remember what it is, but I think it’s shredded and fried potato with cheese and egg and some sort of meat – ham or bacon. Amazing!!

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Bern

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Jenny all snuggled up in a comforter .

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One activity to do in Bern is float down the river. It was COLD but it was fun. The currents are strong but it’s not dangerous. I felt like a real Swiss person for doing this!

So we spent about 3 days in Bern, and then we went about an hour away to a small town called Lungern. It was absolutely beautiful, and so sweet and charming. The house we stayed at was right on the lake, and we were near the train station so we could go explore other parts of the country.

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It really reminded me of Trabzon!

One of our day trips was to this huge open-air museum where there were historic houses, that instead of being demolished, were moved to this location. They were grouped by region and there were houses from many centuries ago. It was one of the best “museums” I’ve ever been to and I would love to go again. It got a little cool and rainy by the end of it so we kind of rushed it. One of the highlights was getting to play with some goats. As you can see, one of them really liked Mom, and Veronica’s zipper!

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Notice the soggy trousers in the 2nd picture (with goat spit).

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We got some Kubb playing in, which was fun of course, especially with that view!

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One day we went for a hike – it was 2 hours uphill but if you go slow and steady, it’s doable. Once you get half way, you can take a little train the rest of the way. When we were finished hiking and waiting for the train, I saw some people running (yes, running) this trail, and they did it the whole way! Oh well. As you can see, the top had marvelous views.

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Yay Gordon family tradition!

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Heath has been learning to play the accordion and we sang songs that we normally sing at The Sing up in Michigan. He was awesome! I have no idea how anyone can play that mystery of an instrument.

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Veronica and I (she’s looking a little dead behind me…) having a float in the lake. Cold but beautiful! I had to throw my floaty in to force myself to jump in.

I got incredibly cheap tickets to go to Switzerland again at Thanksgiving. It will be great to see Heath and Veronica and Jenny, and also get my fill of pork products! This was a great vacation and I’m so lucky my family can all meet up like this. Besides getting angry at Heath for his really smelly shoes and eating the last of some delicious food, we all get along so well – not something every family has. I’m very fortunate!


And another post with random stuff

It’s only been 18 days since my last post! It’s a record. I’ve had plenty of time to write, but I just kept forgetting. Work is picking up, now that people are back from vacations and children are going back to school. It looks like this year I will have a lot of lessons with kids, which isn’t my favorite, but they are more reliable than adults (who travel, have meetings, get tired after work etc, so lots of cancellations). My days aren’t too packed though and I usually have time for the gym and to cook lunch/dinner. Sometimes even a nap, if the need arises!

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A selfie with one of my students.

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I received the calligraphy and card at my only second lesson with a family. The father is a calligrapher, which is different from most of the families I work with. His daughter (6.5 years old) made me the card but she got embarrassed later when she realized she wrote “Sally” and not “Sally Teacher”. I assured her I don’t expect any titles in my lessons! As you can guess, they are a really nice family and I enjoy giving their kids lessons.

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Cengiz and I hardly go out to eat, so for my birthday I just wanted a nice, expensive steak dinner, and that I got! For dessert we had this amazing thing, I can’t really describe it because I don’t know quite what it is, but think of a warm puff pastry with something delicious inside of it (pistachios, but you don’t notice them, and a few other things), and ice cream on the side.

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These students and I worked together four hours a week for several months. They work at a nearby engineering company which was bought out by a Dutch company, who provided free English lessons because now the engineers were working with Dutch people. They surprised me with cake for my birthday. My kind of students, my kind of lesson!

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Cengiz and I went running late one morning along the Bosphorus. I had to stop and take a picture of this, I thought it was too funny. In the summer a lot of people (especially men) go swimming in the Bosphorus. I would never do it because it can be so dirty in some places, and there are really strong currents. They were having a great time though.

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Cengiz finished running first so while he was waiting for me he did some core workouts. This random old man joined him.

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I liked the colors of this salad. The plate is from Target!

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Successfully fed a chunk of Cengiz’s family. From left to right it’s Cengiz’s brother’s wife and kid, Cengiz, Cengiz’s older brother, their other kid, Cengiz’s sister’s kid, Yakup (Cengiz’s younger brother), Cengiz’s sister (with the the scarf on) and Sermin, Yakup’s wife. It was weird to have a little kid in the house, I definitely wasn’t used to it. I couldn’t leave any technology out or she’d grab it and play with it. Kids these days! They were pleased with the food (not that they were judging me…but it is important), so that was a relief.

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Before Ramadan started, Cengiz and I managed to squeeze in a quick vacation to Bodrum. The previous year we hadn’t been on a typical sit-on-the-beach vacation so we were really looking forward to this. It was so nice and relaxing – the most effort I exerted those 4 days was to go eat food at the restaurant on the beach, or go buy salt and vinegar Pringles. No hopping on buses, fighting crowds of people, walking all over the place – it was such a nice change from Istanbul. I didn’t see a car or road the whole time! I only stayed on the beach side of the hotel. While we were there, the music video Cengiz was in (our neighbor is a pop singer – Soner Arica – and Cengiz gives him private lessons) was released and we showed it to the manager and then our bedroom got decorated like that! We felt very VIP.

Next up, Switzerland!!


Random things (as usual)

In my defense of lack of posts, I have been traveling! So that means lots of blog posts coming up! I’m trying to start putting my computer at a table instead of throwing it on the sofa, which I think will be more conducive to getting work done. I actually don’t waste that much time on the computer, but I’m not very proactive about doing things that would be beneficial for me, like writing in the blog or creating my own exercises for my students. It looks like this year will be another busy one, so I need to be better about allocating time for myself while at home to get work done. It’s hard! Any suggestions? 

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Our good friend Yeda got married in May, and I got to be her witness! I was really scared I wouldn’t understand the questions that were asked and everyone would laugh at me (oh isn’t she cute! ha ha!) but I did okay. I actually only had to say my name, and then “yes”. This is a typical style wedding in a “salon” – at the time you reserved, everyone shuffles into a big room with a stage, and then the bride and groom and witnesses come out. The officiant asks a couple of questions and then they are married! Then everyone shuffles out and lines up and drops gold or cash into a bag and gets their photo taken with the couple, and then you can buy the photo. I have to say, it’s incredibly impersonal but that’s the way it is done here, and perhaps we should take a lesson from them with their lack of extravagance. I’m so thankful for my wonderful, personalized wedding though!!  

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It wouldn’t be spring time without a Eurovision party! Last year Denmark won so my friend from Denmark made some delicious cookies. There’s talk of going to Austria next year to see Eurovision live…I’m wiggling with excitement just with the thought! 

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Funny cat

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I went to the airport to pick up my family and when I was leaving the metro, headed upstairs, I saw a vending machine with books! Amazing!

 

 

 

 

 

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So yes, my wonderful family came out to Istanbul! At first it was just going to be my grandfather and grandmother, then Mom decided to come along so she could see them, then Dad’s schedule let him fly out for 2 days (!!), and at the last minute my uncle and aunt also came out! Here we are at Tarihi Sultanahmet Koftecisi – definitely my go-to place in Sultanahmet. 

 

 

 

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Family selfie in the Blue Mosque!!

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Not the most flattering of photos…Mom messed up the picture…again. I certainly didn’t help though!

 

 

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Drinking tea in a han, an old building used when traders stopped in Istanbul. It was a safe place to sleep, store your goods, and keep your animals. 

 

 

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A lovely spot for dinner. 

 

 

 

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On our Istanbul Eats tour, and I love how we unintentionally wore different colors of the rainbow, and sat in the right order. 

 

 

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Dad wearing a Trabzonspor baseball hat, which he bought in Trabzon last year. 

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Slowly, people started to leave until it was just Mom, and she came and stayed with us. I wasn’t a great tour guide – we spent a lot of time sitting on the sofa watching tennis, but I think we were both just fine with that! Being a tourist is tiring! We went to one of our favorite spots, the Inebolu pazar in Kasimpasa. The vendors are from somewhere along the Black Sea, and the drive most of Saturday night to get here in time for the market on early Sunday morning. It’s a small market, but with great stuff and so many photo opportunities. A professional would really be able to get some good shots. 

I’m really in need of a nap before I head out to some lessons so forgive me for any poorly written sentences! I have a lot to post so hopefully I’ll do it soon. Thanks for checking in!