Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Going Dutch

Since I am technically an illegal alien in Turkey I am forced to leave the country every 90 days, but I like to think of it as free holiday. I looked up flights to Berlin, Spain and London but the cheapest ones were to Amsterdam, so why not.
This was my second trip to Amsterdam, but the first was somewhat of a blur. It was 2006 and I went to Amsterdam with my study abroad program after spending a few nights in Paris. So the whole idea of international travel was well beyond my head, plus I wasn’t even the legal drinking age in America so I had yet to develop the matured taste for beer.
I had originally planned to take the trip alone but at the last moment Michael worked some magic and arranged to escort me all the way to Amsterdam. We arrived in Holland late on Saturday evening; we had a small layover in Munich, just enough time for a proper German beer, pretzel and my favorite Ritter Sport chocolate. On Sunday the weather was surprising crisp and not too cold. I was fearing the worst, I thought I might be trekking through a foot of snow and trying to keep myself from hyperventilating but the weather was only slightly colder then Istanbul. We spent the day wondering the streets, taking pictures and just enjoying the peace and quiet. Amsterdam was a nice getaway from the chaos and noise of Istanbul. You don’t realize how much noise 18 million people make, especially when they all seem to be taxi drivers who love blaring their horns.

Amsterdam is so cute, all the precious Dutch people strolling around on their bikes; you can just feel how they are living the privileged life in the top percentile of the world. The streets are spotless, there are barely any cars and the people are extremely friendly. The food was not to bad either, of course we had plenty of French fries with mayo and ketchup, I had some delicious crepes and no trip to Holland in complete without a few Heinekens. I even had a chance to meet up with one of Sophie’s friends that lives in Berlin. It continues to amaze me as I travel to all the corners of the world that I am never far from friends. It truly is a small world and I am fortune to experience just some of its many wonders

The next few days where pretty mellow, the weather was grey and Amsterdam is not as crazy as most people like to assume. Dutch people are pretty reserved; the only rowdy people are the handful of drunk English blokes wondering the streets. Even the red light district is clean and safe; I mean for heaven sakes there are swans swimming in the canal just outside the windows with half naked prostitutes dancing in them. This imagine kind of sums up Amsterdam.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Holidays

A second year away from home during the holidays and sad to say but its gets a little easier each time. The holiday season really was a blur, I guess especially in a Muslim country. We had a cheesy Christmas party at work, in which I received my awesome Tarkin binder. Christmas was pretty unusual this year but nonetheless a great day spent with close friends. I made a special Turkish breakfast and we spent the day singing bad Christmas songs and drinking Baileys. That night we had a nice Raki dinner with friends. Besides the missing visit from Santa or a stocking full of goodies, Christmas was still a holiday.

Zane arrived in Turkey last Thursday and as always it so great to have a friend from home visit. You can relax a little bit more and reminisce about the good old days. Hard to believe we have been friends for almost 10 years and had the opportunity to visit each other around the world. It has also been very interesting listening to Zane talk about his experience in Kabul, Afghanistan and even a little eye opening for a bleeding liberal such as myself. We spent the majority of his visit hopping from bar to tourist attraction, foreign food restaurants and then back to cocktails. I finally had a chance to eat some Mexican food and some yummy sushi.

The other great thing about having a visitor is having an excuse to do all the tourist things you should done already. We went inside the Sophie Mosque, which is being renovated to reveal all the Catholic paintings that were covered up. We also went to the Grand Bazaar, which was truly grand, over 4, 000 shops!

New years were pretty awesome this year. Erhan and his friends decided to avoid the whole club scene by throwing their own party. We rang the New Year in style and I even had a special kiss this year ☺

No better time then the first of the year to reflect on the last 12 months, and oh what a journey it has been! 2010 started off right, on the island of Boracay in the Philippines on one of the best vacations of my life. I truly feel in love with the country and I am already making plans to return for NYE 2012. I ended my year abroad in Seoul, saying goodbye to some great friends and an overall life changing experience. Next up was a 4 weeks tour of Thailand and Cambodia with the two greatest friends a girl could ask for. Once again Thailand didn’t disappoint and it was nice to return to my home on Ko Chang! After that I got a chance to visit Sydney, Australia a dream come true and a wonderful transition back into Western culture.
My return to America in April was just in time for my birthday and Coachella. My summer in Cali was unreal and better than I could ever had imagined. It was an honor to be there to walk down the aisle and share with Sarah her magical wedding. Meeting my raver family, starting weekly family dinners and Sunday fundays in San Diego are defiantly the highlights of the year.
Sharing a bed, a house and new experiences with Brittany really showed me what the word friendship means. She was my rock, my energy, my inspiration and my best partner in crime. The end of the summer brought some tough times and a growing phase that sparked my need for adventure and lead me to Turkey. Since the moment I landed at the Istanbul airport I have been overwhelmed by the hospitality and the quality of friends I have met here. I am excited to start the New Year in Turkey and to continue building and enjoying my life in middle earth.