Sunday, October 30, 2005


Is there a way to describe what it feels like to have lived 2 months in 2 weeks? That is what I feel like now. I feel a lot older too. I have roasted and burnt like a coffee bean and am now ready for good european food and air again. After spending a week in Turkey, I'm less sure of where to start than after a whirlwind tour of Germany.

First of all, a lot less happened in terms of adventure, but I got a huge culture shock in visiting a near east/middle eastern land. My city of exploration was a small resort on the far side of the mountains and squished between the sheer cliff walls of the mountains and the Mediteranian. 30-40 minutes away is the city of Antyla, a rather dismal but busy Turkish center of culture and tourism that resembles a cross between a high tech shanty town and a porcupine. The later because tall, identical spiny high rise appartment complexes with balconies and clothes lines have taken over and tower above concrete shop buildings and shady one story shacks of homes and continue to climb up the mountains like sentinal towers. The mountains are piled in heeps like a child's sandbox and trees and plants cling to the earth and rock like mold, struggling to climb up and over take the mountains; scattered little clumps of vibrant piny and shady trees that should look like dead twigs because the land is so dry but are not. The land is littered with rock and dirt as if the earth was still untameable for mankind. In the midst of all this, where cacti grow like weeds and dry river beds so big that you can bearly see the other side live thousands of people in open concrete buildings lavishly covered in oriental rugs and cultivated citrus and shade trees. There is little difference between inside and out where shaded porches with dirt floors become livingrooms and meals are eaten on the floor in rooms with little more than a fireplace and sink. Livestock take shelter in the first floor rooms and sleep in the dirt under the treed yards that have grown to be like a roof where one can take shelter from the beating sun. The air smells of flowers that fall in vines from walls and peek out behind rows of laundry flapping in the breeze from any place that will support a line.

If one wants water, it is in short supply.... tanks collect rain on every roof top. Ice cold water from the mountains is channeled off and run to every house in canals in a sophisticated system, not unlike the electric wires that string every american house together. Where there is water, flowers and plants bloom in an unmatched paradis of shade, color, and beauty. Everywhere else one sees scrub brush, citrus trees, and dark green pines. Olive trees line the roads in some villages and the rounded roofs of mosques poke out from above. The tall thin towers of the mosque, wired with speakerphones echo chants at midday and ring out over the mountainside.

All that of course doesn't even take in account the people. The Turkish have two very distinct cultures. A traditional one like the one I have partially described, and a vibrant modern one where the young are flocking look for education and escape from the struggle of life in the country. The people are a darker skin color, an olive color if you will. Most of my time I spend in more traditional villages, so that is what I can only describe. In these places, women wear head dresses and are covered from foot to toe. Men escort the women when they go out in groups, although occasionally you will see a lonely woman walking home from the market with a deathgrip on a few vegetables and fruit. Men and boys are seen out walking and the young males are often on bikes. But very few women or young females are seen in public, except for the small small children.

In the town, the turkish, men and women alike, are hungry for money. They stant out in front of tables with goods spread out. If you go too close they plead with you to buy their goods and demonstrate every way why. Many have shops filled with cheep, probably imitation goods of every name brand possible. The number of leather stores and precious gems and jewelry is astonishing. The more traditional markets are less hectic where tables and mats are layed out with fresh vegetables and goods. Women sit with a lap full of children silently watching.

I could go on forever describing what I saw, from a turkish rug factory (women at looms making fabulous oriental rugs... and seeing the practicalities and the potential horrors of child labor), to a resturant where you wonder who's cow was slaughtered in the village to provide the meal, to signs in the middle of no where pointing to villages 8-9 hours away, somewhere over the mountains and through the caves. Somehow i have the impression that what I have learned of Turkey is somewhat skewed, because the traditional villages and way of life is dying out with the young, who are moving to the cities. There is a tension between these two stark cultures that only naturally explodes into violence and that is what we see on the tv when these people rise up against the tide of westernization. In my opinion, from what I have seen in the past week, the American decision to go to war in Iraq and the ensuing conflict is only the product of a vast cultural misunderstanding. We have no right to be there. Sure, Iraq and Turkey are two very different countries... but when was the last time Mexico, Canada, France, or Germany looked or even resembled an arid middle or even near eastern land!?!? I'm sorry for the blantent comment of my opinion and if I offend anyone. And truely I have not seen enough to make an informed opinion of it so mabye I am making a rash and unbiased opinion, but even the glimpse of what I have seen gives me a new view point of the War on Terror.

And to be honest, I only got the chance to see all this in the span of 2-3 days. Most of the week I spent on the beach, sleeping in the sun. The resort life is vastly different than that of the city and of the villages. Everything is green and shade trees and flowering vines tumble off of white walls and arbors while the deep unimaginably blue and turqoise water plays with the sun and laps across stones of every imaginable color, shape, and size. Endless buffets of food line the beach side and turkish men wait on you hand and foot. It is impossible to describe how the mountains tower above and it takes a moment to figure out where the mountains end and the clouds start. People just lay spralled on beach chairs and under umbrella's. In the evening, when the sun goes down behind the mountains at only 5 and the earth begins to cool rapidly people flock to the sauna and turkish baths, which are a whole adventure to themsleves. The issue of nudity becomes a point of beauty where it doesn't matter if there are 20 people of all ages, both men and women, crammed into a sauna room, sitting only inches apart. The turkish baths are the hight of luxury where marble stone is heated and cooled by running water fountains and bath founts and one can take a bronze bowl and pour water over oneself as your muscles melt against the stone. And in the center of the steamy room are the turkish men literally bathing those who pay with scrubbies and pillows of bubbles, rubbing down, washing and massaging in luxury.

It was a week never to be forgotten. And I know I will never be the same.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Germany Tour

I will try to keep this short and sweet, but somehow it is next to impossible with all I have been up to in the past week. I went on a Tour of Germany, a Deutschlandreise, for 6 days and have had the time of my life. I spoke to my mother today for over an hour and only gave her the highlights and writing in my diary today took 25 pages. I was very happy to get out of East Frisa and see hills and trees... with colors! I even got to climb a mountain this week. I've done so much walking that I'm feeling quite in shape! I'm sorry if my spelling and grammar are going down the drain, but it's an unfortunate side effect of learning another language.

The first day we traveled to Eisenach, the location where Martin Luther translated the Bible into German, basically unifying and inventing high German. Then I saw a 400 year old Ostrich Egg and the actual bible he wrote! I found it interesting that he used a whale vertebrae for his footstool (we got to see his study). He wrote this in a castle called the Wartburg (Wait Mountain) which also the same place were Saint Elizabeth, the patron of the poor (I'm not positive what... it was in a strong German accent) lived. Then we went to an Irish pub and I found that I liked dark beers... no wonder I didn't like the beer in Germany... it's mostly light! Also, earlier that day we saw a checkpoint at the division of East and West Germany. It was really fascinating seeing the fence and the whole complex.

The second day we rode the bus to Weimer, the historical cultural capital of Germany (and also the capital of the Weimer Republic). I learned a lot about Goethe and Schiller, two really famous playwrights. I even saw the bed that Schiller died in. Then we continued on towards Lübbenau. There we slept in a Youth Hostel that used to be a DDR appartment complex. The town was really creepy DDR soviet architecture, all square identical buildings. Then we found a bowling ally and bar at the top of some building.

The third day we walked in the opposite direction to another town, which I absolutely fell in love with. Can you imagine me saying that? I would love to live in East Germany. At least this one town, because it was like walking into a fairytale. Everything was quaint old german architecture and the people are amazingly down to earth. There are gardens everywhere and people working in them and there are flowers everywhere. Then, we went on a Kahn, a boat similar to the Italian gondola's and traveled through the Spree Forest, while seeing the most beautiful landscape and buildings. After that, we took the bus to an old brown coal mine and had a tour of this huge crane that is almost twice as high as the empire state building. And we walked to the top! 502 meters. Not long after that we took the bus to Berlin. We had the night free and after failing to find a jazz bar and proving to the mexicans and brazilians that the Hard Rock Cafe is to expenisve, we found another Irish pub. It was near this apparently famous bombed out church, the Kaiser Willhem Kirche or something. And all the trees were a million different colors becasue there are flourecent lights in them.

The next day we had the whole day free in Berlin. Diana, and Brian (Columbus, Ohio... he lives only ten minutes away from my Grandma Sandy!), Shelby (Utica, NY), Renada (Washington State), and I went around seeing things. First we walked about East Germany and saw some really interesting things. It wasn't really run down, but it definately had not been remodernized, which we found West Berlin to be... lots of open spaces and modern. I found it interesting. Then we went in an old church, Marienkirsche, and saw some amazing art. After that, we stumbled upon the Berlin Cathedral, which from the outside was breathtaking... until you went into the inside which makes you want to imediately sit and pray because it is so astounding (which is what Diana and I did). After loosing Brian when we went into the Crypts and saw all the family members of the German first Reich, I found him upstairs (in the sanctuary) as the HUGE organ started playing. There was a theater peice that was being played out, which is apparently only played once a year. It gave me goosebumps is was so cool. Then we ran up to the top of the dome and back in a half an hour... a good 80-100 meters. I have no idea what the translation of that is... except, really high. After, we ate lunch and finally got to sit! and then we took the subway to Potsdamer Plazza, which was the closest to the culture plazza, where the Berlin Philharmonic Building is and also an amazing art gallary. On the way, I wore a gas mask that I had bought through the streets of Berlin and the Subway. It was so funny that I think I peed my pants, with the way people reacted. The ticket controller didn't even mad at us because our tickets were wrong! Then, the Gemäldegallarie, this art hall, was so phonominal that I was on cloud nine. I saw Raphael, Carrvaggio, Dürer, Rembrant, and a million others. We only stayed for 2 and a half hours and we got lost in it... and I didn't even see a fraction of the things. And that was only one building out of 5!!!!! I didn't even know until later that my favorite Vermeer painting was in the room next to the Rembrants... which I missed! Later that night I saw the Brandenburg Gate, the big Columned gate with the 4 horses and a rider on top, all lit up with colors... just the way the pictures are that you always see.

The fifth day... we got a guided tour of Berlin. I saw a lot that we missed but didn't understand a word because it was all in Spanish and German... and I was way to tired to concentrate that hard to understand. Plus.. I don't know Spanish. I saw Checkpoint Charly as well. Then we went to the Reichstag, which is their congress hall/parliment building. We got a tour and I thought it was amazing. There is a huge glass ball on the top and we climbed up there and saw the whole city, except this time I knew a little more about what I was seeing. After, I went shopping with Marie (France) and bought christmas presents and a sweatshirt in Potsdamer Platz. From there, we walked through the central park, called the Teirgarten (the Animal Garden) and found a huge 6 lane high way. Then, for some reason we ended up walking down the middle of it, but I was trying to find the perfect spot to take a picture of this monument that was in the middle of the traffic circle in the middle of the city, that is REALLY FAMOUS (because I would not have recognized it otherwise) monument in the middle. Then, when we got closer, I realized the sun was absolutely perfect and I had to run all the way around the traffic circle (carefully, or course) to get a picture, before the sun went down!! That night, Diana, Marie (France), Steve (Texas), Lachy (Australia), and I went to the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. There are no words to describe the experience. The building glowed this gold color and the orchestra was so good that it makes the Rochester Philharmonic sound like a high school band. We had red wine druing intermission and then at the last minute or so of the performance, they played the organ, a huge organ. And I cried it was so amazing.

The 6th day was much slower. We rode the bus back home and stoped at the Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg, the headquarters of VW. It was a really weird version of a automobile Disney World. I was bored and some of us were upset that we spent just as long there as in Weimer. But, we saw the Tibetian Dali Lama's high monks there! It was definately interesting. They all dressed in orange robes.

It was the most amazing week of my life. Like I said, that is the bare bones, skeleton version of everything that happened. I leave for Turkey early tomorrow morning. I am so tired that last night I almost slept in my food. By the time we got to Berlin, it was party, party, party every night. And I have learned that the Brazilians and Mexicans can be very crazy people. I am looking forward to sleeping on the beach and roasting like a coffee bean... long and slow. I've had the time of my life and I can only imagine what the Euro Tour will be like next year, if I can get the money to go. I have made a lot of friends that I hope to stay in contact with the rest of my life and I can honestly say that I LOVE GERMANY now. And, I still need to pack for Turkey and its almost 11 at night now. What lies ahead in the next 9 months... who knows!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Today I went to the Volkswagen plant with school, that is only 45 minutes from here. they make all the Passat's in the entire world! It is also the plant that made most of the VW Beetles for export to the United States! Also, in two weeks, when I am on my Germany Tour, we are stopping in Wolfsburg which is the headquarters of VW. We will get tour, but this time in English!!

Inside the factory... it is difficult to discribe. Many of the operations are automated, so there are these cars and machines, only comparable to a scene in the Matrix. Imagine moving battery driven metal boxes, driving around in percision, carrying ghostly carframes competely empty with no windows and doors, engines or wheels... creeping around silently, while crashes, machines, and the sound of firesparks drumm on in the background. Then large, imposing orange arms reach down, with many flingerlike bolts, carrying car peices away and sending sparks flying in all directions as they work in midair... syncronized with hundreds of other similar machines that look like they will all run into each other and cause a massive malfunction. Later on, rows of men work on building engines and assembling the different pieces of the car... the dashboard, the doors pieces, the elecrical wires, packing the liner between the door and body, screwing together the radios... and massive machines picking empty carbodies, prickley looking motors, and steel undercarriges up like they are light as a feather. It is an awe inspiring and honestly scarey place. All I can say is... go watch The Matrix where the machines are ''harvesting'' humans.

Sunday, October 09, 2005


I forgot to add that yesterday on Langeoog we went to an exibit on Pablo Picasso (is that spelled right?) and actually saw REAL drawings, the original pieces! It was absolutely amazing.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

I'm sorry that I have not posted in 2 weeks. I have been having problems with the connection from my camera to the computer and other than pictures of my hostfamily and the house and the cats and things, nothing has really happened. I started going to the school choir and theather club, and the theater is not that bad because there are a lot of kids and energy. But the choir is awful, the music teacher wants to have more of a ''band'' type of thing, not a choir, and everything is in english. And, there is only 4 people that show up every week, and that is if you count me and the music teacher!

Today I went to Langeoog again, with the Rotary club president and his wife. I also sing with Frau Happach in a gospel choir not to far from here (there seems to be a lot of gospel choirs here, and they are all in english). The island was really nice, and warm! I got a lot of good pictures. Jacob (Australia) and Mario (Mexico) came along as well and we really had a wonderful time just hanging out on the beach and things. I even learned how to throw a boomerang (Herr Happach had made 2 boomerangs and brought them... i think he had been to Australia or something). Every time I threw it, it crash landed in the sand. Except once... and it was an absolute perfect throw. Jacob said that it might be the only time in my life that that ever happens!!

Then, when we came back to the mainland, I went with Frau Happach to a Gospel concert, that was actually quiet good, when you take into accout that Germans have a really strange english accent. Their rendition of Africa languages goes to a whole new level of horrible (diana comes from Africa, so I've come to learn a little about it!). But this one was really not that bad and had a lot of energy (Germans are somewhat stoic, or reserved). The sad thing, is that the whole situation in gerneral (Germans singing gospel) makes me want to hear a real gospel choir, which is normally the only type of music I actively avoid.

Yea, well, the last 2 weeks I have been desparately trying to find something I can do for the entire upcoming year... so that I can sorta settle in here, a weekly routine. There is not much of anything that interests me. There is almost no art or music of any kind and I can't even look forward to bright colorful trees this fall and snow this winter. Skiing, snowboarding, and igloos are definately out of the question. I think I might start playing ping-pong and tennis soon. Horseback riding is too expensive, but I would like to do that, or even better... to take some music lessons. Rotary finally listened to me that Mario and I need german lessons, so that starts soon too. School is short and slow. I'm only at school a couple hours a day. I am going to start going to church too, although I have not been able to find one person that actually goes to church. I want to find a youth group, but so far I have not heard of one, although, people sometimes actually know what it is! I've heard a rumor that there are 2 in Esens. Its been a slow and difficult process trying to find things to do because no one seems to actually do anything, except drink. That is all teens do, sit around and talk and drink. Whooo... fun! NOT.

But at the moment, I only have one more week to deal with, because I go on my Germany Tour on the 15th, to Weimer, Berlin, Eisenach, the Spreewald, and Wolfsburg (I'll clarify more about each one after I go there). I hope to see an orchetra in Berlin. The week after, I'm going to Turkey with my host family... all beach and sun. Not that I'm complaining, but what am I supposed to do for a week on a beach? I'm not really the sun roasting type. I think my host mom might teach me how to play tennis. Maybe I can convince my host dad to take me to the nearest ancient ruin... 45 minutes away, and yes... I've fully researched this... there is NOTHING within 45 minutes of this beach. Hey! Turkey is only on 3 different continents and is the location of the most wars and battles in the world... not to mention the city of Troy! AND... has only all the coolest ancient ruins and artifacts from prehistory.