As we enter Day 5 of the shutdown (or Day 7 if you count the weekend), I continue to embrace the positive side of this unplanned (perhaps unpaid) vacation my hubby has been forced to take. Here’s why: it’s been almost a year since he left to spend 8 months working in Afghanistan and apart from two weeks in Dec/Jan and our fabulous Turkey/Greece trip in April we spent about 7 of those 8 months apart.
While we both survived the distance, we learned that seven months is a very long time.
When he came back to DC this summer, he arrived on Friday morning and on Monday returned to his usual routine — heading to rowing practice at 4:45 am and work after that. So in the midst of this government turmoil at least we have the opportunity to spend time (a lot of time) together. And because he was home nearly all of last week to do projects around the house, we spent the weekend just hanging out — playing board games, watching Netflix, and eating too many desserts. While not as grand as sipping cappuccinos in Samos, Greece, like we did during our lazy spring days together, we had a wonderful weekend.
So on one hand we are both anxious for the furlough to end so he can get back to work — he was supposed to travel to Germany yesterday for meetings and that, of course, didn’t happen. Combine that with our upcoming major house renovations and the thought that he may not be paid for weeks on end isn’t exactly appealing. But I realize that worrying about it won’t change the outcome, so this morning I’m raising my iced mocha to toast this chance for togetherness.
When I dove into the deep end of freelancing, it was a turn I hadn’t expected to take, but making that change has been amazing. It has given me flexibility to take on projects I enjoy, travel and establish a much more pleasant work/life balance.
A year ago today I took another road I had never planned on — I passed a grueling audition to become a certified Jazzercise instructor after being a student for about five years. I spent the spring learning how to teach 10 routines and then it was audition day — a boiling hot summer morning (I was thankful to be in the morning group, not the afternoon bunch). When I arrived I selected a number and, lucky me, I was the ninth out of 10 to audition. Each of us got on the stage and led the group for two routines, but until it was your turn you had no idea which two routines you would be assigned to teach. To support our fellow auditionees, we acted as students throughout the morning. I was 16 routines in (26 if you count the “warm up” round where we each practiced teaching a routine) when it was my turn to take the stage. I felt exhausted, but I got up on stage and gave it my best shot.
As it’s my first Jazzer-versary, I passed! I was so excited that all the hard work had paid off! The process continued the next day with workshops on class planning and business training followed by another day of refining our jazzer-technique. That really just meant eight hours of exercising. Needless to say I spent that Sunday on the couch!
As a substitute instructor for the past 12 months, sometimes I have taught four classes a month and sometimes 10. In February I started teaching a regular Saturday morning class and in a few weeks I will be adding three more weekly classes to my routine… It’s going to be another adventure!
There have been challenges during this past year — most notably dealing with a mysterious knee injury for the past few months. I’ve also been on the road a lot. Between Norway, Iceland, Turkey, Greece, and four trips to California, I have spent about 12 weeks out of the past 12 months traveling, making it impossible for me to teach as many classes as were offered to me (or find time to learn as many new routines as I’d like).
During the course of my first year as an instructor, I’ve taught 72 classes, learned 68 routines, and am hopefully growing and improving with every class. I’m looking forward to seeing what year two will bring!
Each time we take a big trip — France/Jordan, Costa Rica, Norway/Iceland, and now Turkey/Greece — we design and print a photo book that includes a handful of the thousands of pictures my hubby took during our adventure. I love the books because it means our photos will last as opposed to tons of 4×6 prints floating around. But since I am not scrapbooking the images myself, we have never had a place to keep the little things we picked up along the way — things like entrance tickets for museums and other sites, museum pamphlets, city maps, or business cards from restaurants we really enjoyed.
We’ve been hard at work on our Turkey/Greece book and it’s almost finished, but for the first time I thought, “Why not capture the tickets and other tidbits and include a picture of them in the book?” So above are samples of my attempt to incorporate many of the random pieces into one collage shot per country. Now we will be able to look back and see how beautiful the entrance tickets to sites in Istanbul and Ephesus were as well as what our favorite restaurant in Rhodes was called and where we stayed in Samos. By including these pieces in two photos within the book it means we can keep the memories, but minimize the clutter because who really needs a road map of Samos laying around? Probably not us anymore.
My hubby and I love to eat and due to his recent drought of anything decent for dinner (or breakfast or lunch) because of his stint in Afghanistan, we did our best to make up for it during our recent travels. Throughout our time in Turkey and Greece we found ourselves saying, “This will be our nice dinner,” (as if we that would only happen one time) more often than not. Of course, we hadn’t had any dinners together in 3 months, so we had reason to celebrate daily.
Our first night in Istanbul, we sat down to dinner after our long, sleep deprived day of (separate) travel and I proceeded to order 4 mezze before B chimed in, “Um, we are at a restaurant known for it’s grilled meats… Maybe we should order some meat?” Oops. So we added a meat dish to our order to share and I’m pretty sure the waiter thought we were a little bit crazy, but we ate everything. It was during that first dinner we discovered a mezze that became our favorite throughout the trip — Ezme. Ezme is a spicy tomato spread and it was delicious. For every meal afterward, if Ezme was on the menu we ordered it.
During our stay in Selcuk a few days later we enjoyed two wonderful dinners at Hotel Bella‘s roof top restaurant. The first night the weather was perfect for eating outside where we could enjoy the view of church ruins, a nearby castle and a few storks. The food we had — cacik (basically tzatziki), ezme, white bean salad, and green bean mezze dishes along with spicy kebabs for me and fish for B — was all delicious. A bottle of local Turkish Syrah rounded out the meal so nicely that we went back the next night. For our second dinner we dined inside due to a rain storm, but the meal was still delicious and we enjoyed the decor of the room and the company of our fellow travelers as we ate on long, low sofas.
We had a number of good dinners out in Greece as well, but our favorite spot (and a place we also went to twice), was Nireas in Rhodes. We headed there knowing we were in for a fancy dinner (the Lonely Planet mentioned lobster pasta…) and enjoyed our meal and the owners so much we had to go back the next night, despite the price tag. And the price tag was really only high since we had a starter, salad, two mains, dessert and a bottle of wine. A person could dine at Nireas without getting so much, but I don’t know why you would want to! We savored the evening’s special fava bean spread appetizer, a salad, calamari and shrimp stuffed with crab meat, and a delectable dark chocolate cake the first night and the second night had spicy cheese (warm feta with a spicy tomato concoction on top), pasta with shrimp and crab cakes as the main course, and cheesecake with strawberries for dessert. Each night we enjoyed a bottle of Greek wine (both were fabulous) as well as the complimentary limoncello the restaurant’s owner had made. What made this place so fun (apart from the fabulous food and very friendly owners) was that the second night almost everyone in the restaurant had been there the night before and liked it so much that — just like us — they came back!
Throughout the trip we tried to take pictures of our meals, but more often than not when the dishes arrived they looked so tempting we just dug right in. But even without images of everything, I’m so grateful that on top of all the gorgeous sites we saw during our two weeks together, we were able to share so many memorable nights out.
It’s always important to be flexible when traveling and realize that life just isn’t going to be the same as life at home. In Turkey my husband never wore shorts since it’s not the fashion for Middle Eastern men and I always kept a scarf handy to cover my hair when visiting a mosque. And we willingly make concessions like these because it’s the respectful thing to do.
But when I’m on an extended vacation there are always a few things about home that I miss over time, like the chance to cook dinner for ourselves or sleep in our own bed. But on this trip I was reminded of something else from home that I couldn’t wait to get back to — our toilet. And our plumbing.
Throughout Turkey and Greece we encountered three bathroom options — the squatter, the seatless toilet, and the normal toilet — and none could handle toilet paper. So no matter which commode I encountered I had to remember to toss my TP into a small garbage can in the corner. Thankfully some of the bathrooms had helpful artwork so you didn’t forget. I know that in many places people don’t have a system available to them that is as good as this, so I shouldn’t complain. I just found the “you never know what you are going to get” aspect intriguing.
Honestly I did find the seatless toilets particularly odd. They were usually in a nice enough spot (a restaurant or museum) and always had been designed to have a seat (as shown above). I mean, are toilet seats a hard commodity to come by?
Let’s just say that after 17 days of throwing away my toilet paper, I found myself excited to use the airplane bathroom. A seat and plumbing that could handle the TP — amazing!
I’m back from my oversea adventure for 2013 — two weeks in Turkey and Greece for my hubby’s R&R — and I have so many things I want to post about from our time together… but I can’t get the 4,300* pictures my husband took off our fancy camera and will have to wait until I am in California and can use my parent’s card reader to review (and reduce) and share them.
Thankfully I have a handful of pictures from our smaller camera and the iPad available, but most of our travel stories must be put on hold for a few weeks.
While it’s always nice to go on vacation (particularly when you are seeing your husband for the first time in three months!!) it’s also lovely to be back home. But that’s another post entirely.
Marhaba: “hello” throughout the Middle East // Kalimera: “good morning” in Greek
* And yes, in 16 days my husband took 4,300 pictures. That doesn’t including the ones he already deleted from the camera.
So this Tuesday definitely feels like a Monday. I thought I was free from the funk I was in last week, but this morning I finally went to the doctor to have my knee looked at (it’s been feeling a little weird for a few weeks) and was told I need an MRI to figure out what’s going on. Until we know what that is, I can’t resume exercising. Feeling overwhelmed, I left the appointment to find that it was no longer just cold and windy, but it was also raining. And I didn’t have an umbrella.
With my knee weighing on my mind, I was desperately trying to think of something positive to focus on and then I realized that in 30 days I will get to see my husband’s smiling face in person when we meet in Istanbul! Not only am I anxiously awaiting our chance to explore Turkey and Greece together, but I simply can’t wait to be with him. In the same time zone. In the same room.
I love a good countdown, so for the next 30 days (well 29 really, I mean today is almost over), I’ll power through work and hopefully get my knee issue figured out, so I can get back to working out and teaching. But tonight, I’m just going to focus on my newest countdown since thinking about it is pretty much the only thing about today that makes me smile.