Wednesday, March 30, 2016

New Eyes!

I'm typing this blogpost with new eyes! Well...almost! Yesterday, I had LASIK done and it's amazing how fast of a recovery it is!

Let's back up though.  I'm sure that when you read that I had LASIK, you were like "Wait. You had LASIK in Turkey?"  At least, that was my reaction when Mike suggested it.  There was no way I was going to go to some hole in the wall, shady doctor's office and have them operate on my eyes.  Once again, though, Turkey has proved me wrong.   Apparently, Turkey is a huge medical tourism location, especially for LASIK.  When we started looking into having it done here, we found a company that sets up a whole vacation for you surrounding your procedure.  You pay a flat fee that includes your airfare, hotel, the procedure and three days of sightseeing in Izmir or Istanbul.  How crazy is that?!

Obviously, I didn't need the whole travel package, but I did contact the doctor associated with this and made an appointment to meet with her and discuss details, as well as make sure I was comfortable with the doctor herself.  When I called to make the consultation appointment, they wanted to do it in the morning and then have the procedure done in the afternoon, but I wasn't quite ready for that quick of a turn around.  Instead, I agreed to meet with her on a Friday and to go from there.

The consultation was great.  The nurses and receptionist didn't speak much English, which made me a little hesitant, but the doctor spoke very clear and fluent English, which eased my nerves.  After talking to her about the procedure and how it would work, we set up the appointment for Tuesday.

Tuesday came and was pretty chaotic (I'll get to that in another post at some point...), but we decided to go ahead with the procedure.  I arrived at 3:30, but spent the first hour waiting and hanging out.  They did do some test on my eyes, but for the most part, we were just waiting.  It was rough because I was antsy and starting to think about what they were actually going to do, which I had successfully avoided doing before this.

Around 4:45, they came and got me and took me upstairs. The procedure went extremely quickly and I was done and back in the room with Mike around 5:20.  Overall, the procedure was pretty easy.  I realized, though, that whenever anyone tries to touch anywhere on my face, I close my eyes.  Like, at the dentist, I usually just close my eyes.  This whole strategy obviously didn't work out and I was pretty tense, but luckily, it really didn't hurt and the doctors were great.

When it was over, they took me back in the room where Mike was. I felt completely fine at first, and then all of a sudden my eyes started burning.  By the time we got in the cab to go home, I could barely open my eyes and had tears streaming down my face.  Mike guided me like the blind person that I was to our bed room where I fell asleep for an hour.  When I woke up, my eyes still hurt and I found that sitting in the bathroom where there is absolutely no light was the only solution.  Luckily, the burning subsided once I was able to put drops in my eyes and by the end of the night, I was able to hang out, although I was still struggling a little and looking at a computer screen was definitely not an option.

This morning, we returned to the doctor for a follow up and she said everything looked good.  She said that my distance vision would still be a little blurry (which it is), but that's completely normal and would get better within the next few days.  Today was pretty incredible because I was able to live my life almost normally.  I went to a meeting and was able to fill out paper work.  I was looking at my phone and am now typing on the computer.  The only things I've noticed are that I have a little bit of a headache because I think my eyes are tired and my distance vision is not quite there yet, but other than that, it's like whole new eyes.  Oh and I look like I've been getting high because my eyes are so blood shot, but really, minor details.  :)

I'm so glad that we decided to do this.  Last year, I ended up paying ~$300 for contact lenses and a contact lens consultation because they aren't included in our insurance.  We payed ~$1300 (thank you tax return!) for LASIK in Turkey, so in five years, we will have saved money.  I felt completely comfortable with the doctor and she was extremely professional.  Overall, it's been a great experience and I'm thankful that we chose to do it.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Easter in Izmir

Paskalya bayraminiz kutlu olsun and happy Easter from Izmir!  We hope that, if you celebrate Easter, you had a beautiful spring day spent celebrating exactly as you wished! We spent our first weekend in Izmir in a few weeks celebrating.

Saturday was supposed to be a day of nothing, but it really ended up being a day of cooking.  We have this tradition that I carried over from my parents' house that Saturdays always start with pancakes.  Sometimes it's waffles and bacon is almost always a welcome addition, but we always do brunch.  It's so nice to spend the morning in our pajamas, eating pancakes and enjoying not having to rush off.  Anyways, I digress.  After our typical pancake breakfast, I prepared the mashed potatoes and the cheese cake for our Easter dinner. 

Sunday, we got up and headed to mass.  On holidays, the church only offers one mass, but it's in Turkish, English, and Italian.  On Christmas Eve, they had the homily in English, as well as one of the readings and a few verses of hymns.  Easter was a little lot different.  There was only one reading in English and our homily was translated on a piece of paper in the bulletin.  I was able to follow along because I've been going to Catholic mass for 27 years and luckily, like most things Catholic, the order of the mass hasn't changed.  Mike was able to read the Turkish in the bulletin, but neither of us walked away with that "Hallelujah! He is Risen!" feeling.  I think we'll have to reassess our church strategy. 

After church, we came back home and prepared our Easter dinner.  I always think of lamb on Easter for some reason, so Mike very willingly agreed to be in charge of cooking a leg of lamb while I prepared all of the sides. 

Mike has made two friends from his school who we invited over to help us eat food.  We were going to make the same amount of food, regardless of how many people we had, so we figured we should enlist some help.  These guys are right out of college guys, so definitely a different lifestyle than us (they came over super hungover from their Saturday night) and aren't even Christian, but they're a lot of fun and can definitely eat.  We had a lot of fun and ended the evening all feeling very full from cheese cake and lots of lamb.  We also played Cards Against Humanity, so any sort of moral points we earned from going to church that morning were washed down the drain after a few rounds of that game.  I don't know if I should be proud or not that I won. 

After Murat and Yashar left, we Facetimed with my family who was at my aunt's house for Easter dinner. Congrats to my cousin J.P. for getting a teaching job as a middle school band teacher starting in the fall after graduation! So proud of my fellow JMU duke!  I love FaceTiming with them because I just get passed around, told the same story a million times, and people are just so excited.  They really know how to make a girl feel loved!

We ended the night with video chatting with this little one and her parents.  Mike and I are enamored with her.  We spent a good 20 minutes last night just watching her roll over.  You would have thought she won an Olympic medal or something.  She's always been really cute, but now that she's up and moving, she's almost too much to handle.  The other day, we were video chatting with her and when she heard our voices, she started flapping her arms and smiling.  I wish I could say she was excited to see us, but I think really she was just more excited about the computer screen itself.  She's been practicing her typing skills pretty frequently. 

Getting some typing practice in.  Gotta increase that WPM!

LOOK AT THOSE FEET!! I can't handle this guys!

Pretty sure Mike and I were holding ourselves back from giving her a standing ovation for rolling over.  What have our lives come to?

"Look guys! I can roll over both ways!"

And because I know you guys love Emma pictures (ha!), here's one of our favorite little Easter rabbit.  She had to go down for a nap while we were chatting, but her mom made sure we got pictures of her post-nap outfit.

Just like Christmas, this Easter was much different than what Mike and I are used to, but it wasn't bad and we had fun making it our own day.  I didn't walk away feeling super inspired or motivated, but I had a great time celebrating.  Until next year, little Emma bunny!  Uncle Mike and Aunty Sarah love you!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Lesvos, Greece

Before telling all the great stories of our weekend trip last weekend, I feel like I need to address the terrorist attacks that have happened across the world recently. I thought  about doing a whole post about it, but you all have heard me talk about the refugee crisisviolence in Turkey, and a bombing in Turkey, so I figured I'd just leave it at this.  We are sad.  We are sad because all over the world, innocent people have died.  The attacks in Brussels were real and scary for many people and received a lot of attention, but the attacks in Turkey were also scary.  Innocent people died in Turkey, just as they did in Brussels.  We are praying and thinking and sending good thoughts to the families who have lost their loved ones, both in Turkey and in Brussels.  We are hoping that the violence stops, but understand that there are so many aspects of the situation that we don't understand.  Despite the violence, we will continue to travel.  We will continue to remember that people are good. And we will remember that the world is a big and beautiful place.  As one of my childhood idols*, Mr. Rogers, said

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping."

My sentiments are echoed in many of the travel blogs I read.  My favorite was in this blogpost.  The people of Turkey are living their lives and refuse to let terrorism win, so why should we?  Maybe something will happen while we're traveling, but maybe something will happen while we're sitting at home. We're not going to stop living our lives just because something could happen.

On to a much lighter topic...

A few weeks ago, Mike's old Turkish teacher texted him and said a few people from his class, as well as herself were going to spend the weekend in Lesvos (Lesbos in English), Greece.  It's an easy weekend trip from Izmir and lots of Turks are known to travel there. We agreed to join them and were looking forward to checking another Greek island off our bucket list.

Saturday morning, we boarded a bus at 6:00am.  Y'all I'm so over these early morning travels. I know it's such a minor thing to complain about, especially when we're going to all of these amazing places, but it's exhausting. This weekend we're staying at home and I plan on sleeping in as late as possible. Anyways, I digress.  We got on the bus and got to Ayvalik, Turkey around 8:15 and caught the ferry around 8:45 to Lesvos.

Let me just paint the picture of our group before I continue.  Mike's Turkish teacher, Nejra and her husband, who are in their mid-forties, a Ukranian woman, a Greek woman (from Lesvos) and a Japanese woman who are both the same age as Nejra and then Mike and I.  When I say we have a hard time meeting people our own age, I'm not kidding.  Oh and did I mention that the whole weekend, the only language they spoke was Turkish?  It was definitely good for me to practice, mainly my listening skills, but between the age difference and the language barrier, the dynamic was definitely different. The ladies were great, though, and they love Mike.  They kept saying "Mike ozledik!" which means "we miss Mike!"

Anyways, when we got off the ferry, we were greeted by our tour guide. His name was Bayram, but I didn't get that until day two of our trip.  Every time they said Bayram, I thought they were talking about the holiday Bayram.  Whooopppps.  Guess my Turkish isn't that great....  We jumped in the van and headed downtown for tea (I would have expected nothing less).  Luckily,we made it to the cafe right before it started pouring.  We drank lots of tea and coffee and watched the rain fall.  It's amazing how far hand gestures can go when you don't understand something.  Everyone was speaking Turkish and, although I can understand some of it, I definitely didn't understand everything.  Hand gestures it was!
A nice rain cloud moving in....

The history of the island goes like this.  According to Greek mythology, Lesbos was the patron god of the island, hence it's name.  Years later, the poet Sappho was born on Lesbos and became famous for her poetry.  She was also a lesbian, so this island is kind of a hot spot for the LGBT community.  Oh, and yes, people from Lesbos are called Lesbians.

Sappho herself

After learning about the history of the island, Bayram took us for a walking tour around the downtown part of the island.

As we were walking through town, I noticed this shop.  It had nothing to do with the television show despite it's logo, but I had to take a picture.

By this point, it was time for a late lunch.  And when in Greece, you can't pass up the opportunity to have a Greek salad, amirite?

After lunch, we got in the van and headed north on the island.

We went inside this beautiful Greek Orthodox church

And then we stopped for more tea....

After tea, it was time to head back to the hotel for a few hours of rest and relaxation.  I was thankful for this since we had been up since before 6:00am.  We met up with the group again around 8:00pm to go to dinner. Mike and I are early dinner people.  We eat at 6:30ish every day and our meals are not very long.  This goes against everything Turkish, so when dinner was scheduled for 8:30, we weren't surprised.  We also weren't surprised when it lasted almost three hours, although by the end of the meal, we were both struggling to keep our eyes open.  All of our traveling had caught up to us and we were both falling asleep. Don't worry though, because the adults in our group (aka everyone else since they were 20+ years older than us) was going strong at 11:30 and I think were kind of disappointed that we asked to go home. Sorry guys, next time....

 The next morning, we met Bayram around 9:30 and he took us up to another part of the island north of where we were.  Our first stop was another Greek Orthodox church.  Everyone else in our group went inside to check it out, but Mike and I felt weird doing that since they were in the middle of mass. Mike did get super excited because they had this plane on display outside of the church (I don't know why) and he kept saying "It's like the Top Gun plane!"

After everyone came out of the church, we continued onward and found some good picturesque views.

Our group for the weekend!

Just a kedi taking a cat nap (kedi is Turkish for cat)

We stopped for lunch on the water and enjoyed one last Greek meal.  Unfortunately, they didn't have Gyros, which both Mike and I had been craving all weekend, but they did have lamb. Mike got this huge tortilla thing full of lamb and was extremely happy with his choice.

This sign was in the bathroom at the restaurant and I just had to laugh...
After lunch, you guessed it, we stopped for tea.  I was kind of tea-d out, but everyone else enjoyed a cup of tea before it was time to catch the ferry back to Izmir.  It was a long weekend, but it was fun to explore a new island. And, even though I didn't understand everything that was being said, I had a lot of fun spending time with Mike's former classmates.  I definitely improved my listening skills this weekend, if nothing else.  Lesvos was a beautiful island.  There wasn't a ton to do there this time of year, but I'm sure in the summer it is filled with beach and water activities to do.

All that being said, Mike and I are looking forward to a weekend at home. I've got an Easter dinner planned for us and a lot of sleeping to do.  Traveling on the weekends is fun, but it's definitely tolling on our bodies.  It's tough being gone all weekend and then jumping right back into school.  Hopefully a weekend at home will provide us with the rest and relaxation our bodies have been craving.

*When I was little, I remember watching Mr. Rogers at my grandparents' house.  They would record them on VHS and then I could watch them when I came over.  When he would ask questions like "How are you today?" I would actually answer out loud! Guys, I was that kid!