Monday, July 30, 2012

Our New Branch

Sunday, July 30th
Yesterday Geoffrey and I went out with Dr. Nieburg. He gave us a tour of the base, which really is pretty small. Then we drove off base, through the village of Incirlik. The name is pronounced In-Jer-Lick by the Turkish. The 'c' is pronounced as a 'j'. The village is right outside the gates of the base and is supported by the military shopping and dining. The two or three streets of shops are called 'The Alley'.
He then drove us to Adana, the city near the base. We got to experience a little of how the Turks drive. Not aggressive per se but they don't pay attention to lanes at all and use their horn liberally. I think I will glad to have my big beast as it will force the Turks to see me and get out of my way, I think. The city has a gorgeous mosque that I want to go tour soon, a beautiful riverside park surrounding it, and further up a large lake formed by damming the river. We only saw a few women in headscarves and none in full burkas. Many of the Turks were lighter skinned that I had imagined (based on what?) and several could be mistaken for Anglo Americans. I especially loved to see the older men with their olive skin and pure white hair. Its such a striking look.

On the way back through the Alley we stopped to meet the man who is going to get us a rental car. We will have to deal with a 6 passenger car as it is a third of the price of a 7 passenger car and there are no seatbelt or car seat laws here, either on base or off. So Rory and Evan will just have to double up if we want to drive somewhere altogether. He didn't have the car that day but was hopeful he would have it on Monday.

We stopped for some lunch then. It was 2pm and neither Geoffrey or I had eaten since about 5am. The Turks are observing Ramadan (called Ramazan here) right now so we weren't sure that the restaurants would be serving but we found one that was. It had a lovely picture menu with English titles. Some humorous almost-American ones like Meat and Cheese Bread (pizza), Gordon Bleu (Chicken Cordon Bleu), and The Joe Montana (Chicken breast, mushrooms and cheese, I have no idea why). They brought us really good flat bread with some amazing sauce spreads including this minced garlic in butter which was delicious! Then a salad with fresh mint leaves which was so good, and our entrees. French fries are cips here. If the 'c' has a little comma hanging off it, it becomes the 'ch' sound. I had a Home Make Kebab, which was a roll of flat bread stuffed with spiced meat. Sooo yummy! No ice in the sodas, tiny glasses. Geoffrey had the Joe Montana.

Then we went back on base and stopped by the outdoor rec to rent three sorry looking bicycles with even sorrier helmets to use to get around. We left them there to come back with the boys and pick up and went to the commissary/BX to get some groceries and other necessities. I haven't shopped in a commissary for quite a long time. Its very small but will be adequate, I'm sure. Quite a change from my super HEB though. My best discovery there? Cherries grown here in Turkey are $1.35 a pound! And they are so big and so sweet. And they have this Turkish Greek Yogurt that is divine!! Oh, and they only sell milk in half gallons. So that is a lot of milk containers for our family.

I managed to get a few days worth of groceries and then met Geoffrey and Dr. Nieburg, who had gone to the BX, at the car. We went home, dropped off our purchases, and then Dr. Nieburg drove Brannick, Carson, and I back to Outdoor Rec so we could ride the bikes home.
In the evening it had cooled off so the whole family walked to the BX to get a few more things we had thought of and we told the kids about what we had seen that day. It took about 10 minutes to walk to the BX. While there we caught some of the Olympic men's gymnastics on the big TVs in the back. We discovered that the foodcourt has a Taco Bell, a Burger King, a Pizza Hut and a Baskin Robbins. So if we get a junk food craving, we won't die. I wish I could trade them all in for a Wendy's, a Firehouse Subs, a Sonic and an Orange Leaf. But you can't have everything. On the way home we stopped at one of several small playgrounds in the housing area and let the kids play on the teeter totters.

Geoffrey determined that in order to get back on schedule we all needed to stay up late that night so we could sleep all through the night. So after we ate and cleaned up dinner, we played cribbage. And got completely giddy. Well, Geoffrey didn't. But the rest of us were pretty bad. I got the giggles so badly that I could hardly breathe. We kept begging to go to bed but we stayed firm and kept playing until midnight, at which point Geoffrey said we could all go to bed. Strangely enough, at that point we didn't feel all that tired. But with the help of a sleeping pill, I slept all night and woke up feeling pretty good at about 8am. Geoffrey and Carson had gotten up earlier, about 6, and gone on a bike ride. The mornings and evenings really aren't too bad here temperature wise.

Dr. Nieburg came by about 10 and was greeted at the door by me in my red polka dot Pjs with the pink ruffles. Classy, huh? But what can you do? I invited him in and went to get Geoffrey, who had gone back to sleep. They took off to go tour the Med Group building so Geoffrey could get his bearings while the building was empty.

Meanwhile I started in on all the ironing that needed to be done. Normally I don't iron. I don't like ironing and I'm not as good at it as Geoffrey is. But he was off with Dr. Nieburg and all the Sunday clothes had been in suitcases so they had to be ironed.

We got ready for our 2 pm church service and walked to 5 minutes to the base chapel. I wore my blue/green/black skirt that is wrinkly on purpose and my never fail dress barn white jacket, which Geoffrey ironed while I wasn't looking. And my hair looked amazing, which is important when you go someplace new, so you can stop worrying about how you look.

The chapel is very Catholic looking, which I love. It has those fold down padded kneeler benches under each pew. No stand up front, just a raised dias. And there is a drum set in the corner. (That's not Catholic, Brannick says that is Hippie Church). Apparently there were quite a few families on vacation because our family made up about a third of the congregation today. The Elders Quorum President blessed the sacrament – one bread tray and one water tray. Carson passed. He was a little nervous because he forgot to pass to the Branch President first, forgot the pianist altogether and forgot to let the EQ president pass the sacrament to him. But by the water, he had gotten it all figured out.

Sacrament meeting had one speaker and then the primary kids went off to one CTR class (junior primary) and one Valiant class (senior primary). Rory fell asleep right after the sacrament and stayed asleep through the rest of church. For the adults (and the youth today) Sunday School was combined and so was the third hour. We had a great Sunday School lesson and then the Branch President, who is about 26, read some comments from a Conference address about the scriptures and then asked each of us to share a favorite passage. It was a nice way to hear from each person and nice that my three kids participated and were treated like adults. 

There was one other new family who has been here about 3 weeks. They have a 16 year old son named Ryan. He and Brannick said about 2 words total to each other (of course) but I talked to him and asked if he had though about going on any of the upcoming teen trips and if he would like to go with my kids so he would know someone. (Sneaky mom, right? Stick two boys who vaguely know each other on a trip with a lot of strangers and they might actually get to know each other.) I spoke to Ryan's mom on our walk home and she liked the plan. She also had a 10 year old son whom she is going to sign up for the Vacation Bible School coming up. I had already planned on signing up Rory and Evan for that as well. So some good things. All in all, church was interesting. Both familiar and totally different. But full of good people and the same gospel. I think we will like the branch.

Brother Bowen walked us home and talked with my two older boys. He is the Young Mens President and promised to come by and get them for Scouts this week. He has a 17 year old daughter (his youngest) who is in Germany at girls camp right now. After our dinner he called and invited us over to play games and have dessert. It was just him at home – his wife is in Germany also – so it was very kind of him to have us over. He taught us a couple of fun games, Cat and Mouse which is a dice game played with corks on strings and a large pot lid. And Pounce, which is a partner version of Nertz and very fun. The kids decided that they all liked it better than Nertz. He showed us the carpets he has bought here and many other fun treasures from places he has traveled. 
We reluctantly left about 10:30 and walked across the park to our backyard. Brother Bowen happens to live on Commander's Circle and is a big muckity muck here on the base. He has been in the military for 22 years now. But he's just 'Brother Bowen' and as humble as can be. I love how the church culture disregards the accolades of the world and equalizes everybody. Our branch president is only on his second active duty assignment and looks green as can be but everyone calls him 'President' and accepts him as the man God wants to lead this branch. On the walk home the kids decided that Brother Bowen will be their surrogate uncle here. The many crayon pictures on his frig attest to the fact that we are not the only family in the branch who feel that way about him.

Well, it is 1:30 in the morning and I'm not sleepy. Should have taken another sleeping pill I guess. I am hopeful that we will be able to get internet soon so I can start up a blog and actually post these ramblings so you can read them! The kids want to check out the library, the teen center, the pool and the free mini golf. I am so glad that we won't be stuck at home all day without a car. I wonder now if we really will need to buy that mini van.

Turkey - The Arrival

Saturday, July 29th continued. . . Turkey - We had arrived about 6:15 in the evening. The air was very very humid and still warm. It felt a lot like Florida actually. Dr. Nieburg was there to greet us and although it took several trips in his little sedan, he got us and all our things shuttled to our new house. He is the man who Geoffrey will be replacing and has been so helpful in many ways. As we were getting things into the house, our duplex neighbor came over to say hello, as did the base chaplain who lives across the street, and the group commander and his wife who live around the corner. I was glad to meet Susan, who had answered so many of my email questions and had stocked my frig with some basic groceries. She also showed up with a hot meal and a wrapped Turkish cookbook. On the package was a blue glass evil eye ornament which must be given and not purchased for yourself and will protect your home from spirits. We were pleased with the warm welcome.

The house itself is wonderful! Dr. Nieburg had arranged to have the loaner furniture delivered and set up and Susan had made the beds and provided some loaner towels and linens. So its a little like living in a large hotel for a while until our own stuff gets here. But the house is great! Tile everywhere, even up the walls of the bathrooms (this is a great idea when you have little boys). The kitchen is large and has granite countertops and lots of cabinets. I am surprised by all the closets and storage areas this house has. The light switches are different – large buttons which are pushed down to turn on and up to turn off. Each room has its own air conditioning unit and its own digital thermostat to control it, in celsius no less. Our master bedroom is smaller than our last house but will be fine except that I have no idea where Geoffrey will put his office or where I will put my sewing. But I am sure we will work it all out. The walls are all thick concrete and the doors all solid wood. It is a very sturdy house with quality fixtures/lights, etc. The backyard is fairly small but has a nice patio that faces east and a gate that opens onto a little common area/park.

In the two minute ride from the flight line to our house we saw the pool, library, bowling alley, movie theater, chapel, two parks, mini-golf and auto-shop. So everything is very close by. I can't wait until the kids' bikes get here and so glad we just got new ones for the older three as I think they will use them quite a bit. No worries about Brannick not being able to drive the kids to mutual, they can all just ride their bikes!

We tried to stay up to a reasonable hour that first evening. Rory and Evan weren't sleepy at all but I was ready to collapse and only lasted until about 9:30. And then I woke up at 2:30 am. 5 hours of sleep is not enough in any circumstances and especially not when you've only had about 2 hours total in the previous 24 hour period. But wide awake I was in the wee smalls. I wandered downstairs and was joined over the next hour or so by Geoffrey, Brannick, Delaney and then Rory. At one point Geoffrey decided to wander outside in the backyard. I was sitting on the couch typing up our adventures and didn't notice how long he had been out there until he came limping back in, wet and shaking. It was still dark outside and he had tripped in a hole and fell, twisting his ankle badly. I'm not sure if he went into shock or just felt the difference of the colder house but he was shaking pretty badly. We got him on the couch with some ice and covered him with the two quilts I had packed in our luggage (Delaney's and the one from my bed) and got him some pain meds. I hope its not broken as that would not be the most auspicious way to start out his new job!

Move to Turkey - Part Deux

Saturday, July 29th The Big Move – Part Deux.
Having survived the leaving Texas portion of this move, our heroine now turns her attention and experience to the arriving in Turkey part of the move.

The trip actually went very well, all things considered. A whole lot of things that could have gone wrong didn't. And a lot of things went surprisingly right.
Tuesday the 24th was our last day at the house on Culberson Station. All our household goods had been loaded into 12 wooden crates on a flatbed semi and departed on Monday. We had eaten dinner with the Tangs, the Starleys and the Cases, enjoying one last evening with good friends we will miss. Then Tuesday morning we left Carson and Rory in the hotel room and took the older two back to the house to finish things up. The Relief Society ladies came to help clean. Geoffrey and Brannick painted and swept the garage. The house was ready to go by noon and we dropped the older two back at the hotel with some cash and instructions to walk to one of several fast food places nearby and get some lunch for everyone. (Its lovely having older children.)
Geoffrey and I headed to the airport to pick up Evan, who had been visiting his Riggs grandparents and going with them on a trip to San Diego in anticipation of his upcoming 10th birthday. We were able to squeeze in this tradition the very last week of our time here. We got him from the flight attendant with praises of his good manners and took him along for the rest of the day. He told us about the flights (his first) and the exciting adventures he had in San Diego.

The rest of the day was just the house inspection, the carpet cleaners (praise to the man who can get sharpie marker out of a cheap carpet!) and trying to shut off utilities and such. We took the kids for dinner at a deli restaurant I'd had a gift card for since Christmas and then hit Half-Price Books for a book on CD to listen to in the car, some Mad-Libs for Evan for the plane ride and a coloring book for Rory. We also had to go buy yet another piece of luggage so we could combine Rory and Evan's duffle bags. We ended up leaving their smaller ones in the hotel room.

On Wednesday we got up at 5:30 am and loaded all 14 suitcases on top of and in the back of the Excursion. The new luggage rack worked great. After all the suitcases were strapped onto it we wrapped it in some industrial plastic wrap made for that purpose.

After a quick trip to the hotel breakfast bar for some scrumptious breakfast sandwiches (the best we've ever tasted), we got on the road to Dallas about 7:30 am. The drive went well, with the total failure and shredding of the plastic wrap being the only snafu.

On arriving in Dallas, Geoffrey dropped the kids and I off at the hotel, unloaded all our luggage and went to take the car to the Vehicle Processing Center for shipment. This turned out to be a 5 hour ordeal in a hot warehouse which included getting the car washed, the gas drained, and talking the officials down from a $1650 fee for an oversize vehicle (something we had not been told about) to a $750 fee. Ouch!
Meanwhile, I bought Hot Pockets and sodas for lunch at the hotel sundries shop. With no transportation and no stores/restaurants within easy walking distance, this was the first of many overpriced, desperate meals on our trip. The hotel had a laundry so I washed all the dirty clothes our family of 7 had produced since Monday – a surprising amount. And then took the kids swimming in the indoor pool. We were the only ones using it, which was good since my children were very loud and wore themselves out trying to see whose cannon ball could splash the ceiling and how long they all had to swim walk around the inside edge of the pool before it turned into a massive whirlpool. They were also quite proud that they caught a spelling error on the pool signage – Children SHOUD not use the pool without adult supervision. 
 It was posted on very professional looking signs in two places. Apparently someone at Homewood Suites corporate shoud not make signs without supervision.

The hotel served a complimentary weeknight dinner so we dined on yummy fajitas in the lobby. Geoffrey joined us as we were eating dinner. We compared notes and decided that I had certainly had the easier of our two afternoons. That evening we repacked, re-weighed and re-carted all the luggage downstairs to a room off the lobby. We had scheduled the shuttle for 6 am the following morning to get us to the airport.

Thursday morning we all got up sometime in the five o-clock hour and stumbled down to the lobby where we grabbed some muffins and bagels and piled into the hotel shuttle van with all our stuff. The driver suggested he drop us off at the curb side baggage check. We had planned to dump it all on the pavement, send Geoffrey and boys to get multiple luggage racks and then cart everything upstairs but his plan seemed much simpler. So a wonderful American Airlines employee checked all our luggage and printed our boarding passes within 5 feet of where the driver had dropped us off. He was also kind enough to put priority tags on our suitcases, ensuring they would come off the plane first in Baltimore where we needed to re-check them. Once upstairs in the security line we also discovered he had given us priority access through security, allowing us to by-pass a huge line in favor of a much shorter one. That $20 tip was money well spent and we probably should have given him more.

With Evan now an experienced air traveler, only Rory had a first time run through security and other airport adventures. But I think all the kids got a thrill from holding their individual passports for each check-in. They kept wanting someone to stamp it, which wouldn't happen until we got here to Turkey. All the kids handled the airport wait and boarding well and the first flight from Dallas to Baltimore went quickly and smoothly. Rory sat next to Geoffrey and I and kept busy with coloring books and a craft project I had stuck in his backpack (thank you Hobby Lobby).

When we arrived in Baltimore, another fortuitous airport employee offered to use his massive luggage cart to take all our bags from the baggage claim of one terminal to the check-in counter of another. When we reached the international terminal we were greeted by a sea of brown military uniforms. Young servicemen and women dressed in uniform with matching duffle bags, sitting, standing and lying in the longest check-in line you have every seen. And the check-in process hadn't even begun yet! Luckily it did begin only about 20 minutes after we got there and they checked families in separately from the servicemen. This check-in was slightly different in that we had to weigh not only our 14 suitcases but also all our carry-on bags and ourselves! Well, we had to give our body weights anyway. Apparently, they calculate something based on total weight.

After we were all checked in we had lots of time to kill. Lunch was the first order of the day and we found a Samuel Adams Brewery restaurant outside of security where we got a reasonable lunch at unreasonable prices. Thank goodness for per diem funding per family member! It was a pretty good lunch with good service though and except for yours truly spilling a full glass of ice water in my lap (I do this occasionally to reassure my children that everyone spills) the meal was pleasant. 

We found a nice area in the international terminal to camp out for a while and played cribbage, did craft projects, and made final phone calls including one to get our cell phone service turned off. As the departure time drew closer we went through security again, found another place to hang out near our gate, played canasta and charged all our electronics. Just before boarding we decided to get dinner and spent $86 dollars on 7 personal pizzas and 7 bottled waters. See what I mean?

They boarded families first again and so we entered and got settled in our row. We had the three seat row on one side and the whole middle 4 seat row. Unfortunately, the plane had some electrical issues and so we all sat in the plane at the gate with no air conditioning for far too long, about 40 minutes before they got things fixed and were able to leave the gate. Now I never begrudge aircraft mechanics for being thorough, even cautious in their maintenance and repair of any plane I will be flying on. But we all did get very uncomfortable and even when we were up in the air the temperature never did get low enough to feel cool again. Feeling hot the whole time made the 7 hour flight very very long. But we managed. Geoffrey had brought along Benadryl for Rory and Evan, which allowed both of them to get lots of sleep. In fact, Rory was so deeply asleep that we had to carry him off and back on the plane during our stopover in Germany. The rest of us snoozed when we could, watched movies, read and made the best of being confined in a small space for a very long time. The flight was completely full so there was no chance of being able to stretch out at all. 

Our stopover in Germany was short and hot. I'm not sure Germans do air conditioning normally as theirs is not a hot country but I sure would have appreciated it in the very small, very crowded terminal where we waited for the plane to be cleaned and re-stocked. Once back in the plane we had another electrical problem and another sauna-like wait on the tarmac. This time lasting almost 2 hours. It was miserable!!! I was so glad that Rory stayed asleep through all of this because there just wouldn't have been enough cheese for all that whine! Actually all the children on the flight stayed quiet during this ordeal. I suspect we weren't the only parents administering Benedryl that day. The rest of us bore it as best we could. We had some very grumpy faces but the older kids valiantly refrained from complaining for the most part.

Remember how I sewed snuggle quilts for Rory and Evan to use on our trip? All those cold airplanes and airports where a nice Mom-made quilt would be just the thing? Well . . .not so much needed on our adventure, although Rory did get his out and sleep under it for part of the second flight where it did finally get coolish in the cabin.

We had hoped that the second leg would be less crowded and allow us to spread out a bit more but that didn't happen. Fortunately, this last flight was only about 3 hours and a few of us were finally able to get some sleep. There comes that point where your body is so tired that it just doesn't matter how non-conducive the circumstances are, you will sleep.

On arriving in Turkey we actually disembarked the plane out on the tarmac, allowing us to see just how huge this plane was. I wish we could've taken a picture but that is not allowed on the flight line of any base. After a short wait through a customs/passport official line during which the much anticipated stamps were issued, we gathered our luggage and walked outside to meet our new home base.