Tuesday, November 8, 2011

 Bedriye, Halide, Hande, Sacide, Nilgun, Neslihan, Aslihan, Nadide

This series started as a quick sketch of Aslihan, Ugur's beautiful 12 year old niece, second from the right on the bottom. Within a day or two it became a series of all the women in the family... except Ugur.  Guess I'll need to rectify that soon, right?

I love to sketch. These days, sketching has become simply a cursory prelude to a painting, though.  I need to remember how delicious it is to simply sketch.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


We made it, finally we are in IS-TAN-BUL!!!...aaand this giant city is already trying to swallow us with its size and run-run-in hurry life style. Sorry for not being able to write anything since our arrival. My last visit here was almost six years ago, when my father passed away. It is so nice to be back, enjoy the city and the loved ones.

Susan seems to enjoy our visit. Most of our days start with a "big", I mean "BIG" breakfast and family time...I mean "BIG" family :)  My four sisters, brother-in-laws, nieces, nephew(s), cousins, they all are doing their best to be with us, to be in touch with us and to show their hospitality in the best way they possibly can. It makes both of us so happy and feel welcomed.

Except two days with rain (today is the second one) we went out everyday and took many photos and videos (we need to convert those videos, will post them later on). Two weeks is certainly not enough to see and get to know Istanbul, but I think we are on a right path. Its a good start for Susan. I'm saying this based on her reactions: "many more trips to Istanbul/Turkey are on the way." Of course it puts a big smile on my face.

I'm sure Susan will tell you her impression of Istanbul and Turks; well, I have already mentioned it, "I'm in love" with Istanbul, so I may not be able to be objective about it. So, I won't tell you too much about it and bore you to death! I will post a few photos and videos with small caption lines next to them. Enjoy.
Mom with her accordion.
Mom and Dad, 50 years ago

Last week, when all the sisters were together, my Mom played Circassian music with her accordion and we, sisters, "tried" to do Circassian folk dance for her. Here is a photo of my mom with her accordion. She was so happy to have her five (and the new one, Susan) daughters all together. My mom is one of the Circassian Turks. Circassians are people of the Northern Caucasus (south of today's Russia). They were migrated to Turkey in the course of the Russian conquest of the Caucasus in the 19th century, especially after the Russian-Circassian war of 1862. There are two million Circassians (also known as Adyghe or Cherkess) in Turkey.

Metro station we use the most, sea gulls shown on columns
One of the nicest parts of Istanbul is Bogaziçi (Bosphorus) shore line. Istanbul is the only city in the world that is built on two continents. Two large bridges connect Europe and Asia. Also, since 2004 they are working on a very important underwater tube-tunnel project to connect Europe and Asia. It will be the world's deepest immersed tube-tunnel. 13.6 kilometers (8.5 miles) under the sea crossing. Earthquake-proofed immersed tube is placed down to 60 meters (197 feet) below sea level. Its scheduled to open in 2013.

A passage with nice Cafes, in Beyoglu
One of many street musicians of Istanbul

Before we left San Antonio, Susan and I have promised to each other to walk as often and long as we can. So far we kept our promise. Istanbul is a huge city, so we have to use public transportation (mostly metro) all the time, but we start walking once we arrive to the area we are interested. We both love it. It gives us chance to take many photos and videos of the streets, buildings, people, street musicians etc. Yesterday we walked more than 3 hours, almost non-stop. Here are some of the photos/videos of the buildings and street musicians of Beyoglu. There are all kinds of musicians on the streets and metros of Istanbul, from violin to santur players, from saxophone players to traditional Turkish saz musicians...you name it.
Susan with her happy smile.

Istanbul silhouette, during boat trip, October 5th, 2011

Its raining today. It gave us an opportunity to stay at home with my Mom (Bedriye) and one of my sisters (Sacide), and also catching up with organizing our photos, and writing our blogs "to you". Susan is working on her blog post right now...window is open, we are listening to the sound of the rain and wind...shear curtains are moving softly...I can hear my Mom and sister Sacide's voices from kitchen, they are chit-chatting...Life is good...better with loved ones!

A week later in Istanbul... so much (too much!) to show and tell

Aya Sophia (Saint Sophia)
Stained glass and column inside Blue Mosque
Walkway around courtyard of Blue Mosque
Ok, this is how it is: We've been in a swim of family coming and going, amazing meals, many Metro rides/ bus rides/ dolmus rides, taxi rides, long fast walks all taking us to and from incredible places, and we fall into bed late and rise to dive into the swim again.  There hasn't seemed to be a minute to go through the hundreds of photos we've taken, much less to compose a paragraph or two with properly placed images to illustrate any small part of what we've seen or done or eaten or whom we've laughed with or hugged or kissed (at least once on each cheek, sometimes back again to the first, accompanied by hugs and sweet greetings or goodbyes).
Inside Center Dome of Blue Mosque
I feel like I need to apologize for the time lapse since our first post from Istanbul. Plus, I feel a tiny bit hopeless about ever being able to show even a fraction of what all has been thrilling me about this place and the people I'm meeting. I hope you'll accept just a few photos for now and perhaps more can trickle out later.
San Antonio Church - a special place for Ugur as a child.  Who knew she would move to San Antonio, TX as an adult?
View from a window atop Galata Tower
Galata Tower
Looking out from Galata Tower... Marmara Sea and Topkapi Palace in the background.
Ugur trying to let me photograph past her... :) A very narrow balcony with people squeezing past makes for wobbly knees!
Topkapi Palace as viewed from Galata Tower
Family dinner at sister Nilgun's house. Every dish was indescribably scrumptious.
Ugur and Bedriye at the Metro
Cleanest subway in the world, I betcha.
The Metro stations are beautiful.  Murals, gorgeous mosaics and sparkling clean.  Polite, quiet passengers.   My mind boggles. 
My overall impression of Istanbul is a prosperous, stunning, happy place.  Almost no discernable poverty- far less than at home in Texas, from what I could see.  I get a feeling of well-being and optimism and happiness. Many people strolling arm-in-arm along the Bosphorus, the deep blue sea that separates the two halves of the city- the European side from the Asian side.

We leave for San Antonio the day after tomorrow. My emotions are all over the map about that.  It means we are going back to a sweet life with family and friends at home, but it also means leaving behind my new family here in Istanbul.  Thank goodness for Skype! I know I'm going to want to stay in close contact with them all.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


San Antonio before takeoff
Arrival in Istanbul Ataturk Airport- Nilgun, Nadir and Nadide
We left San Antonio at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday morning on a Delta flight, spent about four hours at JFK, then boarded a Turkish Airlines' beautiful 747 that took us all the way in to Istanbul's Ataturk Airport.  Turkish Airlines won the #1 favorite airlines of all European airlines this year- for good reason: Amazing food, terrific service and lots of little extras-slipper-socks, eye masks, lip balm, ear plugs, toothbrush and toothpaste, real pillows and blankets, and an in-flight console with an amazing array of movies, games, applications... too much to actually take advantage of, and real headphones vs. those plugs you usually get.  If we weren't at the very back of  the plane I'd have thought we were in first class.
We were met in Istanbul by two of Ugur's four sisters, Nilgun and Nadide, and Nilgun's husband, Nadir. Nadir did some fast, but expert driving through Istanbul, mostly along the shore of the Bosphorus to Ugur's mom's home toward the northern end of it, near Fatih Bridge, or "Second Bridge." The Bosphorus separates the two halves of Istanbul and is the far east edge of Europe and the far west edge of Asia. After looking at so many photos of this beautiful city, it's incredible to finally BE HERE.

Bosphorus Shore and Fatih Bridge

Fruit stand near Mom's house
I leaned out the car window and took this photo just a block from our destination.  

Breakfast on balcony first morning
Every meal has been so beautiful I want to photograph it first, but I'll just post this one of our breakfast on the balcony... it was as scrumptious as it looks.

Nilgun, Nadide, Ugur and I took a bus to Sultan Ahmet Square to see the Blue Mosque, Saint Sophia Mosque and the Grand Bazaar, stopping to have tea at various lovely places along the way. Ugur is doing a terrific job of keeping me in the conversation by translating everything being said. I've been working at learning a little Turkish, but the operating word here is "little."  I hope to know a LOT more by my next trip back.

Blue Mosque - Five out of six minarets

Entrance of Grand Bazaar
Lemonade seller outside Grand Bazaar

Galata Tower - Built 1348

Istanbul University - Established 1453 by Fatih the Conqueror

Rumeli Castle and Fatih Bridge

It rained all yesterday and it allowed me to sleep off much of my jet lag.  After dinner, though, we all had more energy and the rain had stopped, so Nadide and Ugur and I took off for another long walk. We took a taxi for part of our journey and then walked along the shore by Rumelihisari, or Rumeli Castle.  It was built  in 1452 in a surprising three months and allowed Fatih Sultan Mehmet Koprusu to become Fatih the Conqueror by ending the Byzantium era and taking Constantinople to become today's Istanbul.  We got as far on our walk as the Bebek area- Beautiful! Can't wait to go back in the daytime to see more of it.  You're going to laugh, but we sat on the balcony of the Starbucks there in Bebek, and had our limonata and cake and tea, overlooking the beautiful Bosphorus in a perfect cool breeze.  It has to be the best Starbucks location ever. 

Simit: sesame-encrusted circle bread... a new favorite for Susan

Our view from Mom's Balcony

Susan's eating ripe figs from this tree by the balcony...mmmm... 
Bedriye  -   Mom

Bora, Sacide, Bedriye, Nadide, Susan, Ugur
Ugur's sister Nilgun and brother-in-law Nadir and their daughters Neslihan and Aslihan were here for a while, but had to go before this picture was taken. They are returning today. Her eldest sister, Halide and Ugur's niece, Hande, are arriving in a couple of days from Samsun, Ugur's birthplace many hours east of here. Her cousin, Nimet, arrived last night.  It's being a wonderful reunion for their family. Ugur is being "firmly requested" to not let this much time go by before her next visit. 
I've felt warmly welcomed into this sweet, loving family. It feels very, very good.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

San Antonio to Silver City, NM, and back again...

Dawn on I-10 West toward New Mexico
Late Friday afternoon, September 23- We are on the road home from Silver City.  I’ve got my laptop plugged for the first time into our new inverter which is plugged into the cigarette lighter. Ugur is driving.  I really thought we’d get to report in every day and post images from our trip, but our wonderful host somehow lives perfectly well without internet service.  Strange, but true.   The workshop location had wireless but I could not get connected, for the life of me. So, except for a few minutes after the first day’s workshop at the local internet café where I checked my email (which has come to mean a lengthy delete session), I have been INTERNET DEPRIVED.  I feel like I need a transfusion or something.   Quick, somebody! Bring me some intravenous blog-hopping!  I need a shot of image-editing followed by an aimless-surfing chaser.
Texas to New Mexico I-10 West
We arrived at our host Barbara Smith’s house just about sunset on Monday and were offered a great homemade soup and salad.  A couple of glasses of wine later and the effects of the road began to fade. The cool weather was such a pleasure. Silver City sits at about 6000 feet above sea level- a good bit above San Antonio’s 400 or so, in southwestern New Mexico, west of Las Cruces and north of Deming.  It was so good to sleep with the window open and feel the cool breeze.  We woke up Tuesday morning and followed Barbara higher yet and further north to the still-active mining town of Pinos Altos- High Pines.
With Barbara S. at Hearst Church Tuesday September 20
Ugur went on back to Silver City to explore.  I was welcomed by Tom, a photographer member of GCAG, and Setta, an artist member, who were available to answer questions and assist me as I judged the show. At first I took detailed notes- pros and cons of each painting- until I realized there wouldn’t be time to continue that and be done by noon, which was the time allotted for my determination of First, Second and Third in each of four categories- Acrylic, Pastel, Watercolor and Oil, and up to three Honorable Mentions in each. Best Of Show was to be chosen from the four Firsts.
I can usually be counted upon to have an opinion.  Oh, yeah.  But I want you to know that making my final decisions about which paintings would receive ribbons and prizes was very difficult.  I waffled, I wobbled, I went back and forth, and finally had to decide.   There were so many beautiful paintings and each had positives and problems.  Even the Best Of Show, as stunning as it was, had a minor light source discrepancy, but the overall impact was completely impressive and invited the viewer to linger and enjoy.  Ultimately I feel good about my choices.  I’m so honored to have been trusted with the task of making them. 

Setta drove me back to town to meet up with Ugur and then played tour guide for us by showing us around town. We made it back to Barbara’s in time to dress and then drive to Pinos Altos for the evening’s reception and awards ceremony . Barbara Kejr, who had been my “voice of Silver City” in arranging my the trip and workshop, presented the awards to several happy artists.  I was invited to share my thoughts and reasons for my choices for the First Place winning paintings. Then I individually discussed paintings as the artists requested.   It was important to me to offer feedback which acknowledged their triumphs in their particular works, while offering ideas about how the works might have been strengthened. To experience our work critiqued can feel like a personal attack, no matter how delicately it is done. I know how tender we can be as artists, and how we can feel our work is inextricable from ourselves. I understand this and sympathize.  
Outskirts of Silver City

All and all I was very impressed with the quality of work in Grant County.  Congratulations to the artists whose work was accepted into the show!

The next three days, Wednesday through today, has been a whirlwind of painting with a great group of artists.  I always feel like I try to unzip my head and pour out all I’ve learned about painting into the individual heads of those who take my workshops, so it’s very likely I overfilled the noggins of those artists, but they smiled throughout and worked like Trojans and asked great questions and made a lot of paintings.  Amazing people.  I’m glad I got to know them just a little and I hope to know them even better someday. 
Workshop artists- Barbara K., Priscilla, Barbara S., Nancy, Lois, Donna, Carolyn, Linda, Me, Ruth, Setta, Bev, Gerri
Saturday evening- We arrived home to San Antonio just before six this morning and have spent the day running errands and gathering the things we need for our trip to Istanbul in about 54 hours.  We’re nowhere near ready.  I just hope we’ll step onto the plane with most of our ducks in a row on Tuesday morning, even though my to-do list looks crazy right now.

Stay tuned?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Notes from Silver City, New Mexico

Hearst Church
We left San Antonio on September 19th at 5:00am. It was 6:00pm when we arrived to our host Barbara S's home in Silver City New Mexico, same day.

The following morning, after dropping Susan off at the Grant County Art Guild's home at the Historic Hearst Church in Pinos Altos, where she had been invited as the Juror, I went to downtown Silver City. While Susan was sweating to do her jury duty, I was in a "happy la-la land" mood and was enjoying the Historic Downtown.

Little Sisters listening to the African drums
Right after I began walking around with my camera in hand, I heard African drum beat... Of course I followed (you bet I did!) the sound and ended up in far back end of a parking lot. I saw a group (five men and a young woman) practicing and it was so obvious that they were having good time with doing that. Later on, same day, I saw Andrew (young man who is the head of this group) at their local WalMart, he told me that their drum circle gathers once a week for practice and once a month plays for the public. By the way, here is a short video of them playing, I recorded it with my iPhone. I spent almost an hour watching and listening to them. I enjoyed it a lot. Andrew gave me his web site address. I hope you will watch the video I recorded and check his web site http://www.gilacirclewayproject.org
Also, here is a photo of two little sisters, watching/listening to the drum circle. They were as mesmerized as I was.

Andrew and one of the members

Javalina Café

That day and following days, I spent most of my mornings at the Silver City Public Library. At lunch times I met Susan and her art/painting workshop group at Indian Hills Baptist Church's Hall (nice local artists, eleven ladies), and spent my afternoons driving and walking around town, taking photos. Silver City has beautiful, colorful doors and buildings with character. The Historic Downtown area is so lovely, full of art galleries, art studios, nice cafés, restaurants and museums. Here are the a few of them: Javalina Café (Internet Café also), Peace Meal-Vegeterian Deli at The Hub Plaza, Diane's Restaurant and Shevek & Mi.

We decided to head back to San Antonio right after Susan's workshop ended at 4:00 pm on Friday... We had a great time and met nice people there. Finally, we are back home and have connection to the internet. I hope you will enjoy reading our notes, starting with the very first part of our trip... how ever long it takes us to post them.

Well...now, it's time to pack for Istanbul!!!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Packing up and getting excited

Hello! We are getting ready to start a journey and would love to have you with us along the way.

On September 19th we start our first journey - a week-long road trip to Silver City, New Mexico. Susan will be judging the Grant County Art Guild's Annual Purchase Prize Exhibition (Whew!) and she will be teaching 3 day portrait painting workshop and I know that I will enjoy photographing the beautiful surroundings. We live in San Antonio, so our journey will include the drive to Silver City and back.

Only two days after coming back to San Antonio, on September 27th, we will be on our way to Istanbul, Turkey for two weeks! Yes, it's far away, actually it's exactly 6512.8 miles/10481.3 kilometers away! We checked online. I grew up in Istanbul and it's about time to go back and visit loved ones and that amazing city that I am in love with. This is going to be Susan's first time, but I know that it's not going to be her last.

We want to take you with us to these great places. If you would like to share this journey and our future journeys, please follow us here.

We know (actually...we are sure!) that we are going to meet wonderful people, will share special moments with them and exchange a small portion of our lives via little windows we open to each other.

Along the way, we will try to record our impressions of these great places and a few of the people with our photographs and paintings and a paragraph or two. Instead of seeing an unexplained image, you will know why that person and/or place meant something to us.

We are open to your ideas. Before each trip, we will let you know where we are heading. If you were there before us (or "always wanted to, but never got a chance to go there"), let us know your favorite spots and what you recommend us to see or do. We will do our best to fit your request into our schedule during our trip and who knows, we might be able to give you a report.

Come and share this journey we are making through life...