Category Archives: Travel

Around The Block

SpanishVillageColorTilesNew friends. New places.

These last few weeks in San Diego have been remarkable! The weather seems to be never-ending goodness and I’m dreading coming back to the scorching heat of Texas this week. I’ve lived in San Diego for almost two months and although I’ve approached my temporary visit like a traveler, I’ve been here long enough that I’ve already started making friends and, through my wanderings, I’ve found members of my tribe.

I brought my tennis racket and joined the summer clinics at the Balboa Tennis Club in Balboa Park. Tennis courts are a great place for social interaction and I’ve made friends here. One of the weekly participants is Chuck, a 96 year old tennis player! Watching Chuck hit “spinners”, as I call those crazy, unpredictable, bouncy balls, has proven to me that Chuck is a talented athlete. He can stand in one place and precisely hit balls that younger, more agile players, across the net from him, cannot return. Chuck is an inspiration! I’ve made friends with Loulou, Janet and Janice. I even saw Janice at an outing last Saturday night in a different part of town and it was exciting to run into a friend.

I met new friends during my days spent installing Liza Lou’s Color Field at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. Many of us are seen in a film, produced by the museum, which chronicles the installation team working. Liza even mentions me in the film!

Mingei HorsesOne of my new friends I met at the museum, Pia, publishes a wonderful blog showcasing many art and cultural things to do each weekend in San Diego. Her blog, The Wanderer Guides, has been especially helpful in planning weekend activities. Pia and I spent an afternoon together recently at the Mingei Museum in Balboa Park. This museum exhibits folk art, craft and design from all eras and cultures of the world. During our visit we saw the Menagerie exhibit, which showcased artful animals from the museum’s global, permanent collection. I took many photos of inspirational artworks that may be used as source material in my teaching next year.

I especially loved discovering Urban Safaris, a unique walking tour company built from the ground up (literally) by my new friend, Patty. Within the first weeks of arriving in San Diego, I contacted Patty and inquired about signing up for a tour. She notified me that all her tours were full for a few weeks so I wasn’t able to register until mid-July. I signed up to walk on two tours with Patty through two fascinating, historic neighborhoods of San Diego: North Park and South Park.

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Each of these neighborhoods developed in the first decade of the 20th century and both have maintained important historical buildings. It was so enjoyable learning about significant architects, like David Owen Dryden, who built beloved craftsman-style homes, so prevalent in these neighborhoods.

Helen & Anita at Filter, July 27, 2013

Photo via Patricia Fares

Through Patty, I met Helen, a noted childrens’ book author. Helen, Patty and I got together recently to discuss blogging and we all wished I wasn’t leaving yet. These two creative, smart and witty women would easily become my two new best friends if I were to settle down here in San Diego!

I will always be grateful for the treasured time I got to spend with my daughter and want to publically thank her for providing me with a loving home and extending to me great kindness. What a blessing to have been able to navigate her new city with her and live life alongside her as she begins walking down life’s choice-filled path. I will eagerly await the day she comes to visit me in my new city, so I can return the favor. Thanks to you, too, Matt, for your love, hospitality and gift of time you gave us to be together. I love you both!AandS

Summer is coming to a close but a new world awaits! I’ve started collecting teaching resources, reading blogs about the PYP and wondering about the names my new students. I’m curious about my apartment and my classroom. I am eager to seek out the markets and meet new friends. I’ve enjoyed Skyping with new friends in Turkey and am so appreciative of the efforts of my new colleagues to make us new teachers feel welcomed.

Teaching is such a wonderful career. I’m so thankful that this vocation continually gives room to my transformation. Have a great week and make a new friend!

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Painting The City

Big CatWalking around.

Like many cities around the world, getting around as a pedestrian is quite normal in San Diego. Taking advantage of the amazing weather temps, I’ve been walking in a new direction almost each day to simply explore. From my front door, going south is the famous Balboa Park; to the north is the wonderfully hip neighborhood, University Heights that has wall-to-wall, trendy, craft breweries and restaurants; to the west is Hillcrest, the PRIDE of the city; and to the east is the neighborhood of North Park, full of good eateries and unique shops, but also brimming with Craftsman cottages and bungalows. No matter which direction I go, there is always much to see.

Out on the streets, it doesn’t take long to notice the assortment of beautifully painted public art murals on the sides of buildings. These handcrafted masterpieces are available for all to enjoy and when I walk past, I can’t help but grab my camera.

Located at the intersection of University Avenue and Richmond Street, in Hillcrest, at an open-air coffee shop called Filter, local artist, Cody Griffith, painted captivating, luscious purple tigers! As I understand it, the coffee shop provided Griffith the art supplies and allowed him to paint whatever he wished.

Less than a mile away, at 425 Robinson Avenue, on the side of a building that houses Crest Café, Griffith painted a beautiful elephant with some of the same vibrant hues as in the tiger. In 2012, the owner commissioned this mural to commemorate the café’s 30th year in business.

Before I Die I Want ToA little further east on University Avenue, Andrew Barajas and his daughter, Emma, painted an exterior wall of the Alibi Bar with the internationally recognized Before I die global campaign, first started by founding artist, Candy Chang. The wall holds the aspirations and dreams of many and is washed at least once a day, giving way for a new set of dreams to be documented. The giant chalkboard has 98 blanks that can be filled in by pedestrians on this busy corner, with provided, colored chalk . Watch this video for a smile.

In North Park, at 3038 University Avenue, in the Undisputed Martial Arts Building, another ambitions and completely unique public art mural installation captured my attention.

Signed at the top as Cat Cult, I later learned that this is a Los Angeles collective and collaborative group of artists who have an affinity for feline motifs.

2012 Kony mural San DiegoVandalized twice in 2012, along the wall of Kelly’s Treasures Thrift Store at 815 University Avenue, a mural dedicated to the Kony 2012 campaign has been restored. Staff and volunteers of the Invisible Children Organization, initially painted this mural to bring attention to the crimes associated with Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda.

A few weeks after it was finished in 2010, renowned street artist, Shepard Fairey’s OBEY mural was tagged with blue spray paint by an unknown culprit. Fairey may be best known for his Barack Obama “Hope” poster. Beautiful photographs, by Angela Carone/KPBS, documented this sad incident and below is a youtube video showing Fairey’s work in progress.

I am fortunate to be able to enjoy this vibrant landscape and cityscape with my fellow San Diegans this summer. These large murals are big and bold and many carry a deeper meaning than what first meets the eye. I encourage you to walk around your own cities this week. Who are your local artists? Can you devise a plan to get a mural painted in your neighborhood?

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Protests, Goodbyes and California Dreaming

BalboaParkFlying the coop.

About a week before I left Dallas to spend the summer on the west coast, the people of Istanbul began a revolution and everyone I knew was asking me about it. By the time the protests started, I’d relocated to the home of another friend who has family members in Istanbul. Speaking to them about the history of Turkey did give me great insight into what was happening in Istanbul and other cities. Several weeks before the protests began I signed up with the U.S. Department of State’s STEP Program (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program) as a soon-to-be expat. This free service not only informs the Department of State of my whereabouts when I move, but also gives me information about the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate offices and emails me any travel warnings for the countries I select. I also joined two online groups: Professional American Women of Istanbul and Foreign Women of Istanbul. Moreover, my new school has connected all the new teachers through email and I’ve been assigned a buddy! Through these groups of people I’ve been able to stay very informed and I can assure you that I’m not worried, but still excited, about my upcoming move to Istanbul!

There were many going away lunches, happy hours and coffees during the last week of school. One can never have too many friends and because I am fortunate to have many, I was out late every night before I left. I was showered with attention and my art department even sang a song to me! The re-written song lyrics followed the tune of Paul Simon’s 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover (which is also the name of one of my previous articles) but was called 50 Ways To Make a New Life.

When I arrived in California, I was worn out but seeing my daughter’s cool new apartment totally revived me! This historic building was likely built between 1920-1930 and has such charm! She is within walking distance to Balboa Park, which not only houses the famous San Diego Zoo but also many museums, gardens and historic buildings. We’ve spent time catching up after living apart for four years while she attended college. I realize that it is sometimes necessary for newly graduated college students to move back in with their parents, but I don’t often hear about parents who move in with their new graduates!

We’ve already started filling our calendars. This is going to be a summer of fun! On Saturday we’re going to the Annual Surf Dog Competition and on Sunday we’re going to the Grunion Run. I’ve discovered the Balboa Tennis Club and have signed up for a series of clinics. There are home tours, organic farmers’ markets, ball games, concerts, museum installations and tours and tastes of Stone Brewing. A summer of fun awaits!

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Changing Spaces

SleepingGnomeGifts of friends.

This was my last week at “temporary housing #1” and my friends and I spent our time laughing, commiserating about the last days of school, dining out and drinking watermelon margaritas. We also watched a movie called, Bernie, which is based on a fact-is-stranger-than-fiction true story of love and murder. We both chimed in when Jack Black sang old Baptist hymns, familiar to both of us from our childhood years spent in east Texas and southern Missouri. All through the film I was reminded of my Missouri heritage and what it was like to grow up in the country.

A few days after watching the movie, my friend came to me and said she had a gift to offer. I’d barely lifted my head from my computer when she flipped open her worn copy of an old Baptist Hymnal and started singing Love Lifted Me:

Laughing, I immediately joined in. Then we took turns looking in the Index and singing the first verses of hymns such as, Just As I Am and The Old Rugged Cross. It’s been a wonderful gift to live with these dear friends and I will always be grateful for the time we’ve spent together.

Over the weekend, I touched down, for two nights, at another friend’s home. This lovely home will be my “home base” until I move to Turkey. However, until school officially ends in three weeks, I will primarily live with yet another friend and her family. This friend, also an artist, has a home alive with color and textures! It is only because of the generous gifts of my friends that I am able to take the steps necessary to achieve my dreams.

My former next-door neighbors, who I miss very much, emailed me this fabulous short film from the Viking Cruise website. Every time I watch it I get goose bumps. Please watch it! This is the Istanbul I remember from my summer visit in 2011! This is where I’m going to live in a few short months!!

This week I want to give you the gift of encouragement.  Don’t be afraid to dream a dream and begin walking toward that dream. It can be anything! You can be anything and do anything. Everything is possible! Make one choice today that will get you headed in the right direction. Give yourself this gift.

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Update #2

Do Ho Suh. Staircase III

Do Ho Suh. Staircase III

Vagabonding continues.

Of course I got a cold the day before I moved out three weeks ago. Sniffle and cough all day Friday and Saturday, but alas, I did it with the help from many. What great friends I have! I could never have done any of this without their love and support. For now, I’m comfortable in a beautiful, art-filled home that I share with one of my colleagues and her husband and we’re having FUN!!! These past few weeks have been a precious time for our friendship to deepen. We have confessed denial about the fact that I’ll be leaving soon. I’ve been grocery shopping at their neighborhood Sprouts and it feels like I’m in a whole new city! By the time I understand this neighborhood’s restaurants and shops it will be time to move on . . .

Simultaneously with my adventures are the adventures of my daughter who graduated from college last week! Soon, she will also be moving to a new city. Her life of school projects and part-time work is beginning to transition into interviews and apartment searches; a new beginning for both of us. We have our fingers crossed that she will find a small apartment that I can share with her for about 6 weeks, before I leave the country for Istanbul.

My current school year is winding down. Our Senior class will graduate next week. These sweet kids were in first grade when I started teaching at this school. I’ve watched them grow up into beautiful, young adults. Interviews are taking place in the art department as our Head is searching for my replacement. I only have a few weeks left of a wonderful teaching career in this place. As I reminisce, I am thankful.

I’ll be moving to vagabond location #2 next week after one more garage sale at another friend’s home. I was ready to set my few, remaining household items out for bulk trash, but she swept everything up and took it to her home, confident it would sell in her neighborhood’s community garage sale next weekend. It sure won’t hurt to have a few more dollars in my pocket.

I’m working daily to close down, or temporarily suspend, my American life. This means banking accounts, final doctor and dentist appointments, utility refunds, updating my Will, meetings with my accountant, address changes, the selling of my car, communications with insurance groups, investment groups and financial planners. There’s a lot to do! Even so, I’m still excited! What an adventure this will be.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Update #1

Crates to TurkeyFive crates to Istanbul.

1. Summer Clothes

2. Winter Clothes

3. Art Supplies/Teaching Resources

4. Shoes (winter and summer)

5. Household Items

My house is set to close this Thursday. I have to be out next Saturday. Vagabonding begins.

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Calving (the 2nd Definition)

AndreasTilleGlacierBreaking off.

I follow Christopher Jobson’s Colossal blog on Twitter. Colossal showcases beautiful and ingenuous handmade artworks that always cause my imagination to go into overdrive. His suggestions for visual candy never lead me astray, although when I go to his links, I can often disappear into the web for more time than I care to admit. One of his tweets this week led me to the winner of the “Excellence in Cinematography Award: U.S. Documentary, 2012,” Chasing Ice. As I watched the film trailer, both the verbal and written words reminded me of my own situation of the past week: “The story of a visionary,” “The landscape just changed before our eyes,” “All that obsession means nothing if it doesn’t work,”  “This is the memory of a landscape, because that landscape is gone,” and “I do not want to go any lower than this.”

As I suspected might happen after the letting go of last week, this week my calving started and the earth started shaking under my feet.

Within hours of my blog post last week, three additional friends extended an invitation to move in with them if my house sold. (2 other colleagues had already invited me.) There are amazing people inhabiting the earth.

My daughter got invited to her first career interview and we talked about how we are both in the same boat of applying and interviewing for jobs.

Within the first 48 hours of my house being listed on MLS, I had 6 showings. As of this morning, I’ve had 15, which is a lot for a downtrodden economic market. Yesterday I wasn’t able to be at my house all day because of so many showings!

Last Monday morning, I sent an email to my colleagues explaining my resignation and spent that day talking to each class about my decision to resign and why. I told my students that I was interested in other cultures and was curious about how other people lived their lives. I wanted to teach art to other children and discover how they are different and how they are the similar with kids here in the USA. I then showed them this video. After watching it, they applauded and cheered.

On Tuesday, I was surprised by how much weight I’d been carrying around trying to be secretive about the possibility of my leaving. Although my administrators had known about this for some time, I had been holding this dream of mine hostage in my heart for fear if the word got out too soon my students would be hurt and would not put their trust in me. I wanted to wait to tell them I was leaving until the time came that they understood that I loved them and would never forget them.

On Thursday, two amazing things happened.

For some time I haven’t been sleeping well because of having to set my alarm to get up early to Skype interview or because of wanting to check email that I may have received from people around the world who are up working while I’m asleep. At 4:00 a.m. I woke, checked my email and found I had one from a Principal in Istanbul with whom I’d interviewed with last week. I could tell that it sounded promising. My heart was so bruised, however, that I didn’t consider it carefully and fell back to sleep. When I woke to get ready for work, I checked my email again and had a note from the Head of that school offering me a position! After my search of many months, I’m thrilled to report that it appears I’ll be going to Istanbul to teach PYP art at an International Baccalaureate school! Although contracts aren’t yet signed, they will be in the mail this week. Istanbul was on the very top of my list of places to go! I traveled there in 2011 and hopelessly fell in love with Turkey. I couldn’t be more pleased. But the day wasn’t over.

I met some friends after work that I hadn’t seen in many months. We shared stories and they were thrilled at my exciting news! I got back at my home at 9:00 p.m. and before I even took my jacket off, I had a text message from my realtor telling me I had an offer on my house!!! Within an hour, I had sold my house. I told him that I was tempted to stay up all night to see what else might happen! What an exciting day!

Since then, my life has been full of paperwork. But I’m not complaining! My dream is coming true! From my heart I want to thank you, my readers, for pulling for me, praying for me, sending positive vibes my way. In closing, I want to challenge you to let go and reach for your dreams. Anything is possible.

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The Net Will Appear

HouseForSaleCutting the cord.

This week I checked the box, “I will not be returning to school next year,” and handed it in. I cannot remember a time that I have felt this frightened, this excited and this numb at the same time. Last weekend I hibernated as the recruiting fairs of the past two weekends had taken their toil. That Saturday night I slept for 12 hours straight. I fell asleep in my clothes and woke up hoarse, thankful for no fever or sore throat. Since waking, I’ve been in an altered state; detached in a new way. I had a Skype interview last Sunday night, and within minutes I knew it wasn’t a right fit and cut the cord. Free falling again. Monday morning I handed in my decision with the box checked.

By mid-week I’d contacted my real estate neighbor and said I was ready to proceed with the selling of my house. We met to discuss the contract, set a selling price and take photos. I spent the next few days detailing my home, cleaning out a few remaining closets and having my carpets cleaned. Yesterday my house went on the market.

I’ve simply invested too much mentally, emotionally and economically to turn back now. I’m sure the difference between being wise and being foolish is very slim, similar to the way that pain and humor reside close together. A friend once said, “I’m a paycheck away from living beneath Highway 30.” I know how he feels. I’ve sold almost everything I own, I’m about to be homeless and I’ve just let go of my job, with no security that there will be one in the future.

But in those brief moments when fear seems distant, the possibilities seem great! If I don’t get offered a teaching contract that I want, I could volunteer on a woof farm! I could volunteer for Mercy Ships! I could apply for artist residencies! I could travel around the world seeing all the great people I’ve met. If I were to do that, my flight pattern might look like this: Dallas to London; to Scotland; to Germany; to Switzerland; to Morocco; to Turkey; to Taiwan; to Seoul; then to LAX; then to Craigslist to buy an RV, turn south to San Diego, park it on a beach and go swimming in the Pacific. That sounds pretty good. I’m free. I can do anything! How thankful and fortunate I am. As my brother says, “Sell the house and damn the torpedos!”

Last September I wrote an article called, “Transitions, Or Leaping From The Lion’s Head.” In it, I included a video, “ The Parable of the Trapeze,” with the voice of Daanan Parry. I’ve watched that video again this week and invite you to also. When referring to letting go of the net, Parry says, “We do it anyway because somehow, to hold on to the old net is no longer on the list of alternatives. The past is gone, the future is not quite here. It’s called transition.” I recognize that I had to let go completely before my net will appear. I’ve stepped off the cliff; let’s see what happens!

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A-double-L. All

womenBeing thankful.

I was fortunate, once in my life, to meet and be mentored by a great spiritual thinker. When you encounter someone “enlightened” you know it. They operate differently and it seems that they don’t really live here in the same space that the rest of us do. He is no longer living but I think of him from time to time and can remember his sweet voice saying to me, “Be thankful in ALL things. A-double-L, ALL things.”

I’ve done my best this week to be thankful even though I’ve been so disappointed for the outcome of the past two weeks at the UNI and SA recruiting fairs. In my head I know that many teachers are offered jobs after these USA fairs, but in my heart, I feel deflated. I have spent so many hours at this job search and I’m growing weary. I want it to end and I want to walk away with the prize. I yearn to move away to a foreign country more than any other thing.

This week I met with a dear friend to throw back a couple of beers and talk through some of the insecurities I was feeling. She is a patient listener and a wise soul. One of her greatest gifts is the gift of encouragement. She lovingly reminded me that in order for God to do His best work, I have to come to the end of myself. I may not be there yet, but I think I’m getting closer. My attitude and focused vision has been shifting this week. From the beginning of my search, salary has been an important component. I’ve always been self-sufficient. I’ve never been good at being dependent or having to ask for help. I’ve seen dependency as a weakness, so I’ve always wanted to control my life by ensuring I have “enough” of (A-double-L) ALL things. I’ve never been able to be fully “fancy free”. I’ve never been able to be a leisurely traveler; there was always a destination in mind, tickets bought in advance and by-golly a calendar of daily planned events! I’ve always been a planner to the max. I’ve never been able to wake up in the morning without a determination to get things done and check off items from a pre-determined list! At school, I plan my schedule weeks in advance, and this way of being has always served me well. I’m never out of my comfort zone and am usually prepared for the unexpected. Because of my research abilities and careful planning I am rarely caught off guard. I feel self-assured and competent. I believe in myself. But maybe that’s the problem. Years ago, in a women’s bible group, I remember visualizing a great God sitting on a great throne and me tugging at His robe saying, “God, get off that throne and let me up there. I think I could do a better job.”

So, although there are a few more Skype interviews scheduled this week, I’m not emotionally attached. My friend in Morocco was so right when she warned me that there would be schools that I felt sure would extended a contract, and then they’d evaporate right off the map. I’ve had that experience over and over again. I’m not too sure about anything right now. But maybe that’s where I need to be to allow God – the Universe – to work in (A-double-L) ALL things, and in (A-double-L) ALL ways. I’m going to try to get out of the way and see what happens.

Faith In Motion

The flow of things important

The thoughts of doing good

The seeing of a purpose

Of what and when you should

Much begins with giving

But again about the flow

The energy between us

And sharing what we know

Trust in your intentions

And share with all your heart

Faith will guide your journey

And show you where to start

It really is so simple

That many miss the chance

To put their faith in motion

And enjoy life’s precious dance

– Robert Longley

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Good Things Come To Those Who Wait

NemoIn, looking out.

Nor’easter storms get their name based on the direction the wind is coming from. These storms can cause heavy rains and brutal winds, but also blizzard conditions if the storm occurs during the winter. This type of storm has characteristics similar to a hurricane and thrives on converging air masses from the polar cold regions and warmer oceanic air over the Gulf Stream.

This is not unlike the conditions inside the Hyatt Regency Cambridge where the SA/Cambridge Fair took place this weekend. While the wintery storm, Nemo, raged outside, dropping between two and three feet of snow, the inside conditions were equally as concerning. Hopes and dreams converged with the realities of needing work and candidates were blown along down long, hotel corridors, in and out of hotel rooms, sitting areas and ballrooms. Expressions on candidate’s faces ranged from warm smiles to cold, dark stares and damp spirits.

Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” — Will Rogers

The snow started falling at about 10:00 am on Saturday. Search Associates interrupted the Round Robin sign-up session by a loud speaker announcement, asking candidates and recruiters to assign early interview times to those people who would have to leave the building by 3:00 pm, because of the storm. By noon, the Hyatt staff, once again over loud speakers, told that their shuttle service, to and from other area hotels where candidates were staying, would be not operating past 3:00 pm. In that announcement, the Hyatt guests were also told of emergency procedures in place. Many candidates who were staying at other hotels, or who were commuting back and forth, were forced to leave the Hyatt. And the storm’s winds began to swirl.

Inside, the conference areas of the Hyatt became noticeably less crowded. On the one hand, many members of the competition were now gone. On the other hand, recruiters were perhaps compelled to stay in a holding pattern on decision-making because many of their candidates were gone and not able to be interviewed. Nerves of both recruiters and candidates seemed to be anxiety ridden, more than usual. At more than one interview, the recruiter mentioned that he might not be able to leave Boston to get to the next (and last) United States recruitment fairs early this week. In many cases, I got the feeling that the recruiters were eager to move on to the California Fairs (ISS and SA), and only after meeting those candidates would they be able to make a decision on who to offer contracts.

This was not the case for my lovely roommate from Steamboat Springs. She is a science teacher with sought after degrees and experiences. She has decisions to make with at least three serious offers. For me, the search will likely continue for a few more months. Again, I am reminding myself that I tracked 52 art openings last year after the Fairs had ended. I’m not ready to give up yet. I’m not leaving Boston with a contract, but I’m leaving with many more friends. Stay calm and carry on . . .

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GMB AKASH

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