Thursday, May 29, 2014

Basketball is our Life

As you can see, Basketball is a HUGE part of our lives.  Actually, all sports are but basketball has special place in our hearts.  Jonny and Gavin both play in an adult league at Aramco each year.  Jonny has played with the teacher team for the past three years.  It's always fun to watch father and son playing the game together.
Jonny going for the hole.

Gavin with his awesome blocking skills

Father and son

Jonny's unique layup style.

 Gavin has worked hard with all kids in developing their basketball skills.  He is a great coach.  It was fun watching them play together but half way through the season Jonny started playing with the high school varsity team in the league so that they could get some extra practice.  This meant that Jonny and Gavin now became opponents.  Gavin coaches the varsity team so he would play double role as coach and player in some of the games.

 Not sure if Gavin will ever give up playing basketball.  There are some men on other teams who are in their late 50's who used to play on Division 1 college basketball teams in the states, I guess if you love the game, you find every way to keep playing.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Eyes of our Life

 Nicole seems to have a fetish for eyes.  I found these pictures on my camera that she took.  They are kind of cool so I decided to create "The Eyes of our Life".  Maybe we will have to continue taking pictures of the people in our lives eyes and see if people can identify who they belong to.

Christmas - Istanbul

Our view of Hagia Sofia from our apartment window.
We arrived in Istanbul around 8:00 at night and were not happy with our accommodations but didn't have any other options at the time.  We had booked a two bedroom apartment near the Blue Mosque that looked much better on the website.  Istanbul is extremely expensive and we thought we had found a good deal, but cheap sometimes means you have to sacrifice things.  This place had enough beds for us, but it was pretty old and dumpy.  Not a great start to our stay.  I guess we had gotten a little spoiled in Europe because we have stayed in worst places before.  After about an hour of frustration, we just gave in and accepted what we had.    We walked around a bit to find dinner and realized that it really was in a great location.  Everything we wanted to see and do was within walking distance.

Grand Bazar
The next morning we woke up and walked to McDonalds for breakfast.  It seemed like the best place to get normal food.  We then walked to the Grand Bazar for some window shopping.  We were on a hunt for some specific items and wanted to make sure we got the best deal.  There was so much to choose from, and you could find just about anything you wanted in the Grand Bazar but we realized that it was cheaper in the shops outside on the streets.

Turkish lights.
One thing we specifically were looking for were Turkish lights.  You can choose different glass balls to put on the lights.  So many to choose from.

Grand Bazar with Sarah.
We were walking out of the Grand Bazar and ran into another teacher from DHS, Sarah Kleven.  We were so surprised.  She was traveling alone and just happened to walk by us.  We met her later for dinner for some Turkish food.

In front of the Blue Mosque

After a morning of shopping and exploring the Grand Bazar, the kids decided that they didn't want to walk anymore so they stayed back in the hotel while Gavin and I explored the Blue Mosque.  There loss!

Hagia Sofia

As we entered the Blue Mosque, we noticed this sign of rules while we were inside.  NO KISSING!
Courtyard of the Blue Mosque

Ceiling in the Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

Gavin reading about Istanbul
We had to wait for prayer time to end before we could into the Blue Mosque so Gavin took the time to read about the history of Istanbul while Coree did some people watching.
The chains were put on this entrance to the Blue Mosque to force riders on horses to bow their heads as they entered the courtyard.
Blue Mosque gate entrance

Inside the Blue Mosque was amazing with domes, arches and columns everywhere.  The ceilings were covered with decorative tile.

Hagia Sofia

Topkapi Palace
We tried to enter the palace but it was closing for the day and we found out it was closed the next day.  We were a little disappointed but I'm sure we will be back again someday.  Istanbul is a major hub where we would usually fly through on our way to Europe so I'm sure this isn't the last time we will be here.  Have to make sure we go through the palace next time.

Christian Mosaic in the Hagia Sofia

The next morning we woke up early to go to the Hagia Sofia.  Our flight wasn't leaving until 9:00 at night we had the entire day to explore.

Jonny and Nicole didn't want to go, so we headed out with Vika to see the Hagia Sofia.  Again, their loss.

Hagia Sofia is strange mixture of Islam and Christianity.  It was built by the Christians during the Byzantine Empire and then was taken over by the Muslims and turned into a Mosque.  All the Christian mosaics and art were plastered over and covered.  They have since been restored to where you now have Christian symbols and art alongside Muslim artifacts.

Hagia Sofia was built in 360 AD and was a Christian church for nearly a thousand years until it was taken over by the Muslims in 1453.
When the church was taken over by the Muslims, they put up these huge plates in Arabic with different references to Allah.

This circle in the floor was where the coronation of Emperors were performed.  There were twelve circles surrounding the large middle circle where the coronation took place to represent the twelve apostles.

Coronation area
When the Muslims took over the church they added the prayer call towers.  If you look above on the ceiling you can see a mosaic of the Christ Child that has been restored.

Large plates that were hung around the church when it became a Mosque.

This prayer stand was added when the Muslims took over the church.  Since prayers are said facing Mecca, the stand wasn't centered because it needed to face the correct direction.
Mosaic of Angel Gabriel that is being restored.

Any symbol of Christianity was removed when the Muslims took over the church.  These crosses were taken out and in many places they were plastered over.

Coree and Vika
On the second floor overlooking the church assembly area below was a specific place for the Empress to stand during services.  This was her spot to overlook the church.

Vika was an Empress for the day.  This circle is where the Empress stood during services.

Hard to see this picture but these were mosaics that were plastered over and are now being restored.

In the early 1600's a young sultan wanted to build a mosque bigger and grander than the Hagia Sofia so he ordered the building of the Blue Mosque.
View from the Hagia Sofia of the Blue Mosque

A little discerning that some of the columns in the Hagia Sofia were leaning a bit.  Not sure why, but it looks like they were built on purpose this way.
Colorful buildings in Istanbul
 We had a few hours to kill before we had to head to the airport so we walked down to the port on the Bosphorus Sea and booked a boat tour.  It was an hour tour so it was perfect timing and a fun way to end our time in Istanbul.  The sun was setting and it was very cold.
Bosphorus Sea
Palace on the Sea.

While we were waiting for our boat leave, we noticed these small boats docked near us.  They are actually restaurants and were grilling fish right on the boat.  The table were on the dock in front of the boats and the lines were rather long.  It smelled so good.  After the cruise we went to see what they had and they were selling fish sandwiches with this fresh grilled fish served on a baguette. We decided to try one and it was rather good if you like fish.  Very fishy but good.  Had a few too many bones in the fish but was worth trying.  

Our fun adventurous vacation was coming to an end.  We spend over two weeks exploring some amazing places and are already planning to return to some of them.  Love our life overseas!