November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving Again!

I cannot believe that it is Thanksgiving again! November was so busy that I feel like I missed the entire month! November is usually a hard month of anniversaries for our family, but with every progressing year anniversaries are not as emotional but full of more memories.

This year we had a small family Thanksgiving with friends that we ate Thanksgiving with in Manila and they are now here. It was awesome to be with them again. Although we felt like we were missing a few people that are usually there when we are together…maybe they will get an assignment to Istanbul! Hehe.

Lady Hiva worked hard to get everything ready. We were lucky to have turkeys flown in from US Military bases in Germany and Italy so that we could have our “traditional” Thanksgiving! The only problem was getting an American sized turkey to fit into a European sized oven!

Lady Hiva and I have become better and better at making things with fresh ingredients. This year I roasted and pureed a pumpkin a few weeks ago and that is what she used to bake a pie with homemade pie crust! (She is going domestic….hehe). A few pies, homemade rolls, homemade jelly, some candied yams and a golden turkey later we were ready to go to eat. I must admit that after I helped for a bit in the morning, I kind of fell asleep after I put the Lucky Dragon down for a nap. (For which Lady reminded me several times throughout the day).
Our little Chef! (Takes after Uncle Moana)

Me helping with Thanksgiving dinner

This year has ended with so many changes, some expected and others not expected. Regardless, we have plenty to be thankful for! We love our Lucky Dragon, he is so happy and full of life. He likes to sing, dance and try anything that we are trying too. Everything is done in full force with him. He runs and runs and runs. He will only slow down to see if one of us is “chasing” him and will speed up squealing with delight.

After a busy November, I am excited to see what happens in December!

November 25, 2014

Joe Biden Visits...

Waiting for the VP to come out so we could leave

This past weekend—no wait, the past three weeks—have been jam packed with planning for a Vice President visit to Istanbul. We have our share of visits from Washington DC here (popular city…hint hint for anyone that wants to come visit), but this month there was an explosion of them all in the same 15 day span.

We planned and planned and planned for weeks. It was great! (that was a bit of sarcasm, I admit) On top of our already busy work days we spent hours and hour preparing. I was so proud of our staff here in Istanbul, they really stepped up to the challenge with no complaints or problems. People working on the visit were busy and those that were not, were filling in on the work that they left—so we were all busy.

The day arrived for Joe Biden to land with the cold and rain. For the next four days I stood in the rain and wind with frozen extremities, I ran up hills, directed traffic on streets big and small, rode in a really long motorcade, listened to international policy in the making, rubbed shoulders with decision makers, watched live TV in action, made some great friends, saw several versions of Palaces throughout the city and found small times to call Lady Hiva when I could. Don’t get me wrong, it was REALLY stressful and people do some crazy things when they are stressed!
The gardens of Baylorbayi Palace under the bridge

Outside the Patriach's house
 I also saw some true examples of leadership and found plenty of opportunities to laugh with people as we were waiting for a meeting to finish before we whisked off to the next stop.

By the end of the weekend I was so cold and exhausted. I was so happy to come home on Sunday night and see my favorite Lucky Little Dragon and my Lady Hiva! (right after I took a shower and warmed up my toes.

November 11, 2014

Full on Christmas Explosion!

It is now that time of year—officially! I have had one Christmas tree up since 1 NOV, but today Lady consented to putting up all of the other decorations and tree #2.

The first thing we had to do was bring out all of the decorations. With 5 different tree versions and several moves we have collected a large amount of decorations…yikes. Our apartment filled with boxes and containers full of decorations. Sadly, many of them went back into the boxes after we were done because we simply do not have space for it all. Hopefully one day we have a house large enough to really have some fun! It truly looked like an explosion of Christmas in here for a few hours.

Lucky boy slept through the first part of it and then came out to “help” he dumped out all the ornament balls and unpacked as much as possible before we could put it away. He enjoyed it, so did we…at least he will love decorating too!

Not sure how the pillow ended up ON TOP of him...

Helping mom fill the lantern with ornaments...he kept wanting to add pink ornaments (must be Dad's little Dragon)

What ended up out was a combination of new pieces with older pieces. We have Crèche from the Philippines, Italy, Hawaii, Virginia and Utah all out. I guess we better get one from Istanbul too, although I am not sure they sell them here. Lady Hiva said she had to “edit my style” and tone it down a bit. HAHA. At least there is something, right?

Happy Christmas celebrations everyone! 

November 09, 2014

Just One Night…

This past weekend Lady Hiva and I went to the U.S. Marine Corps Ball—they are held annually around the world to honor the establishment of the Marine Corps. We never went while we were in Manila and decided that this was going to be our last chance to go, so we better participate—sounds easy, except Lady needed to get a gown and I needed a Tux.

The week before the event we still had neither! Life was so busy we had never taken time to get them. I finally made Lady go and find one. We went to one of the popular shopping areas in the city—Nisantaşa. We literally went into 13 or 14 stores in a row and Lady Hiva tried on nearly 30 dresses. The most difficult part of the experience was finding a dress that was modest. By choice and for religious reasons, Lady Hiva needed to have a dress that covered the shoulders and was not open on either side of the dress. That proved to be difficult, many evening gowns show skin in one place or another.

Tau’aho and I went along to shop. I was the translator between Lady and all of the dress salespeople. Now, I can assure you that neither tailoring vocabulary nor women’s clothing design vocabulary were taught to us for my office workplace vocabulary. So you can imagine how ‘fun’ the first two or three places went. With each store I was able to collect a few words so by the last few it was a seamless process. The most difficult part was explaining to them that Lady Hiva wanted a gown that was modest. After their utterly shocked look of  “are you serious?” They would go into salesperson mode and try to please. They offered gowns that were modest but they were UGLY (capitalization on purpose for emphasis) or they were deemed by Lady to be “old Lady dresses.” I would literally translate what was being said so you can imagine the laughs we received when I said that to them in Turkish. (Maybe I should have done some courtesy editing haha).

Many of them offered alterations they could do to make an immodest dress modest. Some of those efforts still missed the mark and showed off too much skin. Others asked if she could pin or tuck in places to show more skin so the dress would work. I started to tell them that Lady Hiva wanted a modest dress for religious reasons. After telling one Lady that she looked at Lady in a stunning and beautifully fitted gown with plenty of skin showing and said (then I translated), “Can’t you just go for one night this way?” Lady Hiva was firm in her resolve and the Lady persisted, “It is just one night…” The answer was no.

We finally found a dress that Lady Hiva really liked and was modest. Sadly, it was the most expensive dress of them all. I am still in shock over the price! Yet, Lady Hiva was able to keep her dignity and honor for keeping a commitment she had made years ago to be modest. I thought about it afterwards and how in life there are many times that we are tempted to just let our guard down for “just one night…” and usually those just one night experiences lead to a lifetime of regrets. I admire Lady Hiva for the woman she is and her resolve to be an example of the very woman she wants to be. It is not about the dress or showing the skin, it was about a personal commitment and not breaking it. The high price of the gown was nothing compared to her walking with the knowledge she had been true to herself. (Although it still may be the most expensive item in our closet!)

They day of the Ball came and we had fun going with friends. We rode down in a rented van with colorful party lights lining it. I felt like we needed to have our own reality show as we all rode through traffic in our gowns and tuxes in a vehicle that was all lit up almost borderline gaudy. We were just missing the cameras and some emotional drama and Bravo would have signed us up!

The night was a blast, we enjoyed spending time with friends and I have to admit that as they brought in the flags and played the national anthems, I did tear up from my patriotic streak. To think most of those people are making some sort of sacrifice to serve a country and people they love. I am glad we went. 

As we came home and Lady and I were looking at photos, she said, I am so glad that I did not give in and wore a modest dress. Me too, Lady, me too. What a great person I get to share life with.