Saturday, June 25, 2016

Trip to England, Part VII, in Which We Stop in Turkey on Our Way Back to Niger

John was born in Turkey and lived there until he was four years old.  He has few memories of it, but we've both always been fascinated by his dad's pictures of Turkey.  We'd love to have time to see some of the biblical sites and famous places, but that's a trip that would take planning and an outlay of money.  So, we were excited to find out that we could schedule our flight back to Niger in such a way as to give us an overnight in Istanbul, Turkey.  John has a college friend living in Istanbul and they offered to have us stay with them.

We arrived from London late in the afternoon and his friend met us there.  Istanbul is a HUGE city and our friend decided it was easier to take the train home than to try to drive all the way.  Istanbul is half in Europe and half in Asia and John's friends live on the Asia side.  It took us almost two hours to get there by train and then the last little bit by taxi.  We changed trains numerous times and went in a tunnel under the Bosporus.  Some of the trains were fascinating because they were joined in such a way that each car looked like there was no break between cars.  You could stand in one and see all the way to the other end of the train.  John's friend's wife had a fantastic meal waiting for us.  We spent the evening getting (re)acquainted and had a great time with them.  We both slept really well.

The next day John's friend took us on a quick tour of Istanbul on our way back to the airport.  We took a bus to the train, but then got off the train at the Bosporus and took a ferry across.  We got a cup of tea and a special baked sesame seed treat that was kind of a cross between a bagel and a pretzel.  I wish I'd taken a picture! 


I've never seen anybody walk as fast as John's friend.  We literally went on a flying tour.  Well, almost literally.  We got to go into the Spice Market. 


Next up, we saw the Hagia Sophia from outside, but didn't have time to go inside.  It was originally built as a Greek Orthodox church in the 6th century.  When Constantinople was conquered by the Muslim Ottomans in 1453, it became a mosque.  Today it is a museum.  

We did take time to go into the Blue Mosque, officially called the Sultan Ahmed Mosque.  It has six minarets, four on the mosque itself and then two more on the outer courtyard. You can see three of the minarets in this photo.


The interior is lined with over 20,000 handmade tiles.  The tiles are blue, but have faded over time.  It is interesting to compare a picture my father-in-law took in 1959 with this one that I took in 2016.

The Blue Mosque is an active mosque, so if you are a non-Muslim tourist, you need to time your visits for times other than prayer times.  Since four out of five prayers occur in the afternoon and evening, the best time to visit is the morning.  If you are not appropriately dressed, they provide you with adequate clothing at the door.  Men, if you plan to wear shorts and you don't want to have to put on a skirt at the door, wear long trousers for your tour!  I had my own headscarf and my skirt was long enough, but I was told to put a shawl over my arms.  

We then ate a late lunch at a sidewalk cafe, said good-bye to our friend, and headed back to the airport.  

When our boarding was announced, we went out, got in a bus to go to the plane, and then the bus didn't go anywhere for about 20 minutes.  Only a few people had seats on the bus.  The rest of us were standing up and were packed in like sardines.  Then when we got on the plane they said there was something wrong with an indicator light.  We sat there for three hours and at one point they refueled.  I'm not sure why they refueled because they sure weren't giving us any air.  It was really hot.  Oh well, we got home safely, so that's all that counts.

And just for fun, here are some pictures of John and his parents on a trip to Istanbul (they lived in Ankara).

John and his mom in a park.

John's dad in the Hilton Hotel.  I looked it up and this hotel is one of the iconic hotels of Istanbul and is still running as a very posh place to stay.

It might just be the processing of the old slides, but his pictures of the Blue Mosque sure look bluer than mine!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Trip to England, Part VI in Which We Visit Christ Church College

After our weekend in Nottingham, we returned to Oxford to prepare for our return to Niger.  We took the train back, arriving around noon. 

 After lunch at our host family's house, we hopped on the bus and went back into Oxford.  The different times I've been in Oxford with John, I used my time to visit the different colleges the comprise Oxford University.  Poor John, though, is there to study and work hard so he had hardly seen any of the colleges.  We decided to rectify that by visiting one on our last day and decided to visit one of the most well known and iconic, Christ Church College.

Most of us Americans are used to having a university all on one campus.  Within that university we will have the School or College of Medicine, School of Journalism, School of Literature, etc.  There are probably some universities like that in England, but many, including Oxford University and Cambridge University, have a very different structure.  There are 38 colleges and six Permanent Private Halls.  Each college is very independent of the others, has their own campus, and is responsible for tutorials.  Lectures, examinations, laboratories, and the central library are run by the university.  

Christ Church College has traditionally been considered the most aristocratic of all the colleges and dates from 1524.  You may have seen glimpses of Christ Church College in one of the Harry Potter movies (I have no idea since I've only seen one or two of them!).

The day we went was a bank holiday and there were so many people who had the same idea as us!  Normally on a week day there are much fewer tourists.  We were also supposed to follow a certain way around to keep the high traffic of visitors that day flowing in the same direction, but it wasn't very well laid out and we got a bit confused.

First we entered the cloisters, a covered walkway.  

Looking out to the cloisters' garden.  Have I mentioned how beautiful spring is in England?

The cloisters led to the Christ Church Cathedral which is the chapel for the Christ Church College as well as the mother church for the Diocese of Oxford.

The next stop is the Ante-Hall, built in the 1520's.  First, one must climb the staircase in Bodley Tower.

My college dining room looked a little different than this!

Notice all the tourists.

And here are two views of the college from outside.  This is one of the gardens.  The building in the background isn't part of the college, I don't think.

And that's it for our trip to England.  I'll have one more post about our trip back to Niger.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Trip to England, Part V in Which We Travel to Nottingham and Meet the Sheriff

Our last weekend in England, we traveled up to Nottingham to visit friends of ours, Clive and Karen.  We had gotten to know them when they did a short-term in Niger.  Their kids are the same ages as ours.  We went up by train on a Thursday afternoon.  They had a niece and her husband also visiting them that evening.  He's a that's how we met the sheriff.  (He's not based in Nottingham, though.)

On Friday Clive and Karen planned a special outing for us.  We drove about 36 miles northeast where we visited the Chatsworth House, just inside the Peak District National Park.  This area is also known as the Derbyshire Dales and books such as Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice are set in this area.  The current Duke and Duchess of Devonshire have private apartments there and they are able to keep the house going by opening it for tours, weddings, and photography of special events.  I looked on the website to see how much a wedding package would cost and they don't even list the price.  As they say, "If you have to ask the price, you can't afford it."  

The house was amazing, though way too gaudy for my tastes.  But the scenery!  Oh, the scenery!  I could definitely stand to look out the windows at that!!!  The "entry way" is the Painted Hall in which the ceilings are painted (but then they also seemed to be in the other parts of the house as well).  

Here we have the Duke of Devonshire.  Oh wait, no, that's John!

I've got a gazillion pictures taken throughout the house, but I'll spare you and just show a few.

How would you like this for a bedroom?

Or this for your dining room?

Being watched over by the ancestors.

Anybody recognize this from a scene in Pride and Prejudice (the movie)?

After touring the house, we went out for a delicious meal at the Robin Hood Inn, but we never did meet up with Robin Hood and his merry men.

After lunch, we went back to walk through the gardens, which are extensive.  We never did have time to walk through the meadows in front of the house where the sheep were, but you could.

These arches are actually apple trees that they have pruned in a special way.

The fountain and waterfall were one of my favorite things.  The steps of the water fall were all built in different heights and with different textured materials so that the water falling over each section of steps sounded different.  One would remind you of a babbling brook, one of a waterfall, etc.  Plus the scenery from there was beautiful (too bad the house had scaffolding on it).

The sheep in the meadow.

One last glimpse of the house before we left.

The next day we drove to Newark where we met up with more friends from years ago in Niger, Graham and Pauline.  We saw the remains of a Norman castle, parts of it still standing thousands of years later.  We went up in one of the remaining towers.  

King John died here in 1216.  There were a lot of demonstrations of medieval days and a re-enactment of King John's death. 


Then we went over to the National Civil War Museum and learned more about the history of the Civil War between the Roundheads and the Cavaliers.  

And had tea with our friends because having tea is a fantastic British practice that I would adopt if it weren't so hot here.  We really did have tea, it just hadn't come yet.  John had some sort of soft drink.  Now that I think of it, I think I had hot chocolate that time around, but mostly I drank a lot of tea while we were in England!

The next day we attended church where Clive is the vicar.  We also got in on a special dinner that some members of the church were hosting.  I can't put up any pictures of people in their church as God is using Clive and Karen in amazing ways in the lives of M*s[]m background believers.  

It was really great to see friends again and we really appreciate the way they went out of their way to make the weekend truly memorable for us.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Trip to England, Part IV in Which I Get Special Treatment at the Museum

On the day that we had breakfast with Brian and Lura, I mentioned that since it was a rainy day I'd go to the Ashmolean Museum and look around there until it was time to meet John for lunch.  It's a nice museum and is free and I figured it would be a good day to spend a rainy morning even though I'd been there before.

Lura said she'd heard that there was a Lilias Trotter display at the museum.  Lilias Trotter was born in 1853 into a wealthy family.  She had a natural gift for art and took some lessons under John Ruskin who assured her she could be a great artist.  However, she felt the call of God on her life and became a missionary to Algeria.  When I got to the museum, rather than spend all my time wandering around looking for the display, I inquired at the help desk.  "No," they told me, "there is no such display here.  But let me look it up just to make sure."  The Help Lady's research showed that there were, indeed, some of Lilias Trotter's paintings in the archives room in a sketch book that had belonged to John Ruskin and would I like to see them.  Sure!  So she called the archives and then took me down stairs.  I had to lock all of my belongings in a locker and then go and wash my hands.  Then she took me into a room where the sketch books had been laid out on felt and let me have a look.  She also asked would I like to see a facsimile of one of Lilias Trotter's journals.  It was so cool to be allowed a peek into her private life.  She wrote about the work in Algeria, the joys and the frustrations:  about new believers who were keeping the fast, others who could not take the pressure from families and had gone back to their religion.  Her journals were art journals before art journaling was in.  On most pages there was a water color painting about one of the people in her stories or of a room or a building.  They were really beautiful.  Her writing was really hard to read so I didn't read it all, but her mission work sounds so similar to what we have done here.

Since I could not take any personal belongings into the room,  I don't have any pictures, but here is one I got off the internet.

I also just want to say how impressed I was with the way the Help Lady and the Archives Lady went out of their way to show me something I showed an interest in.  

If you'd like to find out more about Lilias Trotter, this seems to be a good website: .  There is also a documentary about Miss Trotter that I'd like to see that's called Many Beautiful Things.

I did still have time to look at some of the other sections of the museum.  This was the Dutch Masters room.  If you're ever in Oxford and if you like art museums, make sure you visit the Ashmolean!