Thursday, October 27, 2016

First Day of School 2016

My traditional first day of school pictures!

Sweet Cheeks going into 6th grade. 

Big Ben heading into 3rd. No lower elementary kids in our family anymore, for the first time in 13 years.

Firstborn, my senior.

Miss Middler, going into 9th grade. High school!

Twinkle Toes, going into 10th grade.

My beautiful bunch.

And one last shot. Turn around! I want to take your picture before you walk in!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Campus Story

Before launching into my "First Day of School" posts, I really want to record the amazing transformation of our campus. We are renting this facility, and in the course of the last year while we were waiting for occupation of it, it became more and more of a "fixer-upper."

We were allowed to move in during late June. 28 moving truck loads brought our things from the old campus. We did our best to label and put them in the right places. Still, much had to be sorted and moved. And it all had to be unpacked! People worked tirelessly to get it done.

When we arrived back in country, it was still very much a work in progress. I've created some collages of pictures I took. I really wanted to document this inspiring process.

Our hallways were filthy. Dust from construction and the move just wouldn't come up with a mopping or multiple moppings. Our new campus had not been inspected for 20 years. We would need some basics, like fire escapes. So, walls were punched out, and doors and staircases put in. There was not a single smoke detector in the facility (designed for 900 kids). As teachers arrived back, they began setting up their individual classrooms. Things started to take shape. Still there were common areas we all needed to attack. 

My kids took my classroom on as a project. This was such a help to me. Soon, it was looking great. The outside areas needed so much renovation. We used the money we had saved to give it a facelift. A new surface was put on the outdoor basketball court. We moved every single thing we had from the old campus, so soon a playground was behind the school, with our old equipment. The days were long. We would head out the door at 7AM and usually got home around bedtime. Day after day. I remember at several points thinking that I could literally stretch out in a hallway at school and sleep, with people stepping over me. 

I could go on and on listing the projects and tasks that needed to be done. There was no grass, so CC got grass seed planted and sprouting. The entire facility, inside and out, needed to be painted. The outdoor mini-soccer field needed surfacing. The tennis court needed surfacing. Everything needed to be fixed! 

Here's one before and after I created. This is how the library looked during the summer, and all of the work to get it set up. It's adorable now! 

The sports complex, at the back of the property, was sore in need of work. CC used some of our money to resurface the basketball court, which was unusable until then. The pool needed major work, so the scrubbing and re-tiling began. Perhaps the most wonderful transformation was the back field. It was just a rocky, hilly, stubbly, sheep-grazing field. He hired a company to level it off and create a soccer field for our kids. They have never in 13 years played on their own field. In fact, even to practice, they would use the local sports field, condemned and chained up. The kids would crawl through an opening in the fence and hope no one commanded them to leave. To have our own field is such a joy! 

The rooms really started coming together and looking beautiful! Our staff kids were a big part of the work effort. They worked tirelessly along with the teachers to move boxes, set up rooms, clean, wire computers (there were no computer labs in the buildings, nor a single networked computer to a classroom), babysit younger staff kids while the parents worked. I was so proud of this bunch of kids! 

There were some spots of joy in the midst of the tiring work. We saw beautiful sunsets each of these summer nights. One day the teachers treated the staff kids to ice cream sundaes to say thanks for all the work. We had a visit from our network director and his wife to officially open the new campus. Time in God's Word kept me focused during this time. The spiritual forces were at work, and it was obvious each day. But God was faithful. 
And soon, opening day came. There would still be more work to do, but it was ready. I will never forget the month that all this took place. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Black Sea Break 2016: Finishing Up our Vacation, Getting Back Home

We truly enjoyed our time so much. We walked the streets and markets at night, picking up a pair of flip-flops for one Campbellkid, a pocket knife for another (I wonder which one?), a fun island bag for another. The street vendors sold cups of corn and roasted corn on the cob, also deep friend potato slices. Mmmm.

I can't complete this series of vacation posts without stating my fatal mistake. As I said earlier, we found one restaurant and went there every night. Except one. I suggested we just had to try local fish one night. How could we go to the Black Sea and not eat some of the "fresh" catch. (Yes, "fresh" in quotes.) So we did. It was delicious going down. But the next day, the two Campbellkids that ate off of one plate got food poisoning. Lots of trips to the bathroom, flattened for basically a day. We took care of them and survived it. My famous last words haunted me, "We HAVE to try some of the fresh fish."

This little guy took us on. He perched himself right up next to us. When a car drove by, he'd hop up and chase it away for us, then return to his spot. I wish I could have brought him home. The mixed breeds of the Amasra had quite a bit of hound dog in them, my favorite.

We had a lovely drive back. In just a few short days, school would be starting...on our new campus! There was still much to be done. I knew my days of freedom were quickly coming to an end, and indeed, many of those days were already filled with school work. But I just had to try to do something with beautiful, rock-hard quince coming in to the tree in the yard. I found a recipe that seemed the easiest. Pick. Quarter. Boil. (no peeling, no coring). It was like trying to cut a coconut! But I got them sliced, then boiled them for hours.

They are so tart, they drain the saliva from your mouth. But that which makes them so astringent is what makes them turn blood-red when cooked in sugar. When cooked with sugar, they turn out to be some of the loveliest compost and jelly I've ever eaten. My kids said they liked quince sauce more than apple sauce. This mysterious astringent makes its own pectin. So, we've got several jars of delicious jelly for the winter. After a spoon of it, while making it, I'm not sure they'll ever want store-bought jelly again.

Black Sea Break 2016: Boat Ride and Bunny Island

One night, we decided to take a short 1 hour boat ride. It was so cheap, about $5, and it would afford us some views of the coast we could not get from driving.

It was beautiful! The layers of rock falling into the sea reminded us of how the Earth must have changed during the Flood.

We were put on the top deck of the 2 level boat. Another family joined us. We greeted them, then when they asked where we work, we said, "Oasis." They seemed to know our school! We talked more and discovered they had lived in America, and hoped desperately to put their children in our school. They have friends at our school. Because of Turkish law, dual-citizens can not attend our international school. What a shame, what a nice family! But it also reminded me that in our 13 years here, our reputation has spread...even to a family vacationing at the Black Sea. They said our American accent make them homesick for America. What a sweet thing to say.

It was a sunset cruise and so beautiful! I've fallen in love with the rocky seacoasts as a result of Turkey.

And this is Bunny Island! Legend has it that someone dropped of a couple of bunnies on the island. Since there are no humans or predators there,  they've been prolific. The Internet said we would not spot bunnies, possibly. But we did! All black bunnies, all popping out of crevices. It was so fun!

And this was by far my favorite picture of the trip. These boys had been out fishing in their inflatable boat. They were proud as punch to have caught this fish and held it up with two thumbs up. We cheered for them. They pretty much never stopped smiling.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Black Sea Break 2016: Our Discovery

As mentioned earlier, we had planned to go find "the castle," then realized we were staying within its walls. In fact, we were right next door to the mosque. So, the call to prayer greeted us at 5 each morning, right outside our window. We decided to walk within the castle walls to see what we could see!

Here's the mosque next door. It was built as a 9th century AD church, then conquered in 1460 by the Muslims, converting it into a mosque.

This picture is even better. It was a beautiful building. I pondered all of the activities that had taken place within.

You can see the castle wall in the distance, with modern life built inside and around it.

This was perhaps my favorite building, as it had just been left alone. It was called "Church Chapel" and was just down the street from the big church. This one has not been converted to any new use, really. I wonder if they prayed in the small chapel, way back when?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Black Sea Break 2016: Ocean Time and Museum Visit

The water in the Black Sea was FREEZING. Yes, you could get used to it, but it was an awful 10 minutes until you did. We managed to swim with the kids some, just long enough to pretend it was feeling great! They, however, were seemingly unaffected by the cold. CC read online that their bodies do tolerate it better.

We also found the little island museum, which proved to be a great one, with treasures found in the area, as well as underwater discoveries! It was free to go in on Turkish holidays, we were happy to discover. This was a piece taken from the original Byzantine church. The history of it suggested it was a place where Scripture was read.

In the outer courtyard, many treasures were viewable just out in the open. I was happy to find crosses.

And a little kitty seemed to prefer being out there too, asleep upon an ancient tomb.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Black Sea Break 2016: Simple Pleasures

As I said, we really had no agenda. There's very little to "do," just much beauty to see. There is an ancient castle. We kept talking about going to the castle, then realized we were staying within the walls. We did enjoy peeking into the mosque, as it was once a Byzantine church. We don't enter, but to peer into the windows was a lovely sight.

Here's another lovely sight. I just really needed to reconnect with my children. I had been pulling 7:30AM-7:00PM hours daily. I missed them, and I was picking up on signs that they needed to reconnect with me too. The reconnection took the form of holding hands, chatting about things we saw, stopping to take a picture of them and tell them how beautiful they are to me, playing Uno at night and losing soundly (by my 7-year-old son). That, along with spending some time with the Lord, restored my soul. I can honestly say that coming off of summer and the amount of work at the new school and the spiritual warfare that was present during those 3 weeks put me in a very low place. I felt depleted, but this week began some healing in me.

Did I mention it was windy?!

On our walk down, I saw a lady selling homemade jelly from the berries on that mountain. She was charging the equivalent of US$1.50 for a jar. Having just made some jelly when we got back to Turkey, I knew her time was worth far more than that! I bought several jars, including a homemade spicy salsa to put on breakfast eggs. She was so happy to sell me the jars, she threw in a tied-up bunch of dried, mountain grown bay leaves. (When I got home, I compared their smell to the jar I had from a store. No comparison!)

Here is her display, which I thought made a pretty picture.

Site Meter