Wednesday, April 28, 2010


I've started taking an intensive language class here and I already love it. My teacher is basically a genius because she teaches without using any English (almost) and I've already learned more Turkish in two days than I have learned from my collective ten weeks of "barefoot" language learning. I did get confused at one point in the lesson and referred to a classmate as a hospital... but thankfully she wasn't that offended.

Another fun part about taking language classes is the diverse community of students at Dilmer. Already I have met people from Scotland, England, Russia, The Netherlands, Sweden, Iran, Ukraine, Germany, and one other American (a history professor from the University of Michigan). Needless to say, a group of people taking intensive Turkish lessons are a pretty eclectic bunch.

At this rate I should be fluent by the end of the month.

Monday, April 26, 2010


Sociologists claim almost every culture on earth has a traditional hot drink. However in Turkey, çay (pronounced like "chai", though it bears no similarity to the sweet American coffee house drink- sans the minimal tea content in the latter) is more than just a drink, it is a way of life. It follows every meal, accompanies many cigarettes, and not offering a cup to a visitor would be anathema. It's not uncommon to have upwards of 8 glasses a day... depending on how many friends one sees. Even businesses usually offer a glass customers while they wait, be it a small neighborhood store or multi-billion dollar cooperations like Türk Telecom, who gave me a glass when I was signing up for phone/internet service this last week.

Turkish çay, like Turkish coffee, is a potent, concentrated beverage. It's over-steeped, served boiling hot, and- thankfully for western palettes- sweetened to taste. The occasional aficionado with take it sade (unsweet), but most people will put 1-2 sugar cubes in. The sugar/caffeine combination gives a pretty good buzz... but that doesn't stop Turks from drinking it late into the night.

Drinking a lot of çay is a prerequisite to cultural assimilation... and a really good excuse for just hanging out. Heck. Throw-in a tavla board and a nargile, and you've got the rest of your evening planned.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


1. Found a gluten-free section at a grocery store near my house. It's really expensive, but it's good to know that option is available.

2. Went to a Henna Party, which is sort of like a pre-wedding reception/coed bridal shower. Loud Turkish folk music and dancing abound.

3. Found no one wants to set next to you on the bus after you've been running and you're pouring down sweat... guess that's understandable.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Recently I've felt incredibly blessed to be alive. This past weekend I was able to visit Kapadokya (the biblical Cappadocia) with ten amazing friends. The weekend was packed with exploring ruins, eating great Turkish food, and cruising the ancient Silk Road. Definitely one for the books.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Cultural Mistakes

1. Yesterday I found out I've been mispronouncing the word for water... contrary to popular American practice "su" is not "Sue".

2. My electricity was turned off today due to an error in processing my bill. Thankfully I have Turkish-speaking friends who cleared everything up.

3. At lunch I tried to ask for a take-away box and somehow ended up ordering Nescafe. I'm still not sure how that happened.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Istanbul is my new home. Istanbul is called büyükşehır, the Great City, which is an apt nickname because it's so overwhelmingly large it’s impossible to think of it as one city. Each of Istanbul's 39 districts basically function as their city, with multiple neighborhoods in each district functioning as towns.

This is my neighborhood, which is in the district of Kağıthane. My apartment is literally next to the mosque.
Right now they are building what will be Istanbul's tallest skyscraper in my front yard. It's so tall it took two photos to capture it.
Here's another angle... supposedly there's going to be a mall in their somewhere, which may affect the frugality of my budget, but will be very convenient.

Yes. I do think I will love living here.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Sojournings: 1 Peter 1:1-2

Today is my last day in America... at least for some time anyway. Although I am enthusiastically looking forward to life in Istanbul, there are a lot of conflicting emotions stirring around in my soul. Dozens of close relationships will be dramatically altered by the distance and all the comforts of routine and familiarity which I cherish so much are already evaporating. Coupled with the stress of moving and the uncertainties of a new culture, it is enough to overwhelm all excitement with anxiety.

In the midst of this emotional dissension 1 Peter 1:1-2 has been an encouragement.

1. Peter, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 accoding to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May Grace and Peace be multiplied to you.

Peter is writing to the "elect exiles"; other translations say "temporary residents" or "sojourners". Peter is reminding his readers that wherever they may live, their citizenship is in the kingdom of God, and until this reality is fully realized in the new creation, they are exiles. The writer of Hebrew explores a similar theme when he writes "For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come."

However, this doesn't mean that Christians withdraw from society. The Prophet Jeremiah told the exiles in Babylon to "seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare." (Jer 27:9) It seems counter-intuitive, but it is perfectly practical. Because we as believers are exiles who do not find our citizenship in nation-states we are free to invest in our communities even while we hope for something better.

So as I say goodbye to Louisville, which I have grown to love so dearly over the past 5 years, I am reminded that it is not where I look to for belonging or security. Instead I look to Jesus for my identity and his body, the church, for belonging.

One more cool thing: Bithynia, one of the places where some these exiles were dispersed, includes modern day Istanbul. This really personifies "grace and peace multiplied to you."

According to this article, I could be the 11th fixed-gear rider in Istanbul.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Easter by George Herbert

Rise heart; thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise
Without Delays,
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
With him mayst rise;
That, as he death calcined thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more just.

Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part
With all thy art.
The cross taught all wood to resound his name,
Who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is best to celebrate this most high day.

Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song
Pleasant and long:
Or since music is but three parts vied
And multiplied,
O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with his sweet art.

I got me flowers to straw thy way;
I got me boughs of many a tree:
But thou wast up by break of day,
And brought'st thy sweets along with thee.

The Sun Arising in the East,
Though he give light, and th' East perfume;
If they should offer to contest
With thy arising, they presume.

Can there be any day but this,
Though many suns to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred, but we miss:
There is but one, and that one ever.

This is one of my favorite poems. Reflecting on the Resurrection, Herbert is moved to compose a song (lines 1-18) which he then shares (lines 19-30). Some of the imagery he uses is either cryptic or archaic (the poem is just shy of 400 years old), but thankfully, that's what study notes are for.

Herbert prepares for Easter by addressing his heart. "Calcined" is a chemical term which in this case refers to the removing of impurity from precious metal. Romans 6:4 is clearly in view: the believer participates in Jesus' death and resurrection, being re-created into a new creation.

Herbert, an avid musician, turns to his lute to assist him in song. Just as the wooden cross proclaimed Jesus' atoning work, so Herbert's wooden lute resonates with the same message.

"His stretched sinews" is a grotesque but fantastic image. Here Herbert pictures Jesus' arms stretched tight on the cross. Lute strings in Herbert's day were made from the muscle fibers of animals. Also, sacred music was traditionally set to higher keys than secular music. The tighter the string, the higher the pitch.

Just as chords are fundamentally composed of triads, Herbert sees the worship of his heart and lute as incomplete, in fact impossible, without the Holy Spirit's aid. The Spirit makes "up our defects with his sweet art."

The change of structure in line 19 indicates the beginning of the song alluded to in line 1 (interestingly, Herbert also utilized a two-part structure in Easter 's sister poem Good Friday). The first allusion in the song is to Palm Sunday (cf. Mark 11:8-9) and the second is the women who brought spices to Jesus' tomb (cf. Mark 16:1-2). However, the resurrected Jesus does not need their gifts. In fact, all gifts offered to Christ (the sun illumining the empty grave, the Magi providing frankincense and myrrh years before) pale in comparison to the glory of the resurrection. For this reason Herbert sees Easter as the definitive moment in human history.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Good Friday

                 O My chief good,
How shall I measure out thy bloud?
How shall I count what thee befell,    
              And each grief tell?           
              Shall I thy woes 
Number according to thy foes?
Or, since one starre show’d thy first breath,     
             Shall all thy death?          
             Or shall each leaf, 
Which falls in Autumn, score a grief? 
Or can not leaves, but fruit, be signe       
           Of the true vine?       
            Then let each houre 
Of my whole life one grief devoure; 
That thy distresse through all may runne,      
            And be my sunne.             
            Or rather let
 My severall sinnes their sorrows get; 
That as each beast his cure doth know,             
            Each sinne may so.  
Since bloud is fittest, Lord, to write 
Thy sorrows in, and bloudie fight; 
My heart hath store, write there, where in  
One box doth lie both ink and sinne: 

 That when sinne spies so many foes, 
Thy whips, thy nails, thy wounds, thy woes, 
All come to lodge there, sinne may say,
 No room for me, and flie away.  

Sinne being gone, oh fill the place, 
And keep possession with thy grace; 
Lest sinne take courage and return, 
And all the writings blot or burn.
- George Herbert (1633)