Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia, Turkey!

There is truly nowhere else in the world like Cappadocia, Turkey. Since I arrived in this country, and perhaps even in my initial research about the country before my departure, this was the name that kept popping up. It was, evidently, the place that I had to visit, and my oh my, I was not disappointed.

Though the scenery itself was magical, perhaps the most magical aspect was being able to take in the sights with Bri's sister, Brooke, her friend, Renee, and an old friend of mine from university, Lara. There's something decidedly special about taking in sights like those below with others - sharing in the awe, so to speak.

Cappadocia was as close to being on another planet that I'll ever get in my life. I do plan on writing an in-depth description of the whole experience, but, this time around, I just put together a little video. In light of it being the New Year, I'm trying to experiment with different creative outlets, and video is something I'm interested in at the moment. Furthermore, Bri and I have just bought the new GoPro Hero 4 (Silver), so you can imagine that, moving forward, the videos we'll be taking will be of a higher quality, and likely of a more intriguing subject matter. And, as a matter of principle, I'm trying to "create" more in 2016, so I'm just doing whatever feels right and this post, tonight, feels right. However, I do look forward to some more professional style video in the future, and I expect to write quite a bit in 2016 to go alongside with the extra touch of video.

In brief, and for general context, Cappadocia is located in Central Turkey, and is simply otherworldly. It is, arguably, the most popular tourist destination in the country, and for good reason. It's famous for its "fairy chimneys," and old cave dwellings which were settled by some of the first Christians, who were refugees at the time. This place has been settled since at least the Bronze Age, and it feels that way in a sense.

Below, you'll find a video I put together with footage that both Bri and I took. As I said, I'm looking forward to putting some even more topnotch stuff together in the near future, but this, I think, still captures the magic of what a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia entails.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

On Istanbul, My Home

Istanbul may be the most mischaracterized and misunderstood city on the planet. When I leave Istanbul in the summer, to Toronto or elsewhere, the most consistent response I get from people when I tell them I live in Istanbul is one of utter confusion. It's as if large swaths of people have already written Istanbul off as a city they'll never visit within a country that they only associate with vaguely troubling news reports.

And now, this week, the vaguely troubling news reports of the past have turned into decidedly damning news reports of the present. The event that occured, the bombing in Sultanahmet, was and is desperately troubling, but it is not Istanbul. That has been the problem with the coverage and the conversations from the beginning. In Paris, grim faced newscasters from around the globe shared news with disbelief of the unimaginable horror. Yet, in Istanbul, the event was, explicitly or not, described as an inevitability of a city such as this...such as what?

And, perhaps the folks who live here, like myself, understood that this was a possibility, in the sense that things are possible in cities this size sharing borders with the neighbours that Turkey has...but again...this single event cannot and does not define this city. Those who live in Istanbul don't dart from street to street, avoiding conflict like some 90's Sarajevo redux. Trust me.

Since the bombing, I haven't looked over my shoulder more often, nor will I. The most drastic change has been the outpouring of concern from friends and family, which is entirely understandable. Yet, I'm deeply perturbed by the notion that people may begin to associate Istanbul with one image, that of a "dangerous Muslim city." Istanbul is so, so many things, but not that. I feel downright privileged to live here, and to be some very small part of this city.

What I want to know is how many expats in Paris received a call from their loved ones asking when and if they were moving home? My family in particular, though concerned, trust me wholeheartedly to make these decisions for which I'm lucky, but I know many friends whose phones haven't had a moment to breathe. People have decided that Istanbul is a war-zone. It isn't, not one bit. Life is moving forward here, as the news looks behind for shreds of stories to continue to paint this city with a single brush.

I want to share a story. When I moved to Istanbul, about a year and a half ago, much of the concern that exists now for my well being was still present. My brother was living in Sydney, Australia where, globally, not an ounce of concern was shed, as far as terrorism and the like is concerned. In late September of 2015, a plot was foiled in Sydney from ISIS to behead a random member of the public, with one of the potential locations being a park near my brother's house. Me, sitting in Istanbul, had cause for concern about ISIS for my brother in Sydney. Think about that, about what that symbolizes...what that ultimately means.

Istanbul is lively, diverse, and has its challenges, but to suggest that the city is merely a breeding ground for terror is to drink deeply from the cup of ignorance. What we as human beings need to do is think about the word associations that the news have planted firmly in our minds. When I read and say the word "Istanbul" to people around the globe, thoughts of the Bosphorus should come to mind, filled with sumptuous blues. Thoughts of steaming çay, kind barbers, pleasant ferry rides, and packed, inviting restaurants. Thoughts of mosques that humbly take their place on the skyline, and a nightlife more exciting than most. Thoughts of people who go out of their way to make you understand that Istanbul is something special, and cannot be summed up as just one thing or another.

And, so here I sit, as in love with this city and its people and culture as I ever was. My plan to stay longer, at this time, stands firm because I know what this place is, and what it has. I owe a lot to this city, my home.

Unfortunately, it looks like the world has decided in an instant, in a blast that took a fraction of a section, what Istanbul was, is, and will be. It is as if a minuscule corner of the world's greatest painting has been torn off and held up as an example of the entire piece. I'm not saying we must ignore the corner, which is surely a part of the whole, I'm saying we must remember what it is we're looking at, and why that matters.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

EXPO Milano 2015 - A Video Montage

I didn't post as much as I would have liked last year, so I'm looking to up my game a little bit in 2016. Why not start on January 1st? In actuality, this has been something that has been in the works for a little bit of time, but it definitely feels good to put the bow on it today.

The video below chronicles our time at the Milan World EXPO. This is actually the second EXPO that Bri and I have attended. Indeed, I wrote about my experiences at the Yeosu World EXPO in 2012 (part 1/part 2), which was later picked up by when I was a world korea blogger. To put it bluntly, we absolutely adore the EXPO experience. If possible, I'm sure we will attend every single EXPO until I drop, but I don't want to get ahead of myself, though that is one of my greatest talents.

Without further adieu, here is our video montage of Milan's take on the World EXPO in 2015.