How I ended up with a Turkish rug I never knew I wanted.

I’m any seller’s dream customer.

I can’t help it, I’m easy to convince that I absolutely need a product.

Even if that product is a $1400 rug.  No, we didn’t actually pay that much, but that was the starting price!

The Monster was kind enough to model our new rug for me!

Our little Monster was kind enough to model our new rug for me!  He usually charges for appearances, but because we fed him today he did this sitting for free.

It all started with a scarf.  We were in Istanbul and I decided that I needed a souvenir scarf, since I hadn’t bought any gifts from Tanzania or Turkey.  So, to the scarf stall we went.

This is when I knew I was in trouble.

The salesman showed me the cheap scarves (the 15 dollar scarves that I wanted to choose between), then he showed me the more expensive scarves (100+ dollars) and then he brought out the $350 scarves and that’s when I drew the line!  But, I must admit I did splurge for the moderately expensive scarf.

It’s beautiful and silk, darn it!  

Anyway, the salesman (at this point realizing I’m a sucker for a good sales pitch) told us that his uncle has a rug store, and quickly escorted us to the small shop down the road.  The Husband wasn’t the most willing participant, but I wanted to see actual Persian rugs.

Well, at first I thought for sure that I would never actually buy one of these rugs.  I mean, I didn’t love any that I was seeing but I did like hearing about how they were made and seeing all the different types.

Then I saw one I wanted.  DAMMIT ALL!  I knew I was in trouble.

The salesman picked right up on my changed expression and went into official ‘sales’ mode.  The Husband was great at saying no.  I wasn’t quite as good.

We told the store owner that we newlyweds and therefore broke.

The price came down.

We told him we didn’t even need a rug (lie, we totally did need a rug – I just hadn’t realized it until the very second I saw the one I loved in this small store in Istanbul!).

The price came down even more.

We told him that we had no room in our suitcases to bring it back to the States.

The price came down further and the man pulled out a tiny bag and somehow managed to fit the rug inside of it!  Magic.

Basically, by the time I was invested in the conversation and really needed this rug.

The Husband thought I had completely lost my mind.

The salesman was mostly talking to the Husband, who kept referring him to me since I was going to be actually purchasing the goods.  Ah, sexism at work.

Anyway, we finally all agreed on a price.

The Husband shook his head quite a few times.

OK, he shook his head more than a few times.

But now I have a rug, and a beautiful rug it is!

It really is one of the best ‘souvenirs’ I’ve ever bought myself, and by far the most expensive.  Take that, cheesy shot glasses – you’ve been replaced!

love

An ode to apple tea.

When we were in Istanbul I cradled a glass of hot apple tea in my hands wherever we went.  We were given tea in the markets while bargaining over the price of decorative plates.  We drank tea at the Grand Bazaar at a cafe that was recommended and took us over an hour to find.  We drank apple tea in the mornings and at night after dinner.  Sometimes I drank apple tea after lunch.  Occasionally I would forget to specify apple tea and they would give me Turkish tea and that was (almost) as good, but not quite.   I would break my own rules and have caffeine at any hour I chose, because it was apple tea and I was in Istanbul and it was delicious and I loved holding the glass in my hands and breathing in the apple scent and drinking the tea slowly, because I always drink slowly.

apple tea and turkish coffee

We also drank sahlep.  Vendors sold this delicious milk drink on the corners and we drank at least one cup of it a day.  Of course, the cups were very small, but it was a treat.  It tasted of milk and honey and floral and cinnamon and we would pay a few TL and savor the drink as we walked around the older parts of the city.

These days I’m missing these drinks.  In Chicago I have to stand in a line at Starbucks (or better yet, a local coffee shop) to order a fancy drink (that takes too long to make) in a to-go cup that is too big and too expensive for a simple treat. It’s as if the city wants me to freeze.  Istanbul was much better at keeping the bellies of its visitors and residents warm and full

Istanbul, I miss you and your delicious treats and your friendly shop vendors and your large mosques and the singing that calls worshipers to prayer.  I also miss the desserts we ate for breakfast and the time we went to Asia for lunch and got on the wrong ferry and ended up on the opposite side of the bay.  I wish we could be back in Turkey bargaining with shop owners and reading our guide-book and walking around holding hands and eating our baked goods that we bought from other street vendors.  I miss the roasted chestnuts that were everywhere and for all different prices.   I miss the friendly people and the expensive seafood and the small-sized drinks.  But most of all, I miss the apple tea!

A month ago we embarked on a grand adventure…

WHOA, holy time-flying!  It was a whole month ago that the Husband and I started our journey to Africa (Tanzania, to be exact, since Africa is pretty big and diverse and probably doesn’t like being lumped into that broad of a category) to go on our volunteering-safari honeymoon!

And ohhhhh the things we saw.  I’ve already mentioned this (probably), but our itinerary involved a few days of orientation, four days of volunteering at a local school, and then 6 days of a safari, followed by 3 days in Istanbul.  I’ve already talked about volunteering and how awesome that was, but I figured I should at least mention the safari since it was mind-blowingly amazing in a totally different way.  Well, I guess I did mention the safari kind of but the experience probably deserves a more complete post.

We woke before dawn every day. Some days we were in a tent, other days we were in a tented lodge, sometimes we were in a regular lodge. The days we were in a tent I didn’t even bother changing clothes, I slept in the same clothes I wore all day, every day. We ate a quick breakfast while we were still wiping sleep from our eyes.  We went on a game drive and saw lions, monkeys, giraffes, and elephants.  Animals are so alive in the morning.

monkey

It rained many of the days and it was a cold, drenching rain.  When it wasn’t raining we were swarmed with flies.  Africa is not a comfortable place.  We ate lunch at the hottest part of the day, when the big animals were sleeping off the heat.  Sometimes we had a packed lunch, other times it was freshly made back at camp.  The Husband slept for a few hours and I read ‘Game of Thrones’ or ‘Just Kids’.  Our second game drive of the day was shorter than the first and just as exciting.  We always saw big cats relaxing and wildebeest grazing and animals at perfect harmony with each other.  I learned the true meaning of what it looks like to coexist and I could have swore I was in the Garden of Eden.

giraffe

We ate dinner with other campers or in a restaurant.  We had our own cook and he made us delicious meals consisting of potatoes and vegetables and fried dough and instant hot chocolate and chai and the Husband had chicken and beef, but never pig.  On Tim’s birthday everyone sang ‘Happy Birthday’ in their own languages: Swahili, Spanish, and Italian (and of course, English).  It was a beautiful moment and one I will never forget!

28th birthday

We went to sleep at around 9 every night, after discussing our favorite sights of the day with our guide.  We listed animal chases, giraffes standing among beautiful scenery, baboons being playful, and everything to do with baby animals.  We slept semi-peacefully, listening to rain on our tent or listening to the sounds of hyenas and lions, or listening to the sound of other campers zipping and unzipping their tents.

serengeti

Africa is an extremely diverse and beautiful place. It’s a place where creatures coexist and live off of one another, but do not cause unnecessary harm.  Different species need each other to survive, and all animals are acutely aware of their predators, prey, and role on the plains.  I wonder what the Earth would look like if humans had such a simple understanding of life and how to live it.

baby leopards

I’ll leave you with a picture of baby leopards – because they are friggen adorable.

 

“No, there won’t be any lions around, just hyenas.”

Remember when I said I would camping on the safari?

Well, it happened.

At least one of us was happy!

At least one of us was happy!

I knew I was in trouble when we got out of the safari vehicle and walked with our guide to the very back of the campground.  I’m not sure why we couldn’t camp with everyone else, but for whatever reason I guess he thought we needed space.  So, he set up our tent separate from everyone else and as far away from the bathroom as you could possibly get.

This is about when my anxiety started.

There are many, many things that make me anxious in life, but not being able to get to a bathroom is one of my top 10 anxiety triggers.  I’m not sure why this is exactly, but I just like knowing that if I need to pee in the middle of the night (which never ever happens) I can get to a bathroom.

Anyway, I ask my guide if there are lions wandering around the campsite at night on a frequent basis, and he assured me that there are no lions, only hyenas.  An hour before this conversation we saw a hyena eating a still-alive wildebeest.  He was dripping with blood.  It was awful and I’m still having nightmares about this weeks later.  But at that moment, standing in the campground, all I could think about was that if I got up in the middle of the night to wander around the campsite to use the restroom, I’d probably get attacked by a pack of hyenas and they wouldn’t kill me, they’d just start eating me piece by piece.

Comforting thought, no?

The guide suggested that we not even attempt to go to the bathroom at night since it was too far, and we should pee outside of our tent instead, should the need arise.  He told us if we bring a flashlight and look around with it first, we would be able to see eyes shining back at us and then the hyenas would run away…. no  big deal!

This is the exact hyena we saw before we got to the campsite.  Nightmares.

This is the exact hyena we saw before we got to the campsite. Nightmares.

OH HELL NO.

Suffice it to say, I had to pee that night around 9pm and there was no way in hell I was going to leave that tent.  Especially since it was raining.  And when I woke up at like 2am (I’m totally making up this time, we had no clocks or watches or cell phones but it felt like 2am) and heard hyenas.  Awesome.  And by awesome I mean it was not a great night as my bladder was threatening to explode and my dumb husband was sleeping peacefully after peeing outside the tent hours earlier.

Longest night ever.  Finally as soon as the first glimpse of the sun came above the horizon, I was sprinting to the bathroom.

… And then we did the whole thing again the next night.  The Husband owes me, big time.

I will say that aside from this discomfort, the safari was the best thing ever.  THE. BEST. THING.

More details to come!