Hitchin' a Ride

Thursday, April 15, 2010

During my two months of traveling after Korea, I spent a lot of time moving from place to place. Although I walked my legs off most days, it was inevitable I would be hitching a ride at some point. And, hitch a ride I did...

Number of...

Airplanes: 17

Personal cars/vans: 4

Hired cars: 1

Taxis: Hundreds

City buses: 7

Micro-buses: 3

Tour buses/vans: 3

Subways: Several in Shanghai and Istanbul

Trains: 3

Funiculars: 1

Maglevs: 1

Faluccas: 1

Med/Lg Boats: 3

Canal boats: 1

Horse & Buggies: 1

Camels: 1

Elephants: 1

Al-most. There.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

After 14 months abroad I was excited to return home to the states; but anxious, terrified, hesitant, and confused all at the same time. Checking in for a US-bound flight didn't go as smoothly as my previous flights for which I was equally annoyed and thankful. After demanding our passports without so much as a polite greeting, the United employee grilled us on our whereabouts and intentions...

Him: How long have you been out of the U.S.?

Me: 14 months

Him: Where were you before Istanbul?

Me: Umm... South Korea, China, Japan, Thailand, Jordan, and Egypt.

Him: Have you been to Tel Aviv?

Me: No.

He walks away with my passport and then returns.

Him: Are you sure you haven't been to Tel Aviv?

Me: Yes (Of course I'm sure!—I think I'd remember that!)

Him: furrowed brow

Just then, a light bulb turned on in my head as I realized I had an Israeli stamp from the border crossing between Jordan and Egypt. I explained the stamp and then all was well. Still, what if I had been to Tel Aviv? What would have happened to me? No Thanksgiving dinner?

The flight into Chicago was delayed several hours and as Melissa and I sat in our seats worrying whether or not we would make our connecting flights back home, we concocted an emergency Thanksgiving dinner plan. If we were put up in a hotel for the night we were going to make sure we had the culinary items most important in any Thanksgiving spread: Oreos, Dr. Pepper, some kind of cheese, Chai lattes, etc.

Luckily, Melissa made her connecting flight which had been delayed, as well. I, however, did not. After transferring to the next flight out, which was delayed for mechanical problems; attempting unsuccessfully to hop on stand-by with a separate flight a few hours later; and then returning to the gate in order to wait for the mechanical-problem-plane to show up I finally arrived home at 1:00 am on Thanksgiving day—six hours late. As many problems as I had, poor Andrea had more and ended up staying a night in Frankfurt, Germany. Fourteen months out of the country and we could barely catch a break back into our own states. But, I survived the ordeal and the days, weeks, and months away from home and returned home to my first American meal filled with turkey, mashed potatoes, spinach casserole, and pumpkin pie. Not bad.

Things I noticed immediately upon returning to the U.S.A (before leaving the airport)....

1. Everyone speaks English and it's very distracting. After living among foreign languages so long it was difficult to tune out the conversations around me, especially while still in the airport. Several people were discussing their trips home from college, one girl was crying about the possibility of missing Thanksgiving and spending it alone in the airport but didn't feel her boyfriend was sympathizing enough with the situation, and a family debated whether it would be faster to drive from Chicago rather than wait on the late flight. I wasn't even deliberately eavesdropping!

2. Trash cans. They're everywhere!

3. Toilet paper. It's everywhere!

4. American money doesn't need to be converted in my head.

5. The menus at each restaurant and food stand throughout the airport are in English.

Oh, no...

Friday, April 9, 2010

Climbing over a gate topped with spikes... not a good idea.

Basilica of St. John, Ephesus

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Author of the Bible's fourth Gospel and the book of Revelation, St. John was an apostle, evangelist, and prophet. His movement throughout Europe and Asia is documented in many historical and sacred books, and it is known he was at the feet of Jesus during the crucifixion. After Jesus' death, it is believed John took Jesus' mother, Mary, to Ephesus where he lived out the duration of his life.

The perceived gravesite of John in Selcuk, just two miles from ancient Ephesus, was enclosed by a humble church in the 4th century. In the 6th century, Emperor Justinian, believing the tomb was that of St. John's, built a magnificent church in the same location and transformed the area into a sacred site. Its brick and marble construction was rare at the time, and if reconstructed today the cathedral would be the seventh largest in the world.

St. John's grave

A view from the basilica wall toward Isabey Mosque

View of Selcuk from the basilica wall

Great Theater, Ephesus

Friday, April 2, 2010

Constructed in the 1st Century around 40 AD, the Great Theater in Ephesus is an important site of Biblical proportion. In the 1st Century, the Apostle Paul spent three years in Ephesus preaching the Gospel and condemning paganism. According to the book of Acts, the theater is the site of the "riots of the silversmiths"—those who made silver figurines of Artemis claimed Paul's preaching was bad for business.

About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in no little business for the craftsmen. He called them together, along with the workmen in related trades, and said: "Men, you know we receive a good income from this business. And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all. There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty."

When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul's traveling companions from Macedonia, and rushed as one man into the theater. Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him. Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theater.

The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. The Jews pushed Alexander to the front, and some of the crowd shouted instructions to him. He motioned for silence in order to make a defense before the people. But when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!"

The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: "Men of Ephesus, doesn't all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven? Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to be quiet and not do anything rash. You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess. If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges. If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly. As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of today's events. In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it." After he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.

Acts 19: 23-41

Library of Celsus, Ephesus

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Originally commissioned by the Consul Julius Aquila as a mausoleum for his father, Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, the Library of Celsus is one of the most beautiful and recognized buildings in Ephesus. After its construction between 110 and 135 AD, Celsus was buried in a niche in the back wall. When a fire destroyed the reading room and an earthquake collapsed the facade in the 10th Century, the library was resurrected to its beautiful state between 1970 and 1978 by the Austrian archaeologists.

Slope Houses, Ephesus

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Built along the slopes on the south side of Curetes Street sit a series of homes from the wealthy upper class citizens. Used from the 1st Century to the 7th Century AD, the homes offer archaeologists an invaluable insight into the lives of the wealthy citizens, and have been compared in importance to the first-class villas in Pompeii.

Most of the homes were three storied with an internal courtyard surrounded by rooms, and an exit onto the side street from a terrace. The open courtyards in the middle of the homes were paved with marble and outlined with marble columns. Each house had running water and a heating system during winter months. Today, archaeologists are working to uncover and preserve the fascinating mosaics and frescoes that decorated the homes' interiors.

Latrine, Ephesus

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Similar to some public toilets we encountered along our trip, the latrine in Ephesus appeared awkward, uncomfortable, and hardly private. However, it was actually quite modern and civilized for its time. Toilet seats constructed out of marble slabs sat side by side over a channel of an uninterrupted flow of water beneath a covered roof. The middle of the room was open to the sky above and contained a sunken pool that once caught rain water.