Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sun Diego

My week in San Diego was lovely indeed. The sun was shining, the temperature was in the high 60s/low 70s and I? I was in paradise. Literally.

I spent my days biking along the beach, eating wonderful Mexican food and just merely relaxing in the sunshine. It was a little hard to believe that at one point in my life, every day was (mostly) like this. I even tried surfing again one morning, getting an incredible workout as the waves crashed into me. I spent more time trying to battle my way out into the water than anything else, but it was still thrilling to be back in the water again.

One afternoon was spent watching body surfers in La Jolla Cove. They are pretty amazing. I met one of the body surfers as he was coming out of the water. He was in his 60's and doing this!



It was great to see my SD friends again, some of whom I hadn't seen in years. It's always such a treat to see old friends and discover that the friendship hasn't staled in the time that we had been apart. That's a testament to my friends themselves and I'm so grateful for having these people be a part of my life.

After my week in San Diego, I have a bit of an inkling that I could possibly move back to my little beach shack next to the ocean and lead a perfectly contented life. So long as I can shuttle between there and New York City of course.

© Connie Hum 2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

BEWARE: Asian Woman Driving!

It saddens me to say this but it's true. I've become one of my worst fears. A bad Asian woman driver.

As much as I have been trying to avoid it, I have recently gotten back behind the wheel of a car. It's almost impossible not to drive here in the suburbs. It's been a long time since I last drove and my first few excursions out on the road have been somewhat, ahem...adventurous.

Unfortunately, my driving has only reinforced the stereotype about Asian women being bad drivers.

First off, being in driver seat is just plain scary for me! I'm really not used to it anymore and I can't say that I'm fully comfortable in that seat. I'm constantly fidgeting around and I get tense when the car's in motion, which makes me even more uncomfortable.

Another thing, the car seems to be going much faster than it really is. On my first day on the highway, I was aghast at all the cars speeding past me. I was shocked at how cavalier people were with the high speeds they were driving. I mean, I was driving a speedy - wait! I'm driving 40-45 mph on the highway! No wonder people were passing me up! I tried to drive at the speed limit but it was really scary and seemed too fast for me.

Driving at night and/or in the rain is a complete nightmare and I've been trying to avoid that as much as possible. It's really much to dangerous for me and for everyone else on the road.

Bottom line? I really don't belong behind the wheel of a car. Though it really has nothing to do with me being an Asian woman. I'm just a bad driver now.

© Connie Hum 2009

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

If You Didn't Read My Blog This Year

2009 is quickly coming to an end
So here's a review for you that I want to send.

What I did this year I can't complain,
Boasting and gloating I must refrain.
For the few of you who didn't know,
I quit my job almost a year ago!

Goodbye goodbye to my life in New York.
Goodbye goodbye to dishes containing pork.
Hello, Constantinople (as it's known to 'em)
Seven months later and Türkçe biliyorum!

I discovered the streets of magical İstanbul
With plenty of döner kebab to keep me full.
I taught English to two adorable girls:
Beautiful Mina and Melda with curls.

In Copenhagen and Stockholm with my friend from Italy,
I found out I know Matteo more than superficially.
Yachting around the Mediterranean was lots of fun,
Darkest shade of brown I've ever been from hours in the sun.

How did the summer pass by so quick?
Hop a plane, Jordan was the next pick!
The colors of Petra were an amazing sight to see,
Sleeping in a cave turned out to be well-suited for me.

In the calm crystal blue waters of the Red Sea
I received my advanced scuba diver degree.
Dahab I never wanted to say goodbye
But in the end, I gave Cairo a try.

Egypt was pretty rough and dirty;
The men were a little more than flirty.
Luckily I had my friend Ali to treat me right
Or else I wouldn't have lasted even a single night!

Mom joined me for two weeks back in Turkey,
Making me miserable and jerky.
It wasn't her fault and it also wasn't mine,
Traveling together just isn't our design.

London was my final stop before coming home to the States,
Buying a ukulele with Mark was decided by the "Fates."
Ah, back in fabulous New York is really where I belong
But I'm heading to Asia next year to live in a sarong!

Sitting in my bed of my childhood home in California,
The air's freezing cold. Oh sun, how I wish I hadn't scorned ya!
ALL MY LOVE AND BEST WISHES AS WE ENTER THE NEW YEAR!
MAY OUR PATHS CROSS SOON AGAIN AND WE ALL BE IN GOOD CHEER!

© Connie Hum 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

2010 Plans and My Travel Challenge UPDATE!

I have purchased a ONE-way ticket to Southeast Asia! I'm very excited, but also a bit nervous about my potential YEAR of traveling abroad. My trip begins January 12, 2010 in Burma where I will visit family for roughly one month. After that, SEA is mine for the exploring!

I am really eager to do some humanitarian and volunteer work while I am in SEA . I plan to do various volunteer work in the region, but my main goal is to finally realize my dream of volunteering at the Elephant Nature Reserve in northern Thailand!

If anyone has leads and/or contacts regarding various volunteer programs throughout SEA, or simply general travel information, I'd love to hear from you about it! I don't really know anyone in the region (outside of Burma) and I need all the friends I can get.

Here's an updated list and map of my progress toward my travel challenge. The countries listed in bold indicate countries that I plan on traveling to in 2010. Just six more countries to visit and three more years to complete my travel challenge. Let's go!

A - Austria
B - Belgium, Bulgaria
C - Canada (Quebec), Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Cambodia, China
D - Denmark
E - Egypt, England
F - France
G - Germany, Greece, Grenada
H - Hungary
I - Iceland, Italy, India, Indonesia
J - Jordan
K -
L - Laos
M - Mexico, Myanmar (Burma), Malaysia
N - Netherlands, Nepal
O -
P - Peru, Poland, Portugal
Q -
R - Romania
S - Slovenia, Spain, Sweden
T - Turkey, Thailand
U - United States
V - Vatican City, Vietnam
W - Wales
X - NO countries start with X but I've been to the Greek island, Χίος (Chios). Does this count???
Y -
Z -

© Connie Hum 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

3-2-1...Liftoff!!!

Yesterday I accomplished one of my lifelong dreams of watching a space shuttle launch, LIVE! It was truly an awe-inspiring experience.

The day started early as my friend Randee and I left Orlando for the Kennedy Space Center at 6:30 in the morning. Luckily, there was little traffic and we made it to KSC in less than an hour. We met a friend of a friend who worked at KSC and received our visitor center tickets from him. Most of the sites were closing at 10 am in preparations for the launch so we rushed off the to Apollo/Saturn V Center.

I think I should pause and explain to those who may not know this, but NASA and space was, and still is, a big part of my life. I worked as a Space Camp counselor in California for 2 years and also for a summer at a Space Camp in Izmir, Turkey. During that time, I made wonderful friends, had thrilling experiences, met a handful of astronauts (including Buzz Aldrin, Gordon Cooper and Sally Ride)...in short, some of the best times in my life are connected to NASA and Space Camp.

You can only imagine my excitement when I entered the Apollo/Saturn V Center. It was better than Christmas in a candy store for me. There was a presentation on the Apollo program and the moon landing of Apollo 11 and I actually got choked up while I watched it, TWICE! Once when they spoke of the Apollo 1 fire and the death of my favorite astronaut, Gus Grissom, and the other when they showed the live footage of Neil Armstrong taking the first steps on the moon.

Unfortunately, by the time we finished in the Apollo/Saturn V center, it was too late to go to the International Space Station Center. We returned to the main Visitor Center where Randee and I rode a simulator that demonstrated the feel of a space shuttle launch. It was really intense!

As the countdown to launch reached T-minus 1 hour, Daniel met us again and got us on the last bus out to the Eastern causeway to view the launch. This is one of closest places you can view the launch from! It was a perfect setting. Can you see the launch pad in the picture below? It's located just a little to the left of the center, between the two green islands. It's the gray speck.

Excitement built up as the countdown reached T-minus three minutes. At T-minus two minutes, everyone who had been sitting and reading, stopped and stood up. The crowd of people were all standing at attention, holding their breaths.

Finally it came. T-minus 10 seconds, 9, 8, 7, main engine start, 4, 3, 2, 1. Liftoff!!!

At first, all you could see was a thick cloud of smoke (it's really steam) surrounding the launch pad, but then through all the cloudy confusion, you finally see it. Space Shuttle Atlantis taking flight, higher and higher. As Atlantis broke through the thick clouds above it, leaving in its wake a trail of pure white smoke and lighting up the sky with its bright orange-red flame, I started crying. It was really one of the most spectacular and beautiful sights I have ever seen.

Before you even had the proper amount of time to process all the beauty in the launch, Atlantis disappeared into the atmosphere and all that was left was a clear and distinct trail of its path into space.

Everyone piled back onto the buses and returned to the main Visitor Center, the sense of excitement and awe clinging to us. That feeling is still with me now.

Thank you to Valerie and Daniel for pulling some strings and getting me and my friend tickets to the launch! You two are amazing! You have made one of my dreams come true!!!

© Connie Hum 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I Love New York

Yes, it's true. I love New York. I wholly, completely LOVE New York.

Here's why, in no particular order:
  1. My amazing friends (this is definitely the top reason)!
  2. Live music every night of every genre! And most of the time, you can get up real close to actually SEE the musicians playing!
  3. People wash, dry and fold your dirty laundry for you!
  4. Delicious food of every possible nationality!
  5. My TONY subscription! I practically live by it!
  6. The BEST chai lattes in the world comes out of a TRUCK!
  7. It's always beautiful in Central Park, no matter the season!
  8. Celebrity sightings (on my first day back, I saw Kanye West on St. Marks)!
  9. Broadway shows and musicals, rush tickets!
  10. The subways run 24 hours a day!
  11. There are vegan restaurants that actually taste good!
  12. Seeing creativity everywhere, which encourages you to be more creative yourself!
The list continues, but what are YOUR reasons for loving New York?

© Connie Hum 2009

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Time Warp

During my last few days of my "official" travels, I had such an odd sensation of being frozen in time.

The month of October has crept by so slowly, though my days have been filled with frenzied activities. Most days I find it almost inconceivable that it is still, indeed, October.

How can it be that in a month's time I left Cairo, visited eastern Turkey, traveled throughout central and western Turkey with my mother, said goodbye to friends in Istanbul, arrived in London, traveled around various parts of England and Wales, AND returned to New York?

Yet it is STILL October.

At least, if my first few hours in New York City has proven anything, life certainly does move faster here.

I'm so unbelievably happy to be home in the city that I love so much and that loves me so well!

© Connie Hum 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cambridge

Last Friday I had originally planned to take a day trip from London to nearby Canterbury because, believe it or not, I loved reading Chaucer's Canterbury Tales when I was in high school. The night before I left, a friend of mine begged me to go to Cambridge instead.

Hey, I'm easy. I went to Cambridge.

Brilliant! The weather held out for me and it was a splendid day for the walk from Cambridge to Grantchester and back again. I spent most of the afternoon meandering along the Cam river, thoroughly enjoying the British countryside.

The trees along the river were turning spectacular colors of gold, orange and red, which were complimented to perfection with the rolling green hills and endless blue skies. To make things even more picturesque, giant white swans idled along the Cam while cows grazed on the grass behind me.

In Grantchester, I stopped by the famous Orchard House for the customary afternoon tea and scones before heading back into Cambridge proper.


I really fell in love with this little British town. The view of King's College Chapel was magnificent and slightly unexpected as I made my way around a corner. The buildings in Cambridge were all old and cute, and of course, the history and pedigree of intelligence in this place was nothing to frown at either.

There were so many people biking along, their baskets filled with either books or flowers. As the day was quite nice, there were also plenty of people punting along the Cam river. I really can't imagine going to university here because I think I would have just spent all my time buying flowers to put in my bike basket or punting along the Cam, looking cute instead of going to class.

Maybe the secret to getting into Cambridge isn't a high IQ after all. Maybe it's just the ability to go to class despite all the many distractions.

© Connie Hum 2009

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ukulele!!!

Yes, I bought a ukulele! It's been something of a hidden, under-the-surface desire of mine to learn how to play the ukulele for some time now and I also needed something new to learn to help keep my mind fresh and sharp. So today while I was strolling the streets of London with my friend Mark, we saw some sure-fire "signs" that the time to start learning how to play the ukulele was NOW.

I bought a ukulele from a store called "The Duke of Uke." It just feels so right to hold it in my hands!

Wish me luck on learning how to play!

© Connie Hum 2009

Monday, October 19, 2009

Seasons Change, Or Six Months Too Long

It would seem as though the seasons have taken an unexpected and sudden turn against us. Just when the sun was shining full of warmth and promises for a bright tomorrow, the days turned cold and gray, threatening to rain on all our future parades with each passing day.

I find that my own feelings are reflecting this seasonal change. Prior to leaving Istanbul in early September, I was madly in love with it and ready to move back at the first opportunity. Upon my return, something happened and I felt jaded by the whole city. All of a sudden, everything that I disliked about Istanbul came under a glaring light, pushing all the reasons I loved it into the fading darkness. Yes, I still love Istanbul, but like a summer romance reaching its inevitable end, I just knew our time to say goodbye had come.

I find that perhaps six months is too long for me to "travel" in one place. The same thing happened to me during my trip across Europe in 2005. By the time the six month mark approached, I was just looking forward to going home and not enjoying the rest of my trip. I find this happening to me again.

Now I'm currently in London, nursing the wounds of a broken heart from a short-term love affair with Istanbul, though I must say it hasn't been exactly difficult. It definitely helps that London has everything that I missed in Istanbul about New York City. It's absolutely lovely to be able to eat a wide range of foods and have so many different types of things going on around me all at once.

I think it's just too bad that I keep thinking about my return to NYC. London has a character all its own that's making me fall in love with it, but NYC will always be my love.
Of course, this doesn't mean that I won't be able to have a brief fling with London either!

Check back for my London blogs to come!

© Connie Hum 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mom's Trip Highlights

Yes, there were some rocky moments in my travels around Turkey with my mom, but there were also some pleasant and even down-right fun moments. Here are the highlights:

  • Sharing my love for street mussels in Istanbul with my mom. We ate so many each day because we both knew the opportunity to eat them again was running out with each passing day.
  • Some silly Canadian woman asked if we were sisters. SISTERS! I was aghast with horror. My mom joyfully spent the rest of the day calling me "little sister."
  • A Turkish boy kept asking me out but I kept saying no. When I told my mom what we had been talking about, she said, "Oh, it sounds like he wants to shake you." I guess that's what she's calling it these days.
  • Mom and I hitched a ride to Efes from our hotel with a guy on a motorcycle. My mom held on so tight to him that he almost stopped breathing. Before taking off, he said, "Don't kill me!"
  • In Göreme, we passed by a trio of old Turkish women, boiling something in a huge cauldron on the side of the road. I asked them what they were doing and they were making boiling honey to make a type of special honey. The mixture was ready and they asked us to help them drain the pot. Every day after that, the old women would say hi to us as we walked passed.
  • Penis talk in Cappadocia. Come on, you knew that was going to make the list!
© Connie Hum 2009

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Reconciliation

I suppose you can say that my mother and I have reconciled our differences. Really, this means we have just dropped the subject and moved on with the rest of our trip. This is usually how we "resolve" our issues. I really hate it because I know that all the bad feelings still remain, just further below the surface. I'd love to really hash it out with my mom, whatever it takes, but she's completely avoiding the topic.

Oh well.

© Connie Hum 2009

Monday, October 5, 2009

Growing Pains

UGH...My trip with my mother has been more difficult than I thought. I don't know why I imagined that all the past problems we've had would magically disappear simply because we were in a different country. Some things never change but I guess I was just wishing and hoping for the best.

There were a few moments where we seemed to be really getting along well together, some even where I felt we were finally connecting (such as when we were walking around Cappadocia and we were able to have a conversation about penises). But most of the time, I wasn't so lucky.

Being with her this past week has been exceptionally emotionally draining. There's only so much disappointment in her eyes that I can see before all my little insecurities and and self-doubt creeps back in and consumes me. It makes me FURIOUS that I've worked so hard to be the best person I can be, to bring myself up and out from all my parents' disappointment just to see it in her eyes every day. I'm not mad at her for the way I feel. I'm mad at myself for allowing her to get to me and for allowing myself to feel small, insignificant and unloved again. This ISN'T me! Self-deprecation doesn't become me.

We've got another week left before she leaves. I hope for the best, but I'm not sure what the best is anymore. Send your good vibes our way, we're going to need it.

Lesson learned: stick to easy topics such as penises when talking to my mom to avoid any future problems.

© Connie Hum 2009

Monday, September 28, 2009

One Lasting Cairo Moment...

One of my last nights in Cairo, I had a redeeming experience that has endeared a small corner of Cairo into my heart forever.

My friend, Ali invited me to his cousin's engagement party, which turned out to be more block party than anything else. A cul-de-sac was emptied of cars and replaced with chairs and giant loudspeakers. By the time we arrived, the DJ was already blaring Arabic music into the night and into the neighbor's bedrooms.


Ali's family was very nice, but I spent the first 20 minutes sitting and hiding in a corner behind the speakers, trying to avoid the subtle stares and curious faces. I watched a few people dance and sing along to the songs before one of Ali's sisters managed to get me to dance with her.


I think I kind of shocked everyone with my belly dancing skills. I was really intimidated by the hip shaking skills that Ali’s family was displaying but I’m happy to say that I (somewhat) held my own and before I knew it, everyone was dancing with me! Grandmothers in burqas held tight to my hands, Ali’s stepmother was shoulder shimmying with me and even the kids were showing me their moves. It was really fun and I couldn’t stop laughing. When we tried to say goodbye, everyone kept making me dance with them so that I wouldn’t leave. I received breath-constricting hugs, dozens of kisses and it ended up taking an hour before I literally snuck out of the party.

I'm really glad that I threw my inhibitions aside and just had a good time dancing with everyone. It was so liberating and fun to NOT think about what people where thinking because everyone had a good time watching the strange little Chinese girl belly dance, including myself.
© Connie Hum 2009

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Jipped in Egypt

Ahh...I left Dahab (reluctantly, I might add) and made it to Cairo and Luxor. I tried my best, really I did, to like both Cairo and Luxor, but Egypt certainly doesn't make it easy.

There is always a constant barrage of people trying to get your money. I understand that many people rely on tourists for their livelihood, but really, it was just too much. In Luxor, as soon as I stepped out of the train station, no less than a dozen taxi drivers were trying to steer me towards their car, even as I was speaking on the phone and shaking my head. Finally, I just had to shout, "My friend is coming to get me!"

Cairo was no better. The streets are really, REALLY filthy, full of garbage and other gross things. The people have harrasment down to an art. Luckily, I had a good friend in Cairo to help me out. Once, we were shopping in the bazaar for a dress. After finally finding one that I liked, the guy tried to sell it to me for 280 Egyptian pounds (about $50). My friend told me in Turkish that it was too expensive and we got up to leave. The guy came after us and I ended up buying the dress for 30 EGP ($5.50).

It made making new friends in Egypt quite a difficult task because you never could tell if someone was talking to you on the street because they were genuinely nice or if they were trying to sell you something, or make babies with you. No joke, lots of taxi drivers are happy to offer their assistance if you tell them you have no children when they ask. And they always ask.

I hate to travel with such reservations about the people, but it was really hard not to when everywhere you turn, there's someone trying to take advantage of you. Thank goodness my Egyptian friends were there to help remind me that not everyone is trying to exploit me.

Egypt, you have much to learn from my friends. Travelers, go to Egypt after you make friends with Egyptians!

© Connie Hum 2009

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My Little Slice of Heaven

When I decided to come to Egypt, I knew one of the main things I wanted to do was dive in the Red Sea. I was given the suggestion of going to Dahab for this.



Dahab is a small little dive town. It's nothing but dive shops and restaurants, sprinkled with gift shops all along the boardwalk. You pretty much meet everyone in town just by walking the 20 minutes it takes to get from one end of the boardwalk to the other.

There are just as many foreigners in Dahab as there are Egyptians. When asked how long the foreigners have been in Dahab, the shortest duration I encountered was 6 weeks. With plans to return within the next year. People just seem to show up in Dahab and not leave.

Dahab is a very special place indeed and I can certainly attest to the strong desire that pulls you into staying. My original plan was to come to Dahab for only four days. Now I'm working on getting my Advanced Open Water diving certification and have extended my stay another three days, and I'm seriously considering just staying for the remainder of my time in Egypt.


Diving in the Red Sea is a dream come true! The water is amazingly clear, the amount of sea life is incredible and I've already seen an array of awesome and interesting marine animals. I saw two octopi (or is it octopuses?) change color right before my eyes! That was intense! I saw a spotted ray literally floating through the water before landing close to me. I almost forgot to breath, I was just so astounded!

The funny thing is, the town of Dahab really isn't THAT special. There's really nothing to do here besides dive. It's still a pretty awesome thing to do, this being the Red Sea and all, but still... And the flies. They are relentless! In any case, I'm perfectly happy taking my AOW course, doing amazing dives each day and seeing the various fish undersea, lounging my nights away near the surf and keeping company with the cool ocean breeze.

I could certainly see myself doing this for at least another six weeks. If not more... If you don't hear from me, at least you'll know where to find me. I invite you to come look for me. I could probably use a roommate by that time.

© Connie Hum 2009

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bedouin Days

The Bedouin Village, located just outside of Petra is a dirty, smelly town full of donkeys, camels and bare-footed children kicking up storm clouds of dirt and dust as they run through the streets. Amidst all the grime and chaos, live the legendary Bedouin.

I had the unique privilege of spending three days with the Bedouin, receiving first-hand experience of their long-standing culture and way of life. The highlight, besides sleeping in a cave in the middle of Petra's mountain range, was undoubtedly the night I spent inside the home of a Bedouin family to share a home-cooked dinner with them. The family was incredibly generous and kind. Although the family seemed to be of little means, they fed me a feast of lentil soup and a dish of "upside-down chicken" served in a massive platter over a heaping mound of aromatic rice.

Bedouin chicken dinner

The family and I ate out of the massive platter together, topping each spoonful of rice and chicken with a saucy tahini vegetable salad. The meal was absolutely delicious.

I felt a little guilty for eating this family's food but they kept insisting that I eat as much as I could and I soon felt guilty for not graciously accepting their hospitality by eating more!

The children were a lovely bunch. We couldn't communicate well as my knowledge of Arabic is severely limited to salaam and shookran (hello and thank you), just as their English was limited in kind, but we took many pictures, walked around hand in hand and played with their neighbor's camels. The children took a wild fancy to my stick-straight hair and couldn't keep their hands out of it all night.

Everything seemed to fascinate them about me

The kids even took me to meet their neighbor next door. And his camel!

I was nervous the camel would spit on me

My days here were an eye-opener to the Bedouin lifestyle and I am forever grateful to all those who shared their lives with me and helped to make my Bedouin days so memorable.

The sparse interior of a Bedouin cave located in the middle of Petra's mountains
© Connie Hum 2009

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Dead Sea Experience

Upon arriving into Amman, one of the first things I did was go to the Dead Sea with some friends. The five of us jumped into the car on an unbelievably hot day and drove less than an hour to the Dead Sea.

I knew that the Dead Sea had a high salt concentration but I didn't know just how salty it was going to be! You literally just float! I tried to stand a few times but my legs just kept bobbing up to the surface. It was a strange feeling but very cool. I also didn't know that the Dead Sea was the lowest point on Earth and that you could literally see Israel across the Sea.

My friends and I also benefited from the Dead Sea mud which is purported to have special minerals to improve your skin. We lathered ourselves up and baked in the glaring sun. You could practically see the sulfuric smell wafting off our bodies like the way smells are portrayed in old cartoons.

The caked mud was a bit difficult to get off and I had the misfortune of accidentally splashing some Dead Sea water into my eyes (painful beyond belief). After some scrubbing and rubbing, the mud finally came off to reveal smooth, radiant skin!

It was a great day and a special treat to have been to the Dead Sea. I hope that one day I will return again and be extra careful not to get any of the sea water in my eyes.

© Connie Hum 2009

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What I'll Miss About Istanbul

I'm sure there a many great things that I will miss about living in Istanbul but here's a list of the top things I will miss most.
  1. Calling everyone I know "canım" (literal translation: my life)
  2. Crossing the First Bridge at night and seeing the gorgeous Istanbul skyline reflecting off the Bosphorus
  3. Hearing the morning call to prayer and realizing that it's time to go home and go to sleep
  4. Türkçe arkadaşlarım
  5. Drinking Turkish çay in the afternoons
  6. Eating street mussels on the way home after a night out in Tünel
  7. Taking people to my "secret" cafe and enjoying the view
  8. Playing and laughing with Mina and Melda
  9. Seeing people's faces when I speak Turkish to them for the first time
  10. "Ciao bella, ciao ciao ciao!"
  11. Eating heaping bowlfuls of mantı (Turkish stuffed pasta with yogurt sauce)
  12. Riding the ferries across the Bosphorus
  13. People watching along Istiklal Caddesi and its side streets
  14. Eating home-cooked Turkish food every day
  15. Everything about Istanbul, plain and simple
© Connie Hum 2009

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Time Flies...

But I certainly had a lot of fun!

Sad, but true, my days in Istanbul are coming to a rapid end. I have 8 days of holidays with the family in Bodrum before returning to Istanbul for some of my last days in this incredible city that I love.


I can't believe six months have flown by so quickly! Words cannot describe the feeling that overcame me today as I spent my last day at home with my girls. I felt such an immense love for them. They really are darlings and I will miss them tremendously.

The family has been overwhelmingly generous and kind to me in the last six months and I know no words to convey how much I appreciate all that they have done for me.

I know I will return to Istanbul a number of times so hopefully this doesn't mean it's the last time that I will get to spend with this amazing family!

© Connie Hum 2009

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Proud Mom!

I knew this would get your attention! To all my friends who keep wanting me to be pregnant (why, I'm not really so sure), THIS IS NOT A PREGNANCY ANNOUNCEMENT!!! I am NOT, nor will I be in the near future, pregnant! =)

I am simply very proud of my mother for deciding to fly out to Istanbul BY HERSELF and travel around Turkey with me.

This is a huge step for her and I really couldn't be any more proud of my mom! She is certainly full of surprises.

Now I have to plan. Which is very difficult for me because I usually do not like to plan my trips in the way that I will need to for my mother's visit. Here I go!

© Connie Hum 2009

Monday, August 3, 2009

Cold Turkey!

I was SUPER excited to go diving in the Gulf of Saros in Turkey this past weekend. My friend, Yusuf (left) and his cousin, Murat (right) drove me from Istanbul to Ibrice in Saros, a normal trip of 3-4 hours ended up taking over 7 hours because of the massive Istanbul traffic getting out of the city.

The dive trip was set up by a diving club in Istanbul so there were a lot of people on board. The water was a beautiful azure color and I couldn't wait to see the world below me.

Sadly, I was gravely disappointed in the dives. The water was FREEZING! I was literally shivering as I was underwater and when I got back to the surface, even the hot Turkish sun couldn't warm me up fast enough. My body shook as if I was back in Iceland, pre-Icelandic wool socks, and my extremities were a sickly shade of purple!

There wasn't a whole lot going on underwater either. Not much life or fish around. I was totally bummed as I had heard that Saros was a good area for diving. Perhaps it was just bad timing.

The highlight? On the second dive of the day, I got to go through a tunnel! I was a little apprehensive at first as I had never been through a tunnel before but THAT was pretty amazing!

© Connie Hum 2009

Friday, July 24, 2009

Making My Own Luck

Every once in awhile, as I'm sitting on a terrace enjoying the magical skyline of İstanbul, or hearing the akşam call to prayer as the sun is starting to set, or hanging out with my new Turkish friends (canım) over çay while playing tavla and almost every single time I cross over the Bosphorus, I think to myself "How lucky am I?" İstanbul is such a beautiful city and here I am, living in the midst of it all! Truly, how lucky am I?

I had such a thought yesterday as I sat in a cafe in Tunel, reading a book (Louis de Dernières' "Birds Without Wings," superb!) in the middle of the day. I thought, "How did I get here? How did I come to have a life where I could just while the days away like this?"

I think back on the struggle I had deciding to leave my job, my wonderful friends and essentially my life in New York, the constant weighing of the uncertainty of the unknown against the comfortable routine I had become so accustomed to. In the end, my need for self-discovery and my simple but unrelenting desire for new and challenging adventures won out.

So here I am, in mystical İstanbul, the current love of my life. My life as is it now has very little to do with luck. I choose this. I MADE my own luck!

I encourage everyone to make more of their own luck in their lives, no matter how big or small. You never know what will transpire and where you might just end up!

And I must say again to my dear family and friends, thank you all SO MUCH for your amazing support and for encouraging me to follow my heart. You are each priceless and I hold you all in the highest of esteems. A special thank you to the Tunaman Parlak
ışık family for opening their hearts, their home and their lives to me. And of course, to my mom and dad, for letting me forge my own path in life. I love you all!

© Connie Hum 2009

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I Need Your Advice: Plan My Next Travel!!!

Çok üzgünüm! I have roughly 7 more weeks left in Istanbul! I really don't feel ready to leave this wonderful city yet but I'm also looking forward to more traveling. There's a Turkish proverb that basically says once you visit Istanbul, you have "the finger of Istanbul stuck in your butt" and that you are always compelled to return. Odd as it seems, I completely understand and I know this is only the beginning of my growing love affair with the 'Bul.

I'm starting to think about my post-Istanbul travels and I'm hitting the all too familiar too-much-to-do-but-not-enough-time-in-my-life-to-do-it problem.

With my current travel itinerary, I will have approximately three and a half weeks post-Istanbul to travel BEFORE returning to Istanbul to meet my parents for some traveling WITHIN Turkey (assuming that they are able to make it out here). Originally, I thought of flying to Jordan for a couple of weeks and then flying to Egypt for another couple of weeks, giving me plenty of time to travel around both countries at a very leisurely pace and do a little bit of hanging out.

Now, after further research and map consulting (really, I just looked at a map of the region), I'm considering adding Beirut and Damascus to the itinerary, given their close proximity to Jordan and Egypt. However, this means more travel time and less time exploring each place.

Then there's Djibouti, just further south of Egypt. I've been dreaming of going there ever since I read an article about this small African country in DIVE magazine. It's a bit more out of the way and unfortunately, whale sharks aren't there until December/January, but how often will I be thisclose to Djibouti? To be honest, as I'm typing, the more I'm convinced to save Djibouti for another time when I can dive with the whale sharks since that's the main reason I want to go there in the first place.

So what do you think I should do? Take advantage of being in the region and see more countries in the time that I have or take things slow and stick to my original plan of going to only Jordan and Egypt? Perhaps go to another country that I haven't yet considered? I'm more interested in Beirut than Damascus so maybe I should do Beirut, Jordan and Egypt? Should I take into serious consideration the security issues with Lebanon and Syria? I don't want that to be a reason I don't travel somewhere but it would also be foolish to blindly walk into danger.

There are so many choices! I can't decide! İmdat! What do you suggest I do?

© Connie Hum 2009

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Swim, Eat, Repeat

I had the amazing experience of spending the last four days on a beautiful boat in the Mediterranean Sea with my host family. We left the port in Göcek Sunday afternoon and spent the following four days on the boat. My days consisted of waking up, swimming, eating, swimming, eating, swimming, eating, swimming, eating, swimming, sleeping. Repeat. It was brilliant!

The water was crystal blue and clear, the moon was mostly full during the nights, which didn't offer us great star-gazing opportunities but the nights were incredibly beautiful nonetheless.

I foolishly forgot to charge my camera battery so I wasn't able to take that many photos, but the family took some which I will post on my website shortly.

Even now, back on dry land and sitting at a table, I feel as though I'm still swaying! I'm looking forward to going back to the boat next month!

© Connie Hum 2009

Friday, June 26, 2009

Book Crossing

While in a pretty sweet underground cafe in Stockholm's Gamla Stan district, I came across a book that was participating in an awesome project called Book Crossing.

The idea is similar to a random free global library. Someone reads a book, registers it on the website, leaves the book somewhere in the hopes that it will soon be picked up by someone else to read. Each participating book has a tracking number so you can log into the website, enter the book's number and track where it's been, who it has been read by and their review of the book. You then enter information regarding the book's current whereabouts so that others can see where the book has traveled.

You can also search for specific books that are still "out in the wild." If the location is close enough to you, you can set out to find it like some hidden treasure!

I picked up Helen Fielding's "Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination." It's not my typical genre of book but I liked the idea of Book Crossing so I took the book back with me to Istanbul.

I managed to read the entire book during the course of my massively long 28 hour flight from Istanbul back to San Francisco and I've now left the book at a cafe in my hometown of Fremont, California.

I went back to the cafe and the book is no longer there though I haven't received a notice that someone has registered picking up the book on the website! I'm curious to see who picked up the book and where it will go next so whoever picked it up, register it please! I'm equally interested in seeing if I'll come across more Book Crossings in the near future!

Happy book hunting!

© Connie Hum 2009

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Family Dating Service

One of the main topics of conversation between myself and my family whenever I 'm back in Fremont revolves around when I'm going to settle down, get married and have kids. Now, my family knows me well enough to know that it's going to take a lot and one heck of a guy to tie me down, and hopefully he won't "tie" me down, but rather join me in my traveling (mis)adventures, but still...that's what we talked about. A lot.

In fact, I had one cousin email me a company ID photograph of a coworker from the company directory that she thought I should meet. Another keeps telling me about her coworker that's really nice and funny. She wants to give me his email address.

It's all very nice and swell and I'm always up for meeting new people but honestly, I wouldn't know the first thing to do with such an introduction. "Um...Hi. My cousin wanted me to contact you because she thought we might want to make babies together someday..."? No thanks.

Since they keep trying to set me up, I'm starting to wonder if I should I let them set me up, just to see what hijinks will inevitably ensue from such awkward situations? I think it would be funny but at the same time, I don't really want to put myself through the unnecessary torture. Then again, at least after everything I can say that I've been on a blind date.

What say you?

© Connie Hum 2009

Monday, June 22, 2009

There's No Place Like Home...

While Dorothy discovered that "there's no place like home" in The Wizard of Oz, I have discovered that being back in my hometown is, for lack of a better word, weird. Fremont, California is, to me, just as strange and foreign as the land of Oz was for Dorothy, and I confess that I feel strange and foreign myself in this place.

It's only been a week since my arrival and I'm glad I'm back to see my Grandpa and the rest of my family but most of the time I just feel like I'm in suburban hell. I'm really just not made to live outside of big cities. Things don't make sense to me here. Why is everything so far away that it requires me to drive a car? How come the city buses go nowhere useful? Why must I risk life and limb each time I try to bike somewhere on my younger cousin's bike simply because people here don't know how to share the road with bikers? How come there isn't a basket on her bike for me to put my purse? =)

I don't think there's anything wrong with living in suburbia, it's just that I can't do it. I get far too bored.

I'll be in Fremont until the 1st of July so if anyone's in town, let me know and we'll catch up!

© Connie Hum 2009

Friday, June 12, 2009

Stockholm Syndrome

After the beautiful quiet of Copenhagen, Matteo and I were greeted in Stockholm with drunken Swedes in sailor caps, dancing and drinking in the back of a truck. We looked over at each other and smiled. This was our kind of town! Turns out that it's tradition to celebrate high school graduation in this way.
The weather in Stockholm was not as favorable for us as Copenhagen though. It was quite cold and rainy, so much so that I was forced to buy boots on my second day. Matteo and I tried to make the most of our time, walking and exploring outdoors as much as we could. We spent an entire day at the Vasa Museum, mostly in part to avoid the freezing rain, but it was a cool museum to check out. Matteo and I are practically experts on the Vasa ship now after all those hours so if you have any questions about this sunken then recovered Swedish ship, go ahead and ask us!

During our strolls we chanced upon a couple of Swedish celebrities. Our first was a Swedish pop singer named Dorian/Damian or something. We were in Skansen, Stockholm's open air museum and came across him rehearsing for a show. Our other Swedish celebrity sighting was the KING of Sweden. It was their national day and he came down a street, waving.

Matteo and I found that we really preferred the old Gamla Stan area of the city, where we literally stumbled upon some interesting cafes, bars and restaurants.

One night we walked past a very interesting jazz bar that looked like something out of NYC's Lower East Side. We came back after dinner and ended up dancing up a jazzy storm together amid a crowd of mostly really old people. Matteo and I were the first to start dancing and by the end of the night, most of the crowd had joined us!

On another late night, we were walking past a tiny, nondescript alley. I just happened to glance into it and noticed a lone candle blowing in the wind. I called Matteo over and we decided to check out the source of the candle. It was a no-name, packed restaurant! A secret restaurant that was popular with locals! Jackpot!!! We came back the next night for dinner and entered into the underground section of the restaurant. It was mostly candlelit and very charming, though we saw a big group of Frenchmen and Aussies. We struck up a conversation with the Aussies and I asked how they had heard of the restaurant. "We just happened to walk by." Awesome, the restaurant was still a secret! After dinner, we decided to walk past the bar. Then we noticed another door. Oh no... We walked out the door and saw the main entrance! We had gone in through the back door! So the restaurant wasn't exactly as secret as we thought but still, WE found it secretly and we're proud of this gem of a find!

We spent our last night in Stockholm with a group of Swedes in their home, singing ABBA songs. Really. We did! It was probably the best thing we did in Stockholm. The only decent video I have of us isn't that great, but you get to see Matteo really into it and I think that's pretty awesome. Our rendition of "Mamma Mia" was probably our best but we didn't have the camera set up for that. Too bad because we really rocked that song.


It was a great trip and I'm really glad that I got the chance to catch up with my friend, Matteo. Ciao Ca-so! Non andare via! See you soon!

Pictures from our Copenhagen/Stockholm trip are also now posted on my site.

© Connie Hum 2009

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Copenhagen Is Just Like One Big Movie Set!

My week-long holiday in Scandinavia started out in Copenhagen. I arrived late in the afternoon and hopped on a bus toward my friend Allan's house. As I rode the bus, I fell in love with all the little brick houses and marveled at all the bikes on the streets. Copenhagen seemed so quaint and cute, and I thought "How fantastic that everyone gets around on bikes and they don't even need to lock them up!"

I arrived at Allan's place and spent a few hours chatting with him as we waited for Matteo's arrival from Italy. I shared my thought with Allan who quickly explained that the bikes were indeed locked up and that bike theft was actually a problem in Copenhagen.

Matteo arrived and we three shared a nice dinner together. Poor Allan had to sit through all our New York stories and memories but he did so graciously. Allan taught us a fun card game, something called Pirate's Poker.

I had trouble sleeping that night as we went to bed late and the rising sun at 3 in the morning woke me up prematurely. It was crazy the amount of daylight that we had in Copenhagen!

The next morning we met up with my Danes, Niklas and Rune, whom I met in Peru the year before, for brunch at a cafe called Laundromat. It's actually a real, working laundromat where you can sit and eat or read the hundreds of books that they had in their cafe. Pretty smart!

Matteo, Allan, Niklas, Rune and I spent the day walking all over Copenhagen, catching all the major sights. All the buildings were so cute and the streets were so clean. The inside of the buildings looked bare to me and the streets were pretty empty so I just kept feeling as if we were walking around a Disneyland type of a place or a huge movie set. I think the Danes got pretty annoyed that I kept saying their beloved city was a farce, but really, I just couldn't shake the feeling of being on a movie set! Everything was just so picturesque and things seemed so perfectly placed.

I was in search for a Danish but it turns out the Danish in Denmark is not in fact the Danish that I know of. Denmark's' version of the Danish was pretty good but still, how come the Danes can't make a proper Danish? =) That evening, Allan renewed my faith in Danish culinary skills by cooking us a traditional Danish meal of potatoes, meatballs and a delicious sauce. We then went out for drinks, where the Danes "forced" Matteo and I to take shots of something that I likened to "shit water" but they called it "Fisherman's Friend."

The next day Matteo and I climbed up a spiraling tower. It was so high that I actually felt vertigo at the top! We then ventured into Christiana, a free-town within Copenhagen. We tried to find this awesome bike that I wanted to rent but they were hard to find so we ended up with normal bikes. It was still fun but how funny would it have been to see me and Matteo riding around Copenhagen in a bike like this?

We rode to the Carlsberg Brewery, took a tour, enjoyed our complimentary beers and then rode back a bit tipsy to meet Rune at King's Garden. The weather at this point had chilled and Allan was nice enough to bring Matteo and I jackets and sweaters. We then went with Rune to the beautiful Tivoli garden. It was a very nice way to end our stay in Disneyland, er, I mean, Copenhagen. =)


© Connie Hum 2009

Monday, June 8, 2009

Home Again

After a week-long holiday split between Copenhagen and Stockholm, I arrived into Istanbul quite late and tired, having not had much sleep the night before (due to staying up late singing ABBA songs with a group of Swedes in their home) and on the flight (due to a crying baby sitting behind me but may well have been sitting on my head).

I had a lovely time (blogs to come) but I really missed Istanbul and was very happy to be back.

I didn't know how much I felt a connection to Istanbul until I came back from Stockholm. Seeing the cityscape lit up with mosques, minarets and boats along the Bosphorus as I crossed over the First bridge, a deep feeling settled inside my heart of something like coming home. Strange....but also quite a wonderful feeling. I love being able to call Istanbul home, even if it's for a short while.

Upon my arrival home, I joined Serra and Enes on the terrace and finished two strong drinks that helped me fall right to sleep. I was home indeed.

And here's a picture of tonight's amazing sunset.


© Connie Hum 2009

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Turk-isms

Living in Istanbul is like having an in-depth case-study of Turkish anthropology. I have noticed common "quirks" that people use here, discovered what the "quirks" mean, and I, ever keen to be as "local" as possible, have even adopted some of these quirks into my own mannerisms. Yeah, I can say that I can act like a local here (ha ha), though I'm pretty sure no one will ever mistake me for one!

Some Turk-isms:
  • The hard blink - It's very common for people to greet you with a hard or exaggerated blink (think I Dream of Jeannie without the arms and head nod). It's usually accompanied with a smile. It can also be used as a sign of agreement or any other gesture of general pleasantness.
  • The lip smirk - Instead of saying no, most people will just smirk their lips. Take note that this action must produce some sort of noise. It's like blowing someone a kiss but with a hint of disgust. Sometimes the lip motion is subtle, but you can still hear the smirk.
  • The over-dressing - There seems to be a collective fear of cold in Turkey and people dress to ensure that they won't get cold in case a sudden chill occurs. As it's now warm here in Istanbul, I am usually wearing a tank top, shorts or a skirt and flip flops. I walk around in the sun and I'm sweating, wishing I had worn less. Everybody else? Long sleeve shirts, sometimes even sweaters and sports jackets, always socks/stockings and covered shoes. Even on the hot, crowded buses no one moves to take off their extra layers. I can't understand it.
  • The no-lines policy - The people here do not line up for anything really, unless there are specifically designated lines (such as in a grocery store). In places like bus stops, ferries and such, people just crowd together until everyone is onboard said transportation. "Cutting" in front of people occurs frequently as well. It's not really rude, it's just not very efficient.
Are there any other Turk-isms that you know of that I haven't noticed? If I notice any more, I'll be sure to let you know!

© Connie Hum 2009

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Büyükada: The Big Island of Istanbul

This past Saturday, I spent the day in Büyükada, the largest of a chain of islands just seven miles southeast of Istanbul. I had heard of the islands and how nice the change of pace was from the hustle of Istanbul as no cars are allowed on the islands. People get around on foot, bicycles or horse-drawn carriages. The islands are now places of elaborate summer homes for Istanbul's wealthy families, but it was once a place of exile where members of the royal family and public figures were banished.

I took the 25 minute ferry from Bostancı to Büyükada, enjoying the cool sea breeze, and met my friends Assiye and Alex. We hopped on a phaeton (horse-drawn carriage) that would take us up to the hill where Büyükada's only main site is, a 20th-century monastery built on Byzantine foundations. It was small, quite a disappointment after walking up a steep hill in the blazing sun, but the views were well worth it.

We spent the afternoon strolling back down to the main square in Büyükada, admiring the mansions that lined the streets. We even saw an old mansion for sale and started coming up with ideas on what we would do if we bought it. Assiye is currently working on negotiating with the realtor... =)

I also took the opportunity to take photos with my Diana F camera, the results of which we'll have to wait and see (most likely once I get back to NYC as it's hard to find a place in Istanbul that will develop 120 mm film). We ended our afternoon with dondurma and Efes beer by the pool of their hotel.

Büyükada was certainly a nice retreat from Istanbul, but there really wasn't anything spectacular about it. For those that are coming to visit Istanbul and have a limited time, I wouldn't recommend making the trip out to the islands as there are far more interesting places to go to in Istanbul proper.

© Connie Hum 2009

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Eurovision 2009

I hope everyone in the States is enjoying their 3-day Memorial Day weekend! And congratulations to Jon (a good friend since sophomore French class) and Yvette for getting married today! Sorry I couldn't be there to celebrate your big day with you! Consider my planning your honeymoon as gift enough!
-------
On Saturday, May 16th, I had the incredible experience of attending a Eurovision song contest party. For those who have not heard of Eurovision, it's a yearly song contest where each European country (plus other countries in the somewhat surrounding area) submits a song to compete against all the other countries. The final competition is held in the country that won the previous year. Each country performs their song and after all the performances, all the countries vote by giving points. The country with the most points after the voting wins the contest. The contest is wildly popular for some reason even though the songs are notoriously cheesy. It was a blast to watch it though.

The party was mainly foreign expats living in Istanbul so we were all rooting for Turkey. After each performance we would make notes on the song and performance. As the songs and performances usually entailed pretty awful music and costumes, it was fun to share comments with one another. This was probably what made watching Eurovision so fun. Otherwise, it may have just been a form of torture.

When the winner was announced at the end of the night, I have to admit, I was a bit mortified. I was in complete disbelief that Norway won with this song. It's so bad!!! Check out the dancers in the background.

All in all, I had a fun time watching Eurovision in Istanbul and I'm sure I'd be up for another Eurovision song contest party if I'm in Europe the next time it's on. On the other hand, if this happens to be the ONLY Eurovision song contest I ever get to experience, I'm okay with that too.

© Connie Hum 2009

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Summertime: Refresh!

This past weekend gave me a sneak peek at Istanbul's summer season. The weather went from mild and temperate in the low seventies to hot, hot, hot, hitting the mid-eighties before noon.

Now when I walk around, I'm almost always drinking a cold ayran, a Turkish yogurt drink that most people grew up drinking, and then for some reason, wouldn't be caught dead drinking anymore once they were older. My Turkish friends think I'm silly for liking it so much to drink it almost everyday but I think it's very refreshing, the perfect thing for a walking around on a hot Istanbul day. The best part, it's completely easy to make!

Just whisk equal parts plain yogurt and water with a bit of salt (optional) until smooth and frothy. They say a sign of a good ayran depends on how frothy it is, though I haven't noticed a significant difference in the taste. You can serve over ice or keep cool in the refrigerator.

Enjoy!

Although plain yogurt is the standard for ayran, think of all the possibilities! I'd like to try adding some bananas (without salt) into my next batch. Maybe even strawberries another time? Better yet, both!

Yum...I think I'm going to pour myself a glass of ayran right now!

© Connie Hum 2009

Friday, May 8, 2009

Travel Challenge

By now, you realize that I love to travel and that nothing else makes my heart sing as much as being on the road. Although I firmly believe that traveling randomly around the world is really the only way to allow life's adventures to unfold itself before you, I wanted to set a travel goal for myself. My friend Andi gave me an inspiration. She's embarking on an ambitious travel challenge of traveling to 26 countries, each starting with the letters of the alphabet, to be completed in the next four years. Although my ultimate goal is to travel to EVERY country in the world, this is a fun start! Since I like to travel for long periods of time in a given place, I'm going to give myself four years (instead of five as I originally intended to make it more challenging) to complete the alphabet. Wish me luck!


Here's a list of all the countries I've been to. Those listed with an asterisk * indicate places that I have tickets already purchased to travel. Bold indicate trips I'm seriously considering.

A - Austria
B - Belgium, Bulgaria
C - Canada (Quebec), Costa Rica, Czech Republic
D - Denmark* (Copenhagen, May/June 2009)
E - Egypt (September 2009), England (London, October 2009)
F - France, Fiji (2011)
G - Germany, Greece, Grenada
H - Hungary
I - Iceland, Italy
J - Jordan (September 2009)
K -
L -
M - Mexico, Myanmar (Burma)
N - Netherlands
O -
P - Peru, Poland, Portugal
Q -
R - Romania
S - Slovenia, Spain, Sweden* (Stockholm, June 2009)
T - Turkey, Thailand (2010)
U - United States
V - Vatican City
W -
X - NO countries start with X...Perhaps this should be a city instead?
Y -
Z -

As you can see, I've still got quite a way to go! Anyone want to join me on any travel (mis)adventures between now and May 8, 2013? Let me know!

© Connie Hum 2009

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Cooking with İkbal: Turkish Tavuk and Pilav

This chicken dish is the equivalent to chicken noodle soup (just without the soup). İkbal showed me how to make it on a cold and rainy day, which was just the perfect day for some comfort food.

Again, there are no measurements so use your best judgement for how much food you think you will eat.

Ingredients for chicken:
  • chopped carrots
  • onion, quartered
  • chicken (İkbal used bone-in thighs)
  • salt
  • water
Ingredients for pilav:
  • piliç (short-grain rice)
  • tel sehrıye (short, vermicelli-type pasta, can be excluded if you can't find it)
  • butter
  • chicken stock (from above recipe)
Rinse and soak the piliç. Set aside.

Place chicken, chopped carrots, and quartered onion into a large pot. Add enough water so that it barely reaches the top of the ingredients. Add salt.

Cover, bring to a boil and allow to simmer until the chicken is thoroughly cooked.

While the chicken is simmering, add butter to a non-stock pan or pot. Please don't use butter as liberally as İkbal does (wow, no wonder I'm not losing any weight). A tablespoon or two would be more than enough in my opinion.

Add tel sehrıye (about a quarter of the piliç) and stir.

Drain piliç and add to the pot. Add chicken stock. Keep in mind that for every cup of piliç you use, you will need the same amount of chicken stock. Since İkbal is cooking for the entire family, we used three cups of piliç, which required three cups of chicken stock to cook.

Stir all the ingredients until well mixed. Cover and simmer on low heat until the liquid is absorbed into the piliç and tel sehrıye. It took us about 20-25 minutes.
Serve the chicken over the pilav. It's the perfect meal for a rainy Spring afternoon!
If you have extra chicken stock left, don't just drain it! You can reserve it for another meal.

If you'd like to add a delicious, simple and easy to make Turkish salad to complete your meal, chop up some lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley and cilantro. Top with olive oil, fresh-squeezed lemon juice and salt. Toss and enjoy! It's really light and refreshing. A perfect addition to any meal!

© Connie Hum 2009

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Toilet Training Is Fun!

A couple weeks ago, we started toilet training Melda. I'd like to think that I helped in the process, but I can't really say that I did. I was mostly on watch, calling out to whoever, whenever the "dirty" work needed to be done, laughing all the while. It was quite fun. Really! Well, at least there were some funny stories to share.

Melda is quite the comedian and loves to just latch on to me (arms, legs, any loose limb she can find) and squeeze with her arms (sometimes nails too which can be quite painful) and legs to hold herself up. She hangs from chosen limb, saying "Melda's a monkey." Well, she did this one day after lunch, early on in the training. We laugh, I pretend to shake her off my leg and let her down. Then I notice a wet spot on my jeans. And then I notice a corresponding wet spot on Melda's pants. Boooo...

On another afternoon, Melda and I were upstairs playing. We always lock the gate leading downstairs to prevent any falls. Suddenly, Melda goes to the gate, tries to open it and with a panicked look, starts screaming. I've been trying to get Melda to "use her words" so I slowly walk over and calmly ask her what's the matter. She continues to scream at the gate. Again I calmly ask if there's something I can help her with. Then she manages to say "Toilet!" I take her downstairs to use her special potty and start laughing when I remember the panicked look on her face when she couldn't get downstairs. Poor thing. But hooray, she learned the word "toilet!"

Another night, I was playing with Mina and Melda. We were all lying on the ground, about to do something when Mina and I both sniffed something bad, looked at Melda's pants then at each other. " İKBAL!!!" Mina, İkbal and I couldn't stop laughing as Melda finished her business on the toilet. İkbal kept trying to get me to take pictures of the mess in Melda's pants but I couldn't stop laughing long enough to do it (and I didn't really want to).

All in all, the toilet training was a success and Melda is now diaper free! Congratulations Melda!

© Connie Hum 2009

Friday, May 1, 2009

Three Asian Girls Walk Into a Turkish Class...

And EVERYONE assumed that they were together, even though none of them had met before.

One was from New York (that's me), one was from Toronto and the other from Shanghai.

We were all interested in learning Turkish for various reasons and had come to the class out of curiosity. It just happened to be a coincidence that we were all Asian.

We kept having to explain to EVERYONE that we were not together and that we didn't know each other from before. They couldn't believe that the three random people interested in starting their next Turkish course all happened to be Asian girls. They had a harder time believing that we didn't know each other.

Completely understandable as this was probably the most condensed Asian population I have come across in Istanbul, save for the group of Japanese tourists I saw trying to cram themselves onto an already crammed Taksim/Tünel tram. Now THAT was pretty funny!

© Connie Hum 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

Earth Day Tip # 17: If You Don't, Who Will?

Disclaimer: This might get preachy. I kept editing it, trying to make it less preachy, but I just have to accept that sometimes if you feel strongly enough about something, it may just sound preachy. Sorry!

One thing that keeps me passionate about living a green life is knowing what I do actually does effect things around me. How often do we go through life feeling small and insignificant? As if everything we're trying for has no impact in the grand scheme of things? Being green is one way in which I know my actions are taking effect on things around me and that there is an impact in what I do.

We, as humans, are supposedly the most intelligent creatures on Earth, yet we (as a whole race) are driving it into the ground, taking everything thing else on this planet with us, and, for the majority of us, not even thinking twice about it. The good thing about being the most intelligent creature on Earth? We can do something about it!

I don't want to sit by idly and say "I wish there was something I could do." Instead, because I am one of the most intelligent creatures on Earth, I'm going to do my part and do what I can for those that can't take action for themselves, particularly wildlife and nature.

Take a look at this slideshow from Treehugger about 10 animals that may very well become extinct in our lifetime.

What's the recurring reason that these animals are becoming extinct? Human neglect and our complete lack of respect for the environment. 2 of these animals are near extinction because humans have almost hunted them into oblivion, another 5 due to loss of habitat by destruction caused by humans (most often in efforts to sustain our gregarious living habits), and 3 animals from a combination of both.

I think the first experience in which I felt so strongly about animal conservation was when I watched a leatherback turtle lay her eggs in Grenada. During that amazing night, I learned how these beautiful creatures were declining in huge numbers due to human neglect, egg poaching and habitat destruction. The truly unfortunate thing is that the fate of leatherback turtles are really in our hands. If we do nothing to help save their species, they will disappear. And not just the leatherback turtles, but many other animals as well.

I also think back on my trip to Kauai almost ten yers ago. One of the highlights of that trip was my last night. I was drying off on the beach after a day of snorkeling and I caught sight of something flapping in the ocean. Although I couldn't make out what it was, I rushed out into the water. Sure enough, I ended up swimming with two green turtles as the sun started to set! Almost ten years later, I still get butterflies just thinking about that moment: the excitement, the joy, the sheer elation of the experience of swimming with those turtles. I want to have more of those experiences and I want you to have that experience and I want my future children to have that experience too.

Perhaps this is why I'm so passionate about environmentalism and being green. I think this home we call Earth is just so amazing, with so many beautiful things to see and to experience. I'm willing to do everything I possibly can to keep it that way. For me and for future generations.

What about you? Are you going to join me in keeping this Earth amazing so that we can all continue to live beautiful and amazing lives, wherever we are and whatever we are doing?

The Earth Day blog series have been a real pleasure for me but I think this is the perfect way to end it. I'm sorry that it's a week ahead of schedule but I'm sure there will be more discussions about this in my blog in the future. Thank you for following along!

Earth Day may have passed but we shouldn't focus on appreciating the Earth just one day out of the year. We should appreciate it every day and we should live our lives without taking our world for granted. It's for us, it's for our future and it's for all things living.

Go Team Green!

© Connie Hum 2009

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Earth Day Tip #16: Green at Work

Seeing as a majority of us spend a huge amount of time at the workplace (and hopefully not begrudgingly), it only makes sense to bring the green to work with us while we're making the green.

Here are some easy and simple ideas to help you create a low-impact workplace:
  • Optimize your energy - Make sure that your computer is set to an energy-saving mode. Shut down your computer every evening before you leave work as the standby mode will still require power. Always shut off the lights in your office and conference rooms when you're not using them.
  • Stop unnecessary printing - Print only the things you absolutely need to. In this digital age, there is hardly anything that you should need to print. You can store files on your computer (remember to back it up to an external hard drive) instead of file cabinets. You save not only trees, but office space and file retrieval time, especially when you move offices. Use RECYCLED PAPER if and when you do print and remember to print double-sided.
  • Work from home - Eliminate the commute and you're sparing the air from all the pollutants your car emits and the gas required to make the trip to work. An added bonus, you can work in your pajamas! If working from home isn't an option for you, look into carpooling.
  • Green dry-cleaning - As much as I resisted having to dress professionally at work (the extra money spent and time lost required shopping for clothes that I wouldn't normally wear), I would still wind up with "fancy adult" clothes that require more attention than a quick toss into the wash. Traditional dry cleaners use a whole lot of toxic chemicals, which has been linked to groundwater pollution, cancer and reproductive disorders, in their cleaning process. For clothes that require dry-cleaning, look for green cleaners in your neighborhood that offer a special, environmentally-friendly option called "wet-cleaning". Green Apple Cleaners is a good one in NYC and New Jersey that picks up and delivers to your office for free.
  • RECYCLE! - If your company doesn't already have a recycling program in place, consider finding a new job because your company is already behind the times. Really. OR, if you prefer to keep your job, start a recycling program at your company.
  • Bring your reusables - I've said it before and I'll say it again. Stop using disposables! Bring in your own coffee mug, use your reusable water bottle, and keep a set of your own utensils at the office to help eliminate a huge amount of waste.
I did all these things while I was working at McKinsey and I always got compliments from people for being an "inspiration." Plus, people thought I was really fancy because I had a chic mug and I was always using china when I ate. =)

What other great green workplace tips can you share with us?

© Connie Hum 2009

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

EARTH DAY Tip: Celebrate by Encouraging Others to Go Green!

HAPPY EARTH DAY! Let's keep making Earth Day everyday!

I'm a firm believer that everyone can make small changes that will help make the world a greener place. Being green doesn't have to be a fringe group of tree-hugging hippies, just look at the group that's been reading and commenting along with my Earth Day blog series. Definitely no tree-hugging hippies in this bunch.

But how do we, the non tree-hugging hippies, get more people involved in helping to improve our world? Can we help make "tree-hugging" more hug-able?

The best thing to do to spread the green is to set an example. Show your friends and family how easy it is to be a part of the green movement by rocking your reusable water bottle and shopping bags wherever you go, send people amazing flowers from your compost-fertilized garden, recycle and ask friends and family to do the same (at least in your home) and so on. Once they see how simple and yes, even how enjoyable being green is, they might just start acting more green too.

The biggest thing is not to point out what in particular they are doing wrong. No one likes to get criticized and doing that isn't going to make people want to change their ways. You can make simple suggestions that focus more on how being green has benefited you and how it may benefit them too. "I used to spend so much money on bottled water but now, with my reusable bottle and drinking filtered water, I've saved so much money."

Another way to help people be more green is to let them know why being green is better for them, and not just the environment. People may not necessarily care about the effects on the environment because they don't think that it effects them directly but if you point out that styrofoam leaks chemicals into food and drinks which can cause health complications and possibly even cancer, then maybe people will think twice the next time they reach for a styrofoam container.

I also think that most people would be willing to be greener if they knew where to start. Encourage newcomers and help them get started on going green. Suggest little changes first and work your way up from there. Encouraging someone to sort their trash for recycling is a lot easier than convincing someone to invite worms into their home. Perhaps (and please take this as humbly as possible) directing them to this blog site may help? Treehugger is also a good resource for beginners.

I don't think it's realistic to turn a heavy duty consumer into a zero-emissions person, but if we can get even one person to do something differently, that is going to help the environment in a huge way. Especially since it's more than likely that each person will somehow be able to influence another. So go on! Try to get at least one person to do ONE thing greener! It really will make a difference!

In fact, I would like to know if and how I've influenced you in the green process. Have I? In what way? Please, stroke my ego. Haha...

Does anyone else have any good pointers for spreading the Green cheer? Please let us know how we can help others to the "greener side" of the grass. Thanks!!!

HAPPY EARTH DAY!

© Connie Hum 2009

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