Where You Write, Where You Dream

A couple weekends ago, during the long Memorial Day holiday weekend, Dear Wife, Little B.T., Shasta Dog and I all packed in the family car and took a trip.  We went to place we’ve been often, a wondeful hideaway in the nearby Nantahala National Forest in the southeastern edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  It’s a frequent retreat of ours, and one we love deeply.

I didn’t do any writing while we were away.  Circumstances worked out that I wasn’t able to – although I did do plenty of reading.  Mostly this little family trip was about relaxing and enjoying our time together.  And for me, there is very little more relaxing, little more enjoyable, and little more soul-enriching than time in the mountain forests.  Up there, on top of the world, everything feels clean and fresh.  The sky is bluer.  The sun more friendly.  The trees breathe with a vibrant life, and you feel connected to everything.  The views and vistas are inspirational – the blue mountains rising all around you, the wildflowers in the forest clearings, the cultivated flowers in the gardens, the trees swaying gently in the breeze.

I always just feel more alive when I’m up in the mountains.  I’m lucky that my Dear Wife feels much the same way. Continue reading

Istanbul & Athens Trip Part 4: It’s All Greek to Me

Here we come to the fourth and final of my blog posts about my MBA class trip to Istanbul and Athens. It was a great trip – and I hope an interesting series of posts.  It’s a trip I would definitely re-visit if given the chance.

In Athens, as in Istanbul, I was interested in more than just the sights and artifacts of a foreign land.  I was interested in language and culture.  Call it a weakness.  Little did I know that plunging into Greek was going to give me a lesson in some of the particulars of linguistics that I’d read about in a theoretical sense but had yet to put into action.  (That said, I’m going to be getting into some funky-nerdy language details in this post.)

Greek, I soon realized, was going to be both easier and harder for me to pick up on than Turkish.  Easier because it is a European language that has heavily influenced English (we use all kinds of Greek prefixes and suffixes).  Harder because it uses an entirely different alphabet to the one I am used to using.  (It is perhaps worth noting, at this point, that the word alphabet itself we owe to Greek.  It’s a portmanteau of the first two letters of the Greek alphabet: alpha and beta.  But then you probably already knew that.) Continue reading

Istanbul & Athens Trip Part 3: Attack of the Acropolis

After our short stay in Istanbul, it was time to move on to Athens.

View from my hotel room in Athens

View from my hotel room; the hotel had a view of the Acropolis, but my room was on the 1st floor (i.e. 2nd floor in the US), and there was this school in the way; the view from the rooftop garden was pretty good, though. This was the last picture I took during the Colloquium trip before my camera died for good.

A decent-sized group of us arrived early on the Wednesday travel-day in Athens.  We touched down a little after noon, and after getting settled into our hotels it was about half-past one.  We were pretty hungry, so of course first on the itinerary was lunch.  I had spent almost the entire flight from Istanbul to Athens reading my guide-book on Athens and familiarizing myself with the lay of the land.  This proved fairly useful – especially since there were a couple restaurant recommendations in the area of our hotel.  The first one was a bust – closed despite their posted hours – but the second one turned out great.  Unbeknownst to us, the mysteriously closed restaurant was the first hint of a running theme for our Athens trip. Continue reading

Istanbul & Athens Trip Part 2: Turkish Delight on a Moonlit Night

Actually, I wouldn’t have any idea if it was a moonlit night – the cloud cover was too thick – but I did try Turkish Delight late one evening.  There are, thankfully, varieties that don’t involve nuts or coconut – two ingredients I generally avoid as I am not terribly fond of them.  After all, as the saying goes, when in Rome… And, for that matter, Istanbul was once a capital of the Roman Empire.

One of the fun things about visiting a foreign country is learning and immersing yourself in another culture and another language.  Sadly, I learned very little about the Turkish language itself – I was surrounded most of the time by English-speakers (my fellow classmates) and many signs were easily readable or interpretable by English-speakers or included English translations.  But, I did want to learn, at least, how to pronounce Turkish. Continue reading

Istanbul & Athens Trip Part 1: Epic Quest in Istanbul

Domes & Minarets

You know you're in Istanbul when you see the domes and minarets... You know it's the off-season when you see the gray, gray skies...

The MBA program I’m in requires of its students that “your feet touch foreign soil” before you graduate, except under extenuating circumstances.  It’s perhaps a little odd for an evening program, whose students mostly have full-time jobs, when the same school does not have the same requirement of its full-time MBA students (whose only regular daytime commitment is generally to their education), but there you go.  Except for the added expense (and the necessary time-off from work) I don’t mind the requirement.  I enjoy the opportunity to travel. 

Students are able to fill this requirement in one of two ways: they can do an international class during one of the regularly-scheduled study-abroad courses, or they can participate in the annual “International Colloquium”.  Each graduating class selects its own Colloquium destination (within certain guidelines) and this year we chose a combined two-city itinerary in Turkey and Greece.  And so, a few weeks ago now, my bags packed I hopped on a plane that took me half-a-world away to my first stop in the city of Istanbul, a city with ancient roots rich in history. Continue reading

Where Have I Been?

Some of you may have noticed last week my complete lack of response to comments  to posts here (there were quite a few), and wondered what may have been up.  It’s even possible some few of you were worried.

Well, the following almost sums up what became of me during the week.

Yes, well, that only tells part of the story – but it’s the only part with a snazzy song sung by They Might Be Giants  and a Tiny Toons music video to go with it.  Alternately, the following could serve as an illustration of  the latter leg of my trip:

That’s right: I spent last week first in the city of Istanbul and then in that cradle of Greek Mythology (of which Clash of the Titans is something of a bastardized kin), in Athens.  It was an awesome trip.

This was part of the MBA program that I’m wrapping up this semester – the last requirement that I need to fulfill, excepting the class I’m in right now.  The school calls it an “International Colloquium”, and the goal is to learn about real business as it happens in an international context (in this case Turkey and Greece).  Which meant I spent a good amount of time there in company and agency visits learning about the business and investment climates.  But there was no shortage of site-seeing, either.  I’ll have a few pictures up later this week (my camera died upon arrival in Athens, so I’ll be waiting for a few classmates to post some pictures from that leg, but I’ll share a few gems from Istanbul momentarily).  Expect a write-up of the experience later this week or early next…

Apologies… brain still melted

My apologies to those who actually like reading my blog.  My brain is basically melted from the long week of projects and working on finals.  That stuff fried my brain like a scrambled egg.

You know.  I enjoy being in school, generally.  I loved college, and I was having a ball with my MBA for a while.  But I’m now 2 years in, and have a year left to go.  And I’ll tell you what.  I’m tired.  I just feel the need to take a break and mentally check out.

And, for whatever reason, that now has me reminiscing to last year, circa mid to late March.  Let me tell you about what happened last year in March, since my brain is too fried to think of something else more interesting.

That’s when Dear Wife and I took our penultimate pre-children-being-introduced-to-our-family vacation.  We went skiing – and for the first time in my life, too.  That first day when we got out on the slopes, and I was on the bunny hill skiing out of control, I was pretty concerned that skiing just wasn’t going to work for me.  Dear Wife had skied many times before, and had only to get back into skis to refresh her body’s memory of how to do it. 

She tried to take me down a nice green slope.  For those not in the know, with regards to skiing, slopes are rated in terms of difficulty by color-coded shapes.  Green Circles are the easiest.  Then come Blue Squares.  Black Diamonds are basically the hardest, though you do run into Double Black Diamonds, which in this case are what I might have called Widower-makers, to coin a term.  Anyway, Dear Wife tried to take me down a nice and easy Green slope.  Basically, what happened was that I fell down the mountain.  Almost quite literally.

Luckily, we’d planned for this.  We’d also enrolled me in a beginner’s ski class.  The Ski instructor was great.  While Dear Wife went and tempted fate with Blue Squares and Black Diamonds, the Instructor took us through all the basics of skis, how to put them on, and ran us through some very basic exercises before leading us down a very easy route on the bunny slope.  The bunny slope was basically the greenest of the green circles (kind of like a double green circle, I guess).  And it was short, with probably only a twenty or thirty foot drop in elevation, max, over the whole thing.  We ran that route several times.

By the end, the instructor thought I had done great, and was ready for the next, “intermediate” class.  (Some of the students seemed to have more trouble, and needed additional “remedial” instruction, and the instructor stayed with them a little longer.)  I still fell down the real green slope immediately after, a lot, but I was getting the hang of it.  So we enrolled me in the next level lesson the next day.

The thing about the second day’s lesson was this: it was supposed to be a group lesson.  Those were way cheaper than private lessons.  But nobody else had signed up for the lesson.  So guess what that meant?  It meant that I basically got a private lesson at the group lesson rate.  And it was pretty awesome.  The instructor for this lesson taught me a few more advanced techniques (like the hockey stop instead of the snow plow stop) but mostly all he did was run me down pretty much every green slope in the resort.  I did fall, but by skiing in his tracks – most of the time anyway – I managed to avoid falling all but a couple times.  And I felt like I learned a lot about how my body needed to move on the snow.  (Plus, it had snowed the night before, probably the last natural snow of the season last year, so the snow was fresh and new, and that probably helped.)

By the end, I was really enjoying skiing.  And I’ve been wanting to go again every since that trip.  Sadly, skiing is something of an expensive hobby, and with dear B.T. on the way, it’s not trip we anticipate being able to take again in the near future.

So then why did I just blog on about last year’s ski trip for so long?  Because I need a break like that one, right about now.  And somehow, I’m just not sure that the three weeks off before classes start again is quite what I mean when I say I need a break.

Ah well, enough grumbling and reminiscing.  Onward, to greater and more glorious things.  Like finishing that story I’ve been working on!