Off to Europe

Hello Friends!

Michael and Anna are leaving tomorrow for Greece. Anna’s going to take over blogging duties.  Come sign up! http://clevelandersineurope.wordpress.com/.

Have a great summer.

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Hair Singeing

We are about to leave – just a couple more days and we’ll be back in Cleveland! Today we took the kids for a meal and a stroll in downtown Ankara.

Watermelon Toss

Watermelon Toss

Ankara Market

Ankara Market

Pretty Ankara

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Anna wanted to edify those of you who may not know about a grooming practice that took Michael by surprise when he first had his hair cut here.  It involves a flame. Enjoy:

Screaming in a Cave

We met our friends the Shahs in a region of Turkey called Cappadocia.  On the way there we loved seeing more of the Turkish landscape on our five hour bus ride, including a mysterious salt lake (Lake Tuz) whose whiteness gleamed from miles away.

A salt lake

A salt lake

We arrived in Goreme, a small town in Cappadocia. The landscape is desert-like, beautiful, with wide open skies. There are chimney-like rock formations that are very curious looking! (And called Fairy Chimneys).

Cappadocia

Cappadocia

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IMG_2156The biggest attraction for most are the caves. For thousands of years people dug, by hand, cave dwellings into the chimneys and other parts of the surrounding landscape. Most of the caves are empty today. We adults were fascinated by the history and geology of the area. For our children, however, it was as if they had just arrived in the greatest fantasy land of play and exploration known in the universe.

We spent three days chasing the kids, who scrambled into and around 2,000 year old caves for hours.

IMG_2112 IMG_2172  IMG_2248 IMG_2254For the full cave experience, here’s a short video:

Most of the caves we explored were above ground and not in pitch dark. Here’s a tour of one:

We ate fresh apricots and apples that we picked from trees which were in abundance, and we decided it was like tasting the sun.

Picking Apricots

Picking Apricots

Picking Apricots and Apples

Picking Apricots and Apples

Some of the caves had been churches (back about 1,000 or more years ago), and they had frescoes painted on them.

Cave church paintings

Cave church paintings

IMG_2236We even stayed in a cave!  This is our hotel room in the Kismet Cave House:

Kismet Cave House

Kismet Cave House

So many fun times and photos… can’t include them all in a blog.  Here’s a gallery for those who are interested in seeing more.

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A Birthday in Ankara

Kate turned 9 this week. Here she is at the top of Bilkent’s campus, enjoying the view and the beautiful day.

IMG_1989This is Kate’s second birthday abroad. We didn’t do anything particularly Turkish on her birthday–but she did have fun bowling with our new friends, Jamie and Julie Thornton, who are British (but live here in Ankara).DSCN5560Most tourists skip Ankara when they visit Turkey, but we discovered that the city has a lot of history and fun things to do. We checked out the ruins of an medieval castle that has great views of the city.  Ankara has seen a huge amount of recent development and most buildings are very new and seem to have been built in the last 20 or so years.  But around the castle you get a feel for what the traditional architecture was like.

IMG_2013 IMG_2018 IMG_2019Plenty of people selling souvenirs around!

IMG_2026 IMG_2032Michael badgered me all week about going to a hamam, which is a traditional Turkish bath. I was not really interested in getting scrubbed naked till I bled, and sharing a bath with a bunch of strangers. But Kate and Anna really wanted to go, so begrudgingly I went along to Sengul Hamam.

IMG_2044As it turned out, I was totally delighted. The rooms were beautiful, made of white marble ceiling to floor, with clean, warm flowing water everywhere (you don’t immerse yourself in any water either, which is what Matthew and I mistakenly thought). When we were done, I’ve never felt so clean!

IMG_2049 Turkish food is still proving to be quite tasty- here’s my lunch – a doner sandwich:IMG_2039Our days during the week are filled with long walks on the Bilkent campus, which is peaceful and quiet and lovely.  Everything is dry, but there are flowers everywhere.

IMG_0059 IMG_1984We spent Sunday walking around a big lake with our friends the Thorntons (and their adorable dog Jenny). There were lots of playgrounds, a train to ride, and the kids loved the go-carts. IMG_2059 IMG_2057IMG_2063Sunday night we were treated with great Turkish hospitality and dinner at the home of our friends, Baris and Nece and their twin boys! Michael, who is always resourceful in finding new friends anywhere in the world, contacted Baris on LinkedIn –  Baris went to Weatherhead for his MBA a few years ago (he must be the the only Case graduate for a few hundred or thousand miles around).  Baris and Nece spent two years in Cleveland. It was fun hearing about their experience there. They have treated us like family.

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Minarets and Cats

DSCN5444I have noticed there are a lot of two things in Turkey: minarets and cats.  We spent a few days in Istanbul last weekend and found both in abundance.

DSCN5365DSCN5335DSCN5515IMG_1902The minarets are used to broadcast the call to prayer. We stopped in our tracks to listen:

The other thing I’ve been fascinated by is the way women dress here. Mostly anything goes, but there are plenty of headscarves – some very colorful and others not so much.

DSCN5399 DSCN5403 DSCN5410 DSCN5411 DSCN5413 DSCN5429 DSCN5439 We did many touristy things while in Istanbul, including a tour of the Blue Mosque. If you’re not covered up appropriately, no need to worry – plenty of scarves to go around.

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DSCN5393  DSCN5449 DSCN5450We are very lucky to have a Turkish friend in Istanbul. Serpil, a school counselor and artist, spent two days showing us around.  She and her daughter spent a few months in Cleveland a couple of years ago with the Cleveland Foundation Creative Fusion program for international artists. Here we are taking a tour of the Bosphorus River by boat.

DSCN5465 DSCN5467 DSCN5474And here is Serpil’s mother making us a yummy dinner.  I just wish I could speak Turkish so I could properly thank her! She made us Bazlama, a pocket of dough filled with meat or potatoes, pan fried. Plus a yogurt and garlic soup.

IMG_1970No trip to Istanbul would be complete without a trip to the Hagia Sophia, an old church that was turned into a mosque.

DSCN5414 DSCN5418 DSCN5427 DSCN5442If you are a child, you might be conflicted as to what is more interesting in this photo: a park with lots of fun equipment to play on, or the remains of a crumbling wall of a Roman chariot racing arena called the Hippodrome. Matthew had to touch both.

DSCN5459There was plenty of good food, even for Anna who liked the Turkish Pide, which came out of the oven fluffed up like a pillow.

DSCN5371These sweet birds nests were beautiful to look at:

IMG_1944We sought out a synagogue, but it was closed.

DSCN5494We toured the famous Topkapi Palace, including the harem’s quarters. The painted tiles were beautiful. My children all now know what a eunuch is. I apologize if my children tell your children about a eunich, in case you didn’t want your children to know about this yet.

IMG_1911 IMG_1925 IMG_1929We spent some time and money at the 15th century Grand Bazaar with its 3,000 shops. The kids used their negotiating skills to buy some stuff, including Halloween costumes for next year.

IMG_1957 IMG_1964 IMG_1956 IMG_1948On our last night in Istanbul we went out for ice cream and found ourselves in the midst of what we thought was a protest. We were mistaken, though, as it was more of a political rally for a conservative party. However, we left pretty quickly, not wanting to take any chances. Here’s what it looked like:

There were so many things to see. It’s a fascinating city. One item that is also omnipresent are the evil eyes.  They’re supposed to ward off evil. The kids had fun playing with them.

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Turkish Camp

One crucial aspect to making this whole Turkey thing work for our family was finding something to keep the kids occupied for a good chunk of time each day so that Michael and I could work while we were here. As I mentioned in a previous post, we signed the kids up for a camp, and the amount of English spoken would be very little, but we decided to take our chances and count on our kids managing this.

This morning we walked into the Bilkent gym and within 30 seconds the kids were whisked away where nearly 100 children of all ages were playing. It looked organized and fun. Michael showed me around the rest of the facility.  Before we left, we decided, like any normal overprotective American parent, to peek in and see how the kids were faring after 10 minutes. What I saw gave me heartburn the rest of the day. Anna was on one wall, her arms crossed, not talking to anyone, watching as children played all around her. I didn’t see anyone her age nearby. On the opposite side of the gym was Kate, standing alone, not participating or talking to anyone.  At least Matthew had found a basketball and was occupying himself.  But I was very upset about the girls. Michael talked me out of the gym and all the way back home, while I started to play out in my mind the details of a horrifically lonely and miserable day for my kids. How would you feel if this is the note you got about how to prepare your kids for camp the next day:

Note in TurkishI did stop fretting long enough about the kids to eat my yummy lunch of eggplant and salad with pickled cabbage. Camp may be horrible, but Turkish food is going to be good!!

IMG_1827I went to pick up the kids, bracing for the worst, but all my fears were put to rest. They came out smiling, garbed in bright new Bilkent t-shirts, full of stories about their day. We walked through campus to find Michael, who was teaching his class, and stopped to admire a fountain:

Bilkent FountainThe highlights of a day at Turkish camp, according to Kate, Anna and Matthew:

–No American campers, only Turkish kids.
–Counselors apparently speak only two words of English each.
–Many Turkish kids speak very good English.
–Many confusing moments, which, thankfully, they were able to laugh about.
–The food was “disgusting” (which probably means healthy).
–The word for backpack is “sac” – something the kids found hilarious!

We walked into Michael’s lecture as it was just ending and met his students:

IMG_0054 IMG_0055Anna and I walked to the conservatory on campus — an impressive and beautiful building which was at least twice the size of CIM – I am guessing that a CIM student might be jealous of the practice rooms! The Turks clearly appreciate music.

Music ConservatoryAnna had a lesson from Salim, a teacher who was originally from Azerbaijan who knew about 10 words of English, but who also knew what he was doing and was able to get his meaning across with his own cello and gesturing.

SalimWe walked to dinner at a restaurant nearby and Kate begged me to take a photo of the view of Ankara, which you can see in the distance. It was a beautiful night – about 65 degrees.

View of Ankara

Arrived

It took nearly 20 hours door to door, but we arrived in sunny Ankara late yesterday afternoon. (In flight entertainment sure makes traveling internationally with three kids a breeze!)

We were so happy to see Michael after nearly a month!! He met us at the airport (which was a good thing also since I was nearly out of money, found people spoke little English, and didn’t have a working cell phone).

I was surprised by how dry, hot, and beautiful the landscape in Ankara was as we drove from the airport to our apartment. The only bits of green visible are the evergreens which stand out against the yellow, dead grass. It doesn’t look like its rained in weeks.

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Everywhere there are tall, thin beautiful minarets.

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We are looking forward to exploring today. We got the kids dropped off at their camp.  Here they are outside our apartment at the playground waiting for the bus this morning:

Park at Bilkent University

Waiting for the Family to Arrive – First Impressions

(This post is from Michael, who has been in Ankara since June 5th)

As I await the arrival of the primary blogger/photographer and our kids next week, I thought I would share some of my initial impressions of Turkey.  I arrived in Turkey the first week of June as a Visiting Professor in the Faculty of Business Administration at Bilkent University in Ankara to teach an undergraduate course on entrepreneurial management.

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Bilkent University is the first private university in Turkey and is widely considered one of the best universities in Turkey and the region.  I was connected to Bilkent University by a colleague at Case Western Reserve University, Dr. John Grabowski, who did a Fulbright at Bilkent several years ago and has maintained strong ties here.  Bilkent’s Faculty of Business Administration has several excellent professors that teach entrepreneurship, and I was excited to have the opportunity to collaborate with them this summer.  My course has 26 undergraduate students enrolled, and I have them working in teams developing their own unique business models using a teaching method pioneered by Steve Blank at Stanford Business School called the Lean Launchpad which focuses on the students getting out of the classroom to talk to customers and partners to get feedback on their ideas.

As we made our preparations to come to Turkey this summer, we were understandably focused on the protests against the Turkish government that started in late May in Istanbul in Taksim Square.  The protests, which started as a reaction to the demolition of Gezi Park in Istanbul, soon became about a broader set of concerns including freedom of the press and expression and the perceived threat against Turkey’s traditional secularism.  Protests started to occur in cities outside of Istanbul, including Ankara, which is Turkey’s second largest city and the seat of government.  This article from the June 21, 2013 edition of the New York Times highlights the growing protests here in Ankara which are now more intense than in Istanbul.  Here are some photos I took of protesters occupying a small park called Kuğulu Park on June 9th.

IMG_0253IMG_0255IMG_0254I have gotten quite a few emails and calls raising concerns about our safety as the protests moved to Ankara.  As Bilkent is located 10 km from the city center and is an extremely secure campus, I feel quite safe here.  The protests are taking place in the evenings in the city center, and I have steered clear of the gatherings since tear gas and water cannons have been used. Several of my students from Bilkent are participating in the protests.  I am usually a stickler for students letting me know beforehand if they cannot attend class but I received the email below from a student so I cut him some slack…

“Sorry I couldn’t write earlier and I couldn’t attend the class today because I was at protests in Kennedy street and the tear gas affected me, again I’m sorry for writing late.”

I have been fortunate to meet a number of dynamic Turkish start-up companies since I arrived in Ankara.  The Bilkent Cyberpark, which is located on campus, hosted my class for a presentation by Yiğit Konur, a former Bilkent student who is the founder and CEO of SeoZeo, a search engine optimization company.

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I also attended the demo day of a great seed accelerator last week called Garaj and met a number of Turkish venture capitalist and angel investors at the event looking to deploy capital in local start-up companies.

IMG_0280IMG_0278It has been great to learn about the evolution of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Turkey and share with folks here some of the lessons learned from our own experience in Northeast Ohio.  In both of our markets, the entrepreneurial ecosystem receives critical support from the government and foundations/donors in addition to private sector investment.

A number of the entrepreneurs I have met in Ankara have been actively involved in the protests.  There is some concern among them for repercussions if they are identified as protesters.  Many of the entrepreneurs are looking for support from government grant programs or business from customers that might be close with the government, so I can understand their potential fear of negative implications if they continue with their protests.  Some entrepreneurs (and investors) have told me that any potential repercussions do not concern them and they will continue protesting.

In addition to teaching and hanging out with entrepreneurs, I have had a chance to do a little bit of exploring in and around Ankara.  Baris Bicimseven who is a Weatherhead MBA graduate (class of ‘07) has been an amazing host, taking me hiking and picnicking in the mountains outside of Ankara three weekends in a row.

IMG_0281IMG_0261I also have had some fun exploring various grooming options here.  When I went to get my haircut earlier this week, it seemed pretty uneventful until I saw the barber (who spoke no English, and I no Turkish) pull out a lighter, lit a candle, and then proceeded to singe the hair out of my ear with it. Needless to say, it caught me a bit off guard! I immediately googled “turkish barber ear singe” afterwards and realized it is pretty common here.  Today, I went to a traditional Turkish bathhouse from the 15th century in Ankara called the Şengül Hamami.  Click on the link to see some of the photos of the bath…they are quite humorous.  You can see the “telak” in action in the photos using the “kese” which is the glove-shaped bag they use to scrub off your dead skin.  My telak was pretty thorough which means I am quite raw from the experience.  Looking forward to taking Stacy when she gets here!

Just What Do You Know about Turkey?

Most of you may know that we are going to Turkey this summer, but what do YOU know about Turkey? Here, take this quick poll and we’ll find out (check a box if it’s true):

The better question is, what do the Goldbergs know about Turkey? I asked my children to take turns and tell me, one at a time and without interrupting each other, something they know about Turkey.  Here’s what I got:

Kate: I have no idea.
Matthew: Just a second, I’m thinking….
Anna: I know! There are protests going on there with hundreds of thousands of people in the streets.
Me: How did you know that (we’ve not brought it up yet – why let your children think you’re taking them anywhere remotely dangerous?)
Anna: I just know these things.
Matthew: OK I know – I thought of something. A man was HUNGARY, he ate a TURKEY and slipped on the GREECE.
Me: Where did you learn that?
Matthew: David. (That’s his grandfather).
Kate: OK, I know something about Turkey. They have schools and houses there.

Clearly I need to head to the library so we can be a little more prepared for our trip.

And why are we going to Turkey this summer?
Michael will be teaching entrepreneurship, again.  This time at Bilkent University in Ankara. I will keep doing my work (www.braungroupllc.com) while we’re there, in addition to blogging about the local food, culture, and our family adventures for you, my dear readers. The kids will attend a Turkish sports camp while we are there (and not complain about it).

When we emailed Sarp, who runs the kids’ camp, if the counselors spoke English, here’s what he wrote back:

Unfortunately very little english is spoken by instructors, but this does not mean no communication or your kids not participating.

Michael left yesterday. The rest of us are joining him at the end of June. That means I will be a single mom for 23 days. Starting today. But who’s counting? Anyway, yesterday, like any self-respecting parent, I bribed the kids and told them that they’d be rewarded handsomely for good behavior while their dad was away. So I am sure there will be no fighting, arguing, teasing or lollygagging in bed when the bus is driving down the street to pick them up for school. They will be angels for me, they will suddenly start packing their own lunches this week, and they will be teaching me how to speak a little Turkish like I asked them to do.

Actually, Michael going ahead of us is really a good thing. We will manage fine for this period and it will all pay off. Michael getting there early will ensure he will have time to teach the Turkish camp counselors how to speak a little English before we get there, or at least how to pronounce our kids’ names.

The big question in my mind now is, do I dare bring Anna’s cello (44″ long, in a soft case) on the plane? Hopefully United will show some sympathy and care for small children and large, bulky musical instruments.