Leaving Istanbul

Nearly two years ago, shortly after arriving in Istanbul, Jason, Ellie, and I went for the first time to Sultan Ahmed, the historic downtown area. Just as we started along the sidewalk between the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, the Call to Prayer went off. I’ve heard many Call to Prayers before–most notably during our two years in Jordan. But the Call to Prayer at Sultan Ahmed is different than any other I had heard before. It starts at the Blue Mosque, where the Imam sings the first line; then the Imam at the Hagia Sophia sings the same line; then the Imam at the Blue Mosque sings the second line; followed by the second line sung by the Imam at the Hagia Sophia. Then the singing goes back and forth between the two buildings.

It is such a unique experience for a couple of reasons. First, because the back and forth has an almost stereo sound. Second because (and I may be wrong about this), but the Hagia Sophia may be the only non-mosque in all of Islam that has a Call to Prayer. The Hagia Sophia was once the largest building in the world. It was first built as a Byzantine Christian basilica by Emperor Constantine in the 4th century. In the 13th century, it was converted into a Roman Catholic cathedral. Then in the 15th century, it was converted into a Muslim mosque and the minarets were added. Finally, in the 1930’s, Ataturk designated the building as a museum. In my opinion, it is the most fascinating building in the world–both structurally and historically.

But on that summer day in 2018, as I stood between the two historic buildings and listened to the Call to Prayer go back and forth, I was so moved that by the end of it, I had tears streaming down my face. Honestly, it was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard. I turned to some friends who were with us and said, “I can’t believe I get to live here for two years!”

And now here I am, two years later, about to leave Istanbul. I’m not going to lie, this tour has probably been the most difficult for me personally of our four tours with the State Department. Part of this is because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the strict policies that were implemented, but there are other things that have made this tour particularly hard for me. However, Istanbul will go down as the most beautiful and historically significant city we have lived in. In fact, with maybe the exception of Jerusalem, Istanbul is probably the most fascinating city I have ever been to. And I will forever think of it as the world’s most dazzling city.

So, with that, here are my ten favorite things about Istanbul (in no particular order, with the exception of #1):

  1. The beautiful and inspiring Call to Prayer
  2. The Bosphorus
  3. Turkish breakfast
  4. The many mosques, with their minarets pointing heavenward across the city skyline
  5. Emirgan Park
  6. The sense of safety and security I have felt throughout the city
  7. Open air produce markets
  8. Our cozy apartment in Istinye and our beautiful apartment complex
  9. The Tulip Festival in April
  10. The kindness and hospitality of the amazing Turkish people

It’s with a heavy heart that I leave Istanbul tomorrow. A huge piece of me will forever remain in this amazing city. Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “If the world were one country, Istanbul would be its capitol.” I feel so blessed to have spent the past two years in this incredibly fascinating, historic city; with the lovely Turkish people.

Blue Mosque

Hagia Sophia

Turkish Market

Turkish Rowhouses

Blue Mosque

Emirgan Park

Emirgan Park

Our apartment in Istinye

Istanbul street cats

Ellie and the Bosphorus

Turkish Breakfast


Parker Girls at the Grand Bazaar

The beautiful Bosphorus

Sulemanye Mosque

Thank you Istanbul and Turkey for two wonderful years. You have treated us well and we will love you forever.

Our Next Home!

We just received official word of where we are going next and we are thrilled! Before we reveal our next post, let’s review where we have been:

Taipei, Taiwan 2010-2013


Amman, Jordan 2013-2015


Pretoria, South Africa 2015-2018

Istanbul, Turkey 2018-2020


And now, we are excited to announce that our next home will be:

Bern, Switzerland 2020-2023

Bern: the capitol of Switzerland!!! Famous for bears, Alps, Toblerone, fondue, and as the one-time home of Albert Einstein. And because Ellie doesn’t get to do enough fun stuff already, her international school in Bern enjoys Friday Ski Days! (It’s about time this Utah kid finally learns to ski.)

We recommend you all start saving your pennies to come visit us, pronto!

Tomorrow Is the Day! Care to Guess Where We’re Going Next?

It’s hard to believe that it’s already bidding time. Actually, bidding has been going on for months but tomorrow the State Department will finalize the latest round. So, care to guess where we’re going next?

Here are a few clues:

  1. Small
  2. Cold
  3. Bears

I know, it sounds like Salt Lake City. But if that were your guess, you would be wrong!

Stay tuned! We’ll let you know tomorrow when we get the official word.

Youngest Child

Here is a sure sign of a parent at the tale-end of raising her last child:

Today is Picture Day at Ellie’s school. Last night we had this conversation:

Ellie: What should I wear for school pictures?

Me: I don’t care. Wear whatever you want.

Ellie leaves the room and comes back 20 seconds later holding two shirts on hangers.

Ellie: Which of these shirts should I wear?

Me: I don’t care. Wear either one.

Ellie: Just tell me which one to wear!

Me: OK, the one on the left.

Ellie: But I wore that one last year.

Me: Then wear the one on the right.

Ellie: Are you sure?

Me: Yes!!!

Ellie: Will it make the blue in my eyes pop?

Me: Yes. The blue in your eyes will pop right out of your head.

Ellie: Mom, I’m serious! What color shirt will make the color of my eyes pop the most?

Me: Just don’t wear red. You don’t want the bloodshot color of your eyes to pop.

Ellie: MOM!!!

Ellie again: What pants should I wear?

Me: I don’t care!!! Besides, no one is going to see your pants in the picture.

Ellie: MOM!!!

Ellie again: Should I wear my hair curly or straight?

Me: I don’t care.

Ellie: Just tell me!!!

Me: OK, straight.

Ellie: OK, I’ll wear it curly.

Me: Fine. I don’t care.

When she left this morning for Picture Day, I think her hair was curly, but I have no idea what shirt she wore.

When my oldest daughter was in school, I would to start thinking about what she would wear for Picture Day when we did her school clothes shopping in August. I would sometimes go shopping just to find the right shirt for Picture Day. But I’ve raised four kids and I really don’t care anymore. I have been through too many school picture days.

Before you start feeling terribly sorry for poor Ellie, I was also the youngest in my family and my mom didn’t care what I wore for school pictures either. And somehow I still graduated from high school AND college AND I have never spent a single day incarcerated.

So it all somehow works out, even for the youngest child.

Tulips: Not as Dutch as You Might Think

It’s a cold and drizzly day today in Istanbul. But notwithstanding the chill in the air, the tulips at Emirgan Park are breathtaking. I get to walk past these beauties every day on my morning walk.

Did you know that tulips are not originally Dutch? The Dutch took them to Holland in the 16th century from the Ottoman Empire. Tulips are as Turkish as Turkish delight, kebabs, and kaftans.

Best Holiday Quotes 2018

We had a wonderful holiday vacation. Two of our three adult kids came home to Istanbul. Sadly, our soldier son wasn’t able to come home. We missed him dearly.

The other five of our Six Abroad family enjoyed site seeing around Istanbul and southwestern Turkey. Here are a few of the highlights:

Süleymaniye Mosque

Hagia Sophia

Topkapi Palace



Another highlight was when a rug seller suckered us into purchasing this rug. Rug sellers in Istanbul are the world’s best at getting unsuspecting Americans to purchase rubbish they don’t need. Seriously, they’ve turned it into an art form.

Early this morning, my college kids headed back to the US. I’ll admit, the house is much more quiet without them. When they were here, there were lots of words in this apartment. Words everywhere. And in that vein, the following are my favorite quotes from the holiday (in order of greatness). I have chosen not to offer any context to the quotes, because honestly, their greatness needs no context. Their brilliance stands on their own:

#3: From 22 year old Cecily: “Don’t let Mom keep my shoes!”

#2: From 20 year old Ben: “Anything for big, wooly Ben?”

#1: And the winner of the best quote from Six Abroad Holiday Vacation 2018, goes to 14 year old Elizabeth: “It’s called sarcasm, Doof Wad!”

God bless them every one!

Because Moms Worry

Dear Grandma Hale and Grandma Parker,

We wanted to let you know that we arrived safely in Istanbul. The Turks greeted us warmly upon our arrival.

We arrived at our new apartment safe and sound.

And discovered that our complex has an amazing view of the Bosporus.

Yes, the Turks are feeding us well.

And yes, we’re eating our produce.

Your granddaughter has started school.

And like a good Mormon girl, she’s enrolled in seminary.

And she seems to be thriving in her new environment.

So you can rest assured that your children are doing well in Turkey. And just in case you’re wondering, THIS PLACE IS COMPLETELY AWESOME AND WE CAN’T BELIEVE WE GET TO LIVE HERE!!!

Love always,

Jason, Erin, and Ellie