Blogger Interviews: Abbie and Emilie

I’ve been really excited about writing this post for a while, because it doesn’t involve much writing on my part, and I get to feature two other blogger-friends of mine who have been on the other side of the world since this summer. When I was working on my undergraduate degree, I attended one of the Study Abroad fairs and grabbed several brochures and magazines for studying, volunteering, and sight-seeing in other countries through my university. Most of the information I picked up was for Egypt, South Africa, or Western Europe, since those are places I’ve always wanted to explore. Although I don’t think I would be able to do a whole semester in a different country (I’m too afraid of missing things), I wouldn’t have minded a two-week experience.

Abbie in Malawi, and Emilie in Istanbul

Abbie in Malawi and Emilie in Istanbul

I met Abbie, who worked as a Resident Assistant while she was in college, through my sister and her friends. She is currently in Malawi (in southeast Africa), teaching at a secondary school, and posts on her blog, Traveling and Teaching: Living and Learning. I got to know Emilie through all of our related activities and mutual friends while we were at YSU together, and got to work with her during my graduate internship. She is studying abroad in Istanbul, Turkey (at the same school where Sarah spent last year’s fall semester!) and blogs at overandout while preparing to apply to graduate schools. I asked them a few questions about their experiences in their respective locations…

Abbie's Form 2 Students

Abbie’s Form 2 Students

1. What made you want to travel to this location?

Abbie: I wanted to come to Malawi because I already had such a strong connection to this community as I had previously traveled here in 2010. I’m back in the same part of Malawi and working with the same NGO (non-government organization) as before. This time instead of two weeks, I’m here for a year.

Emilie: I chose Turkey for a number of reasons. For one, Turkey is one of those mysterious countries that it seems no one really knows anything about, and this obviously attracted me. I wanted to meet the people, eat the food, find out for myself if those silly stereotypes that people believe about the middle east are true. A second reason is because Istanbul is quite literally the center of it all. Half of the city lies in Europe while the other half is in Asia. It’s a mix of people from all over the world, 15ish million of them, all living in this crazy, historic, fascinating city. This also makes it easy/quick to travel almost anywhere in the world, with the exception of North/South America, of course.

View from the upper balcony of Hagia Sophia

View from the upper balcony of Hagia Sophia

2. What has been one of your favorite experiences?

Emilie: One of my my favorite experiences so far has been having a HUGE traditional Turkish breakfast with a wonderful, sweet family I met here through some people at home. We had never met before I came to Turkey, but they welcomed Ed (the other YSU student here with me) and I into their home, showed us all over the European side of the city, and have been so generous and kind to us. A few weeks after we arrived, they invited Ed and I over to spend the day and eat with them. It was the most incredible breakfast I’ve ever had, quite possibly the best meal I’ve ever had. Not only because of the food, but the company also made it unforgettable. I only wish I would have taken my camera… rookie mistake, haha.

Abbie: One of my favorite experiences actually happened the first weekend I was here. One of the girls, Alice, who hangs around the lodge/NGO where I stay frequently asked to take me on a tour of the village. As we were walking she asked what my surname was and I told her. She started to smile and talk in Chitumbuka to the other girl walking with us. I asked her to explain and she told me that my surname is the name of her sponsors. What that meant was that my parents sponsor her education. On top of that, I am her math teacher at her secondary school! Alice took me to see her house that is made of mud and sticks and has a thatch roof. Her family welcomed me and offered me a seat on their front porch. Alice told her brother that my parents sponsor her education. Her brother began to tell me in broken English how grateful they were for the sponsorship because by bettering Alice’s life with an education, it’s also bettering her family’s life, as well as the village. Education here is the only way out and a lot of the times it’s not possible because of money.

Victoria Falls in Livingstone, Zambia

Victoria Falls in Livingstone, Zambia

3. Have you had any trouble adjusting to anything?

Abbie: Everywhere I go I stick out like a sore thumb. When I go to the market, when I walk through the village, when I do my laundry in my back yard I am entertainment for most people. As I walk down the road, kids from everywhere will yell “Mzungu!” meaning, “white person.” I’m unable to be anonymous here and that has probably been the most difficult thing to adjust to.

Emilie: Ah, well, living in Istanbul has required quite a bit of adjusting. Not only is the culture overwhelmingly different, moving from small-town Ohio to one of the most overcrowded cities in the world was an eye-opening experience, to say the least. The traffic, the pollution, the (not always reliable) public transportation, lack of greenery, it was all pretty frightening at first. Now, I appreciate all of the differences for what they are, I’ve stopped expecting Istanbul to be just like Ohio, and it’s finally starting to feel like home. I guess if I wanted everything to stay the same, I wouldn’t have come. But I definitely know now that I can’t live without nature, it’s just so depressing!



Check out Sarah’s post about her impromptu cave camping trip in Cappadocia!

4. What is one thing you wish you could bring home with you?

Emilie: The one thing I wish I could bring home is the incredibly cheap produce. Seriously, the fruits and veggies and fresh bread are sooooo cheap here, and the quality is so good (assuming you know what you’re looking for). There are bazaars all over the city every day of the week full of vendors selling fish, produce, cheese, just about anything you could ever need. The bazaars and the produce are something I’m really going to miss.

Abbie: One thing I wish I could bring home with me is the kitten I recently got for my house! She is ADORABLE! Her name is Kim Jong Kitten and she eats all the nasty critters that lurk in the corners of my house. (she was named by a PCV friend). Also, I want to bring home ALL THE BABIES!!!!! They are soooo cuuuuute!


I wish I could share all the gorgeous pictures these girls have taken. I’m so jealous of each of their journeys and I hope they both continue enjoying themselves. I can’t wait to read more about them! Thank you, Emilie and Abbie! 🙂

Kumpir: A Twist on the Baked Potato

After much hemming and hawing over having a whole lot of nothing to say, I have decided that maybe my “nothing” is enough to say.  This “nothing” is a recipe.

This afternoon I could not find a good recipe for kumpirs, something that quite honestly I do not need a recipe for.  I watched those tasty loaded baked potatos get made a handful of times in Turkey, enough for me to know how to make one.  for potatoes and cheese to make myself a cheap, filling dinner.  What I wanted was for Google to reassure me that my memory of the kumpir served me correctly, but instead I got a handful of boutique kumpir recipes very unlike the buttery, cheesy fast food version I had in Istanbul.

I know perfectly well how to prepare a kumpir, so since Google is lacking in solid kumpir recipes, I thought I would share.  For about $10, you too can make an “exotic, foreign” dish.  You can pat yourself on the back for being all swanky and multicultural.  All it takes is a microwaved baked potato and, truthfully, whatever leftovers you feel like wrangling out of the fridge.  The toppings I list are the standard kumpir toppings, but the kumpir is more of an art form of throwing everything you can find on a baked potato than of following a specific recipe.  Given the dismal economy and rising food prices, I think a lot of people could get on board with my quest to lower my grocery bill without feeling like all I eat are ramen noodles.  So I present the kumpir, a gloriously fatty, delicious, cheap meal.


I neither made nor ate this particular kumpir, but it looks legit.  I found it on Google, which does in fact have many good things even if the specific kumpir recipe I want is not one of those things.

What you will need

Really large potatoes

Shredded mozzarella or feta cheese


Hot dogs (about 1 hot dog for every 1 large potato)

Macaroni salad


Optional, suggested additions





Ketchup & mayonnaise

Anything you need to eat right away before it goes bad

How to make your kumpir

1. Microwave cook the baked potatoes.

2. Heat up the corn and hot dogs.  Cut the hot dogs into little pieces.

3. When the potatoes are cooked, split them open.  Leave enough of the potato skin uncut that the potato still stands upright like an oval rather than flat on the plate like a disc. 


This is an example of how NOT to slice your potato.  I overcut mine and it turned into a flat, listless baked potato.  My sense of spatial reasoning is not so great…

4. Scrape the potato off the skin and mash it inside the skin.  Keep the skin upright here still. 

5. Add the cheese in and mash it with the potato.  Don’t be shy about adding cheese because in this case, the more cheese the better your kumpir will taste and look.  (If you are using butter, also add it now.)

6. Add the pickles, olives, macaroni salad, etc.

7. Add the corn and hot dog slices.

8. Top with ketchup & mayonnaise.

9. Enjoy.


This is how the finished DIY kumpir should look.  I wish I could credit myself with producing this baked potato, but my boyfriend made this one.

The budget friendly breakdown

$2 Two giant potatoes

$2.17 8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese, only about 3 oz of which were used

$2.28 Macaroni salad

$1 Package of eight hot dogs, two of which were used

$1.50 Jar of pickles, half of which were eaten

$.70 Corn

Total cost: Under $10

The best part?  We will each get two meals out of those two giant potatoes, so this $10 recipe serves four people.  You even have ingredients left over.

Definitely Better than Camping

I spent several nights in a cave…

…in early January…

…in the middle of nowhere…

…in Turkey…

And it was fantastic.  My boyfriend and I decided to take an impromptu trip to Cappadocia in central Turkey (from Istanbul where we were based in January).  By impromptu trip I mean we bought the plane tickets about 48 hours before the trip and arrived in the middle of the desert with no hotel and only the vaguest idea how to get from the airport to a town that offered hotels.  We managed to catch a few shuttles that got us to the center of Göreme where we consulted my Lonely Planet guidebook.  We checked out the hostels it listed in the center of town only to find them dingy, deserted, and overpriced.  I was about to say we should just grab one of those hostels because it was cold and we were stranded, but my boyfriend suggested we at least check out the Lonely Planet #1 choice for Cappadocia.

So we did.  We had to drag our bags up some gnarly cobblestone street hills in search of the #1 choice, but a few pit stops to catch our breath later, we were at the Kelebek Cave Hotel, and, oh my goodness, was it worth the hike!  If anyone out there is considering a trip to Cappadocia (and I have some acquaintances who are or will soon be in Turkey), I highly recommend Kelebek; even if you will never in your life so much as consider a trip to Turkey, you can still browse the pictures of the hotel. Traveler’s tip, always have a multi tool pocket knife with you.

As per its name, Kelebek Cave Hotel is a collection of caves carved into the natural stone in Cappadocia.  It is really quite beautiful.


The top of the line room at Kelebek is the Presidential Suite, which reportedly has an amazing view of Cappadocia.  Here is the room.

ImageWe did not stay in the Presidential Suite, but we were more than happy with our room.  We could not have been happier with our experience at Kelebek.  The service was extraordinary, the free breakfast gave a tip of the hat to Western tourists with French toast, and the tours through the hotel were perfect.  We would love to stay there again.



I feel comfortable saying that the Kelebek Cave Hotel is the coolest place I’ve ever stayed.  Should you ever find yourself in central Turkey, I highly recommend visiting Cappadocia and staying in Kelebek.

A few pictures of Cappadocia for reference…

From the top: pigeon houses, an early Christian monastery, the remains of an early Christian fresco, and a 3,000 year-old underground city.