30 September 2007

Archaeology job hazards: land mines

Came across this article yesterday about the renewed excavations at Charchemish after nearly 90 years. As exciting as it would be to take part in the excavation of a major north Syrian/south Turkish city from the Iron Age (specifically during the Neo-Hittite kingdoms), the thought of having to hold my breath every time I dig my trowel in, for fear that I hit a land mine that they missed in the clean-up effort, is seriously disturbing to me.

It is a similar problem with any archaeology going on (and there is some, though thoroughly diminished) in Afghanistan. There are land mines everywhere and those trying to uncover a third, yet to be uncovered 'sleeping' Buddha statue at Bamiyan not only have to contend with looting and general lawlessness, but mines left over from the Taliban.

Overall this makes me thankful for my own working conditions in Turkey. Sure we are always running out of beer and the cockroaches seem to get bigger each year, but at least I don't have to worry that digging in the dirt could kill me. I'll leave that to the pickup truck that drives through the town once a week spewing pesticide in order to "kill the mosquitoes."

29 September 2007

Wedding pictures at last!

Our wedding pictures finally arrived from the photographer and we couldn't be happier! She used both film and digital, for the latter of which she supplied us with all of the "negatives" (JPEG files). She really was amazing at the wedding and if you like any of these pics and live in the southern California/LA area, I highly recommend using Susan Nunn to photograph your next event (wedding, baptism, Christmas, whatever). If you want to see a portion of the wedding pictures, they can be found: HERE.

Despite it being 108 degrees F (I am not exaggerating), everything went perfectly. A "moment of silence" as the fire engines blared on the nearby road was the only glitch during the ceremony, but other than that it was everything that I had ever wanted and expected. Truly a very special moment.

Once all the family photos were done, it was time to party! Judy did an amazing job with the music and we couldn't keep ourselves off the dance floor. Her and Swing Deluxe really set the casual, relaxed tone that we had wanted. She even played "Sunday Kind of Love" and "Darktown Strutters Ball"..I love you Judy!

Now you know it is a good wedding when the bride and groom don't want to leave, and that is exactly what happened! Before I knew it, my matron of honor Nicole was tugging on my arm saying, "what song do you want to leave to?"

"Leave?!" I say.

"Ya, it's 9:15 Cat."

"Holy crap, no!"

So after an upbeat round of improvised rapping by Judy while we waited for Brandon to finish changing and get back out on the dance floor (yes, I said 'rapping'), we had only one more dance and then it was off to Newport Beach and our wedding night hotel.

I felt "One for the Road" was just perfect.

23 September 2007

Romantic Italian get-away

Hi everyone, back from my wedding and wonderful honeymoon! Still waiting on the wedding pix to arrive, but at least I can share about our awesome 10 days in Italy. Half of our time was spent in Rome while the other half was spent in the south, along the Amalfi Coast in a well known resort town called Sorrento.

Naturally, as an archaeologist, this trip was completely amazing even though I am certainly NOT a Roman specialist. We spent an entire day exploring all the touristy places like the Colosseum, Forum, Palatine Hill, Circus Maximus, and the Pantheon. I've seen Roman ruins all over the Middle East, but something about seeing them here, in the heart of what was the Roman Empire (and Republic) was truly special.

Another whole day was spent at the Vatican. Now, after being in the Blue Mosque and the Aya Sofya in Istanbul, both being the largest mosque and church respectively that I have ever seen, I wondered, "just how big can Saint Peter's really be?"

Well my question was answered immediately: big. Huge. Gigantic even. B and I spent the first 2 HOURS of the morning just walking around and trying to take in everything that the inside has to offer. It took us another 2-3 hours simply to see everything outside like the roof, the crypt, the central dome, and the Vatican Museum. Phew! It was amazing and something that one really just has to see for him/herself whether Catholic or not.

Another thing that truly boggled our minds was the sheer amount of people visiting. I mean seriously, I have never felt so much like cattle being led to the slaughter as I was when we were winding our way through corridor after corridor just to see the Sistine Chapel. And even once we were there, we were so tired and irritated from the sojourn (which included bumping, toes being stepped on, and dirty looks), it left us little impressed for the effort. The rest of the Vatican Museum gave much the same impression. Beautiful works of art, but WAY too much of it and WAY too many people. And too many bitchy tour guides I might add...I got yelled at for listening in on a "private tour." Well excuse me!

After a few more days of exploring, including the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, and finding every single gelato shop in the city, we left Rome and boarded a train for Sorrento. Upon arriving we discovered that we were staying in, quite possibly, the nicest hotel there. The seaside view from our bedroom only added to the excitement (and romance). That's Mount Vesuvius across the Bay of Naples.

Pompeii was the first trip we did (after spending a day shopping and lounging around on our private dock of course). At the risk of sounding cheesy, Pompeii is really something I have always, I mean always, wanted to see so in a sense, this was a dream come true. And in no way did the ruins let me down: just as impressive as all the books and teacher's say. The preservation is, of course, phenomenal and you really get a sense of just how people lived there..how they felt walking down the street. I could almost hear how noisy it would have been with sandals clicking on the stone sidewalks, carts loaded with goods rolling down the trash-filled streets, people going about their business as with any other city.

The highlights for us included the famous House of the Faun, the Villa of the Mysteries, and a special treat (now that it is open once again): the brothel. A lot smaller than I imagined, the brothel had 5-6 tiny rooms, cubicles really, with a raised stone platform (ouch) and a single toilet in the back. Above the doorway of each room is a wall painting depicting the particular prostitutes, ahem, specialty.

We took other local trips while in Sorrento, like to Amalfi to visit the Church and Saint Andrew and the paper museum (yes, paper) and on another day we ferried to the island of Capri to take in the sites. This included a chair lift ride to the summit of the island, a hike back down through the back country, and all the German tourists one could possibly imagine.

All in all, an unforgettable honeymoon. We cannot wait for the anniversary trips!

If you want to see a larger selection of our photos, you can check them out here (Rome) and here (Sorrento).
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