Sunday, December 30, 2012

A New Year.... not the same old....

It is approaching... that evening of madness and mayhem that we in the world officially recognize as the end of one cycle and the beginning of another.  Perhaps I will actually finish this posting in one sitting and this will be the last of 2012 posts and not the first of 2013.

Just did some research on why exactly this day is the chosen one....Julius Ceaser declared it so based on the Julian calender.   Prior to that, a number of other dates were celebrated as the turn of the year, including the first new moon after the vernal equinox.... which would put it just past Spring with it's new life and re-emergence from winter.  Regardless of when it is celebrated and what traditions one holds to... it typically is a time of taking stock of the old year, letting go, and making some decisions and plans for the new year.  We get to start anew.  So we make promises to ourselves about the things we plan to do and accomplish, and we bid goodby to both the joys and the
                                                                heartaches of the past year.

I thought it might be interesting to compile a list first of things I am glad to let go of from 2012:

Idaho education politics
US politics and US politicians
School shootings
Bad renters
Sad goodbys
A house that is way too large for one person
Snow that lasts into April and sub zero temperatures
New Years Eve spent alone with a bottle of wine and three sparklers

And  .... the things I hope to say "Greetings and come on in !" to in 2013:

Self control -  food, wine, exercise
Closer walk with Christ -  Real
More travel to new lands and new adventures - Greece, Israel, Italy, Bulgaria, Croatia
A kinder me, a more genuine and focused human being that loves others well
Visits from friends and family
A deep rich kiss for New Years Eve 2013 -
(they always say be specific, so I want it to be with a man that I am not related to and that I like a lot.  Incidentally, he likes me too.)
Just sayin'... this is the year.
Contentment... utter and complete regardless of the accomplishments of any of the above

 The funny thing about writing things down and visiting them regularly is, they are much more likely to come to pass.  Are you paying attention Career Pathways alumni???  I wrote some intentions down last year and look where it got me....  You too can dream big and reach for those things you always thought should belong to you but were too afraid to go for.   Look,  here is some end of the year advise.  I haven't always lived my life well.  I've made some egregious and destructive choices that I had to repent of.  The thing is, my choices culminated in results.  (funny how that happens) The choices I made rarely ended with the results I desired.  That in turn led me to think about how I was making choices, and finally..... (I can be a little slow and am also a late bloomer) I figured out that between GOD's good will and my willingness to intelligently seek harmony with that will by paying attention... well, good things happen. 

Please, I am NOT advocating some hocus pocus "creative visualization" NLP like snake oil product, but thought does posses energy.  It does have power and you can use it to get to where you believe you ought to be... but I have observed and experienced that you have to wield that thought carefully and with some divine guidance otherwise you may end up with something you can't even handle.  Father knows best. 

Last bit of information from the world of me, take it for what it's worth..... This is the year to slay fear.

F = Falsehood
E = Experienced
A = As
R = Reality

 New Years Eve has for me, this past 20 years been fraught with extreme emotions of one kind or another.  It was a twice repeated anniversary for a love of my life which has since been exiled to memory and regret.... but that's another story.  This year I am hoping for NO TEARS and
NO FEARS.  I will board a boat bound for a trip up and down the shores of the beautiful Bosphorous and I will eat and drink and allow my heart to be merry.  I will watch the fireworks with new acquaintances and celebrate the turn of time.  The next day, New Year's Day... I will rest and think and maybe write some more.  I will read and walk and be alone.... and I will say a grateful prayer of thanksgiving for 2012 and for all I have learned, and all I have been given... by grace, to accomplish. 

"Perfect love casts out fear"
                                            Happy New Year!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Advent 3 & 4 - Approaching

I have 5 children.  All but one resides in the US...though 3 of them have lived and worked internationally, the youngest is still an international adventurer and now living in Italy, and will make his way to Australia soon.... or so I hear.

I remember what it was like to bring each one of these precious human beings into this world.  I remember the long journey from that first tinge of other worldliness... there's just something about the beginning of carrying the seeds of another human being within... to the moment of birth and separation. Those were the sweetest of times.  I crawl into those spaces in my memory on occasion and yearn for closeness with my children again.  Alas, one of the curses of living on this earth in my cultural space and place is that most families no longer live and love in the same community over the years.  Only now that I am closer to the end of my run on this earth than the beginning, can I mourn for that loss.

It is of course the Christmas season and naturally I am thinking about Christmases past.  We call it the "winter holiday" at the international school I work at.  Ostensibly because there are so many different belief systems represented, that to call it "Christmas" really would for the majority of our students, be a misrepresentation.  I love however the way the children at the school are intrigued by all things Christmas.  Of course some of them are familiar with the holiday, as they do study celebrations and belief systems of the world, so they also understand intellectually what Christmas is.  I had fun helping some second graders write their essays about what they would do over holiday.  I even got to explain to several children why it's called "Christmas, and why it is capitalized. 

So our holiday has begun, the children are off to various places in the world, staff are flying out today to either visit new places or to go home to see family.  Some of us will remain here.  I chose to stay because I was told that the first year overseas, it is difficult to visit home, then have to leave to return.  I think it was a wise choice.   My kids used to flock to our home in North Idaho for Christmas celebrations.  We had so much fun together back then, and if I close my eyes I can still hear the sounds of brothers joking with one another, grand kids squealing with delight, my daughter laughing, my two chef sons clacking around in the kitchen. There will be none of that this year.


My lovely granddaughter has come for a visit.  Isabel arrived two days ago, and I think so far she is enamored of this city.  Of course she brought snow with her.... yes it snowed here yesterday in Istanbul, enough for the ministry of education to call for a school holiday on Friday... so we are free today. 
 She and I took advantage of that freedom to put up the fake tree that the last tenant left behind.  I wasn't going to have a tree this year... but I have NEVER not had a tree, so we put it together, strung some lights and decorated with the sweet little homemade ornaments sent to me from Isabel's siblings.   I played some Christmas music, we ate leftover Indian food, and planned for the rest of the day, which included marathon shopping, dinner, and watching The Hobbit in the local theater.

I love the Peter Jackson films interpreting Tokien's stories.  He manages to embody the whole of the works... including the emotional depths of the character's journeys, which are spiritual allegories.  J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were great friends, and much of both their fictional works characterize the enormous task of a life adventure, particularly the Christian walk.  (Though Lewis' stories are much more simplistic and lack the intricately descriptive narration of Tolkien.)  Last night as I watched the scene where Bilbo Baggins leaves Rivendell to join the dwarfs on their very dangerous journey, and again when the dwarf king is attacked and he comes to the rescue in spite of his great and seeming insignificance I found myself weeping over his struggles and turned to see that Isabel too was wiping away tears. Bilbo is anything but a warrior, 
yet he attacks evil with absolute and utter lack of fear or consideration for personal safety when it comes to defending others.  I identify keenly with Bilbo precisely because he is weak flawed and insignificant.  Yes, there is much in the Rings trilogies that strike a cord with those of us who have suffered loss, yet continue to battle daily for place and peace in this world. 

I have left my home, my friends, my family to strike out on an adventure.  It isn't always easy, and while it hasn't been physically dangerous (other than walking in Istanbul traffic and riding in Turkish taxis), I have had to fight some wicked and destructive personal monsters.  I long so dearly to rest in my own Rivendell.  To be at peace in my home, to sit with sweet loved ones knowing that evil is vanquished, and neither destruction nor death can ever steal innocence and life away again.  I long to be courageous now, to battle injustice and hatred and to be a part of building a better place to reside.  In the meantime, I sit with my first grandchild after a day of shopping for gifts, grateful for the presence of at least one of my kin. 

Christmas day approaches as I finish this post.  Today we will visit holy places... The Blue Mosque, The Hagia Sophia, and The Chora Church.  I imagine this too will bring a flood of emotion for me.  The Christmas journey is a story of impossibility, danger, labor, fear, joy, sacrifice and ultimately triumph.  I read a story today that said on  Christmas eve in medieval Scotland, the bells tolled a long and heavy dirge... to announce the death of the devil.  With so many of humanity's children these days, a dirge also does play.  Our world is still veiled in darkness, but Christmas will arrive... and with it a promise of victory and joy and celebration.

In the meantime... I will see you on the road!

"So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazereth in Galilee to Judea to Bethlehem the town of David... because he belonged to the house and line of David."  Luke 2:4

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Advent - The Waiting

Taken Dec. 2012 in Sandpoint Idaho by Gary Lirrette
Still recovering from Friday flu... and opted to take a Monday to recover and rest.  The still of the day settles into my body, mind, soul.  I always worry about calling in sick to work... it is an angst ridden decision for me even when I am most certainly ill... but a dream just before waking this morning convinced me that it would be a mistake to try to be effective with kids today, so I made the early morning call, and went back to sleep for 4 more hours.

I have a morning routine that I have kept for years.... something about routine grounds me.  I do break it every once in a while, but for the most part... it remains the same as it was in Idaho for the 16 years I resided there.  I wake, make coffee and a small breakfast then sit quietly reading morning devotions and saying my prayers for the day.  If I am late rising, or sick... or some other interruption occurs... it throws my day off... spinning often into directions I would rather avoid.

As I began my readings today, I realized that the day would be best spent quietly preparing for the Christmas season.  Advent is 2 Sundays gone, and the day we arbitrarily choose to celebrate the coming to our mean world, the King of Heaven and Earth... is fast approaching.  I am not ready.

I mistakenly decided, back in August when I was packing for my move to Istanbul, that it would be better to leave all reminders of Christmas' past behind.  I miss these simple things terribly now.  Surprised by the depth of my yearning for some of the sweet ornaments made by my children, cards from old and dear friends that I store to read again and again, a tree fresh from the woods, my favorite Christmas cd's,  lights and candles and the smell of Christmas cookies baking in the oven.  Thinking of these brings on a flood of emotion, and I DO miss them.  So I started streaming Christmas music from you tube yesterday, and I wrapped the packages for my mother and sister that I have been shopping for since I arrived here.  I must have stood and stared at this pile of gifts for several minutes.  Something about it was comforting.

I know enough about psychology and the brain to understand that over the years I've encoded and stored similar images about 55 times and that they directly stimulate the pleasure center of my brain because of their association with happy experiences.  But there are some things quite outside of the brain... hope and faith and love... these aren't so clinical and though I've questioned at times the validity of my beliefs.. they continue to stand rock solid and UN-changeable in my heart and mind.  I read an interesting side story, or maybe it was just a comment under a you tube rendition of "Oh Come, O Come Emmanuel", that said the writer's mother told her that she had wept while listening to the song at even the young age of 2.  How is that possible when there are no memories yet stored?  False memory?  I don't think so.  There is something in the words and the perfection of notes in that particular hymn that stirs the heart.  It is my favorite Christmas hymn because it so perfectly expresses the desire for the beloved to return to us, to rescue and comfort and disperse the gloom of night...
                                               Oh come again       Emmanuel.........yes. I too weep.

I don't understand how it all works... the religion thing.  I don't know why so many different kinds of faiths exist on this earth, and why we hurt and kill each other because of it.  I don't know.   It all seems so tragic.
I do know that this season, Christmas, means more to me than pine trees and cookies and gifts.  It means more than family gatherings and white elephant staff parties, it even means more to me than religion... it is the anticipation of something impossible, something pure and clean.  Divine and human goodness embodied in a baby who will grow to change the world....Kindness and Love that does not disappoint but challenges and encourages and walks with me daily.  Oh what manner of sacrifice did the creator bestow!? 

And yet, I am living in a country that is 98% Muslim.  I love the bittersweet call to prayer.  I love the fact that grown men still prostrate themselves before their maker.  I love the fact that humility and modesty are still much desired character traits in this faith.  I don't love the growing sense of foreboding,  that anything outside of this format must capitulate or be extinguished. Very very few of my current neighbors know this Jesus of whom angels sing and before whom wise men kneel.  Instead they know only of an orgy of consumption, a distinct lack of kindness & understanding, and a history of behavior, much of which was markedly Un-Christlike.

So it's hard being here at Christmastime in some ways... no Christmas cards, no carols, no manger scenes.  But it's easier in others.  No orgy of commercial X-mas blanketing my every waking moment.  It must become... in the purest sense... the REAL thing this year.  It either resides in my heart, or not.  The trappings, decorations, scents, lights, glitter and shimmer....stripped away.
It is still the same mean world... but I am anticipating....something MUCH greater.

Season's Greetings.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Turkish Anomolies - Or Strange Things I've Pondered Since Arriving.

My last post was a rather somber reminder that things are not equal in this world of ours.  As a German friend (& countless others)  said once to me when I was grieving the sorrows of this journey... "Life is not fair".  Terrible things happen to innocent people and terrible people seem sometimes to skate through life unscathed.  I for one believe in imminent judgement and sometimes instant karma, but also I am eternally grateful for GRACE. 

 Eye also think, it helps not to take one's self, or one's existentialist ruminations too seriously.  While I will fight for justice and mercy to the last ounce of my puny existence,  I also know I will never make it without a sense of humor or appreciation for the absurd.  This particular post will celebrate the curious, the ironic, the anomalies that make life so interesting currently.  If you have things to add... please do comment.  I need a chuckle every now and then.

This was a shop that I just happened up on while touring with the Travel Junkies through Eminounou.  No kidding... it was an "eye shop".  Every permutation (color and size and expression - wise) of the large plastic eye was  available in bulk bagged quantities.  Mind you this wasn't a warehouse.  It was a store on a side street in the tourist district surrounding the Egyptian spice market area.  The door was wide open and there were papers and a calculator on the desk as if a brisk business had been had all day.  Why or What or even Who.........  I leave such questions to minds greater than my own.

 Same walk about... now here's the weird little thing about his picture...we were exploring "hans" or shops of the back alleys.  This was an open area in back of a thoroughfare.  No traffic back here, just some storage and private spots for laborers to go have some tea.  I spied this sort of vine like tree behind a wall and was surprised at the brilliant blue flowers blooming in late November.  Sure enough, someone had taken the time to duct tape plastic flowers to the living tree, all over.  I have no idea who else will ever see this tree given its location, but at least I appreciated the artistry that went into it.  A bright spot in a grey, wet chilly day.

If this were a fish pond, it would make sense that there were so many of these silvery creatures swimming around in here.  The funny thing is, it isn't a fish pond.  It is a deserted hamam and there aren't supposed to be fish in here at all.  This magnificent
bathhouse is maintained by someone who must feed and care for the creatures.  My ocd friend
(who is an irony in and of himself) counted to 37 while he was waiting for me to explore the recesses of the building that went very deep into stunning rooms that most likely could tell many many tales.  Why are there fish in a hamam?  I don't know, but while I was standing there, a young kid, about 13 I think, came by and "herded" the fish by waving his hand expertly over the surface of the water.  I could tell he'd spent considerable time amusing himself thus.  I smiled at him as I watched his skill determine the course of the school.  He grinned back shyly.  It's amazing how one smile can open up worlds of understanding.  I don't know his back story, but I imagine he too could tell some stories, particularly about this magnificent building that now houses boxes and secrets and fish.

I wanted these two pictures side by side.  Both are identified as "Angels".  One is a naturally occurring (if I read the Turkish sign correctly) image within a stone cut found in the famed Hagia Sofia..  The other is a painted icon in a primitive cave church in Cappadocia.  I am intrigued by their similarities.  I think it's a bit spine tingling. 

Ok,... back to earth.  We went out one lovely late summer night to a Fasil... a traditional Turkish feast followed by music and dancing.  It was a pleasant evening and we took a taxi home.  We'd had a bit to drink and were all of us in high spirits careening down our road the way only Turkish taxi drivers careen, taking pleasure in how well they can navigate curves and blind corners at breakneck speeds.  We were oh so close to home on one of those little side streets that branch off into Ortakoy, having directed the taxi driver to take a short cut when suddenly he slammed on the brakes.  Why?  Because an earth mover was digging up the road we were on.  We had a pissing match for a bit, no idea why or where the taxi man thought the excavator was going to yield to but the lesser vehicle (us)  eventually backed out. I LOVE Turkish taxi rides!!!

When I saw a large crowd quietly gathering in Taksim, I could tell something different was going on.  Street musicians are a dime a dozen (and sometimes extremely good) on Istiklal Ave..  I was really astounded though at this guy.  A Turkish hippie.  And his instrument... he said that only 4 or 5 people in the world know how to create it.  He played it with his fingers and it sounded like music of heaven.  So sweet and gentle, as was he.

I tried to download the short video I took, but I am unable to get it linked.  You will just have to come to Istanbul and see if you can find him yourself.

Journeyed to the Grand Bazaar on Saturday.  It's a good thing there are no bars in there... some people might not ever come out.  The bazaar is a true oddity in that hundreds of shops sell EXACTLY the same Chinese made Turkish look alike brands of Kitsch.  I argued with one guy who told me his Ukelele's were made "right here in Turkey miss..."  I pointed out the PRC label glued to the inside of the uke... but he persisted.  Oh well.  There are 5,000 shops in this covered area which has been in operation since 1461.
One man offered my companion some money or a trade for me.  One, about 28 years old made a marriage proposal, and one would not let go of my hand.  His neighbor, about 70, asked me "can I have you now?"  I am not sure what he had in mind, but I had a great time at the bazaar and I will return before Christmas.  As we found an exit out into dark open air (time ceases in the bazaar) we made our way down an unfamiliar avenue of even cheaper shops, many of which were selling bridal array, o\Ottoman era wear, and shoes.  A weird combo I know, but it got weirder. 
Yes these are little Turkish "man/boys".  Small boy size mannequins used to display children's suits, but obviously... they needed some Turkish facial hair... so someone obliged.  This was not the only shop with man/boy mannequins.  Why do they do this?  I just don't know.

There are many other things on the list of Turkish anomalies.  Here is a bulleted sample:

  • They take this special plant... and put bits of glass and aluminum and kitsch all over it 
  • They complain a lot about everything
  • Food is packaged, injected, altered, supersized, chemicalized, mistreated and generally taken for granted as an entitlement
  • They raise billions of dollars for cancer research but refuse to change what they breathe, eat, smoke, put on or into their bodies
  • They have this piece of cloth that they almost place in a position of worship even though most of them are against idol worship.  
  • They think they are the most fantastic place on the face of the planet, without having visited any other place for any significant length of time.
Ok, by now most of you get it.  Yeah, so this place(Turkey)  is odd and different and people don't do things the same way they do them in other parts of the world.  Time is really relative here, people are hard to figure out (shaking your head left to right might mean yes, I am in complete agreement)  and they drive like maniacs who understand exactly where each other is headed.  Sometimes I don't get it, sometimes I do, and most of the time........  I love it. 

Hey.... you in the burka, don't look at me like that again ok..........?

 & Laughter.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Plateaus & Valleys & Thanksgiving

Today was an interesting day in Istanbul.  I was invited to go to a conference at Maltepe University with my co-worker Prags, the high school counselor Dave, and my principal Yann.  The conference had to do with street children of the world and the effective interventions that make a difference in their lives.  I will simplify what I learned into one sentence... Human beings who have been through life traumas are broken, the only way to fix them is through loving relationship.

I have an interest in the lives of these children.  They break my heart and they are everywhere in this world. Istanbul does a good job of keeping them out of sight for the most part.  There are still the gypsy children.  Like the ones pictured above.  It was a Sunday afternoon in late October and I was waiting for the bus when this group of kids wandered by.  There were three of them without shoes.  Remember it's October...and it's Taksim Square.   Anyway... this trio sauntered past and I just covertly snapped a photo of their feet.  Right after I took the picture, a beggar came by asking for money... I pointed to the children's bare feet and told him no.  He looked at me and understood immediately what I was saying.  Maybe they were related, who knows. I see kids working everytime I go to Taksim, selling water or flowers, or playing a plastic flute.  I once saw a young boy, it was mid day in August, he was sleeping on the concrete doorstep of a side alleyway.  Maybe he was 7 or 8.  Nearby there were some older men having tea.  I hate this with a passion.  One night there was a group of us drinking at "the local" (our neighborhood Cheers) and this little girl, (about 10 I would judge) came by the bar to sell roses... no one buys me roses anymore, and everyone at our table either declined or ignored her.  She smiled kindly at me, shyly, and sprinkled rose petals on my head.  That will stand out for me the rest of my life as a holy moment.  It was about 1 AM and she was working.  I saved some of the petals.

It's Thanksgiving time as I write this.  Thursday marks the day of traditional feasting and harvest thanksgiving to GOD who made all things.  I came home tonight and thought about my children and holidays past when we all gathered to eat and drink and laugh over card games and board games and inside family jokes.  I will miss that so very much this year.  I cried a bit thinking about it and how my family really no longer will circle around my house for the holidays.  It made me quite sad until I remembered this blog I had begun drafting a couple weeks back. 

While I have a passion for serving the lost and the poor of this world... I can also become lost in my own way... inside of my own pity party... feeling regret and sorrow over small things.   I thought about this blog topic - I had really been trying to get back into writing about the homeless kids, but just wasn't feeling inspired.  Until tonight... and you know what inspired me?  My own self pity.  No family around, living in a foreign land, no Thanksgiving holiday, and just for fun, the man I felt I had a bit of connection with and was looking forward to seeing at an event... well he stopped talking to me last week and was a no-show at a Sunday get together.  Yes, I've been feeling very sorry for myself.  Poor, poor me.

This young boy is about 15 years old.  He was working in Sultanahment, picking through the trash for recyclables.  That's what a lot of the gypsy folks do for work.  And they all do something.  You can see by the shirt that he is wearing that this is not easy or pleasant.  He will drag that bin until it is full when he will then take it to a truck somewhere, empty it, and get back to work filling it again.  I don't take pictures of their faces, though they do know how to smile for a camera.  I do not want to invade their pride or their sorrow.  For him, I think it was just another day.

So yeah, I feel sorry for myself because I won't get to eat a plateful of turkey this Thursday, and I dont' have a boyfriend to buy me roses, and I won't get to play apples to apples with my daughter and sons this holiday.  My bank account is empty thanks to some rummy renters, and I will probably eat kofte and have too much wine Thursday after work, and then I will go back in then next day to finish my week.  Poor poor me.

Two teenage girls who dig through the trash in Ortokoy to fill a bin that is taken to the recylcable truck.  Some people leave stuff on the side of the road in the bushes for them.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Relationships...Love in the time of Uncertainty

It's 6 PM on a Sunday night.  I've just watched back to back episodes of Sex and the City movies 1 & 2.  I steadfastly refused to watch this Hollywood syrup in the states, but here I am in Istanbul.... arguably one of the most romantic cities in the entire world and I am alone in my apartment on a weekend night, streaming two ridiculous HBO movies that only served to facilitate alternately... eye rolling, snotty weeping and unrealistic yearning.  Exactly what HBO had in mind I am sure.  But to tell you the truth, as hokey and unrealistic as this show was, there are some great pearls of relationship wisdom to be found in between the bits of fluff and Prada.  I found this blog on SATC while searching for photos to insert If you are happily married or in a lovely relationship that fulfills you entirely... read no further.

If however, you are single and wondering what happened to your life and your dreams and desires and why on earth you are still on this adventure alone... wade in on in.

I had a great day yesterday.  I woke up full of life, having shed the post vacation blues and was ready to take on the city once again.  After puttering around the apartment for hours, I finally dressed and left to hike in Yildiz Park.  I've written about Yildiz before... I liken it a bit to Central Park, maybe not as much to do, but still quite stunning and large.  I love to go there on Sunday afternoons. 

  A peaceful respite of green in the middle of a fast and busy city.  It was a sunny day, warm and comfortable. The park was beautiful.  Fall is slow coming here this year and while the leaves have turned and many lie fallow on the ground, there is not a chill in the air like I am used to this time of the season.  Yildiz sprawls out up and across a steep hill with small canyons and valleys and some side paths that lead to some scarier neglected areas where I saw squatters, and heard strange sounds.  It is quite a hike through this park.  Since it was Bayram (holdiay)... the place was packed with families, roaming teenagers, picnickers, wedding parties and ........ ugghhh - lovers aplenty. Not that I don't like lovers.  Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood.
No.... I like lovers.  I would like to be counted in their numbers believe me, and I have been in the past.  But as time revolves... the merry-go-round of relationships seems to have refused to allow me boarding at this stage in the game.  It is therefore, difficult to wander about in a beautiful setting such as Yildiz and gaze at couples steeling away for a kiss or two or three... or a family strolling arm in arm... so happy together.

The novelty of living in this fantastic country and this unsurpassed city has worn just a bit.  Oh I am still in love with Istanbul, and now having seen more of Turkey... the country is even more so an object of my affection.... but  I cannot go to dinner with a country.  I cannot make breakfast or sip coffee or listen to music with the country.  The country will not walk with me down to the fish docks or watch Republic Day fireworks by my side.  I cannot cook an aromatic and seductive meal for the county.  I cannot call the country up on a Friday night and ask it to come over and listen to the rain with me throughout the night.  So what's a single person living the expat life in a foreign country to do when loneliness knocks at the door of the heart and there is no lover with whom to share the delightful experiences of day to day living?

It is quite tempting here to say... oh well, call a friend and that will fill the void.  It does sometimes you know.  We make fast friends as expats, because we need one another for precisely this reason.  People we never would have socialized with in our old lives... we suddenly become fast pals.  Tomorrow for example... I have plans to have a lovely dinner with 2 friends from South Africa.  We will have curry and rice, and drink a much better version of Baily's creme called Amarula.  Later after we have dined and chatted the three of us will go out dancing.  These people have made my life richer there is no doubt.  And they have staved the demons of loneliness.  But time always sends people out the door, and in the end....

There is always the option of making a fast and quick casual connection.  That opportunity has presented itself a few times here.  I have acquaintances who choose to go this route.  That is their business, and I do not fault them for their choice.  Actually I understand it implicitly. have one friend who keeps saying to me... "Oh Connie, you need a Turkish lover, you should just take a Turkish lover."  One sodden night when we went out drinking after a staff party, she sort of looped this conversation into my ear repeatedly.  Kind of like a subconscious suggestion.  I think she was trying to hypnotize me into a situation I know I cannot handle... emotionally, intellectually and spiritually.  I did meet a young, intelligent, gentle and handsome entrepreneur who happens to be Turkish.  I was on holiday away from Istanbul, and he was interested in me.  It was tempting but I just am no longer capable of those types of relationships.  Oddly enough... it was driving around with him late one night, when I happened to look over at his arm resting while he was driving.  It was something about that arm, the cool night air, the rhythm of the car... I realized I didn't want just one time with an arm... but many many times... looking over at someone whom I loved, driving me around or walking me through a park, or eating a meal I had made.  THAT was what I was looking for.  Charlotte I am NOT.  Darn it.

I  belong to an organization called InterNations.  You can see their badge on my blog page. InterNations sponsors a huge variety of events here in Istanbul (and in most major world cities) for the express purpose of helping people make connections.  You can join everything from clubbing/nightclub groups to sailing groups.  I have been to one of their events and met some new people.  I had a lovely conversation with a very interesting man.  I wanted him to ask for my number but he didn't.  I left early.  Not that I didn't want to stay... but at this point in my life... I just cannot afford quick and easy and temporary.  Maybe I'll see him again down the road.

"Why can't you just let go and have fun with someone for a night ????" many friends ask.  Or maybe "Why not???". So as I write that... I pause to really deeply think about the answer to that question.  Without elaborating on my relationship history too much... (that will be for my first novel and I will have to take some literary license even then to protect both the innocent and the guilty) I will relate a conversation I once had with my youngest son after my marriage ended ( I was married to the same man twice - I still love him deeply, but there has been so much flooding under the bridge, that neither of us can go back)

Me:  "Well I have been out on a couple of dates, but neither of them bore any promise".
Son:  "Mom, don't you think given your history with relationships that you maybe should just give it up at your age?"
Me:  " Silence"
Son: "I mean unless you are terribly lonely, why bother?"

 Yes indeed.  Why bother? I am not "terribly" lonely.  Though I am weary of  being alone...  So why on earth would I want to enter into yet another relationship?  What makes me think i should even attempt such a stratospherically prohibitive endeavor at this late stage in my life?  I guess because I have never really, truly, had an everlasting love (other than the one I have with GOD... which is untouchable and will never come to an end).  I would like before the end of my life, to find a one true love.  How do I know they exist?  I know because I grew up with two people who had such a love.  This couple... the quintessential fairy tale... they spoiled me for life.

They were the couple who adopted me, loved me, raised me, and flaunted their balanced and passionate love affair until my dad passed away suddenly at the untimely age of 69.  My mother did not re-marry. 

Ok.... I know what you are thinking.... you are, in your own mind and heart, coming up with all kinds of reasons not to believe in true love, and your arguments about even what I experienced through my exposure to these two people who I knew as "Dad & Mom". I understand.  I have heard, and even made, some of the same arguments with myself.  But I know that within my heart... there is a desire to connect deeply with another human soul who (in the words of the African's...) sees me and I see him.  Now that I am more than halfway through this blog... a week has passed.  This is a difficult and complicated thing to write about.  It's difficult to hope, in a world where everything has become relativistic, that I might meet someone, ONE someone who will share my passions, hopes, failures, fears, dreams, loves, bed, and life.  And I am not silly enough to think that it WILL happen.  It might,  it might not.  In the meantime... I think I will continue to hope. 

Love you.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Heights Of Love -

     I love to travel, I love to experience new things, to meet new people, and I love to write.  I also love being alive.  My holiday to Kapadokya (the Turkish spelling) blessed me with all of these and more.   I am not accustom to getting up at 4:30 in the morning for anything, but Seyit asked us if we would like for him to arrange a balloon flight the next day.  Do heights scare me?  Yes sometimes, but I love to fly, though my pilot lessons with a small plane left me realizing that I am better off when someone else is at the helm.  Yes I want to ride a hot air balloon, even if it means being picked up at 5:30 in the morning while I am on holiday!
There is something discombobulating about being awakened in the dark and shuttled to a building where maybe seventy five other people are shuffling about drinking tea and coffee and signing releases for a trip to the skies.  We all stand about wondering what each other is thinking.  Then the time comes when we are called out by colors, "Blue Group!", "Yellow Group!" etc.  We were in the purple group.  Two basket sizes, large - with 15 to 20 passengers and small - with 8 to 10.   Ours was a small group.

  We would be going up in a virgin balloon that the company had recently purchased.  It had been test flown sans passengers, but we would be the first paying customers to go up in her today.  That made me a bit nervous.  It was a very good thing to have Seyit there to explain the process and to joke with me when I asked if they named the balloons.  "Yes", he informed me, pointing to each of the company balloons, "that one is Titanic 1, that one is Titanic 2..."  You get the picture.  I don't know why, but the joking comforted me.

There are on any given day, nearly 100 balloons going up in the early morning Kapadokyan skies.  Each balloon requires about 10 individuals to handle the flights.  It is a fairly quiet process.  Calm and serene and surreal to watch the flatulent wisps of material unfold gracefully and rise up to colorful attention.   The various handlers busy themselves with checking every little detail and then the whoosh sound of the gas valves opening and the fire catching energy that will take us up up up.  I am fascinated as I watch the balloons rise to work, one by one all around.  Ours is one of the last to go, so we stand around waving to the passengers in other baskets as they lift off silently and depart effortlessly from the earth.

 We nervously snap pictures and joke and marvel at the industry that feeds many from this region.  It is a good clean way to make a living and I wonder at the industriousness of these men and women who earn their way in this manner.

There are many many balloon companies in Kapadokya.  Our choice was easy, as it was highly recommended by a pilot (Seyit).  Here is a link for the company we "flew" with - recommended by a passenger (me) as well:

This is a lighthearted bunch of people who take their work very seriously yet are able to enjoy what they do with a sense of humor and kindness.  I trusted them implicitly.  

All of a sudden, we were called to climb quickly into the basket.  The balloon was ready, and if we were going with her, we needed to board.  I needed someone to push my "donkey" a bit in order to get over the lip of the basket.

See these guys and the way they are gazing at me?  Just kidding, they aren't looking at me at all, but at the brand new balloon to see how she will handle in the takeoff.  I believe they were pleased.  Bet these are a fun bunch to have a drink with!  That's Seyit to the left in the red jacket.  I appreciated the fact that he was there to watch our ascent.

 Off we go into the quiet dawn light.  You can see the flatbeds below... these will follow the balloons from the ground over some very rough and exciting terrain, racing with the wind to chase the balloon so they can wrangle them back onto the bed as the balloon descends back to earth.

Our lovely pilot told us sometimes it's more fun to be the driver of the balloon truck because you never know where the road will take you.  They communicate with walkie talkies to the ground crews.  They also communicate with other balloon pilots.  We heard some hilarious conversations.  Evidently they have quite the international group of pilots who come to the region for work.  I remember though from ground school that the international language for flying is English... the same is true with ballooning.

By the way, our pilot was a woman, only the 5th woman in Turkey to get her balloon pilot license.  She was quite adept and had the perfect things to say at all points in time.  The thing that surprised me MOST about this flight was how smooth and quiet and peaceful it was to leave the earth and to climb into the atmosphere!  We gently lifted off and not an inch of fear or panic did I feel.Soaring over the valleys, quietly moving where the wind took us.

 Dawn comes to Kapadokya, and I am moved at the beauty and magnificence of this land seen from above.

 This is my favorite shot I think.  

We are touching down here... into a farmer's field.  See the red truck in the distance.... they are going to have to move soon to capture the balloon.  The guys will jump out of the truck, grab the lines tethered and tossed from the balloon and pull us down perfectly on to the flatbed.

These are the balloon wranglers.  They were so funny, the one on the right grabbed and pulled the rope making a sound like a work horse... the other one slapped his butt with the rope saying something like "Giddyee up!" in Turkish.  The whole basket erupted in laughter.  They became very serious and professional when moving the basket onto the flatbed though.
We landed eventually, perfectly on target.


Our lovely pilot - Sureyya
Very professional, very good, and loves her work.

She explained the history of ballooning to us, and the tradition of toasting every flight with champagne... even at 8:00 AM., and then she popped the cork and poured us all a round.

While she poured and we sipped and talked, the crew was busy laying out the balloon into one long chord.  They carefully folded and twisted and packed, and by the time we had finished our glasses of champagne.... they had the balloon packed neatly in a box and loaded on the truck.

While we were chatting with the other passengers (very little conversation on the flight itself, - I think we were all so lost in our own thoughts and experiences that we didn't want to talk)  we discovered some instant distant connections.  Two of the women in our basket work for the same school we do (MEF) in Izmir, and one of them knew our co-worker here in Istanbul.  One of the passengers was from Denver Colorado... I grew up in Colorado.  One of the teachers in our balloon moved to Turkey from Nelson B.C., which is just a few miles from the town I moved to Turkey from, Sandpoint.   One of the men in the basket has been contemplating international teaching.  What a small world it can be.  How did we end up together in the same balloon out of 100's on this day in this place?       
                                                             Kismet?  Fate?  Destiny? 
Something larger at work in our universe that facilitates connections and friendships?  .... yes, I think so.
In the end, I honestly must say... this was a magical and important moment away from the frenzy of the world.  A time I will truly remember forever. The Turkish word for friend is ArkadaƟ
It can have many meanings according to my Turkish dictionary.  For me, "Friend" means someone who has your best interests at heart.  Someone who cares enough to share part of their life with you.  Someone who is generous, understanding and light hearted, and someone who can show you the world through fresh eyes.

I am grateful for my friends, both new and old.  May they be blessed forever with many wonders and great


Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Potter and His Lump of Clay

This region is renown for it's pottery.  There are intact pieces that date back to a time before Christ.  The soil here is an excellent ingredient necessary to create a mix that yields well to the hands of a potter.  There is also much quartz which is sometimes ground to a fine powder and mixed into the clay for strength and beauty.

This man in the picture is a relative of another man named Galip... His pottery center in Avanos Turkey is world renown for the craftsmanship and beauty of the pottery created there by Galip himself, his wife, and others who have studied under him.

This man took a lump of Cappadocian clay, started the wheel spinning with his feet, and within (honest to goodness, I watched) less than 5 minutes...  

 brought forth a fast piece of beauty from earth and water and  dye. 

He made it look so easy.

Next we were led into the painting workshop where three individuals were busy decorating various pieces that had been created.  Turkish patterns can be extremely intricate and I wish I had time to adequately describe the processes.  In this work, every symbol, every color, every dot of paint has meaning and significance.  There was a plate that they show for demonstrations that enables one to see how the piece changes throughout the process.  This particular pattern has to do with the generations of Galip's family and their history in the art.

You can see that they take a liquid clay and create raised patterns on ceramic pieces, then color in each very carefully.  These people work for 2 hours, then take a 30 minute break, then return for 2 more hours, break, and a final 2 hours.

The results are absolutely stunning, and depending on who the crafts person is, fairly expensive, but they are easily recognizable as quality pieces, and the Chinese knock offs found everywhere in tourist Istanbul come no where near the original thing.

Our tour guide said that Galip himself was coming and we could meet him.  He warned us that the man was a bit eccentric and looked like Einstein.  He told a funny story about this master potter... evidently years ago, a student of his was so enamored that she cut off a lock of her hair for the artist.  It became a tradition over the years and he started taping women's locks of hair onto the wall of one of his studios.  Eventually there were so many locks that Galip opened a museum of women's hair and it is now in the Guinness Book of World Records.  Every year a lottery is held, and five of the women are given a two week vacation to Cappadocia and a workship in the art of pottery by the master himself.  "He must like women..." I commented to my friend.  Well... we did get to meet him and I can tell you.... he does like women, he does look like Einstein, and he is eccentric!  But I sure did like him.  

He was a charming down to earth (no pun intended) kind of a guy.  World famous and not a single false air about him that I could detect.  He demonstrated the strength of his pottery by dropping a piece on the ground, then he had each of us stand on it.  (he also helped us step off in a very friendly way).  My friend bought a piece and she cut off some of her hair for him and the lottery.  I think she is going to win.  Before we left we were offered apple tea or wine... guess which I chose.  Galip also gave each of us a small earthenware cup on which he signed his name.  Like the carpet... sooner or later, I will have a piece of Chez Galip pottery.
Seyit knows some very interesting people.  I couldn't have imagined that the day could get more interesting.  But it did.

Love Valley.

Formed... (I was informed) by lava flows that settled over much softer sandstone.  The elements over time make for some interesting natural statuary ?  All kidding aside, it is a beautiful place and there were indeed lovers all around. 


The edge of Pigeon Valley.   I really like this place as I love birds.  The people in this area built pigeon housing everywhere in the rock for the express purpose of harvesting the droppings as it makes for excellent fertilizer for grapes and other fruits.  An amazingly industrious people.  I am guessing a bird or two found its way onto a bar-b-que spit on occasion as well.

I asked Loida to throw rocks at the birds so I could get an "in flight" shot of them.  It only sort of worked for me, but other photographers thanked her for it. I think they probably got the shot I was looking for.

This was an "evil eye" tree.  I'll explain more about the evil eye later.  I just really appreciated the way it looked in the sun.

Seyit dropped us off at the Goreme Open Air Museum after tending to us all day long.  I took many pictures here....

The deep emotions that came from seeing the churches and the frescoes and understanding the history of this area knocked my to my knees.  

It had been a wonderful day.  One of those days that will stand out in my memory forever.   So many things happened... so many thoughts and emotions... beauty, spirit, love, humanity, struggle, clay, potters, light, paint, art, earth, sky, man, woman, angels, life.

I think GOD sort of shaped me this day too.  He showed me what had been and what could be, and I had to be malleable within HIS capable hands.  Some things are to be and some things are not.  In the end... if the clay yields, the outcome will be magnificent... as it was always meant to be.