Saturday, September 15, 2012

Friendly Times

I have made a lot of new friends here.  I've been thinking about the word "friend" lately.  There are some implied connotations that come with that designation.  Of course there are different depths of friendship.  For most of us, I would assume we have 1 - 3 people with whom we are particularly close.  These are our intimate friends.  The ones with whom we are absolutely safe.  We can share deeply with these people, and know they will never betray our trust.  These are the one's you can call at 2 AM in a crisis, and they will listen to your needs.   I have a couple of these, one of whom is my sister, (see pic), another also my sister, but by virtue of years and experience and tears and genuine understanding of one another.  My soul sister, Kim.  The others should know who they are.   Nothing will ever change with these friends.  Distance cannot alter our love and camaraderie, nor can circumstances.  These women would do anything for me.  I would hope they know the same is true of me. 

Which one is the assistant principal?
I was wondering if I would find new friends here.  If I would be lonely.  If I would find love.  If I would fit in.  Some of these wonderings have been answered.  I have made new friends here.  Some of them quite surprising to me.  People I would have never sought out or known had it not been for my move to Istanbul.  People whose paths simply would NOT have crossed mine had I not stepped out on this road.

I won't tell you these people's background stories.  That is not my place to share.  Suffice it to say... anyone who would trek from their home country to work in Istanbul must have some common personality traits, including, (of course) a sense of adventure.  Some of these people work at the school, like the
deputy principal of our high school.

The teachers here are interesting and intelligent people.  We are all here for our own reasons.  But we also share the common circumstance of being away from our families and our familiar lands.  That in and of itself makes for the kind of glue that binds people together in our shared recognition that we need human contact beyond the day to day interactions at work.  So we find ways to recreate together.  To explore the new place we live in.  To socialize and to eat and drink together.  I was missing this in Idaho.  I had 2 lovely friends with whom I would go out once or perhaps twice a month with.  Both were married, and both had other things going on in their lives.  Our social interactions were meaningful, but certainly not plentiful.  I also had a friend who was my spiritual mirror and my accountability partner.  I could always call her in any circumstance, but she too was married with kids and very busy with her own life.  I loved her dearly, but she was not in a position to take off on day to day adventures with me. 

Here in Istanbul, there is ALWAYS something to do with others.  Word goes out and there you are... venturing with friends to a palace, museum, beach, bar, or hamam.  A what?   A hamam, the traditional Turkish bath house where you can be scrubbed clean of the dirt of the day and the street.

 There is nothing like stripping to your best birthday suit and being pummeled, loofahed, scrubbed, soaped, rinsed, kneaded, oiled, rolled, and rinsed again in a large bathhouse full of others just like yourself.  Something about the intimacy of this ritual creates a bond with both your masseuse and the friend you happen to go with, in this instance... Susan the librarian, who led me to this place that I have now visited before I die.  I will return.

After this refreshing and relaxing experience, we jump on a tram PACKED with people of all shapes, colors, sizes, and odors.  Just when it seemed no more could possibly fit on... we stopped again and another mass of bodies pushed and shoved their way into the car.  Well, I had already been in my altogether in a room full of complete strangers, so this didn't seem too bad.  At least we all had our clothes on and we were standing up.

We met up with some other friends at a place called "My House" in Taksim, party central for all of Istanbul.  This restaurant had an open air rooftop and non-Turkish food on the menu.  It also featured a fantastic view of the city and the Bosphorous.... so we dined and drank and listened to wonderful stories about lecherous inn operators and secret Moroccan restaurants.  I asked these friends permission to post their pictures.  Oddly enough, one of them was born 45 miles north of my home town.   Later this group moved on to a nargile bar where you can select your music from you tube and play whatever your heart desires while smoking a hookah pipe in whatever flavor your taste buds desire.  ( I did not indulge mom... honest.)

I really would like to post pictures of other friends here.   I could name them one by one... but I did not ask their permission to write about them, so I will refrain for now.  One of my best chums here... is Prags.  A more unlikely friend for me is not to be found I think anywhere in the world, however... we have become fast friends.  I think GOD put him into my life for a variety of reasons.  He is a very patient and funny man.  We differ in many ways, but also we have some things in common.  He makes me go on long walks when I don't feel like walking.  He challenges me to think about things in new ways.  He goes with me to the dreaded bank, (though he does always go first in front of me, and takes up most of our limited time there).  The people in the neighborhood always stare at us when we go for walks... We work together at the school and he is "damn good" at his job of supporting struggling students.  I like him a lot.

I am learning many things in this place so far away from home.  I am challenged almost daily to closely examine my life and my beliefs.  I will always cling dearly to my faith.  Even in a time when the world believes that religion and love of GOD are the same thing, and that one of these is very bad, I will stand faithful to Jesus Christ.  He is and always has been, my dearest and closest friend.  I will however also stand in solidarity with my friends of other beliefs and support their right to live out their lives in freedom from extremes and from dictation.  I don't have all the answers.  I just have more questions.  I think that's ok.  Some things I don't question, because I have tested them over time and find them to be reliable and true.  But that is my walk.  The world is imperfect and so am I.  I yearn for that time when we are all free and loved and full.  I desire to be part of the building of this thing, but I cannot force holiness, and I cannot control many things about this life.  I can choose to be at peace and to love others better.  I will do this with the help of my friends and my GOD.  I am at peace with my life.

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