Thursday, August 30, 2012

Carpe Diem

I am up early this morning - I've got this thing, once I'm up, I'm up.  I guess I should also give into the fact that this is a result of my lifestyle (being a mom) and with school starting next week, even the concept of becoming a morning exerciser is eminent.

Since we recently repainted a few walls, and I have a few frames to fill, I am up selecting which pictures I want to use.  I am very excited about my corner that will have my water series.  I have one frame to fill that will be all about Erin.  He has a great sense of humor so many of his pictures are a lot of fun.

I came across this one that always makes me think.  This was during a trip to Hong Kong in November 2010.  We went to Disney Land there.  Growing up, I always heard people in the US talk about taking their children or grandchildren to Disney Land or Disney World.  There was always someone that said you have to wait until they are older so they will remember.

Having learned this, I kind of reacted the same way when my husband suggested we go to Hong Kong Disney.  Really? But Erin was not even going to be three for a few months!  Of course he thought, why not?

In retrospect, I am so glad we did it.  I have no regrets.  And believe it or not, Erin still remembers a lot about that trip and visit to Disney.  I think his most vivid memory is the giant, dancing gingerbread man giving him a head butt during the Christmas parade.  (Hong Kong, blondes stick out).

This is a picture of him playing the drums in the Jungle Book area.  He seems so young compared to the boy he has become.  However, when I see this picture, I am so very glad we took him to Disney Land.  Even if he didn't remember, or doesn't remember everything, he had a great time. Nothing wrong with living in the moment.  Carpe Diem!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

It All Started With A Peach

It all started with a Peach….

Well, okay, maybe not quite a peach, but it had a lot to do with my early impression of living Turkey. 

I met my husband while he was working in the US in the mid-90’s.  A couple of years later, he received a job offer in Istanbul, his home “town” and politely asked if I would join him.  I figured better to go than to wonder “what if”.  Needless to say, for many reasons, I am glad I moved.

When we first moved to Turkey in the summer of 1997, we took a road trip from Istanbul along the coast, down the Aegean Sea to the Mediterranean Sea.  We had to end this two week adventure in Kas (pronounced Kash), and head back up through the middle of the country to get back to Istanbul to start our new life.

Although short, it was an amazing start.  It was the first time I experienced Turkey outside of Istanbul, and I fell in love with it for many reasons.  Everywhere I looked, something significant had happened on the same soil hundreds, if not thousands of years ago.  As we continued south, it was during a visit to the ancient city of Ephesus that the grandeur of it all began to sit in – the history, culture and… the peaches.

Ephesus is probably best known as an ancient Greek and Roman city, but it is much older than that.  It is tangible proof that ancient civilizations we grew up reading about really existed.  It is larger than life.  I read that even though it has been consistently under excavation since the late 1800s, that only 10% of the area has been excavated.

I have visited a few times, and it is always interesting to see what has been uncovered.  I will also forever be in awe of the Library of Celsus and never tire of sitting in one of the theaters to imagine what it would be like to have been there before.

In addition to this ancient city, another thing I am in awe of are the peaches in the region. In general, the produce in Turkey is like no other.  But the peaches here, they are amazing – the best, biggest juiciest peaches I have ever tasted.  They are just too good for words.  Perhaps it is the ancient soil that fertilizes those trees.

Wanting to introduce my son to his Turkish culture, we stopped at Ephesus this year.  We parked at the back entrance this time and took a horse and cart around to the main entrance.  (Which was not a bad idea with a small child to walk downhill through the city.)

The ride took us around the peach orchards.  It left me wondering why there is no ecotourism here where people can do a farm stay to work on a peach farm in trade for a room and fresh farm breakfast.  I would be happy to stay for several days and just pick peaches!

Pictures of Ephesus to follow soon…  

Sunday, August 26, 2012

All good things come to an end

Two sailboats making their way to the Dardanelles in Turkey

The above picture isn't so great. Ya, its colorful, but there is a lot of camera shake.  It was a very windy day in the Marmara region of Turkey.  So windy that I was having a hard time standing still myself.  However, I like the picture anyway.

It's not about the sharpness.  This is about the signs of summer coming to an end - summer holidays and travel coming to an end.  In retrospect, holidays often seem like a dream so it is only appropriate they are a little blurred.

The sunflowers have died, the sea is a deeper blue from the clouds in the sky that were not there the previous week.  The air has that distinctive smell that triggers something.  Autumn is just around the corner, and this means school will begin very soon.

I am back in Dubai where I am (technically) tied to my son's school system for my travels now.  And so the next chapter begins...

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Turkish Law of Opposites

Its that time of year again where we make our annual summer visit to Turkey.  It feels like it has been forever since we had a break.

This year we spent a few days in Bodrum.  Instead of flying to Bodrum from Istanbul, we drove.  I figure it is time for Erin to start learning more about Turkey, and quite frankly, I miss the amazing road trips through this country.  

There are many reasons I appreciate a good road trip in Turkey.  One, the history is rich and plentiful, and if you were to stop at every ancient ruin and historical site on the way, you would never make your destination as planned.  In addition to finding the most amazing things, the interaction with the culture can sometimes be unpredictable and entertaining.

This time we stopped at Kus Cennet, or Bird Heaven on the way.  We have driven by this beautiful, protected reserve several times but never stopped.  The irony of it all is that as you turn off the main road to enter Kus Cennet, there are fields full of scarecrows.  What kind of hidden heaven is this place? 

To further complicate it, as you leave and head further south, there are nothing but chicken farms that line the road on both sides for several kilometers.  Welcome to heaven - if you are lucky enough to not land in hell on your way.

My friend, Semih, tells me this is the Turkish Law of Opposites.  I agree there is some kind of yin and yang here that keeps everything in balance, but it is not in that traditional Eastern sense.  There is something more to it that I cannot always explain. 

A slightly different type of balance is required to walk this rope.  Yin and yang are like an old married couple that constantly nags each other.  They love each other, but they can also nag at each other a lot.

The first night we arrived in Bodrum, we went to dinner at a well-known restaurant.  It is small, with maybe eight tables and serves great Agean seafood with a homemade twist. 

Shortly after we placed our order, a woman proceeds to leave from one the back tables and stops to reprimand a large group of 10 on her way.  Out of nowhere at the highest, angriest volume from her diaphragm, she informs the group as well as the rest of the restaurant, and possibly all of Bodrum that they were too loud and ruined her evening.

Her lecture went on for what seemed like several unnecessary minutes. This group was only out having a nice dinner.  They were laughing and enjoying themselves at normal decibels.  I would hardly call it disturbing the peace.

To add fuel to her fire, a man in the back corner of the restaurant then joined in.  He backs up the crazed woman as he shouts from his corner that the group was too loud and disrespectful.  Needless to say, the group was taken aback.  Considering the situation, they were calm – much more than I would be.

After the exchange of a few words, the woman left.  A foreign couple in the middle of the restaurant looked concerned as if they were wondering when the brawl was going to break loose.  My husband and I were sitting right next to them and practically in tears as we tried to conceal our laughter.  Perhaps we only frightened them more.

Things seemed to go back to normal.  Oh but wait, that would be too predictable.  The man in the back didn’t have enough.  He proceeded to continue to shout at the group about how they were making everyone in the restaurant uncomfortable.

At that point, my husband read my mind.  He jumped in and in not so many words told the guy to only speak for himself, and not speak for everyone else. The tourists looked even more concerned, but the food was worth staying for.

A bit later, I suddenly began laughing so hard I could barely explain why.  The wife of the man who was shouting at everyone for being so disrespectful and disturbing the entire city was changing their son’s clothes at the table in the restaurant.  This child was around 4 years old – not a baby, but a child.  There was nothing discrete about it.  I guess rather than go home, they just thought it would be easier to put his pajamas on at the table.  The hypocrisy and irony of it all is so funny I could barely believe it.

I never seem to experience such interesting incidents in the US or anywhere else when travelling.  Well there was that one time a guy dropped his pants at a crowded New York intersection to prove “he ain’t got nothin” as the police came after him.   My other 99% of unexplainable social observations always seem to occur in Turkey. 

While I would not call it a norm for Turkey, these public confrontations do happen, and they are always entertaining.  They are typically harmless and although terribly annoying at times, people usually go on about their business.  Living here, I gained assertiveness and street smarts very quickly.

Throughout the entire confrontation, the restaurant staff said nothing.  They just kept on working as if nothing happened.  I could not help but wonder if this was the result of regular confrontations and they were used to it, or they did not want to get involved.  Either way, I found this lack of reaction equally interesting as it seemed unusual.  Perhaps this is why the manager wore an apron with RELAX written in big bold letters across the front. 

Since that night, the rest of the trip has been fairly uneventful of social confrontation.  However, we are only halfway through.  There is still plenty of time for the yin to nag the yang a bit more.