Friday, August 27, 2010

A magical city, indeed

On my last day in Istanbul I stayed with a wonderful Turkish family who divides their time between Istanbul and Philadelphia. For decades, they have had a lovely home high in the hills of Ortakoy overlooking the Bosporus River. The Bosporus River divides east from west, Europe from Asia, a critical waterway between the Black Sea and the Sea of Maramara. As the moon rose over the opposite shore, we ate fresh figs and peaches and drank Turkish coffee on the porch. Fisherman and drunken boys argued on the water's edge while a welcome breeze finally offered a reprieve from the August heat. I asked my host, Mr. Eroglu, what he thought of Istanbul and he replied without hesitation. "In Istanbul I feel old. A thousand years old." He gestured to the palace of a sultan across the river and then a fortress built by Constantine. Centuries of architecture and war, religious and cataclysmic ideological shifts have transformed the hills and soil and water of Istanbul and my host said that he felt that somehow his life was a continuation of all those lives and events that had come before.

On my first day in Istanbul, an old man holding two white rabbits asked if he could read my fortune for 1 lire. I found he and the bunnies rather charming, so I placed a coin in his hand and watched as he and one rabbit carefully selected and unrolled a blue piece of paper that provided wisdom for my life, much like a Chinese fortune cookie.

All kinds of superstition is woven seamlessly into the culture. To ward off evil spirits, a person can buy a blue medallion representing Medusa's eye (to deflect evil thoughts). I am my mother's daughter, a woman who happened to be surprisingly superstitious herself, so I happily offered the remains of my Turkish coffee to Mr. Ergolu when I was told one could learn about the future from the sediment at the bottom.

Istanbul is a wildly fascinating place. Boasting a population of 20 million people, this massive, throbbing city is home to Kurds and Turks, Muslims and Marxists, all of whom stumbled across my path throughout my visit. Such a friendly place where gestures of hospitality are offered through Chai tea and banter. Ramadan kept things rather quiet during the day, but could not keep the smokers at bay nor the carpet sellers from aggressively selling their wares.

The pictures are from the Blue Mosque, the Aya Sofya, a boat cruise on the river, a Kurdish neighborhood near Taksim, and a carpet shop in Sultanahmet.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

VayCay, Day 3

The only thing better than visiting charming Nuremberg? Visiting charming Nuremberg and staying with your friend's Amy and Jeff who provide gorgeous lime/plum/coconut cake for breakfast. Today I had a leisurely morning that involved learning two things about spiders while drinking a cup of coffee on the porch:

1) Spiders gather in their webbing into a little ball when you mess it up.
2) After they do this they need a break and curl up for a nap. This morning I thought for the very first time in my life, "Spiders are cute."

This is what vacation does to you. It gives you the time to notice the way spiders spin a web and how they nap.

I traipsed about the city with my lovely friend Saskia yesterday morning and learned lots of its secrets with my old friend Udo last night. Thank you both, for a remarkable day.

You live in a beautiful part of the world and I am grateful to know you. Tschüß!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

T-18 hours

Deutschland, I cannot wait to meet you again.

Turkey, I am delighted we will finally make ourselves acquainted.

Reunions, frivolity, and new friends await!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I need me some flow!

I need the creative juices to F-L-O-W. But they aren't at the moment.

When it is 6 p.m. and you are waiting for a 6:30 appointment and eat a second big handful of cheddar sunchips and part of a chocolate bar and follow this up with a facebook brain-drain (you look through an entire facebook photo album of a concert you know nothing about, full of people you do not actually know) you might think to yourself, "This is when it is time to cut out for the day." More diligent people would take this extra half hour to go on a good walk around the city, do a little yoga, or even lean back and shut their eyes for a few minutes. But instead I chose lazy-shmazy vegging. And lazy-shmazy vegging does not promote creativity in the world of me.

You know what I have been thinking about lately? Human interactions as transactions. Go with me on this. People are so used to buying/selling and consuming products, I believe they are beginning to treat people like commodities almost exclusively. If I need something or want something from you, I am motivated to make some kind of connection with you. But if you aren't something I want or need for a particular reason, I will ignore you. In gym class for example. On Monday night, most women walked into the class, set up their mat and were hard-pressed to make eye contact with others, let alone say hello. Most people, upon exiting the class did not say thank you to the teacher. Why say thank you? We pay this lady!

This depresses me. I think we should practice noticing one another. Extending a kind smile or gesture toward a stranger just because. Just because every person deserves gestures of warmth and dignity.

I am going to be the next Pollyanna. The cursing, drinking, sinning kind of Pollyanna. I like this image of Pollyanna, by the way. Walt Disney is probably rolling over in his grave. Sorry, Walt.