May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets’ towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkey’s howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches where storms come and go as lightening clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you---beyond that next turning of the canyon walls. ---Edward Abbey (thanks Trudy Hall)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Turkey Lookey

These keep those with "evil eyes" away.  Thanks, Mehmet

West meets East: Do you know my name, Su, means water in Turkish?

Unrest in Cairo
December 17—a travel day through Cairo.  I asked to talk with “lost and found,” as I had lost my i-touch as I was fiddling with money the last time I was there.  Ugh.  I assumed it was taken and took off all the sensitive information from my email so they couldn’t use it.  I hope I got it all.  I asked someone where all that violent protesting was on the TV.  He said here, in Cairo!  Yikes.  Les and I had seen a lot of smoke rising as we came into Cairo.  I wonder if we saw it from the plane and that it’s that big!
We got to Turkey and followed the directions to the hostel, via underground, trolley and walking.  The touts were out. 

Asia, from our European Hostel
We were welcomed to our dorm and went upstairs to take in the view and listen to the call to prayer.  We met fellow travelers and ended up going out for tea and a little food nearby.

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque
Women pray behind screens
December 18—We packed, ate a simple breakfast and made our way to the Blue Mosque.  In the courtyard, tourists were chaotically ushered away from the Turkish entrance.  We put our shoes in a plastic bag and wandered in.  Individuals were praying; women prayed behind a wooden screen in the back; a group of men gathered to talk in the middle; one child was running around the beautiful open space covered by ornate domes, my favorite drippy lights and colorful windows.  It was open air and fairly quiet.  In the corner was an office with an invitation to learn more about Islam.
Celil's Living Room
Celil's kitchen
Buying minutes for a phone is really expensive here!  So we called our host Celil (pronounced with a “j” sound at the beginning of his name) from a booth.  He offered to pick us up from a trolley stop on his way.  He lives about 1.5 hours from the city to the southwest on the 12th floor of a large apartment building behind a mall. 

He had a conference to go to, so we went to the mall, had our bags checked and went upstairs for a bite.  We LOVED the people in this place.  When we were confused about something, the manager would bring out all the ingredients.  When we finally made our order, she asked us if we would rather have manti.  “No,” we said, “the swarma instead, please.”  Well, we got manti, and it was GREAT!  Food surprise #1.  It was ravioli in sauce with garlic yogurt on the top.  They were very good sports about our not speaking Turkish.

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December 19-20—My second of many adventures with food:  we bought cereal and milk for breakfast, and when I took my first bite, I tasted skim-thin salty yogurt on the cereal.  I had my taste buds set for milk, but I finished it with a squinty eye.  We got up very late, it was crummy weather and we didn’t want to travel 3 hours to Istanbul when we only had 5 hours of light, to see the bazaar and great edifices.  We decided to see them later, and rather focus on email, research, new years card, and reading in a café with wireless.  One night we made “Mark Morris’s Rice And Beans” for dinner, with salad, bread and herbs in oil for dinner.   
Surprise drink for dinner with fish

The other night, Celil took us out for fish.  I had pan fried little fish with heads and spines and tails.  I also had a drink that Celil said was carrot juice.  Here’s food surprise #3.  It was beat red, and when I tasted it, it was the strangest flavor, not altogether unpleasant.  I was set for the sweet carroty flavor and got salty tangy beet and veggie juice! …again, not altogether unpleasant. 
Celil works at home and hires a man named Fati to help him find vessels to haul cement and other items from place to place.  Fati had an old phone that he gave us.  I am excited to see how this one works.  He also brought us to the ticket office to help us buy tickets to Selcek.

Heading South on the Ferry
December 21—We got up early and got on the bus that takes 10 hours to Izmir.  It was a beautiful ride, crossing the ocean on the ferry, climbing mountainous areas, pregnant streams that gather tons of garbage, fields with winter wheat starting, olive groves with people shaking olives onto a massive tarp, men with dogs shepherding sheep, and buildings from fancy ranch houses to shacks made of a few pieces of corrugated metal.  
 I keep thinking that THIS is the norm in the world—not our sturdy, clean and tidy homes we are used to.  
Selcek Street with Oranges!
Now I sit on the bus, watching the sun set, a town on the hill awash in its own smoke from dinner or heating, anticipating seeing the ancient ruins of Ephesus and meeting our friendly host, who runs a Kebob restaurant in Selcuc.  
Dancing Metal Window Grate
Son Emre, Friend, and Mehmet
Mehmet found us leaving the station and brought us to his cute restaurant with pages of Crayoned testimonials from past patrons declaring how wonderful the place is.  We had a fabulous dinner with monster-sized cous-cous and mixed minced meat.  We met his charming and witty son, who took us a few blocks to their home, and wanted to learn what we knew about American Sign Language.  Our room had an enormous bed with an electric blanket!  YES! …because the home was not heated.  Although the streets are lined with palm trees, the temperature warrants a hat and 5 top layers and long johns.  Our evenings consisted of laying fully dressed under the covers and reading about Ephesus and other special places nearby. 

Abrahim will be Chef on a Ship for 18 Months

Ephesus Museum
Checking the time in the museum

Fertility Goddess Artemis
People came to Ephesus to pray for fertility: God Eros

The Library and surrounding area.  Wow
December 22-23-24—We woke late, explored the town, and Ali Baba (co owner of the restaurant) drove us to the ancient ruins of Ephesus.  They say only 18% of the ruins have been uncovered, which is so exciting to imagine what may lie under the nearby hills.  Huge edifices and groups of fancy houses, bathing areas, temples and streets lined with images of prominent or athletic people with complicated water works and sewage was unbelievable for 2-3000 years ago.  There were only a few people there, as it is the low season, so we felt a little like explorers ourselves.   
Well-preserved homes
They are working on homes of the rich and famous now, and have uncovered fancy marble-covered rooms, apses, paintings (with graffiti of kids’ favorite gladiators), and big mosaics on the floors of every room.  It’s a relatively recent discovery; it blows my mind how it could all get buried so deeply.  Could this happen now, where a big (250,000 people) city becomes entirely abandoned and buried?  (Boulder CO. has too many earthquakes and becomes abandoned for centuries?) 
Les Directing the Cat in Ancient Theater
Les at the "Theatah"
I felt compelled to dance in the old theater though it was raining, and received accolades from a group of Japanese tourists all holding bright umbrellas.  It was a nice scene in which to dance a little.  
A place of healing
Castle and (the one and only) St. John's Burial Site

After we explored the market in Selcuc, and bought wool socks, underwear and some treats for the bus, we stopped by St. Johns church ruins next to the great mosque in town.  This is where the apostle John came to spread Christianity and eventually this is where they buried him.  The place is atop a hill and is splendid at sunset.  Nearby is a castle that is closed for renovations, but it is obviously HUGE!  A tout wanted to take us there and to sell us ancient coins.  Word is that he is a bad man who takes advantage of travelers, especially women.   Then, we packed up and said our last good byes to the warm and wonderful family at the restaurant.  Mehmet gave us a couple of discs that will keep the evil eye away from us and sent us on the overnight bus.  The “free shuttle” promised by the Ayan Bus Lines turned into, “Problem with Shuttle. Take the metro.”  A kind traveler helped us with the way and we ended up at the apartment of Oslem.
December 25—Oslem welcomed us and we crashed, since we didn’t sleep on the bus well the night before.  The afternoon sent us to explore the area. There isn’t much about Christmas, which we found refreshing.  Maybe next year we can remember a little of this while folks are crazy with trying to buy, and display and get wild over the things we give each other to make the other feel like we care.   
Everyone smokes water pipes.

We went down a very commercial street to the sea, and returned with bread and oil to add to the dipping spices we got from Israel to share at the party.   
Dancers: Sami (Iran) and Marat (local)

There were over 15 people there, including dancers!  One dancer from Iran was working on choreography here, and the other dancer (Marat) was connected with the contemporary dance scene in which there is a Butoh workshop going on.  When Marat called one of the dance coalition people, we found that the building where they danced burned, and are postponing the classes until they find another space.  Bummer!   
Surfers gather for vegan meal at Ozlem's Home

As the party went on, I found out that it was a special group of vegan/vegetarian couch-surfing people.  That’s why there were people from all over the world!  One guy squatted in a huge home all summer, painting beautiful graffiti on the cement walls and sleeping in hammocks and making music and lamps in the space.  We ate wonderful food: stuffed peppers, brown spicy stuff that looked like a layer of beans that someone squeezed with their fingers (surprise #4), salads, yummy grilled veggies and rice, and something with chocolate on the bottom, but seemed like a rice pudding.  Oslem had two other surfers in her living room from the Ukraine (Marina and Lana), and we all sat after the clean up with tea and talked.

Am I as intense as Turkish coffee?
December 26—In search of bread with some chocolate in it, Les and I went to a Simit (bread in a circle) place and she pointed to these dark squares that looked like chocolate.  Yumm!  When I bit into it, olives were revealed!  (Food Surprise #5).  

Old instrument at the Bazaar
 Since Haiga Sophia was closed on the 27, we went to the Grand Bazaar and explored all the sections.  Compared to Islamic medinas, this seemed very small; I was surprised to find it was mostly inside.  I guess that makes sense when it gets so cold in the winter.  Very ornate were the halls and ceilings, and all the venders.  My favorite section was the antiques.  There were so many things that I didn’t recognize made of metals, fabrics and wood that were delightfully foreign to me.  Walking down hill brought us to the spice market, where we bought nuts for our dinner hosts.  I almost bought some rose oil before we headed over the Bosphorus on a ferry to ASIA!

The evening brought us to Marat’s house!  He invited us to have dinner there, so when I called to accept, he called another dancer (Azark) and we had a fantastic meatball and soup.  This soup was a specialty of the villages, not cities.  It’s made with dough that’s been rolled and dried and put through a sieve, then reconstituted in a vegetable broth.  I also got to taste Raki, also known as “Lion’s Milk” because when you add water to it, it turns white.  To me it tasted like Ouzo with an anise flavor. (surprise #6) After dinner, we started making contact dances with left over balloons from a breakfast party, and Marat joined in with a traditional Turkish stringed instrument with a long neck.  Soon we were all dancing over his couches and on the available floor.  We made it home by Dolmas (literally “stuffed”) taxi-van pretty late but satisfied.
Haiga Sophia
Holy Man?  Look at that halo!
Mausoleum Next Door
December 27—was the day Les had been waiting for since we got to Istanbul.  He had studied the Haiga Sophia in college and was looking forward to seeing this ancient church turned into a mosque then a museum.  The place did not disappoint.  Wow.  As he said, the dome was constructed with special hollow light bricks that allowed them to make it seem that it was not held up by much.  The décor was rich and full of gold-covered tiles on mosaics that were uncovered.   
When the Muslims moved in they had to cover the images of Christ and the holy family and all the cross iconography.  Some of the paint from the crosses is actually bleeding through the Islamic designs.  The space was VAST, people spoke in hushed tones, history and art surrounded us and peeked out from every corner.  It truly is a work of magnificence.  See those photos and the video that captures the light coming through the dome.  Wow.
On our way home we bought ingredients to share with our hostess Oslem for dinner, and a hyacinth bulb to thank her for the space and time.  We learned of Oslem’s passion for stray animals and all the good she is doing to try to make a better life for them and for the humans who care about them.  She is a very warm woman with a wonderful spirit for making the world better. 

December 28—started much like this entry began.  We flew to Cairo and looked for the last time for the i-touch before heading back to Amman.  No luck.

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