- Anais Nin
Monday, December 5, 2011
- Anais Nin
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Thursday, November 3, 2011
This means I have about 2 months to save up $3000 (the magic travel amount the lets you wander on-the-cheap for a few months until you *cross fingers*, find a job teaching somewhere...). This stresses me out, saving up this kind of cash so quickly, but is also entirely motivating. Im working 2 jobs and living in my friends spare room, so it should work out.
Then, onward to Morocco where I will be working as an Au Pair for a few months in Rabat, then eventually, to Istanbul to work for the rest of the year, hopefully.
In between i plan to backpack throughout Morocco and see the country i was almost born in. Id like to see Iran in there as well, depending on what flights are available. Maybe even mosy on down to Uzbekistan. Samarkand!! And Maybe back to Syria too...who knows.
No plans, no dramas. ;) Let the road carry me where it wants to.
Monday, September 12, 2011
The saddest part about returning home from traveling abroad, isn't just the return to routine and familiarity (though that is certainly mildly depressing)....its the slow fading of your intense travel memories.
waking up on a rock in the Wadi Rum desert, next to a rather cuddly Bedouin man
Staring out over the Nile at sunset, feeling like you have walked into a postcard and pinching yourself that you are actually in the Valley of the Kings.
the blinding glare of the Pyramids at Giza in the morning, as you balanced yourself on a Camels back and thought with such certainty, in shock and awe, that theres no WAY humans could have made such a thing
the rusty, crowded Damascene minibus, sputtering away as you sat in the backseat with a squished bag of falafels, en route to the Train Station to depart for Aleppo.
the desperate looks on the faces of the Somalian prostitutes in Iraq, squinting in the unbearable heat of the noon-day mesopotamian sun
Taksim Square in the evening, waiting outside the burger king for a friend, smells of Sheesha and dry kebabs perfuming the air as you watched Istanbul girls in hijabs and high heels teeter away into the night...
All these memories start to grow a little more dim as the days pass by. I sit in the downtown Calgary library and read travel memoirs and guidebooks and giant picture books about the Middle East, just to try to keep the flame in my brain alive.
It helps a little bit.
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Like many a wayward Middle East backpacker before me, I came to Syria overland by way of Amman, Jordan. Unlike most other flip-flop-footed travelers in the region however, this journey was made at a rather precarious time, smack in the middle of the so-called “arab spring” this past June. Mere weeks after my own home nest of Canada issued a warning against all travel to the country, I decided to take the plunge and make good use of my $78 tourist visa obtained one snowy, spring morning months earlier via Canada post -after having mailed my passport all the way from Calgary to the Syrian embassy in Ottawa. It was a far cry from the hot morning months later, where I sat in the Abbasi Palace hotel in downtown Amman, a friendly budget establishment who -despite their protests that Syria was unsafe for me to visit at the time- had arranged for me a ride to Damascus in a shared taxi across the border.
Friday, August 19, 2011
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Pictures of Sufi dervishes are painted on the ancient, vaulted, yellowed and peeling ceiling, and framed photos of Ataturk as well as black and white photos of the Bazaar a hundred years ago, line the walls. It reminds me a bit of the Al-Nawfara coffeeshop in old Damascus with its faded wooden trimmed walls and various hues of yellow and brown, although sadly there are no waterpipes to be found here, nor ashtrays on the tables.
Nonetheless, it is a pleasant oasis of calm in the middle of a very busy place and I am enjoying my sugary tea here immesely as i write in this notebook and read my "Introduction to Sufism" book that is far more in depth with theory and difficult to read that I anticipated!
My lazy afternoon consuming caffeine in these 2 wonderful cafes has left me feeling apprehensive about my return to Calgary. The reverse culture shock that is bound to set in having to sip lattes at sterile hipster hangouts like Phil and Sebastien, or expensive frappucinos at mall Starbucks. These Anatolian embroidered tableclothes will be replaced by wiped down plastic counters, these shaky wooden stools with sleek Ikea furniture.
I am missing Turkey before I have even left...
Built in the 6th century AD by late Roman emperor Justinian as a giant underground water depository, the Basilica Cistern is a gigantic 105,000 sq foot space dimly lit with orange lights and the occasional candle. Hungry carp swim freely under the recently constructed walkways and the 336 stately Roman columns scattered throughout create a magical labyrinth feel only added to by the 2 mysterious giant carved heads of Medusa that sit in the NE corner of the Cistern. It has been suggested that with all the heavy traffic above (the Basilica sits under the most heavily visted area of the city, in old Sultanhamet), that the structure is in dangerous risk of collapse, but this danger element only adds to the appeal.
There is a great echo effect created by the din of tourists circling the place, snapping photos and aimlessly walking, but very few people seem to take a seat at the little red-neon-signed cafe hidden in the south corner (perhaps preferring to socialize and get their caffeine fix above ground? what nonsense!). This leaves introverts such as myself with the perfect place to sit and soak up the spooky atmosphere of the place while having a brew of Istanbul's finest drink: the Turkish coffee. Wonderful.
The problem is of course, admission to the Basilica is 10 lira, which coupled with the 5 for the coffee would make this a rather expensive habit to uphold (about 9 bucks total). Nevermind the fact that huddled in the corner writing this hunched over a candle makes me appear a bit of a freakish quasimodo-like character... then again, at this point, I am rather used to appearing this way. Maybe I should bring some Tarot Cards here and do readings for the tourists.
I love it here. I never want to ascend above ground. I imagine living in this city and how wonderful it would be to come here on my days off and treat myself to this expensive coffee in this special subterranean place, how maybe after awhile the officials would recognize me and stop charging me the entrance fee and I could pen poetry and short stories written by candlelight whilst inhaling the spirits of Byzantine ghosts and soaking up the Holy Roman history that I dont know well enough to accurately reference here, but that nonetheless is appealing enough to make me see the faces of saints in my coffeecup grounds.
Istanbul, you never cease to amaze me.
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Monday, August 8, 2011
The really great thing about Istanbul (aside from the obvious - endless Bazaars, cats everywhere and the ever-omnipresent smell of apple sheesha)??
Tonight as I wandered the narrow hilly streets of Cihangir (the "bohemian" neighbourhood my hostel is located in), I felt like I was in Rome, San Francisco, New York City, Paris and Damascus all in one. It is truly such a diverse cosmopolitan city.
(Until you try and find a decent on-the-go bite to eat that is, and the ubiquitous kebab shop remains the only choice. BAM!! You are reminded that you are in fact, in Turkey)
Having said that, I found a great sweet shop nearby that sells little bags of fresh pistachio Turkish delight for about a dollar. Oh my god.
Sunday, August 7, 2011
Today my 6 weeks of living in Mersin comes to an end.
Tonight I board an overnight bus bound for Istanbul.
There is an expression I once heard that goes something like “with time, everything becomes softened by the joy of nostalgia, even the guillotine”, that is to say, even memories that are unpleasant will become easier to handle, with time. And in some way, now just knowing that I am leaving this humid city , and exhausting summer camp job, makes me think about what I will miss.
Last night was a perfect example of what I both simultaneously love and hate (hate might be a strong word, lets just say what can be frustrating if you just want some space or time to yourself) about Turkish culture: after going for iced coffees with a dozen or so of the other teachers and oldest kids from the summer camp, and having quite the lovely evening sitting around the Marina, in bearable evening tempuratures for once, it came time to catch the last dolmus (minibus) back to the suburb ive been living in. The last one leaves at approximatley 1130 in the evening so we had to hurry. Affectionate goodbyes were exchanged amongst everyone, (even between those kids who live in Mersin and will likely see each other next week). Warm hugs, kisses on the cheek, squeezes of hands, pats on the back, more kisses on the cheek and “ill miss yous!”. We then walked a ways to drop of a few of the students to their parents awaiting sport utility vehicles. This instigated another round of goodbyes, between everyone. Then we walked another block up to the main road where a few other teachers bid another adieu to their not-so-humble abode. Again, another round of kisses and hugs. By the time me and the 4 other teachers I share the apartment complex in Tece with had caught our Dolmus I must have been kissed at least 4 times by each person, totally about 40 times. Then again this morning as I was about to enter the shower, one of my housemates was leaving to go to her cousins, and knocked loudly until I opened, as I ackwardly stood in a towel to give me yet another final goodbye.
Its absolutely kind and wonderful and so representative of Turkish people…but at the same time, if you have to actually be somewhere at a particular time or hurry, or just want to get going…then god help you! Hahaha. Ive also been told that its sort of a symptom of a culture that is incapable of being solitary, that no one has any real independance or will to do anything alone.
Anyways...bye Mersin, hello Istanbul!!!