Monday, September 14, 2009

birthday blogging

Hello all!!

I write to you from my pension terrace in Patara, Turkey. It has been an amazing week of “solo” adventuring for me. While I left Istanbul as a lone traveler, I have been so fortunate to make excellent company at each stage of my little getaway. In Olympos at the treehouse pension we were staying at, by some crazy stroke of good luck, I ran into Dilan, a friend of my new roommate in Hisarustu. I was standing in line with friends from the gullet cruise, waiting for dinner when all of a sudden Dilan walks past! Turns out Dilan is staying in Olympos for a few days, studying for her TOEFL and GRE exams. Since I, as usual, had no plans and no idea what I was doing, I decided to stay and hang out.

This turned into an excellent decision and a great night. I dined with Dilan and Selim, another PhD student at Bogazici, over which we discussed our various research interests and practiced my Turkish J. After dinner I did some significant catching up on the news (finally watched Obama’s healthcare speech - a 45 minute speech that turned into like an 1.5 hour exercise bc of the internet connection lol) and afterwards we set off for the beach:

a little love from the ancient inhabitants of olympos:

The olympos beach was beautiful at night, and I think more beautiful than in the day. (I spent most of the day at the beach, too, jumping off some small cliffs with Simon the Aussie), The moon was amazing, and the beach is flanked by 2 grand mountains…it was (as most of the trip has been) so surreal, so movie-like and somewhat unbelievable. Our little gang on the beach that night was an eclectic mix: Dilan, Selim, Zeynep, Matthias, myself and a few others who we had med at the pension. We walked and talked about some very interesting ideas until 2, when Zeynep, Selim and myself made the trek back to the pension. While I’d planned on heading to sleep, Bayram (the owner of Bayram’s treehouse pension) and I ended up chatting about Olympos, why and how treehouse pensions became such a big deal there, how he started this place (at 17) and how it boomed into this amazingly successful business. At 3, I called it a night and went to bed.

The next morning I decided it was time to move on. I picked Patara, having seen this amazing stetch of beautiful coastline from my gullet cruise days earlier and wanting to return. I said my goodbyes, boarded a bus and set off. There were 4 other travelers to Patara - Parisians making a 3 week tour around Turkey. We ran into each other later that day at the beach (of course the first thing I did after arriving at my pension was leave for the coast), and shared a few drinks and laughs about my ridiculously broken French.

I shared my evening with a group of 7 Cambridge students who are touring this side of turkey in their studies of Ancient Civilizations. Nick, Sophie, Sas, Alex, Alex, Steve and Antony. Nick, Sophie and Sas graciously extended an invitation to dinner, which I accepted. We trekked through Patara (one of the smallest towns I’ve ever been in - INCLUDING JULIAN, CALIFORNIA) to find dinner at the Flower Pension. The 8 of us enjoyed an amazing casserole and I was absolutely riveted in conversation through the entire dinner. Fresh faces, new questions, new stories…I was challenged in a refreshing way to explain my experience thus far in Istanbul, to summarize my thoughts, feelings, reactions to Turkey. They wanted more extensive responses to typical questions, and asked me more than anyone else thus far. So I re-started the explorative process that had otherwise been occurring almost exclusively in my journal. Needing to vocalize and articulate my thoughts about Istanbul’s atmosphere, it’s unique predicaments, about my personal experience in the city - all of this has catalyzed and invigorated my thinking and thoughts about Istanbul and me in it.

When we finished dinner, it really started to pour. Our waiter (in typical Turkish hospitality) volunteered to drive us home though the storm. A long game of poker and sleep were next in order.

In the morning I set off for a run to the beach. ONCE I arrived, it began to pourrrrr downnn. Like I haven’t been in rain this strong in a while. The beach cafĂ© staff was warm and welcoming, as were 2 lovely Swiss ladies who obliged to give me a ride home (after, of course, I had enough good fun playing in the rain J). My French kicked in again - though dotted with Turkish. It is sooooooo hard to switch language gears!!! I couldn’t stop thinking in Turkish - couldn’t find the words in French and kept accidentally saying “evet” instead of “oui,” asking questions in Turkish rather than French…it was really an lol event.

Anyways I requested to be dropped off in the town center (slightly ashamed to ask for a ride up the hill to my pension) and so had to make a trek through the town in no pants (mine were far too wet and I had to take them off). That was fun….

At home, I cleaned off and the sun came out, so I just suited up again and headed for the beach again! Met up there with the Cambridge kids, and sort of spent the day learning a lotttt about Oxbridge. I really can’t even express how fortnate I feel to have made such great company…each of them has a wonderful, interesting distinct personality that is so much FUN for me to observe and absorb. After catching my first proper, beach sunset in months, we walked home.

And I spent my evening turning 20, brushing up on some history, relaxing in the cool of my pension and feeling quite content.

On this new decade:

I feel empowered. I feel more capable than I ever have, and excited for the decade of adventuring that lies ahead. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, I’ve spent the majority of my last month in Turkey with 26 and 27 year olds. I am now more aware of my youth and also far more comfortable with it. In a new, confident way, I accept and embrace where I am in my life, and who I am in the world. Finally, I feel comfortable in my own body, comfortable with my mind and thoughts, and capable of whatever lies ahead.

While being alone on my birthday is a teensy bit sad, it is exactly what I wanted to do. To leave Istanbul and its 24-7 energy, noise, its 20 million people. To get away and figure out what was going on with me before Wednesday rolls around and I am again immersed in new everything at Bogazici. To move without dodging people on the streets, to sit in quiet, peaceful solitude and enjoy quality time with myself.

All of this being said, I miss you all and love you very much. And I am looking forward to a much-belated birthday celebration full of the people I love the most.