|At Topkapi Palace, with the Bosphorus behind me|
I received a really nice note from Mickey, my old boss. He said, "Thanks so much for coming to Turkey. We did it again. Don't expect I'll do it again. You helped more than you realized." That was such a nice thing for him to say, and it made me feel much better about my participation. Turkey was an experience I'm glad I had, and I wouldn't trade it for anything, now that I'm home and back to my old routine.
Other than having brought back some souvenirs and a couple of extra unwanted pounds on my hips, Turkey is now a memory. I have to say it was nothing like I expected. There was no sense of the anti-American sentiment I feared; in fact, I think the people of Turkey are much more hospitable and welcoming than I've experienced in other countries. Even in the bazaars, I didn't feel pressured to buy things. When I visited the Great Wall of China, the people hawking their wares were the worst: there are even lines on the pavement that they are not allowed to cross so that one can look at the souvenirs, but if I touched one, they often wouldn't stop haranguing until I walked away. Turks are polite and would never do such a thing.
I would also fly on Turkish Air again in a minute. The flight from Antalya to Istanbul is only one hour, but we were treated to a hot meal, a really good one that I would never have expected from an American carrier. In fact, one of the women who had to travel from New York to Los Angeles said she never even received a peanut on Delta. Of course there was food to purchase, but otherwise they only received water and other drinks. My Delta flight from Istanbul to Seattle was much nicer: we were fed three times during the ten-hour flight. If I had been able to sleep on the plane, it would have been perfect, but I just can't.
There are some people whose heads barely touch the back of their seats before they are sound asleep. I looked at them with envy. I have tried, and even with my extra pillow and one of those things that wraps around your neck, the best I could do is doze fitfully for a few minutes. I ended up watching two movies: The Grand Budapest Hotel (which I'd already seen but enjoyed thoroughly the second time), and Frozen, an animated movie that I hadn't seen since I don't have any little ones around to take me. I loved it; I was reminded of how much I loved Cinderella when I was young. Animation has come a long way since 1950, but Disney's sense of magic was well developed, even back then.
And finally the plane touched down on my home soil again. SeaTac's customs system works well. It is now automated with a kiosk that scans your passport and takes a picture of you. After answering the usual questions on line, a printed paper with passport and photo emerges that you give to a customs official. He glanced at it all and said, "welcome home." It was all very efficient and speedy. Within a half hour after landing, I was inside the terminal. This meant that I could catch the airport shuttle back to Bellingham two hours earlier than I'd expected. I was back home exactly 24 hours after setting off for the airport in Istanbul.
There is real truth to the adage that travel broadens one's perspective. Even though Turkey borders all those bellicose countries that we hear so much about these days: Syria, Iraq and Iran, the Turks I interacted with all seemed very considerate of others. In fact, the only belligerent people I encountered were Americans, to my chagrin. Why is it that we often think that foreign countries should be like home? My fellow travelers on the streets of Istanbul were from Peru, South Korea, India, Colombia, and America. Guess which ones had a sour face when things didn't go their way?
If I had my way, every university in the country would require its graduates to spend a month or two in a foreign country, so they might become citizens of the world rather than remain parochial and intolerant of differences. But I am not the Master of the Universe, so I'll just carry on my own little part by absorbing and appreciating the wonderful variety of people and places I get to visit during my travels.
That said, I'm more convinced that ever that those travels are now all behind me. Although it was really enriching in many ways, I realize that being in my eighth decade of life means that venturing out of my comfort zone will be limited to visiting family in various parts of the country. Even traveling to Florida to visit Norma Jean sounds arduous right now, but this time next year I'll probably be heading off to see her, in order to escape the long winter for a few weeks.
And lo and behold, when I returned, I see that there is plenty of light in the sky when I walk to the bus, and the plum trees are blooming! Daffodils and crocus are abundant, and spring is actually here already. I know that many of you who are on the East Coast will not be experiencing anything like we are here, but it will probably all turn around in the summer. Spring may be late, but it will return.
Our snowpack is so far below normal that unless we get some late winter storms, we'll be dry during the summer months, much drier than normal. I am so accustomed to everything being so green here; I hope we will get some much needed moisture in the form of snow in the High Country. We are right at normal precipitation, but because of warm temperatures, it's fallen in the form of rain, even in the Mt. Baker wilderness. A strange weather year, that's for sure.
In fact, I learned that when I left Istanbul on Tuesday, it began to snow and continued for two days, with a 28-year record for snowfall broken. Two feet of snow fell, snarling traffic and grounding flights. Fortunately for me, I left before it hit. A strange weather year indeed. Although it's impossible to know whether it's just an anomalous year and things will return to normal soon, I suspect that even climate change deniers might be having second thoughts. I hope so, anyway.
But for now, the sun will be shining brightly this Sunday, and I am going to head to Skydive Snohomish to make what will be my first skydive of the year, if all goes as planned. My friend Christy is meeting me there at noon, and we should at least be able to get our knees in the breeze once or twice. That's my hope, anyway. So until we meet again next Sunday, be well and happy. I wish it for you, anyway.