I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Turkey is a wonderful memory

At Topkapi Palace, with the Bosphorus behind me
I am so glad to be sitting in my bed with my laptop on my knees, partner sleeping beside me, and a cup of tea warm and inviting on a Sunday morning. I have slept through the night for most of the five nights I've been home, and I think it's safe to say I didn't get sick and have that naturopath to thank. I took all the supplements and probiotics he suggested, and now I'm cutting back on those large doses. Except for the probiotic: I think I will continue to take that for awhile.

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.


Red said...

It's good that you're back to normal in body and mind. Travel certainly gives us an understanding of others. Much of the world has much to teach us.Our indigenous cultures have lots to teach us about patience and acceptance. I enjoyed your reflections on your trip. It does one good to be out of a routine for a while.

Anonymous said...

I know what you mean about traveling to foreign destinations broadening one's perspective on life. I traveled around the world and it took me 7 years to return home. Some of those years were good ones, others were not.

Anyway, enjoy your sky dives while you still can.

Friko said...

Looks like you learned quite a lot in hindsight although you may have felt a bit out of it in Turkey. You may appreciate home comforts more when you’ve been away for a bit but, once settled in again, you have a chance to remember and reflect on the good things you experienced and the new thoughts you brought home.

I am glad that it all went as well as it did, that you are fighting fit and ready to fall out of the sky again.

Far Side of Fifty said...

You are back to your old self...soft landings! I have enjoyed hearing about your trip, I hope you share more of your photos:)

Sally Wessely said...

"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." I love this thought. You are so right on. Actually, I wish you were teaching Life 101 to University students. They would learn such valuable lessons from you.

I hope your jump has been a good one. Not only does it not take you long to get your feet wet when you come home, it also does not take you long to jump right back into thinks. You bring out the pun in me. Hugs.

Gigi said...

Am so very glad you are home safe. And that you enjoyed your trip so much. Yes, I think out students would benefit greatly from spending time in a foreign country.

The Furry Gnome said...

Always enjoy your thoughtful Sunday posts. Glad you're back and feeling comfy!

Linda Myers said...

I remember Turkey with great appreciation.It was nothing like I expected. Much, much better.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, I throughly enjoyed your reflections on your journey to Turkey. Welcome back! I recall several weeks ago when you told us your concern about staying healthy through the trip and the supplements you would be taking. Congratulations on making it through in good health. I wonder which one of the probiotics you will continue to take for a while? … you must feel it has had positive effects. That was so nice of Mickey to send you the note. I would say you were pretty lucky to have worked for someone that considerate. Interesting to read about your experiences in Turkey and not encountering any anti-American sentiment. In recent years I have become quite concerned about how folks in other parts of the world view us. It does sound like you had a good flight home. I am really impressed with your experience coming back through customs. The kiosk you described sounds so efficient. Regarding your thoughts about travel in general, you said “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.” You said that so perfectly, and I’m so exactly in agreement … I couldn’t think of a better way to say so than to quote you! : - ) Yes, we are short on rain … imagine that! … and you did miss some very mild, pleasant weather while you were gone. But I also seem to recall at least one very dark, very rainy day! Well, this week I’m moving to a new location. Packing up has slowed down my blogging a bit and this week may be even slower. Hope your skydive went well yesterday and hope you have a fine week ahead. See you next Sunday. John

R. J. said...

I have also enjoyed your wonderful memories of Turkey. It is a fascinating place and much different than I had imagined. I also found the people to be very welcoming and nice to us. The country is much more modern than I thought it would be. It is great to have our photos to remind me of the country and our experiences. You were able to see different places than we saw, so it is helpful to gain another insight to their culture.

Rita said...

I am glad you are sleeping okay and haven't gotten sick. So good to be home again when you've been away. Sad to hear that the ugly american tourists still abound, though. :( I agree with you on wishing students (everybody, really) could spend time in other countries...and even in other parts of their own towns, for that matter--to see how other people live and work and play. Enjoy your jumps!! :)

Linda Reeder said...

Oh, I hope you got to jump out of airplanes!
Tom and I still want to travel, but we think we may limit that travel to domestic locations now. International travel is very expensive and complex. But, oh, we have loved every trip we have taken, and we have learned so much.

troutbirder said...

Most interesting post DJan. Especially about attitudes in Turkey. I also found your attitude toward foreign travel and aging mirrored my own so much. I been to Europe 6 times now at all things considered it was wonderful and enough....:)

amanda said...

Still catching up on past reading, since multiple family circumstances had me otherwise engaged last week..
I enjoy your perspective on travel and agree very much. So glad you went and are back home again with gained experiences to share.
(Despite having young children and seeing costumes and signs, and songs of it every where since it's debut, I have not seen Frozen, ha!)