Road nuggets

Somewhere between London and Philadelphia, the fever hit. i have spent the past week dealing with a mild case of the flu, while managing re-entry after being away from home for a month. Some random nuggets…

  • Thirty days. That is the longest i’ve ever been away from ‘home’ as an adult. This is mostly because of The Job, which i no longer have. Studley and i were very deliberate about pushing our comfort limits, and we’re still sorting out how we feel. Not seriously considering life as ex-pats, but some gentle experience should we ever choose that route.B1
  • i missed my pets. If i am going to do this on a fairly regular basis, i probably should not have pets. My live-in pet sitter had a pre-planned trip in the middle of that 30 days, so i scrambled to hire people, and find a friend, who could cover those 10 days. One of the most stressful aspects of being gone – and most expensive. i took to feeding treats to the street cats and dogs. cIMG_6363
  • Air travel is still pretty awesome – about 12,000 miles flown on this trip. How long would it have taken by ship? Who knows? Luggage lost on the way to Athens, but it found us a couple of days later. British Airways thought we hadn’t shown up for our flights TO Athens, so they canceled our return, but still managed to get us on a flight home. For all the barking about how shitty air travel is, it’s pretty amazing when you stand back a bit…izmir to istablnu
  • Turkey – Izmir is a lovely city – about the size of Chicago. The public transit cards include use of buses, ferries, trams and bike share. To the people who consider this a ‘third world country’? Rethink that shit… We were out and about alone, day and night, and i NEVER felt unsafe.10
  • Plumbing – in Turkey, there are bins in the toilet stalls for the collection of used paper. The plumbing systems and sanitary waste processing facilities do not handle toilet paper. Surprising how fast you get used to this. On the plus side? Most toilets in Izmir (public, private) have built in bidet functions. Surprising how fast you get used to this, too. Exploring options to upgrade my home toilet…IMG_6268
  • Language – We started using an app (Duolingo) to learn Turkish about two months before launch. The Girl emphasized the need to be fluent in numbers – enabling basic commerce. We thought we’d done ok. We were wrong. i DID have a really cool conversation with my son-in-laws 2 year old niece about colors and animals. i think this topic requires a separate post, as there are numerous examples of how things worked, and didn’t, and many lessons learned along the way!b13
  • Baggage – The Girl had a list of things she wanted us to bring, and we hauled another bag of Christmas gifts from The Girl’s Dad and his wife. We had to bring the big suitcases. Limited to 50 pounds each, we still had to deploy two roll aboard suitcases, along with our standard travel backpacks. Didn’t leave a lot of space for our personal belongings – so we packed REALLY light. Turns out, i can live for a month with just a few shirts, trousers/leggings, a dress, a fleece jacket, raincoat, two pairs of socks, one extra pair of shoes, and four pair of undercrackers. Excellent training for what lies ahead…55
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Improvisational dance

May, 2004:  The Girl had signed up for Semester at Sea, sailing around the world on a cruise ship full of undergrads and a few brave faculty members. There was to be a “parent meet up” opportunity somewhere along the way – for that trip, it was Vietnam.

Traveling solo, i joined a group of about 50 wealthy white people* in Bangkok, and we made our way to Vietnam to meet the ship as it pulled into port. We had a couple days in Bangkok, touring together, which told me i was sort of the odd (wo)man out – only a couple of us on the trip without mates, no interest in shopping, i was pretty content to just chill on my own.

After we met up with the students, we had time in Ho Chi Minh City to explore. The tour company handling the parents put us on buses, and we went to various museums. It was on this afternoon i met two couples who were not like the others – a brother and sister, traveling with their spouses, they had been students with Semester at Sea back in the 70’s. They were on the trip to meet with a son/nephew and do some exploring of their own while halfway around the world.

We were headed back to the hotel and the bus driver stopped at a Vietnam Airlines storefront. The two couples said their goodbyes and prepared to hop off the bus – “We’re going to see if we can find some cheap flights to Halong Bay while we’re here. Wander a bit, then maybe fly over to Phuket for some diving before we head home…”

i looked at The Girl after they departed. “i would love to be able to travel like that! Just make it up as you go! i don’t think i’ll ever have that confidence!”

February, 2018: Driving by the Izmir train station.“You know, next time we’re here, maybe we should hop a train? Let’s just see where we can go…”

turkish railway map.jpg

* The demographic on the ship was heavily skewed to kids with money. The Girl managed to find her way into the tribe of the hippies on board. She often referred to the ship as the “Aryan Nation Love Boat”. 

Fierce…

She was born and raised in a small village on the Black Sea, but married and moved to a larger city years later. Ayse is 65 years old, and a widow. We met her while visiting friends of The Girl.

The Girl’s friend, Sevda is married to Pete (from the US). They had a son, Ender, about a year ago, and Ayse spends time with them, helping with the little boy, and managing the household. Ayse has four daughters, three (including Sevda) are engineers, and the fourth is trained as a social worker.

We are working on learning Turkish, but our skills are rudimentary at best. With translation assistance from Sevda and The Girl, i told Ayse that she should be very proud of raising four smart, professional daughters. “In my family, everyone must do something.”

Ayse did not go to college herself, but clearly understands the value of education.

As we picked up Ender’s books, we started sounding out words – numbers, colors, animals. She looked at Sevda with a very determined look on her face, threw a side eye toward Pete, and spoke at length in Turkish.

Sevda said she is going to study English, and was inspired to tackle it because we were trying to learn Turkish. She also said that our Turkish is already better than Pete’s, and thinks he should make the same effort after living in Turkey for so long!

Ayse is a thin woman, wearing modest clothing*, taking the occasional break to go out on the porch and smoke. Her eyes are sharp, and her face looks younger to me than her 65 years. Despite Sevda telling us that she has had trouble with her back, she picks up Ender with ease, slinging him onto her shoulders, her back, turning him a million different ways as she carries him from room to room.

“She could juggle babies! Wow!”

Sevda showed me her garden, which includes herbs, peppers, greens. “That’s an olive tree! We just had a harvest, and made olive oil! Pete and I were picking them from the low branches, but my mother climbed up the tree! She has practically build this entire garden herself! I’ll send home some of the tomato sauce she made this summer!”

As we said our goodbyes**, Ayse invited us to visit us in her home town when we visit again. i told her that we’d help her practice her English if she’d help us practice our Turkish!

In the car on the drive home, i was commenting on how fierce Ayse is – “She is extraordinary! She is fierce, smart – and can juggle babies! How cool is that?”

The Girl seemed a little sad as she said “Yeah… I think she’s sick. Cancer. Not sure of the details, but it’s not a great prognosis…”

baby juggling

Image found here. A famous ‘baby juggler’ statue in Oslo. Who knew?

* In Izmir, women are free to choose to wear modest clothing (hijab) or not. Based on several visits here, and observation, i’d say around a quarter to a third of women – of all ages – make this choice. 

** Saying goodbye in Turkish culture takes approximately 30-45 minutes. There are a dozen words for “goodbye” and the process is complicated, but heart felt. We are still getting the hang of cheek-kissing (right side, left side, right side again for family… i think…)