Thursday, January 31, 2008

The dancer

My friend Ayhan is coming to visit this weekend from Ankara. It's been a long time since we've seen him. Ayhan is a professional dancer. He teaches ballet classes and also competes internationally. Last time he visited the three of us stayed up almost all night sharing favorites from our music collections and dancing the night away. Though I've never been to one of his classes, I imagine he must be a great teacher because he's the type of person that you don't feel at all self-conscious around. The fluidity of his movements draws you in, mesmerizes you. I remember when he and one of Evren's aunts got up at our wedding and danced. They took over the dance floor and had everyone's attention with their beautiful twirls and dips. (I had no idea Fatos Teyze was such a talented dancer).

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Eurasian Marathon

I'm putting this in writing so I won't back out. I am going to run the Eurasian Marathon this fall on Oct. 26. I haven't determined a time goal yet and am just starting to devise a training schedule.

I have only run one marathon previously, the LA Marathon in 2000. I was a senior in university at the time and decided on a whim only three months beforehand to do it. I remember the mariachi bands playing on the side of the road, everyone slipping on banana peels (poor judgement on whichever group had decided to hand those out to runners!), and most of all the pouring rain and cold temperatures. OK, this may not sound like a good time, but I loved it.

There's certainly a strong feeling of comraderie (esp. when you're all soaking wet and your shoes are making squidging noises as you run, not that I'm hoping it rains for the Eurasian), you get to run down the middle of the street and in this case across the Bosporus Bridge, all kinds of festivities are going on around you and people from all walks of life come out to cheer you on. But the draw for me is also in the journey, the hours of training put in from week to week. Before my first marathon I was taking 27 units and working part time, so working in my runs was a real task. Yet it worked because the runs were also major stress relief and became the part of my day that I looked forward to the most.

Fast forward to 2008, another packed schedule that now also includes relationship time, exercise and allergy induced asthma, and Devi in not-so-great winter shape. I'm ready to run! Anybody with me?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Remembering Hrant

Tomorrow is the 1st anniversary of the death of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink. Much controversy surrounds the investigation into his murder, which many, including Dink's family, say has been obstructed at every turn by police and the judicial system.
Instead of focusing on the controversy, I would like to remember the man. He was someone who promoted tolerance, dialogue and understanding among ethnic groups in Turkey. He was unafraid to voice his opinions on events in Turkish history, even if it meant being prosecuted under an archaic law, Article 301 of the Turkish constitution, multiple times. He recognized the progress that Turkey has made in human rights and tolerance of different groups, while also realizing that it has a long way to go in these areas.
I know that Dink's death was not in vain. His killing was a wake up call to many in this country and elsewhere, not just in realizing that dark forces are "out there," but in looking within and finding that it is also oneself harboring the hate and intolerance that can lead to such violence.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Where I'd rather be

I've been restless lately. It seems that everyone I know has been traveling. My mom is on a trip to the Philippines and Singapore for a month. Even Evren is away this week in Barcelona, though his trip is for business. Nonetheless, what a great city to be in.

I shot this pic last summer while hiking the cliffsides of southern Crete. I remember the feeling of freedom of walking miles and miles without seeing another soul. The only sound was the crashing waves and when I walked slightly inland, I noticed the utter silence.

I need a change of scene. All this cement and pavement is getting to me. I need a break in the routine, the 6-day staring into a screen blandness of it all. I feel disconnected. I peruse the faces on the bus and they all look sad or angry and I know that I am them, getting by, slogging through the day.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

First snowy day and a tribute to dad

We finally have our first snow falling in Istanbul today. Snow still brings that childlike excitement bubbling up in me, as I'm sure most people who grew up in SoCal can relate to. I stick my tongue out to catch some flakes and wish for those rare snow days in my childhood, when we were all released from school to frolic in the white stuff.

Today is the 19th anniversary of my father's death. It seems so strange to think that I've lived more years without him than with him. While he was living, my father was my family ally. We understood each other and had the unvoiced labels of strong and silent. Though he died when I was only 11, he still had a major imprint on who I am today.

When I was in my late teens, my mom found a travel journal of his and gave it to me. In reading through it, I discovered how much my father had loved traveling when he was younger and that we had taken road trips to many of the same places. It was surreal to read of his lightheadedness in the high elevations of Utah mountains in the exact area where I had spent my last summer working for the forest service and exploring the wilderness. Much of his earlier life was a mystery to me. He had had another wife before my mom who died of cancer when she was young. This must have been devastating for him, but that kind of thing hadn't crossed my mind when I was younger and there are so many questions I wish I had asked.

Thanks dad for teaching me to be strong, to stand up for myself and my rights, to not complain about the small things that don't really matter, to be decisive, to take the initiative while everyone else is standing around, to not worry so much about what others' think about me, to save money for a rainy day (which came in especially handy in '07), to find my own beliefs, to travel, live free and love deeply.

Missing someone you've lost, especially a parent, never ends. On special days, you can't help but wish that your loved one could be there with you. I wonder if my dad would've gotten up and danced at my Turkish wedding as he wasn't much of a dancer, if he would've like Evren, if he would be unhappy with our decision to live in Turkey. . .

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Yasu to 2008

Evren and I brought in the new year at a small Greek restaurant in Taksim called Yasu. This cosy establishment is on the 5th floor of the Tomer building. The first thing we noticed as we made our way there were the long line of police tanks by Taksim Square, which I found a bit excessive since the city's New Year's celebrations had been cancelled in Taksim. Upon entering Yasu, I noticed the Christmasy tinsel hanging from the ceiling along with Christmas ornaments, an example of the amusing fusion of Western holidays by Turks. The meal was excellent, with the main course being perfectly done turkey (making up for the turkey I didn't get at Thanksgiving) and a pilaf with chesnuts. Our table had a great view of the Bosporus and Sultanahmet and two different bands spangled the night with Turkish and Greek music. At midnight, I was able to see at least five different fireworks displays going off simultaneously.

After Yasu, we headed to Egemen's house on the Asian side of Istanbul. I was surprised at how open traffic was on the bridge. We arrived and were quickly met with tequila shots, which kept coming through the wee hours of the morning. Because I had started with white wine earlier and continued to drink beer in between shots, I thought I would be hurting today, not a good thing since I have to work. But surprise, I woke with a clear head, and of course, an exhausted body. So in one last toast, here's to 2008!