Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ode to Istanbul...

We have come
full circle
and the Anatolian Cafe music
slows me to the rhythm
of you, dear Istanbul...
where there is always time
for an alley chai,
silver spoons tinkling on glass
for a Turkish coffee in a cafe,
thick muddiness at the base of the delicate cup
for an Efes in the James Joyce Irish Pub,
accompanied by a duo singing American tunes...

Under the hypnotizing eys
of Samuel Beckett
creator of a pair
who wait
patiently impatient
for an elusive Godot
while repeatedly examining
the contents of their empty-soled boots...
Under the map
of Ulysses' travels
in you, dear Istanbul,
in this James Joyce Pub...

My tongue
muddled with chai and efes
cannot even gather the words
for a question.

I tell you
it would be easy to fall in love with you,
beloved Istanbul,
wanting to know
if I should keep my heart open, vulnerable.
And in answer
you take my hand
my palm
pressing into places
that I'd thought had atrophied
long, long ago.

I am raw
your hands.

You are all flow of movement,
terra firma,
rooted between sky and soil.
You are breath, spirit, energy.

dear Istanbul,
we nurtue a calm and tranquil mind,
focusing - without tension --
on the hand
that moves across the eyes
but still aware
of the morning breeze,
the Turkish conversation
as students wait for the bus to appear.
The cardiac rhythm of the fountain,
and the magpies
searching for their own breakfast.

And I mirror your breathing,
beloved Istanbul,
deep, low belly pulses,
and we seamlessly shift roles
mentor to student to mentor
here in this land that seems less foreign every day.

You are a most patient teacher.

You and I,
dear Istanbul,
are learning the many positions
the forms
of affection,
remembering ourselves
that effortless exhale
is woven intricately
into our willingness
to breathe each other in...


Images of Istanbul...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

July 19
Today we visited the shrine to the Virgin Mary in Ephesus. This may seem odd in a country filled with the call to prayer and mosques, but Mary is actually acknowledged in the Koran as the mother of the prophet Jesus. The shrine is located in the house where Mary supposedly lived out her life. There are three main pieces of evidence for the claim that this house is actually where she lived.
One piece has to do with Jesus, while on the cross, asking John to know Mary as his mother, to take care of her as his mother... and for Mary to know John as her son. John apparently spent about 2 1/2 years in Ephesus, so it is assumed that he took the responsibility to take care of Jesus' mother and brought her to Ephesus with him.
Another piece has to do with the fact that there is a church dedicated to Mary, which we saw on the outskirts of the Ephesus ruins today. Typically, in the early days of the Church, places of worship were only dedicated to persons who had lived and/or died in the locality.
The third piece of evidence has to do with the visions of a nun in Germany, Anna Emmarich. She never left Germany and experienced stigmata over the course of her life. She also apparently avery accurately described the house where Mary lived in her later years as well as the hills of Ephesus which surround the home.
And so this space in Ephesus is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. There is a long wall on which people tie pieces of cloth, making prayer wishes in this sacred space. I'd like to dedicate this particular blog to my mother and both my grandmothers... women of the Novena on Tuesday nights, women whose fingers wore indentations in rosary beads during their lifetimes. I am named after the Virgin Mary, through this long line of Catholic women who sought strength from Mary far more often than anyone else in their lives...To honor these three women in my family, I sang "Ave Maria" on the bus as we drove through the hills of Ephesus back to our hotel. I am hoping all three women, in some way, heard that song...

Food Update

July 19

It is perhaps around the table -- breaking bread together here in Turkey -- that we have the opportunity to know one another best. This Fulbright group is truly remarkable, and the talents, knowledge, and passions each person brings to the table is always amazing. Having a glass of blackberry wine, which is a local specialty, or enjoying a glass of Efes beer with Patricia -- which is her personal favorite -- are also times that we can celebrate our collective "geekiness" together and simply rejoice in who we are both individually and collectively.

One of the sites at the ruins was a small monument dedicated to St Phillip, who was martyred. None of us know how he was martyred, but this query led to a questioning of how we would each like to be martyred. Our beloved Martin the Wise concocted the most memorable way to be martyred: being tickled to death.

If you look closely at the woman making the Gozlemeci (a kind of pita bread , thinly rolled and baked on the hot wheel, you will see a computer above her left shoulder. Another example, one of many, of the ancient arts juxstaposed against the modern life...

Here we see the buffet spread at the Pamukkale hotel. Patricia is especially drooling over the dessert tables...

Linda, seated above with Patricia, is our "still waters run deep woman" on this journey. She's brought and read the most novels, and she generously shares them with others when finished. She is a living, breathing, sharing cornucopia of books and book recommendations...Patricia actually convinced her to play "maid" for a day, but that wore off quickly when Linda ( with a few not so subltle words) told Patricia what to do when Patricia asked her to hold a parasol over her head as we trudged through the heat of the ruins.... And so it goes in Turkey... We are all getting a bit of travel fatigue and heat stroke, I think. Doug keeps mumbling something about "a wee donkey," and Monica was walking around singing "I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts..." which just appeared in the air as we visited the home of the Virgin Mary in Ephesus. More about that journey in another blog...

A special photo for my ten year old daughter Allegra

July 19
In her recent email to me here in Turkey, my daughter Allegra (10) asked about all the big spiders in Turkey that she has heard about. Well, in one of the bascillias, this is what we found. It is hard to determine size from this photo, as there is nothing to show scale. However, it is about the size of a smallish hand. So, Allegra.... there's what you've been waiting for! Sadly, when we tried to urge this critter to move, we discovered that it had met its death. I will keep a lookout for alive spiders for you, Allegra!

Soaking in the Thermal Mineral Baths at Pamukkale

July 19

Again, backtracking a bit... we stayed at a Thermal Mineral Springs Hotel in Pamukkale a few nights ago. This was a luxury accomodation, with the option of delving into many spa services: Clepatra mud bath, reflexology, Turkish bath and massage, Ottoman Foam Massage, Flowers Aroma Bath, Algea Face and Body Mask, and even a Cellulite Massage, if you were so inclined. Several of the women relaxed into various packages of these spa services and thoroughly enjoyed the quiet and the deep sense of relaxation...

I chose to spend my time in the various levels of the thermal spa, which was a part of the regular hotel package. Either way, this was the most decadent day of our Fulbright... but, we think, well deserved after miles and miles of uphill walking through the ruins and cave churches. We thank Gottfried for this experience and his sensitivity to know when the group simply needs to take time out to exhale, reflect, and relax together...

To baske in the most boiling thermal pool, you would need to begin at the top. I believe Martin is our rock star for this event, as he spent a total of 45 minutes in the uppermost pool. The rest of us were one or two layers down, in water that was still very hot, but not scalding. I felt like I had drawn a lovely hot bath, slid in to soak, and the temperature never cooled off.... Yes, a little bit of paradise.

Visiting the ruins of Hierapolis near Pamukkale

July 19
Ah, I am behind in my entires, so I am going back a few days ago to our visit of the ruins of Hierapolis. The feeling of stepping back, way back, in time was palpable as we walked up the ancient Roman road through this site. Much of the front end of the site was a graveyard, and since this was a very multicultural place, the burial sites vary as you move through this space. Sarcophgi lined the road, with Monica taking a moment to actually try one out. There were even round burial places, which you can see in one of the photos.

The theatre, though, was the highlight for me... it took my breath away. It is in remarkable condition, and the acoustics in this space were phenomenal. Gottfried told us about another similar theatre he had viewed years ago, and at that time the tour guide had dropped a coin from just a few inches from the floor of the stage. You could hear that coin all the way up to the top of the theatre, which holds 9,000 people. We had various reactions to being in this space. Some, like Craig, just wanted to sit in the quiet and absorb the sounds. Some, like Scott, wanted to recite Shakespeare from the arch directly behind the stage. We could hear his words all the way at the top of the theatre... And some, like Paul, just wanted to rejoice!

Monica, trying out one of the sarcophagi...

The public latrine provided another fascinating glimpse into Roman times. Apparently, the latrines were the place to meet, greet, and catch up on local gossip. The columned structure was awesome and Paul, especially, found the many anthorpological explanations a bit hard to believe...

All in all, a most glorious and satisfying day stumbling around the ruins of Hierapolis...