Wednesday, September 24, 2014

notes on this last travel



Little check in.

Got back this past weekend from travel. Switzerland, Istanbul and moments in Italy. The details are boring but the trip was bookended with stressful situations. The middle was lovely. I came home after 58 hours of travel, exhausted, emotionally drained and in a bottomed-out place of joy, delirium, and gratitude. I was overwhelmed with relief at finally being home. I cried over home, I lost sleep over home. I was ready for home the last few days of my trip unlike I have ever been ready for home before. I absolutely support unions and their right to strike, but wow, the Air France strike really threw a wrench in my peace and tainted my magical time in Istanbul with the shit-storm that was getting home.

Lessons learned. I am not the wanderlust-drunk kid I used to be. In my head I had this idea of myself as someone who was always ready to take off alone. The desire for exploration still exists in me, no doubt it always will. But at 35 I'm rooted. I missed my family, I missed H. Almost everywhere I went I wished I could have shared the newness with someone I loved. My beautiful friend Sonja came out to meet me in the middle of my trip and we shared some wonderful moments, getting lost on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, conversations on rooftops, laughter, food, witnessing a Turkish street fight. I am grateful she showed up, unexpected, that we were able to carry our friendship from one continent to an other, and literally, when we crossed the Bosphorus, another. Her friendship is a gift.

Mostly I wanted H. I wanted to gape with him over the details in the mosaics. To slide into the easy depths we inhabit, discussing the emotional archaeology of place and memory, to get at the poetry and four secret-sacred questions we ask about anything that matters to us or the world we experience. I wanted to contemplate stones with him and invent stories, compare ghosts and surprise each other with little gifts the way we do in our daily lives. Love is good. I am grateful.

People asked me why Istanbul and I had to answer truthfully: vampires. I was obsessed with vampires as a teenager, all the Anne Rice books, Dracula, etc. I read Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian years ago, a genius mystery about Dracula. The parts that truly stuck with me took place in Istanbul and I knew I had to visit one day. The opportunity came and I took it. The city didn't disappoint. It is a place I have to revisit, and next time I'll get out of the city, head South.

Favorite moment: I was at the Hamam, a traditional Turkish Bath. I was at Çemberlitas Hamami, an over 400 year old building. It is said Florence Nightingale used to bathe there. I was exhausted, Istanbul is a walking city and my legs were beat, feet covered in blisters. I went in late-afternoon for a scrub and massage. As I lay mostly naked on the huge marble slab in the main room I began thinking about all the women throughout the centuries who'd also bathed there before; an ache began in me, that beginning tingle of poetry or insight. When it came time for my scrub, a middle aged Turkish woman began lathering and scrubbing me, my eyes were closed and I gave in to the rhythm of hands, soap, pressure. The hamam was silent except fort the sound of running water and occasional slap on hand on skin on marble. Then the woman bathing me began singing a Turkish lullaby. Her voice was sweet and echoed throughout the entire chamber, melancholic. It lulled me into my body, I wanted to cry with joy or nostalgia, it grounded me for first time in days. A perfect moment of beauty.
There was another perfect moment but it was so perfect it seems blasphemous to share.

Much love to the folks at Second Home hostel. The most emotionally generous and kind folks I met. They made my trip so much easier, and the hostel was a great place to come home to each night. The rooftop was beautiful, the rooms clean, the breakfast filling. I highly recommend them if you ever want to get to Istanbul and stay in an economical, clean and centrally located place.