Anatomy of a blog title: Trekkie, check. Likes puns a bit too much, check. Far away from home, check. Unwillingly single, check.
Anatomy of a blog title: Trekkie, check. Likes puns a bit too much, check. Far away from home, check. Unwillingly single, check.
Been a while since my last update. Here’s what I’ve done so far:
- Visited the Taksim and Beyoglu districts in the upper European side of Istanbul with my new travel buddy Dale. Lights, sounds, looked like party central. Also massively uphill and with tons of twisty streets.
- Attacked the last few sites in Sultanahmet that I wanted to see besides Chora Church (I know, I know). Grand Bazaar, Mosques, Dolmabache Palace.
- Finally left Istanbul (for now) on a night bus, and am currently in Cappadocia. Passed through Nevsehir (major transport hub for the Turkey interior), and am staying at the “Dream Cave Hostel” in Goreme. I’ve seen fairy chimneys, other awesome geology, Byzantine churches, Hittite and early Christian underground cities, and become lost and un-lost in the many trails and valleys of the region. I hope to hit up a hamam and/or see a whirling dervish festival soon.
Also there has been much tasty food, and I keep forgetting to take pics of it, for shame. Even ate wild trail grapes (no that is not a euphemism). Had a creamy drink made from orchid roots, many kinds of tea, and some otherworldly Turkish pastries.
NOTE: I do however have pics of most everything else, found on ze flickr. Will update with the above soon, in my write-photo-comments-instead-of-actual-prose way.
Dale moved on last night on another night bus to Ephesus. I’m taking it easy in Goreme after hitting the major sights, debating on following her there. She wanted me to (yeah Dale is an Aussie girl - she says her mom was a little too creative in naming her), but I am thinking not. I’m nearly 100% certain I’m a good travel companion and nothing more, and while I’ve thoroughly enjoyed that I feel like I’m getting more attached than she would like. That’s why I decided to take it easy and cool down today. I’m still trying to figure out how to forget my attractions and loneliness, to concentrate on the environment I’m experiencing and the transformation I need.
I really need to figure out how to satisfy myself emotionally again, to be comfortable in solitude like I was say ten years ago (if I was - long time ago, I can hardly remember that me). This is proving very…very difficult.
I’ve encountered waves of an interesting new sensation as I travel Turkey. I meet all these people going for a week, a month, a year, even longer exploring the world, and I talk to them. But it’s kind of a superficial talk interspersed with the excitement of new things and the experience of alien cultures…these are people who fully plan to go home to loved ones, jobs, etc., and any friends they make on the way are temporary ones. No one wants to get too close when the next day brings an entirely new group of backpackers and the last day’s conversationalists are on buses to anywhere. Most conversations rely on cultural exchange - places we’ve been, things we’ve seen, advice we have, reflections on difference and similarity. The interesting new sensation relies on the fact that while I can tell just by looking in their eyes that each of these people is unique, fascinating, and could teach me something, the real “them” is hidden.
Of course this is no new concept. It’s just the frequency and intensity of the sensation. I have a constant sense that I will never know these people for who they are rather than what they’ve done or where they’ve been; that this is true for everyone I’ve ever met. And the fact that I have done so little leaves me feeling rather outgunned, makes me reflect on how outgunned I am even at home. I tell them I’m a writer. I tell them the concept. I fear that they might be able to tell from how I talk how ill-prepared it is, how infantile and unfinished. I fear they can tell I’m not even sure if it’s what I want to write, or how little writing I’ve actually done.
I am a strange beast. I have trouble connecting on the level of “things”, and I wish connecting on the level of passions, emotions, dreams was easier. I rattle on about books and nations and history, when all I really want to do is tell them how appreciative I am that they exist, how wonderful it is that they’re exploring and questioning and doing what they love, how I regret their tough times with them, forgive and understand their secret mistakes…and how jealous I am that they can just get up each day and “do” things that have measurable results and positive benefits.
But I keep spouting nonsense about mundane little things…not because it is useful, though it is, and you can get surprising wisdom from it. But because I know as soon as I breach that barrier, as soon as I push further than the amiable smooth surface of experience - the water turns to ice. Agitation mounts, and they’ll go on their bus thinking of that weirdo Texan who couldn’t just talk about the Hagia Sophia like everyone else.
Who am I to say they are wrong?
is the term I’ve coined for planning to do something but not getting around to it here. Like say, the last few sights in Sultanahmet, or this blog. Mah bad.
Did do some fun stuff though. Spent a whole day with Helen before she left, in Kadikoy and Uskudar (the fun parts of the Asian side). I went through a market full of fresh produce, fish, and meat that would probably make Patrick collapse on the ground in an ecstatic culinary trance (it almost did me). The sights and smells were awesome, and we went on to checkout tons of tiny shops, underground and above. We stopped at a restaurant where I got to have some of the freshest fish ever, and tried the local “liquid yogurt” drink (tastes almost exactly like it sounds). Istanbul’s 0 for 2 on local beverages for me, so we’ll see how that fermented grain one is soon. For dessert I also tried an unusual local thing - a toasted pudding made with chicken breast. It tastes very much like bread pudding with a hint of chicken, and not bad at all.
The next day I saw the Hagia Sophia, and I’ll let the pictures do the talking there. Long story short: immense, ancient, stunningly constructed. The partially uncovered Christian mosaics really drive home the fact this place has had many masters over the centuries. There was also a cat sleeping right next to the main exhibit, acting like a honey badger in not-giving-a-shit. The balls on this cat finally convinced me to break my “no petting strays” policy, and I couldn’t be happier. All dogs and cats here are clean, well-fed, and affectionate without being clingy, it’s kind of amazing. Walking down one street and without stopping giving three animals a head scratch is a micro-paradise for me.
The day after that, I hung out with Sigrun - a friend I met on couchsurfing.org. She’s German (duh - her name is a Valkyrie from Norse myth), and we explored the Galata Bridge and the coast of the Taksim district, eating some quite tasty street food, before arriving at this abandoned house where some CSers were staying. I know, sounds sketchy, but totally worth it - they were all sorts of hippie international wandering souls, language barriers everywhere and nobody cared. We ate vegetarian and hung out amongst some pretty awesome graffiti, rugs, and a view. Man that view…incredible. I couldn’t believe the place was abandoned due to the view alone, until Sigrun told me it was actually in an area re-designated as a national park - so legally no one can live there. Pretty sneaky hippies.
The people were cool, and I was struck by how…”comfortable” people from various parts of Europe are with each other, how instantaneous buddies were made. It’s not something you often see as an American, and for a moment I was keenly aware of my status as “that guy from across the ocean”. But then some Aussies and San Franciscans were there too, and the feeling passed as the night wore on.
This morning it looks like I’m having a picnic in Sultanahmet with Brianna, then seeing the Chora Church by myself. Looking forward to both.*
*And before you assume, I’m kind of surprised I wind up hanging out with all these women - surprised I even bump into them this often with the reputation of Turkey’s men (which they say is true, and exhausting from all the attention). Sadly they all seem to be taken (which I guess also makes sense, given the local reputation it’s better to travel with a guy). I’ve pretty much given up on that aspect of my life now anyway, and wish I could just concentrate on enjoying this trip with no though of attraction…it’s harder in practice. Uh…more difficult I mean.
Funny and quite accurate.* My favorite kind! Heading out today after I had a nice picnic with Brianna yesterday. Chora Church awaits…if I can find my way there. If not, still see some cool stuff.
*I should specify: I’m not in any way condoning or romanticizing it. Depression is…well, depression is at its core the inability to keep an open mind about your mind.
By that I mean I was pretty lazy. A fellow in the hostel was an impressive snorer - the entire night, full volume, had to thwap him with my blanket a few times an hour just to doze - so I slept in rather than hit Hagia Sophia. Then I had lunch with Alexis as promised, which ran long as we got tasty kebabs, went into a massive sweet shop and ate baklava, turkish delight, and sweet rolls, and then went to a rooftop bar and tried raki. I *really* wanted to like it, but nope. The alcohol itself was very smooth, and the way you mix the clear raki with clear water and it turns all milky is Bill Nye-level cool. But I could not get past the overpowering anise-licorice taste, I felt sick after only a few gulps and had to let Alexis finish it. Still, fun times. But we ran long, so no chora church today either. I think a lazy day was good for me though. Here’s hoping no snores tonight and I can hit both like a Boss.
Also, wish there were bars or something in Sultanahmet. I’m missing serious opportunities for the exotic hookups I’ve heard about…not that I don’t plan on being careful, but my dry spell’s almost a year now.
Also also, wish I knew the first thing about hookups, foreign or domestic! *sigh*
Ok so I’m generally full of nonsense, but while the most important things in my life are terribly impractical, I am very practical about little things.
For example, I don’t sweat the small stuff. You could probably break every damn thing I own and I’d go “meh, I forgive ya. s’just stuff.” Hence why I was able to sell/toss/donate so much of my stuff and come here with a backpack. Also, I tend to scoff at things with little practical application, or that which is made purely for ostentatiousness or ego-stroking. I am much more interested in substance over style, function over fashion, efficiency or effectiveness over presentation. I like seeing hard numbers for things more than an appeal to emotion (with some moral exceptions).
All that said, it’s pretty amazing to see what people can get up to in the interest of clout, projecting power, leaving an impression, or religious fervor. There is no denying that a lot of what you can see in Istanbul is awe-inspiring, and it is a good reminder that not everything’s purpose (or uselessness) is so immediately evident. Would Islam have as many adherents if these majestic mosques were more “functional”? Would the Ottoman Empire be so remembered (and feared/gloried in its time) without the incredible spectacle of its palaces, the undeniable artistry of its jewels? As a ruler, I would certainly rather spend the money from gilded halls and exotic beasts for my private menagerie on things like public works or a stronger military. But at what point does knowing your king lives kingly factor into the national mental health? At what point does wasting resources prevent the further waste of wars, against enemies cowed by your display of wealth? I know I would prefer to err on the side of measurable improvements to infrastructure…but then, a bejeweled throne will sit there, whereas public works can become corrupt and decrepit once you stop watching. It’s a question without an answer, like so many that involve human interaction, as we are not always rational creatures.
But getting back to my original point - I am just as fascinated by Istanbul’s modern efficiency as its ancient opulence. As with any truly ancient city that’s turned into a metropolis, the “old city” area has to do what it can to join the modern world. It’s difficult to pick out specific examples without going into boring laundry list mode - suffice to say, it’s neat to walk past all the tiny stores, shops, bakeries and restaurants and see how they use their space, cramming things in unexpected places when not being used, putting tables along the too-narrow-for-cars side streets that are charming to get lost in, and expanding vertically whenever possible. Rooftop cafes and bars are the rule here, not the exception, and sometimes you’ll even see two shops join their overhangs to create a unified ceiling to hang/stack/grow further products on.
This is especially true in the Grand Bazaar, which I hope to visit soon.
I think part of the problem is I’m not really engaged in any kind of social construct, online or off. I believe if more people knew this they would be shocked at the revelation.
From what I have been able to tell (which is admittedly little), even most of the people like me, serious introverts, have some sort of societal network, even if it is a sense-limited one like an online public blog, chat site, social network i.e. Facebook, or some place they put their creativity to use and get feedback on it, and give feedback in kind. Either that or they have a select few in-person groups they hang out with often.
I don’t really do either. I’m a Career Lurker when it comes to websites. I look but don’t touch. I almost never comment on anything. On Facebook, I’ll go through bouts of commenting/liking, but most of the time I’m ignoring it. I FB chat or gchat with someone maybe once a week, if that. The conversation is rarely of much substance. Stop a moment and think about how many times a week you comment on a website, send emails, talk on the phone, or meet someone in person. Now think of how your life would be if that was reduced to doing one of those things, once a week, excepting meetings-of-convenience like the short daily exchange with your roommate or whatever.
Now I’m not saying I’m as crazy right now as you would be in that situation. Not all introverts are at the same level of introversion. But I think I’m below a healthy threshold of seeing the world beyond my own mind. Sometimes I even play single-player games rather than DDO because I don’t want to interact with others. Which would normally be ok if you need some chill time, but come on…what am I retracting from?
This extreme inwardness is damaging in two respects - one, that I have no sounding board but myself, and two, that I become inherently selfish in actions, no matter my intentions, because I literally have no exposure to what other people are going through, dealing with, or enjoying.
This isn’t an effort to really solve that, as I don’t know how - I’ve tried persistence…isn’t that a ridiculous statement? “I’ve tried persistence”, it’s almost a paradox! But yes, I’ve “tried to persist” in being more outgoing (even just online) and it is exhausting. I think my social acumen is like a severely atrophied muscle, and if I could just exercise it enough I’d gain some “social stamina” - but I can’t ever seem to get to that point! That’s why I came to Turkey - the attempts alone were making me perpetually tired, and I was hoping for re-invigoration of some kind.
We’ll see! I also need to end more sentences with exclamation marks, smile more, and tell myself how great I am, much more often. I. Need. To.
But yes, just stating it here for posterity. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone that interacts less with humanity than I do. That’s not to say these people don’t exist…let’s just say…I am fully aware of how easy it is to seem like they don’t exist.
I hate to mention her again, but this is probably the biggest thing I miss from being with Ana. Someone who is there often enough to hear all the things you want to say, discuss anything from shallow to deep end, and who can capstone it with sexy time intimacy or even just a kiss and hug. I am having a massively difficult time trying to find that again. (Not even “difficult finding”, “difficult trying to find”, subtle distinction.)
Brighter posts tomorrow! Archaeology Museum and Hagia Sophia or bust! And hopefully I can find a place that will sell me a phone and sim card that doesn’t charge an arm and a leg.
I really, really, REALLY don’t know what I’m doing.
I mean I can survive in Istanbul fine. I can see the sights, get some culture. But I’m still no better at interacting with the people who create it, or figuring out what I want out of life. When I think about deciding on doing something as a daily task that would be my job…when I think about the future…when I think about actually writing on this laptop instead of staring at distractions or games…when I think about making a real connection with someone again…
A black, yawning void opens up in my mind and I stare into it with a wordless horror I can’t describe. And it makes me feel very weird, because…everyone else does these things every day.
Well, lesson learned. I should get back to sight-seeing for now instead of staring at my hostel window. There’s nothing to see but me, and me is scary. Need to relax. Need to not worry so much. I need to somehow both relax and be active. Do things without thinking. My instincts are shot to hell…
I found a fascinatingly rage-inducing reddit thread entitled “what extremely controversial opinion do you hold?” It has made me come away with many fun ideas I will probably cleave to with the ferocity of a rabid badger with a barbarian level, but two stand out:
- Capitalism is the worst system…except for all the alternatives. (Note: I only believe this because I believe our current “moral tech level” is not high enough for “real socialism” to be viable.)
- Anecdotal evidence Does. Not. Prove. Anything. …EVER.
EDIT: I forgot “there are exceptions to every rule (and stereotype)”, and Will Wheaton’s “just don’t be a dick”. Maybe I should add “posts that just spout slogans are lame” while I’m way up here on my high horse.