A few weeks ago, as the reality of wrapping up this year–a time full of heightened experiences; of everything blowing us sideways with its novelty; of peeling back the layers; of change, adjustment, appreciation, amazement–sunk in,
Byron and I felt ourselves slide into the emotional place called Imminent Transition. Just as we started to enjoy more comfort in our relationships here, and just as we recognized the scope of what we’d still like to experience in Turkey, we were pulled up short by the realization that our time was almost played out.
Of course, having always been mindful this sabbatical in Turkey is finite and that it has been powered by an engine of “lark,” we felt no small excitement that we’d be heading back to so very much, in terms of family and friends and opportunities and activities. Thus, we mentally started to separate ourselves from our lives in Ortahisar and Turkey. We started to focus on what we’ve missed back home. We started to comment more audibly on the things here that have driven us crazy.
Simultaneously, we started to feel a kind of melancholy. For me, this time has been akin to my last month of college, when I was hyper aware that an ensorcelled and distinctive period in my life was about to close forever; and even though I knew it had to end if there was a chance of it remaining romantic, and even though I felt a certain keenness to look ahead and flow with life’s momentum, I also felt profoudly sad that my every single day would no longer be strung with a thread of Special.
All the best times in my life have revolved around a dynamic of loving the experience harder because its duration was immutably marked. That’s the nature of intensity, isn’t it?
At the very moment a few weeks ago when we were veering between maudlin and ebullient, mercifully we had to shift our energy. Some months back, we had planned a trip to Turkey’s western coast; the timing of this trip, along with its associated happinesses, bumped us off the plateau of “How do we get through these weeks when we’re still here, yet we know that we’re done?”
Initially, the impetus of the trip was to deliver Allegra to an international space camp in the city of Izmir. As long as we were taking her there, we’d hang out, explore the city and its surrounding regions, and get a feel for the more progressive, modern part of Turkey. At some point during our planning, we were able to work in having our Minnesota friend Kirsten meet up with us in Izmir…and, of course, it would also behoove us to show her around Istanbul before toting her back to Cappadocia.
In such a way, the delightful rampage that has been these last two weeks took shape, and Byron and I completely lacked the time and blahs required to paddle about in the doldrums of What Are We Doing? Rather, we actively sucked up more, more, more and benefited once again from the awed perspective of a visitor from back home.
To recap: our family of four flew to Izmir on June 26th and were met at the airport, in true Turkish style, by the cousin of the fiance of a friend that we’ve made in Cappadocia. He helped us get Allegra to space camp–where, it turns out, she was the only American attendee amongst the 162 campers (all the rest were coming as part of school groups from France, Spain, Germany, Turkey, and Palestine). Although I fretted a bit about her reserved self making a go of such odds, she stayed true to form and sucked it all up. When we returned six days later to retrieve her, the final bonus of the week was that she won the camp’s “The Right Stuff” award–a recognition of the camper best equipped for the rigors of space exploration due to her wholehearted participation, self-confidence, and ability to gather and share knowledge.
While Allegra was at camp, Paco, Byron, and I toodled around Izmir and took a day trip to the beach town of Cesme. On July 1st, friend Kirsten arrived, fresh on the heels of several weeks in France, Germany, and Denmark. Every time I remarked at how “easy” Izmir felt to me, how very much like Seattle it struck me, she laughed and noted, “I’m not seeing Seattle at all. You’ve got your Turkish eyes on when you say this feels like Seattle.”
All throughout her visit, Kirsten reminded us of how far we’ve come in navigating the semi-exotic culture. She also affirmed for us our take on many of Turkey’s quirks.
After picking up Allegra from camp on July 2nd, we took the bus to Kusadasi (a partying resort city where cruise ships dump passengers in search of leather goods, an excess of beer, and late-night singalongs to Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s “Islands in the Stream”). During our three days based in Kusadasi, we visited the ruins at Ephesus (if you know your Bible, think Ephesians; if you don’t, think HOT) and spent a day at Europe’s largest waterpark, Adaland (supplemented by An Experience of a Lifetime when Kirsten treated Allegra and me to a swim with the dolphins).
Following Kusadasi came a flight to Istanbul and return visits to some of our favorite sights: the Blue Mosque, the underground Byzantine Cistern, Topkapi Palace, and a first visit to the Ayasofia. Two days later, we flew from Istanbul back to Cappadocia, whereupon Kirsten’s already-high-pitched sensory overload morphed into a moment of hysteria outside the front door of our house. Whiplashed by a breakneck shuttle ride from the airport, we had whizzed past fairy chimneys, bounced up cobblestone switchbacks, been dropped off at the base of a rock fortress, accosted by our well-cologned-and-whiskered Kissing Neighbor, squired past the baaing sheep, and then, at the door, as Byron put the key in the lock, the donkey let loose with one of its night time braying fits,
and that’s when Kirsten zipped wildly up and down the “Where the settled nomads have these people brought me, to a David Lynch movie set?” continuum, burst into tears of laughter and shock, and wet herself a little bit. For real.
The next day, after a change of underwear, she got to see the place by daylight and have her mind really blown. During the rest of her visit, we rented a car for a couple of days so that we could tour around our favorite spots: Pancarlik Kilise (a church from 1100 years ago with frescoes surprisingly still intact); the Sebesos Roman ruins discovered by a farmer tilling his fields; Devrent Valley; Pasabag’s towering hoodoos; Zelve’s recently-inhabited cave homes; our friend Elaine’s terrace for a belated 4th of July celebration; and finally, our friend Laura’s place, for a tour of her extended cave rooms cum guest house. Kirsten capped it all off with an early-morning hot air balloon ride that ended with a landing in the middle of a garbage dump of rotten lemons; the basket skidded a swath through the composting citrus before tipping over on its side.
All in all, it was an appropriate note on which to bid Cappadocia adieu.
For us, now that Kirsten’s gone, we’re hunkering down, continuing to cull our household goods, and making final plans to hang out with our favorite people.
And in nine days, we’ll launch ourselves into the 24-hour journey back to Minneapolis, followed by a 3-hour car ride north to Duluth, followed by a week at my aunt and uncle’s house while we recover, followed by a return to our house on August 1st, followed by my in-laws coming to help us pull several tons of household stuffage out of the basement, followed by eye and dental appointments and art camp and shopping for a car and a camping weekend in Wisconsin and inservices and the start of school and buying a trampoline,
and in between getting phone service and crying a little bit in the bathroom because it’s all An Awful Lot,
I can’t wait to see the lake and feel warm water coming from the taps and smell the pine and preheat a real oven and crack a quality beer. When people ask how our year was, and I crumple at the challenge of cobbling together any sort of pitiful answer that might even graze the complexity of this experience,
I’ll just plant them in front of a slideshow.