8.31.2016

Faith in humanity

I have been back in the United States of America for close to two months now and it is beginning to feel normal. I mean, the adjustment to owning a car and taking care of my own problems without another adult helping me speak feels commonplace again.

I look back on the day that I left Turkey in July with all my most valued possessions tucked into four very large suitcases that I was managing (some what unsuccessfully) on my own and thinking about how as soon as I got into my native land no one was going to be nice to me anymore. My sweet boyfriend said to me in a voice filled with endearing consolation and compassion as he helped me pick up the suitcase that toppled forward for the 8th time, "Don't worry, people will help you get your bags to your car when you arrive at your final destination." I considered this notion for a brief moment before I repositioned the bag carefully and replied in a dejected tone,  "I'm afraid that is wrong of you to assume."

And it was an incorrect assumption. When I arrived at the Detroit Metro Airport after close to 24 hours of travel and endless security checks, I noticed all of the people noticing me: the haggard 30 something year old woman pulling her dead-weight-mismatched-over-sized luggage off the conveyor belt...and sweating it. I noticed them watch me as I dragged the cart with the backwards wheel over to my area so I could pile my bags upon it to get them outside. I noticed them avert their eyes as I struggled to haul and lift those monstrosities on top of each other all by myself. I couldn't help but think that if I were anywhere outside the US I would have had oodles of people offering up their assistance.

So annoying. 

The entire experience made me feel sorry for myself for ending up back in a place in which I was not quite ready to return.

BUT!

Aren't you glad there was a but? This is not a sob story, dear readers. Although I do love toiling in my own misfortune from time to time, I am not here to write about the negative. Number 1, ain't nobody want to read about that. Number 2, my life is pretty awesome and I am an extremely fortunate individual so I don't actually have a negative story to tell.

Here is the thing. Doing something difficult is...difficult. It feels way better when someone holds your hand through the process and puts you at ease. However sometimes it is good to struggle because then you can figure out how much gumption you actually have.

This applies to much more than lifting heavy things of course. But check it out:

what uppppppp! I pulled all that out on my own - just under 300 lbs of things when it was all said and done. I felt like a magnificent beast. Thanks for not helping me fellow citizens of Detroit. I understand that you probably thought I was a terrorist. 
So back to my original point: Re-acclimating to the United States of America - it has been OK! Better than OK, really! I'm not gonna lie, the frequent usage of Trump signs in people's front yards was pretty NOT OK. I wanted to take pictures of them because it was fantastically bewildering to me - it was like a field of artificially planted racism fertilized with ignorance. I couldn't avert my eyes from them for a solid week. It was like a terrifying massacre of common sense. It was much scarier than seeing ghosts. But eventually I pushed my gaze past that blemish on the American landscape and started noticing other things, some of them being quite delightful. Like the mini van driven by the large Caucasian gentleman in his 70s that had a bumper sticker that read, "Michigangster." That was cool.

And this:

whaaaat

When I started to realize that the world around me was still hilarious, even in my tiny little corner of Midwest suburbia, I began to feel like myself again. Feeling like myself again was great because I got bogged down in the petty little hateful stuff for a minute and I really didn't like that much at all.

Shortly after I had the revelation that I could be happy here, I had another epiphany. Well actually, I decided to run an experiment on myself. I haven't really talked about it out loud, I've mostly just had conversations in my head about this topic, but here is what I decided: I was going to pretend I was on vacation. 

Now don't get me wrong, I knew I had to get a job (check, I am gainfully employed if you were wondering) and act like an adult a little bit. But aside from that, everything else was fair game. What did I have to lose? Being on vacation makes me happy. If I am happy, people around me are happier. Everyone wins. 

So it began. I got into my vacation mindset. What is my vacation mindset you ask? It is pretty basic and I give credit to my friend Maria who helped me define it many years ago during our treks across the world. Three rules:

1) Try all the food
2) Follow the music
3) Say yes to every invitation

It's funny to think that if I had just applied these rules to my everyday life long ago, my daily levels of joy could have increased tremendously.

You live, you learn.

Many things have changed for me since I decided to live my life as if I were on perma-vacation. Nothing insane. Little things though, the types of occurrences that are sometimes so darn small that you might miss them. 

For starters, I noticed that people talk to me all the time. Not just good mornings and hellos. I mean, people start full on conversations with me everywhere I go. Like, "Hey, you look a bit tired. Did you have trouble sleeping? Maybe you should get a coffee. There is a Starbucks around the corner. Do you know how to get there?" at Kroger. Or, "Hi! What are you reading? Are you from town? Are you a student? Are you comfortable in that chair? Do you like when the sun shines in on you from the window like that?" at a coffee shop. Or, "I love your tree necklace! Where did you get it? I have to show you something!" from nearly every child I pass everyday. It's not even a big charm, how do they all notice it?

I'll admit, I was taken aback by all this chattiness upon arrival to the States. Frankly, I was so used to tuning out my surroundings in Turkey for so many years that when I got here I didn't even realize that people were talking to me. I was constantly looking around to see who the strangers were addressing and then giving startled responses when I recognized that they were in fact talking directly to me. But now I like it. I like the human connection. I never would have considered connecting with the stranger in line at the DMV about the tornado warning from last night that kept him in his flooded basement for four and a half hours. Never. I truly enjoy relaxing with my thoughts all by myself. But since these interactions keep insisting upon happening, I feel my heart beginning to warm to them.

Another thing I have noticed is that my patience has been steadily increasing. Waiting on hold, standing in lines, attempting to figure out what the hell my nephew is trying to explain to me, etc. I've got time! When you are on vacation, you don't really need to get anything done in too much of a hurry. So I have begun to let things run their course. Then, when I am finally to the point of interaction from my end, I'm not so flustered.

Take buying my car for example. I knew I was going to get what I paid for, which wasn't much. I did some research and then went to a dealership to buy a used car. It's not great. It's a hoopty. But I had all of the history reports on damage and maintenance and so I knew what I was getting myself into which was fine by me. Well, sure enough, on the drive home the old girl starts making noises that were not... comforting. Long story short she had some big problems - which sent me into a full blown panic attack because I had just signed to buy the car "as is."

I knew that I had two options  - pay for the things to be fixed on my own (sadness) or call the dealership and plead my case (stress). Normal me would have begrudgingly paid for it to be fixed because I couldn't be bothered with hashing things out with the dealership - and then I would have penny pinched everything for the next 6 months to make up for the lost money. But vacation me took a deep breath and made the first stressful call with a full dose of sweetness. I talked to four different people over the next few days, each many, MANY times. But in the end they fixed everything for free and gave me a loaner to drive around in the meantime. They were so nice.

I LITERALLY couldn't believe it. Since when are people so darn nice??!

I imagine I felt like the double rainbow guy did.

While visiting Asheville, things were even more ridiculous. I mean people were off the hook nice. At one point I was trying to parallel park my rental car (have I mentioned I am a pretty bad driver?) and it wasn't going well. I had pulled into a spot because it looked really big. But then I thought maybe I wasn't straight enough. So I pulled out and tried it again. It still didn't feel right. Meanwhile there was a group of gentlemen sitting nearby watching me and a full stream of traffic cruising steadily by my vehicle. I began to sweat nervously and considered driving away because I felt like an asshole. However, I decided I should give it one more shot because really, what do I care? I don't live in Asheville anymore and those guys don't care about me either. They probably weren't even really watching me, right? I gave it one more shot and lo and behold, I nailed it. Third time truly is a charm.

I began to collect my belongings from the passenger seat when I noticed one of the gentlemen whom I thought had been watching me approach my car. He motioned for me to roll down my window and then proceeded to tell me that I could leave my car as it was if I wanted to but that I might get a ticket since I was entirely on the sidewalk. I looked at him and said, "Really? I thought I had it this time. You watched all of that didn't you? I'm so embarrassed." He very sweetly replied that it was a tricky spot because it was on a curve and the sidewalk was flat. And then. Then! He offered to re-park my car.

I was flabbergasted. It was nice enough of him to present my shortcomings in such a kind and nonthreatening way but then to extend this random act of kindness? As the shock rolled over my face he added, "I'm not going to steal your car. I promise. You just look like you might need some help."

So I got out, handed him my keys, and let his friends tease me a bit while he perfectly executed the parking job like a master of a trade.

After he handed me back my keys and we all gave each other genuine farewells, I realized that I needed to add one more rule on my vacation mindset list:

4) Trust.

Not everyone out there in this world is good. But I honestly think that most people are. If I listen to my intuition, things always work out.

I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to learn these things through trial and error, with a lot of time left over to experience how great the world can be.

That's it for now. Thanks for stopping your day to read my thoughts!

6.23.2015

Trying to be cool while traveling in Vietnam

I went to Vietnam recently -- it was great. I saw beautiful monuments and learned history. Because that's what you do there.

But I'd rather talk about other topics because you can read about monuments and history on travel websites and in books and stuff.

I'd rather talk about embarrassing things.

One thing that was highly recommended for Hoi An was to enroll in a cooking class. I thought that sounded intriguing (and I really like food) so I signed the hell up.

It was a package deal -- shopping in the market for ingredients, canoeing through rice paddies to a secret island and cooking with a chef who was terrifying.

Doesn't it look ideal?

The chef wasn't marketed as terrifying and in fact, she started off in an extremely pleasant manner. I would even go so far as to call her sweet upon first impressions. But that all changed once I attempted to cook. Now listen, I'm not going to be on top chef, but I am not a bad cook. I make food in my home all the time and I think it is delicious. I do get stressed in situations that have an audience, aka large dinner parties, etc. But I thought that would be no problem in a cooking class because ultimately I was just cooking for myself, right?

Wrong. The chef was there to judge. And scorn.

Don't be fooled by her seemingly affable nature.

Step one was to make a spring roll - for which I received an approving head nod. But I lost a lot of ground fast after that. It was the required skillet flips that really got me flustered because I have poor hand-eye coordination...during the rest of the class I had many words thrown in my direction like, "Wrong!" "No!" and "Danger!" These exclamations were followed by deep sighs of sadness from the Boss Chef.

The class was stressful. However, at the end of the day I still thought my Asian cuisine was pretty tight.

But traveling can be stressful for a plethora of reasons, not just harsh criticism during cooking classes. For instance, everywhere I went in Vietnam, people told me to be very careful about being robbed on the streets. I never got robbed but I did get chased by an angry local one day.

An angry man chased me on the beach. It was mostly my fault. See, my friends and I found a wicker boat next to the water that day. It was really cool-looking so of course we started to stage a series of photos portraying us falling out of the boat and drowning. This was really fun and awesome until the owner of the boat came running down the hill screaming a violent Vietnamese rant in our direction. I assumed he wanted to stab me seeing as how I was the only one currently in the boat when he arrived. I jumped out of the boat and ran. This did not deter him. He continued to scream as he ran after me.

Here is one of our photos. Pretty good, huh? Moral of the story: If you fall out of a boat and I am the last person left safely inside of it, I'll probably just wave goodbye instead of trying to help you. You're welcome.

I was REALLY scared. I knew I was going to die or in the very least be assaulted by this very angry man. And I probably deserved it. But it turns out he wanted to return my backpack to me that I left in his boat while I was playing. So that made me feel better.

Those weren't the only times I was scared on this holiday. One day I woke up with a really stiff neck. That morning I didn't have time to wallow in self pity about it (like I usually do) because I had signed up for a walking food tour. (Really, I plan all of my trips around food) So I found my guide for the tour and was off. Well, as the morning wore on my guide began to notice my awkward movements (rotating the entire upper half of my body when he pointed something out rather than just turning my face to the right or left.) When the opportunity presented itself he approached me and said in a hushed tone, "Pardon me, but do you have neck pain today?" I replied affirmatively and he continued with his line of questioning. "If you don't mind me asking," he went on, "might you have had scary dreams last night?"  I was mildly alarmed by this question because I had in DEED had bad dreams the previous night. He must have sensed the answer from the look on my face because without a verbal response he said to me, "Aahhh, I see. Just as I thought. I have a solution for you when we arrive at the meat market."

About a half hour later I arrived at the said destination. It was brought to my attention that demons needed to be released from my neck/soul and that the way to do so was via an application of aggressive skin scraping and cupping practices done on the dirt floor of the local market, administered by a very sweet woman who spoke absolutely no English aside from the word "yes." So that is what I did

trying to be cool
end result
The demons were not released.

So that's a wrap. To be continued some day down the line. Happy Summer everyone:)

3.19.2015

Accommodating the 7th Secret

Lately, when I am taking a break from my regular reading selections (which are typically trashy Victorian romance novels) I read spiritual self help books. So that I can get better at life.

This is what I imagine my goddess spirit guide to look like.
I'm not sure if this is working but it makes me feel like I am moving towards self improvement.

The other day I brought the self help book that I am currently reading to the office and I typed out a section during my break. Then I printed out multiple copies and distributed them to several colleagues. I thought they might like it.

As it turns out, not everyone is interested in changing their realities by accessing the Universal Principles via alchemy (aka magic). Who knew?

I assume everyone is always thinking the same thing that I am thinking.
Is that wrong?

So then I got to thinking, "Am I wasting my time?"

Despite my spiritual self help, I have yet to stop/change any of my negative behaviors. I regularly find myself doing things like eating candy while reading health articles, pressing my snooze at least seven to nine times in a row on most work mornings and binge watching trashy television shows like Project Runway-Australia for hours on end. A few weeks ago I invited over 15 people for dinner club and tried a new recipe which resulted in poor time management, panic, yelling at the guests at the door to go away, and a last minute "peanut butter washing in the sink" episode. I was at a really low point when I recently forced my boyfriend to try on my jeans and then lamented over the fact that he looks better in them than I do.

Why do I keep setting myself up for disaster?

I think I may be focusing my brain energy on the wrong areas in my life.

Take Elizabeth Babstein for instance. Who is Elizabeth Babstein? I'm not quite sure. But my students act like she is real. They regularly refer to her, sometimes in first person (like, they pretend to be her), sometimes in passing. Sometimes they call her a princess, sometimes a queen, but often just an everyday lady. After about a month of Elizabeth Babstein talk at school, I finally googled her. And you know what? Elizabeth Babstein isn't real.

Yet I am still thinking of her.

Then this week I've been plagued by sadistic snowmen. I know that children made them and that they probably are not actually infused with evil, but still. They scare me each and every day when I walk down the damn hall.

Here is one that wants to murder me.

Here is another one. It's mouth is like a black hole that wants to suck me in and crush me.

Et cetera.

How do YOU get the unnecessary junk out of your head? Let me know.

Hearts.

2.09.2015

HAAAAPPY Birthday to me!

My birthday was on June 26. That was a while ago so I hope it's not too late to say that it was really good.

I'm the kind of person that has a panic attack each year before my birthday. Not because I fear getting older. I actually think I get a tad bit better with every passing year. (I liken myself to a fine bottle of wine...is that too much?) The problem is this:  I'm afraid of being sad and alone on my actual birthday day. Does anyone else get like that? I have plenty of friends, I don't know why I have this phobia... I guess it's just another drawer in my bureau of mental illness.

Cabinet of Neuroses

To avoid this problem (I'm really good at avoidance, it's a skill) I usually skip town. I understand that if I leave town for my birthday then the result will be that I am completely without friends, but ultimately it's on purpose so I do not allow myself to be sad.

I don't care if this doesn't make sense to you fair reader. I play games with my mind to survive.

However, this last year threw me for a loop for two major reasons. 

#1 I was in school (I'm a teacher) all the way up until the day before my birthday and I had a big trip planned five days later so it felt tricky to plan a mini-escape-because-I'm-scared-of-my-birthday-trip in such a short window of time. 
#2 Moving to Turkey was an attempt for me to stop letting fear run my life.

So I decided that I needed to be a big girl and take the plunge: I asked a few of my girlfriends if they wanted to join me for a birthday dinner the following week. They all promptly said no. This was discouraging seeing as how they were the people that graced me with their company most frequently.
However, all hope was not lost because a different dear friend invited me out to dinner specifically for my passing of age and I said yes. She asked politely if I wanted to invite any other folks -- I declined with the excuse that it was a busy time of year for everyone. 

Fast forward to the night of our dinner date. As I arrived home that afternoon she popped over and said to me in a stream of high energy, "Hi cutie - are you ready to celebrate your birthday with me tonight? - I love that dress you're wearing - you always look so nice - what about changing though - we are celebrating you and you never know what might happen - wear something that makes you feel like a princess - (insert a kiss on each cheek) - Ok - I'll stop by in an hour and we can go - see you soon!" and out she fluttered into the corridor as I stood just inside my apartment door, looking down at my outfit. I shrugged my shoulders, chuckled for a moment when I recognized the good fortune of attracting people into my life as random as myself, and changed so that I could attain a more princess-like look. 

This was approximately my final look.

An hour later, right on schedule, I heard a knock on my door and I was greeted with a fancy cocktail. Then I was whisked away to my favorite restaurant.

Have you figured it out yet? I hadn't.

When I walked upstairs to get seated for dinner I found a room full of practically every person I knew in Turkey. Everyone was wearing birthday hats and blowing noise makers. Upon my arrival they all yelled "SURPRISE!" (including several elderly Turkish men who just happened to be dining there that evening) and I nearly fainted. Long story short: It was one of the best moments in my life.

The evening went on in regular birthday fashion -- I just couldn't believe it was me in the birthday seat! Those sneaky friends of mine, god bless 'em.

As I sat down in the middle of a long table, my friends swapped seats around me and told me about how they lied and sneaked to keep the secret. What a bunch of sociopaths. They were so joyful about their web of lies. And as a laser light show began to flicker around me (side note: the show only happened on the half of the restaurant in which my friends sat - our own non-private light show if you will) a sultan hat was placed on my head.


My friend who placed the golden atrocity on my head said in confidentiality, "You have no idea how many circumcision shops I went into to find a legit one of these bad boys. No dice. Those motherf@c#ers are expensive. So this knock-off will have to do. Happy birthday."

I love my friends.

See? This is why lying is ok! A big old happy pile of lies.
Here is my take away: As I grow up I realize more and more that the things I am scared of are silly. It's exciting. It opens the world a little more each day. I can't wait to find out what I am not scared of next.

1.15.2015

Fooled again. But I liked it.

It has been a long time since I have written anything.

But it's not because life has stopped amusing me.

Nor have I been too busy.

I just got out of the habit of writing.

Now, I want to mention that I think dropping habits is a FABULOUS skill if you use it for the power of good: you know, healthful things such as quitting smoking or saying no to dessert after breakfast. Bressert.

But unfortunately, I often will put the kibosh on habits that actually make me a better person -- Stuff like daily showering. And perseverance.

And writing.

Luckily 2015 recently happened and I am SUPER into resolutions. In other words, I'm back to writing my blog - and I plan to be consistent y'all. So get ready to re-live some of my 2014 highlights with me!

***

Like many of you know, I enjoy music. Many of my happiest memories from the last two decades involve live shows and good friends. I've had a deficit of shows in my life since moving overseas. The result of this is that whenever an opportunity arises to check out a "new" band, I jump on it.

As you might imagine, when someone told me about a salsa band that was going to be in Izmir, I began to salivate (as did many of my friends). This was double exciting because it was not just a new band to check out, but one that would also inspire dancing. Yes please.


For a few days leading up to the show, my cute little boyfriend twirled me around the apartment in anticipation -- he blasted different Latin sounds of all cadences and flavors. (Side-note: I'm kind of a terrible dancer, but he is very patient with me) We were so excited to go check out a new venue and hear some live tunes that we forgot one very important thing:

Nothing is ever as it seems in Turkey.

For most aspects of life I have learned to abide by the resolute art of keeping my expectations low (teaching children aside) but sometimes I will have a lapse in good judgment and get carried away with grandiose notions of excellence for certain events and/or experiences. This typically ends disastrously.

So with a lot of built up anticipation, me and a crew of 10 or so people went to check out the Sunshine Band. There were six singers and a swing band behind them. One singer looked like Charlize Theron. One looked like a dominatrix. The rest looked pretty normal.


They all specialized in a certain "sound" ...none of which much resembled salsa. The really skinny girl enhanced each of her songs by singing them in languages in which she clearly did not speak while the cute chick with the fro simply chose songs entirely out of her vocal range.

We were confused.



And, like, so was everyone else...


Ain't nobody was dancin'.

But it was still really fun, because the Sunshine Band did some really fascinating work. For instance, they did a rendition of Bonnie Tyler's "I Need a Hero" in Turkish. Bet you didn't know that could happen. It did and it was AWESOME. I sang along in English.



And really, once I settled into the realization that the evening was going to be completely illogical, I began to fully enjoy myself.

Isn't that always the case? 

It's like when you see a fake person hanging by a rope from an anchored ship on your evening stroll. IT'S JUST SO GOOD.


Keep your expectations low and then when you see a mannequin suspended from a boat on a Wednesday you will be surprised and delighted.
To be continued, sooner than later.



11.04.2014

ghosts in Turkey

My friend in the United States of America sent me a link about a ghost town in Turkey that she wanted me to check out because she thought it looked awesome. I agreed.

So I decided to go to this ghost town, Kayaköy, during the Halloween season, the most haunting time of year. I wanted to find out if this town was legit. Everyone knows that I see ghosts in real life, so obviously if there were truly ghosts in this village then I would be the one to see them.

Truth be told, I haven't seen one single ghost since I have lived in Turkey, so my expectations were exceedingly low. But I went anyway because I believe in giving everyone a chance, even ghosts.

Here is my story.

It was a dark and stormy night. Literally, it was raining and lightning and thundering the ENTIRE way for my 6 hour bus ride. I liked it.

Anyway, it was a dark and stormy night. I was feeling bedraggled when I asked in broken Turkish for my bus driver to pull over on a deserted street to let me and my ghost-busting partner, Oscar, out. We scouted around the deserted beach town until we found a meager light at an Inn, a place in which we could rest our weary heads for the night. 

Side note: I feel like I accidentally just morphed into telling a story resembling that of the night Jesus Christ was born. It wasn't quite that dramatic. Back to the ghosts.

The next morning, after a good night's rest and our bellies full of kahvaltı (breakfast), we caught the next bus to the village of spirits. When we told the dolmuş driver our specific destination, he looked at us quizzically and then shrugged. After twisting his vehicle skillfully through the mountains, we were once again dropped off in the middle of nowhere to fend for ourselves.

We started down this desolate, muddy road hoping to quickly find our accommodations that we had booked online the week before. I had to watch my step as we were walking due to all of the frog carcasses that littered the ground. It was weird.

Dead frogs after a great storm -- isn't that biblical too?
Fortunately, we found a sign for our lodging! Unfortunately, the sign was terrifying.

This designer should be fired.
In the meantime, I noticed that the dirt path that we were on was lined with barbed wire. I wondered: Was this feature put in place to protect the pedestrians from danger? Or to keep us boxed in so that the murders could happen more smoothly?

The excessive fencing seems unnecessary, but what do I know about country road regulations in rural Turkey?
Then I noticed the sprawling graveyard surrounding the creepy pathway on which we were lost. This made me nervous. Who were in all these graves? People dropped off by the previous dolmuş's? I didn't like what I saw one bit. Negative self talk began. It went like this: "I'm probably going to die. No one will know what happened." I repeated this over and over again.

Here is a view of the graves, just beyond the barbed wire.
Also, there was a sign asking us to pay attention when Satan's horses were passing by.

Does Satan travel this way often? Apparently often enough to elicit the need for a sign.
Additionally, I met several animals along the way that were obviously mocking me for continuing to venture down Bad-Choice Lane.
I know what this sheep was thinking. "This dumb bitch is about to die. And so is her foreign friend. The foreign guy always dies first. Well, maybe second if there is a blonde in the plot line."

After about fifteen minutes of wandering in quiet fear, Oscar suggested that he approach the haunted house on our left to ask for directions. I look at him incredulously and asked, "Have you learned nothing from horror films? You are seriously about to die." He thought about that for a second and then decided that I was correct. He said something along the lines of, "You're right. We should definitely not split up. That's exactly what the director of our film would want us to do and we are not that stupid."

So we continued on until we found our pension. We had a spooky feeling that we were in the right place when we found a dead baby in a tree.

Ok, it was a doll, not a real child. But dolls remind me of dead babies. I don't like them.
Once we checked in the owner of the pension led us to our room. It was not the room we had paid for online so we asked to check out some of the other rooms. After being led to a shed out back with a single mattress on the floor as option number two, we decided to accept the initial room offer. In all honesty, it was quite comfy.


This was our room key. Yes, it was attached to a mutilated teddy bear.

This was a photograph on the wall in our hotel room. It's weird. Am I right?
So after we got settled in, we took off for the ghostly village. The people who worked at our pension were very sweet and helpful -- they pointed us in the right direction and wished us good luck. By the time we got there it had turned into a beautiful day. Oscar and I climbed in, around and through the ruins, as one can only do in Turkey where there are absolutely no enforced regulations.


Sometimes there are signs that try to try -- but as you can see in the background, a large human size hole has been made in the wall protecting the church from intruders. Once you crawl through that hole, you will find a nicely stacked pile of rocks which you can climb upon to jump over another fence where you will land neatly into the church courtyard. Just sayin'.
Nothing terribly exciting happened in the village. I saw one ghost dog -- brown with black spots -- that was cool. But who knows when that dog died -- it could have been last year. And it didn't scare me. I was a bit disappointed because I was hoping for something more thrilling. All I saw were beautiful vistas and dreamy crumbling architecture. Sigh.

Perhaps the ghosts are tired of people (like me) using their yester-homes as backdrops for high-school-senior-like photos.

After a few hours of investigating, Oscar and I had gözleme and çay (deLIGHTful gözleme and çay I might add) at a little cafe and headed back to the Inn. On the trek back is where I got my most frightening, hair-raising scare.

Ostriches are my second greatest fear.

I was trying to overcome my overwhelming fear of ostriches by getting marginally close to this random one that was in a fenced in yard in the middle of nowhere. I thought to myself, "Perhaps I can take some awesome pics -- maybe this gi-normous atrocity can be tastefully artistic." But this guy was aggressively stalking around it's dinosaur sized eggs with it's head lowered and it's beady fist-sized bird eye sizing me up. After fearfully running back to the hotel and researching ostrich behavior I learned that a) I should have been more scared than I was and b) it's a good thing that ostriches can't jump because if they could then this one would have eviscerated me. So there's that.

The only other thing that happened was that I saw ghost hovering in the corner of my bedroom near the ceiling before I turned out the lights to go to sleep.

Overall rating of my Ghost Village experience: 9.5 out of 10 stars


10.13.2014

Day 9

Well well well, if it isn't my old blog. (Terrible way to start, I'm really out of practice)

I know it has been a few months since I have written anything. The truth is, I'm lazy. But I'm getting back into the swing of life again so I'm going to catch you up on some things that happened over the summer.

Today's blog is sponsored by the country of Spain.

Last fall, my friend Megan and I had this really brilliant idea for how we might spend our summer together -- we decided that we should walk El Camino de Santiago. If you've never heard of it, it's a pilgrimage across Spain. We knew we wouldn't have time to do the whole thing, so we chose a 300 mile long section to tackle.

Here is a view from El Camino. It's really long.

I don't know what comes to mind for you when you consider hiking 300 miles with all your supplies strapped to your back. I didn't really think much about it at all. Megan would send me links to blogs about the Camino (for mental preparation) and lists of quick-dry items that she planned to pack (because she's practical like that) and I was all, "Hey, could you buy me one of everything you're getting and I'll pay you back in Spain?" Like I said before, I'm lazy. Furthermore, I tend to plan for failure rather than for success. In my mind, I was thinking about how I would justify backing out of the trail three days in by turning my hiking adventure into a gloriously relaxing beach vacation on the shores of Spain, all by myself if need be. That's just how my brain works.

Anyway. The school year finally finished and I headed to Spain. I was fairly out of shape because I had recently been suffering from stress fractures in my feet, but I was really excited to give the Camino a go. My negative thoughts were at a minimum because our friend Sarah had also decided to join us for our Spanish adventure and she doubled as an on-staff doctor and a positive ray of sunshine. So worry I did not. For the first three days I flew through the miles, practically jogging with my backpack.

Meanwhile, everyone I met had a story to tell. Some of the stories were delightful anecdotes about life in different corners of the world. Some of the stories were about heartache and loss and figuring out how to deal. But most of the talk was about injuries. Specifically, Camino related injuries. It was totally common for every pilgrim on the Camino to rip off their shoes and socks at each and every public bar and restaurant and massage their bloodied and swollen feet. Everyone I met had battle wounds wrapped and covered, bandaids and compeed and thread hanging out of and off from blisters, swollen joints and angry red skin  -- and all I could think was, "Man, I am lucky to not be hurting like all these people."

Amidst all the tales of pain and Camino woes came an onslaught of unsolicited advice. As it turns out, I really hate unsolicited advice.

As people would share their precautionary tips to prevent future hardships, I smiled and nodded and then inevitably ignored them. In my mind I sang, "Ain't nobody got time for that."

Fast forward. Here is a passage from my journal on Day 9:

"...both shins have swollen to insane proportions, I got heat rash in three new spots and it's not going away, we walked on a freeway for six hours and I was the slowest so I cried a little, I got on a scale and it said I gained five pounds since yesterday, I accidentally ordered three sandwiches for breakfast which cost 10 euros, made me feel fat and sluggish, and proved to me that my Spanish comprehension is sub-par. There are bedbugs in my albergue..."

I would be lying if I said that the Camino didn't break my spirit. It did. I have many joyous memories of life on the Camino but I also spent a lot of time feeling sorry for myself and wondering why the hell I would choose such an atrocious way to spend my summer. Sometimes after long bouts of silence on the trail Megan would ask me what I was thinking. If I responded truthfully by saying that I was "meditating on loneliness and pain" she would inform me that I was not meditating, but rather I was wallowing.

Sometimes I would sit down on a rock and say sullenly, "Just leave me here to die." Typically I followed this up with hysterical and/or irrational laughter.

One day as I was sitting with my swollen legs dangling in an icy cold river, an Irish fellow made an astute observation of me without even asking my name. He said, "It looks like you chose the wrong holiday." This man happened to be the winner of the Irish Voice. (I have included this random piece of information and one of his music videos not because it has any relevance to my story but because I think it's funny.)


Don't judge me Pat. I may have been lame but so is your video.
Take that.


So you might be asking yourself, "If the hike was so terrible, why didn't you just quit and escape to your magical beach vacation that you had elaborately planned in your mind?" Well, judgey reader, I will tell you. I didn't quit because everybody else kept going. And I didn't want to be the loser that couldn't hang. It became a principle of stubborn pride. That was truly the only thing that kept me going for a solid 15 days. That and the fact that I really liked all the people I met along the way and I suffer from a condition called FOMO - fear of missing out. We would do really fun things like drink wine and sing in Italian. Even if I was the weakest link, I wanted to be some link.

Luis posted his advertisements for failure everywhere.
I considered calling him each and every day.

From time to time I would find talismans on the trail.
Typically, I took these types of signs as harbingers for more pain and desolation to come.

Sometimes my friends would lure me through particularly tough spots by waving candy in front of my face. Literally. They would tell me that they would take a break with me and give me candy if I would keep up a human pace for a certain distance. Since I function like a small child, this worked.


Well, I'm happy to say that I made it all the way to Santiago and did not sustain any lasting injuries. In fact, by the last five days or so I felt fabulous. Apparently the old adage, "No pain, no gain," is correct. It felt super awesome to make it to the end despite all the troubles throughout. 

My take away from this experience was this: There were times on this trip where my very worst self came out. However, even though I complained a lot, I feel like I laughed more. And at the end of the day I always felt blessed to be surrounded by friends -- new and old. I know that sounds cheesy and contrived, but it's true. It's really hard to ask for help and to slow down. It's even harder to keep on going once you've lost your original pace. But then you do it. And everything always ends up okay.