Aegean Trip 2001

Another in the random series of travels.

April 2001

This is spring break for us, and this past weekend was a 3-day weekend due to Children’s Day on April 23. R. was able to get the time away, so we went on a little trip—and of course I will tell you all about it now.

ist seas

First of all, we decided to go to the Aegean. In one day we went from the Black Sea (which I see every day from my home), along the Bosporus, past the Marmara Sea, across the Dardenelles, and over to the Aegean. Pretty amazing! The countryside is beautiful these days, as there are lush green fields interspersed with freshly tilled brown fields, laid like a quilt over the hills. Along the road and in the fields were yellow flowers, perhaps mustard, and many red poppies. They are called “gelincek cicegi”, which means bride’s flowers. Once I saw a “leylek”, which is a tall black and white crane. We passed over some of the plains of Thrace and over some of the small hills and mountains. Just over the summit of one mountain, we stopped for lunch at a charming place that overlooked a bay. The restaurant was built of wood and all the furniture was wooden, so it was very rustic. We had their specialty, which was meat that was cut into a slab with a knife (as opposed to a machine) and then pounded to tenderize it. We had it with a “shepherd’s salad” of tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions, with yogurt so think we could eat it with a fork, and with good dense bread. Very healthy and satisfying. And what a wonderful view! Even with a gray overcast sky, we could see the water and some small islands not far off shore. Soon after that, we experienced something strange—muddy rain! All weekend we saw cars that had obviously been caught in it. R. was worried, as the last time he had experienced rain like that was in 1986 after Chernobyl. However, the news never did talk about a meltdown anywhere, and later I found out it was connected to a big sandstorm in Africa. img802

geliboluAs we got to the Dardanelles Straits, we came to Gelipolu, which most of you know was Gallipoli. There are probably 25 or 30 special cemeteries in that area, filled with the bodies of the hundreds of thousands of dead from the bloody fight in 1914 and 1915. Winston Churchill decided that it would be a good idea to take the Dardanelles and then Istanbul and thus control that whole waterway. Not such a good idea! The Turks fought much more fiercely than he expected—after all, it was their land—and he finally called it off. We did not visit any of those cemeteries, as I did not like the feeling of so much death around, in spite of the fact that they honour all the soldiers, Turk, Aussie, New Zealanders, and so on. The fields were lushly green, but interrupted once in a while with old concrete bunkers. R. told me that even now farmers occasionally till up bones from soldiers who fell in that conflict.

At Ecebeat we crossed to the Asian side on the ferry. We were the very last car on, so we were trapped in the car, since there was little room on either side. Thank goodness it was only a 20-minute trip! We passed though Cannakkale, which has been of strategic importance for thousands of years. Apparently Alexander the Great crossed over to it by having his men line up boats across the strait and using them as a sort of bridge. I’m sure the place was much more beautiful then. Right now the town is not that nice, lots of the same concrete building one can see all over Turkey. However, on one forested hill there is a big “15 Mart, 1915” carved on the hillside to commemorate the end of that conflict. On the other side of the strait, there is a short poem inscribed on the hill, which basically reminds travelers to think of the people who died there. Actually, to add a somewhat cynical note, that whole area makes tourist dollars from the Australians and New Zealanders in particular who travel there. I talked to a couple of Australian men on the ferry who had come because, as one man said, “It was a defining moment for our country”. One man’s grandfather had fought there, survived and was sent to France, where he was gassed and subsequently died not long after he returned to Australia. It brings home that part of history to talk to someone related to it.

goats

Leaving all that behind, we headed south. All the way from Istanbul and on down the coast we saw herds of sheep or goats or cows, tended by their solitary herders. As we got into more rural areas we saw sheep dotting the hillsides or even right beside the highway. The shepherds would have a stick and possibly a small rolled up raincoat and that was about it. In the old old days they wore a heavy felt sort of cape in bad weather, but the modern ones are certainly more portable. Occasionally two herds would be close by and I suppose the shepherds would chat a bit then, but what would they talk about? The weather? How green was their valley? Or hill?

kaz dagi villas

Near the sea and near some towns, the beautiful green hills were also dotted with “holiday villages” or summer homes. Many of these were under construction, and a lot of them were like row houses. To me it seems strange to leave the city to live cheek by jowl, but I suppose it is a more efficient use of land. I asked what they would cost, and they generally cost about $30-40,000. A long way to come for you, but perhaps for a retirement home, eh?

kaz dagi

R. had heard about some place up on Kaz Dagi (Goose Mountain), so we drove up and up and up this mountain. The road got narrower and bumpier as we went. We passed some very small poor villages, where the people stared at us, Istanbulites lost in the woods. We also passed many more herds of sheep and cows, some donkeys grazing on the roadside, and even a herd of horses in the forest at the top. The forest was beautiful, with relatively tall trees, little underbrush, and some steep chasms with rocky creeks. Our end point was a “tatil koy”, a vacation village, which consisted of about 100 finished and unfinished houses, mostly row houses. Two men were there, who invited us in for tea and told us about this village. It is run by a cooperative which of course hopes to make money from it one day. There was a swimming pool, a central recreation building, and little else. Cell phones don’t work up there, as it is too far from the base stations, and even regular phone lines have not been hooked up. They did have the television on—tuned to BBC World! All they could get, apparently. They said there was a place to go to ride horses, perhaps the ones we saw. They also said that in ancient times there was a monastery up there, but even the ruins are gone now. I suppose people who go there for a vacation would enjoy not being tuned into the world, but I was not in a rush to go back there.

By the time we got back down off the mountain, it was starting to get dark. We called the hotels in Assos, but they were full, so we called one in Ayvalik, and drove the 131 km to get there. That hotel was quite big and full of people. It was “yarim pansyon”, which meant that for about the $25 cost of the room we also got a buffet dinner and breakfast. During the dinner there was even a guy playing music and singing, so some people were dancing. We walked out on the beach a little bit afterwards, but it was really windy and fairly cool, so it was a short one.

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After breakfast the next morning, R. took me to Ali Bey Island, also called Cunda (Junta) Island, because in the 70s during a military coup in Greece, a lot of the Greek intelligentsia moved there. In fact, it was an old Greek town before that, which is where we went, after passing through a large settlement of summer homes. The Greek area was charming. Old Greek homes are different from Turkish homes, as they do not have the overhanging alcove on the second floor and tended to be made of stone rather than wood. The doors and windows are different too; for example, the doors generally have a pointed area above them. One house we walked by had two years written on it, one in stone, 1887, and one in metal, 1889.

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We also visited St Nicholas Orthodox Church, which is literally a shell now. An old woman in the courtyard unlocked the door and let us go in, pointing out the various paintings, largely defaced now. The columns had huge cracks in them, as the church was quite damaged by an earthquake in the 40s. By then it had been abandoned, as the Greeks had left in the 20s when the Greek/Turkish population exchange took place. We walked a little bit more through the cobbled streets, looking at houses and beautiful flowers draped over the walls, and had tea on the seaside.

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From there we drove to Behramkale, which is above Assos. There is an old castle there and a temple to Athena, of course in ruins. There were a lot of pieces of columns lying around and we were speculating that perhaps there was a recent attempt to put them back together, as some of the ones on the ground had metal in them and some were hollow. There was a terrific view from up there of the beautiful blue sea and the green green hills. There was also evidence of sheep or goats having grazed there– well fertilized stones! It was really windy up there too. The village of Behramkale is very very old, with several stone houses and steep cobblestoned streets. The local residents were out hawking their wares, which consisted of almonds, a base for making a soup called tarhana (yogurt base), homemade olive oil, olives, and olive soap, and oregano and thyme. I bought some soap and R. bought some oil, olives, and lemon thyme for me. On the road down from the castle we passed on old woman who was followed by a little lamb. I didn’t ask if her name was Mary or if she was going to school! R. talked to her and we petted the lamb. It was about 2 weeks old and she was still bottle-feeding it. I am sure it is destined for someone’s dinner table sometime. Once again we stopped for tea in a little place in the middle of the town. Our table was an ancient piece of stone, perhaps a lintel from a doorway, and we had a great view of the town and the valley.

 

We then drove down down down into Assos itself. On the way we passed the ruins of where Aristotle once taught. He also married someone from there. St Paul also visited there and then left for another Greek town down the coast. We passed the theatre and some other jumbled up ruins, some houses, and who knows what else. It was quite a steep hill, so I’m glad we were in a car. We found a place to park, which was a miracle, and went into the town. It really doesn’t consist of much other than some hotels that look very old but are only 10 to 40 years old, some outdoor cafes along the waterfront, and a few houses. There is a small harbour there lined with fishing boats. We had a lovely lunch by the sea, fish of course!

By then it was mid afternoon, so we wended our way up the hill and across the green hills back to the main highway. We then drove to Cannakkale, where we found a sort of utilitarian hotel on the water. There were a lot of Aussies and Kiwis walking around—I could tell they were tourists. A lot of them were older, retirement age. We walked along the waterfront for a while and found the municipal sports center, where the Galatasaray futbol match was on bigscreen TV. R. is a GS fan, so we had to go in to watch it. It was a cultural experience for me, as there were no women and certainly no foreigners in there. We just stayed until halftime, when Galatasaray was ahead by 2 points, and walked on. We found a restaurant that had it on and watched GS win the game as we drank raki and ate some mezes (appetizers).

The next morning we took the ferry back across to the European side and bid adieu to Asia. Once again we passed lovely hills and herds of sheep, and even as we got into Istanbul saw more sheep with their shepherds. To finish off the trip, that evening at home I saw a beautiful double rainbow in the valley just outside my windows. Perfect!

A couple of current events to mention, in case you were wondering. First the economic crisis is continuing, but things seem to be calming down. As usual the people who are hurt the most are the ones who have the least. The value of the dollar doubled, so the lira is not going very far. Prices are going up; for example, gas has gone up 30% in the last month and the government has raised prices on sugar and bread. You may have seen some protests on CNN—the workers are really hurting with their salaries, which are now worth about $200 or $300/month. Not much to live on, especially when prices are going up. The govt imported a Turkish man, Kemal Dervis, who worked for the World Bank, and he is supposed to be the saviour. Good luck to him!

The other thing is the Chechen hostage taking at the Swiss Hotel. They are trying to get attention towards the situation in Chechnya, which actually kind of backfired, as now Russia is kind of mad at Turkey. No one was hurt in the incident. One interesting thing is that the leader of the group apologized, as he said he knew Turkey was in a hard situation and they did not want to hurt anyone, but just wanted to make a statement. Interesting, huh?!

 

Yes, folks, more random travels and blogs to follow!

More books

love water memory

I get tired of mysteries. Luckily I picked up this book and can totally recommend it: love water memory by Jennie Shortridge. A woman is found in water up to her knees in San Francisco Bay and her fiance Grady learns about it in the news and comes to get her. She does not remember anything and is diagnosed with dissociative amnesia. At Grady’s she learns who she was and who she is. He has issues with his family and she finds out that she had experienced awful things with hers and in fact reconstructed her life with a hard shell around her. They both learn about love again, love for each other (carefully) and for family. Especially since I am reconstructing my self, without the amnesia, this story really struck me. It was well written and did not seem impossible at all.

still life

It has been a long time since I have read anything by Anna Quindlen, so when I stumbled upon Still Life with Breadcrumbs I was happy to take it home. I would say that her writing appeals more to women, as once again the protagonist is an older woman who feels like a has-been photographer. She is 60, not in demand anymore, and running out of money. She decides to rent a place in the country outside of New York City, where she meets a variety of characters, including of course a man. She find random crosses in the woods and takes photos of them, not knowing where they are from or why. We find out at the end of the book. I liked the fact that she is older and still becoming wiser. The characters are well described and not stereotypical and I could relate to the fact that she is in transition. A good, mellow read.

torontonians

I also stumbled upon The Torontonians by Phyllis Brett Young. I don’t usually read introductions, but I decided to read this one and was glad I did. The book was rather famous at the time it came out (around 1960) but I had never heard of it. The woman telling the story had been brought up in the Annex in Toronto, at the time a neighbourhood of well-brought up affluent families. However, at the time the story is happening, it had become an area of run-down boardinghouses. Karen and her husband had managed to move out of their small apartment in Toronto into an old farm house that they renovated and then watched at the area was developed into a middle class suburb. Karen is depressed because everything seems to be built on materialism and the modern equivalent of snobbery. Although I am in the generation behind this one, it resonated with me, as I remember living in a new development with my family, with women going back and forth to each others’ homes, maybe knocking, but definitely going right in. I remember also some of the places and brands that are mentioned in the story. Karen would be horrified to see how wild the materialism has become in our modern age, moving from washing machines and dryers (that we take for granted) to the latest in smart phones and now rampant epicureanism. I am not sure how this book would resonate with young women now (and after all it is another book aimed at women) but I think her struggles with remembering the good and not so good old days, maintaining friendships with former student girlfriends and with her husband, and deciding how to direct her life are themes that we still deal with.

finding nouf

There are probably not very many mysteries set in Saudi Arabia, but I came across one called finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris. She had been married to a Saudi-Palestinian and evidently lived in Jeddah, which is probably the most liberal of Saudi cities. She must have lived there long enough to get some insights into the culture, which is pretty amazing for a foreign woman– in any culture, let alone one as contained as Saudi culture, especially for women. Through the story, this addresses the difficulty of women to escape their containment, as well as the religious containment of the male protagonist. Through the story we learn a lot about such things as tracking in the desert and of family relationships as Saudi culture very slowly changes. It is a good story and a very interesting look into the culture.

delicious

The library has some shelves for new books (even though they might be a couple of years old). When I was passing by there I picked up a book called Delicious by Ruth Reichl. A woman standing beside me said she had read it and really enjoyed it and I should read it too. I told her I would check it out but if I didn’t like it I would come after her (and of course I have no idea who she is). It was the story partly of an ugly duckling who eventually gets a make-over, she makes new friends in New York City, and she gets intrigued by a correspondence between a young girl called Lulu and the famous chef James Beard during World War II. The correspondence part actually reminded me of another book I read a few years ago (and which name I totally forget) about a man who found letters from 1000 years ago in an ancient synagogue in Cairo and put together a story from those. This was not a fictional correspondence, by the way. One of the parts I really liked about this book was her description of going into the Italian cheese shop and the butcher and other old fashioned places.  It really reminded me of Istanbul, though the cheese shops there were Turkish.  At any rate, I enjoyed Delicious and would read something else by the same author.

minor adjustment

A few years ago I read a couple of the books about The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, set in Botswana. This is another one, though there must be a gap and both detectives are now married. This volume is The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon, written by Alexander McCall Smith. Precious Ramotswe is the lady who has a sweet outlook on life, as do most of the characters. However, as in life anywhere, there are conflicts and mysteries that she is brought in to solve. It is indeed a sweet story and it gives some insights to life in that part of Africa. There was actually a tv series based on these books, which unfortunately did not last long, but I will have to check it out on YouTube. In the meantime, I will go back and look for more books about Precious and her local mysteries and some of the books that Smith has set in other locales.

orillia pub library

I am so grateful to the Orillia Public Library! And to the fact that it is only two blocks from my home. It is a treasure trove of books and other things and I am a very regular customer there. We in North America are very fortunate to have these incredible resources.

Mesopotamia!

55 mesopotamian valley

This word has such meaning. It reminds me of Latin classes in high school. It has a wide space and a great deal of romanticism and history with it. It was the land of man conquerors, including the Hittites, the Romans, the Seljuks, the Turks. When I had a chance to go to Mesopotamia, I was thrilled.

A few years ago I met a man, who when I asked where he was from (you ask that of everyone in Istanbul), told me he was from Mesopotamia. I asked if he was Kurdish. He was somewhat offended and responded that he was from Iraq (a very pale Iraqi, I might add). I did not go to the Iraqi part of Mesopotamia, but to what is now the Turkish part.

43 no room in the dolmus

no room in the dolmus

First my friend and I went to Diyarbakir. After wandering around there for a couple of days, we decided to go to Nemrut, which is an ancient place famous for huge statues. We went to the bus otogar, but there were no busses going to Kahta, which is where we had decided to go. I suggested we hitchhike, but the tout we were talking to was horrified at the idea. Instead, he took us to another bus that would drop us off on the way at Siverek and then we could take a dolmus, a private van that took people. When we got off the bus, we got a kid to show us where to get the dolmus and tipped him for his time. The dolmus was just about ready to go, so we crammed in with the other people. Normally there were seats for 12, but by the time it was full, there were more like 20 people. Brad crammed into the front seat and I crammed into the back. I sat beside a young man who was on leave from the prison in Adiyaman. His father or grandfather had died, so they let him out to go to the funeral. He was Kurdish and had been imprisoned for having a gun or some such silly thing. The prison there was full of Kurds. The older man sitting beside him was also Kurdish, but he was from so far up in the mountains that he barely spoke Turkish, which meant that he probably had not gone to school.

At one point the dolmus drove on to a ferry, which took us across a lake that had been formed behind the Ataturk Dam. While on the ferry we got out and answered questions from the curious passengers. I was struck at seeing a stop sign on a little island that had obviously been a bump in the road that was subsequently flooded by the dam waters.

Finally we got to Kahta. It is a rather drab little town. A tout suggested a pansyon, but when we went to look at it, it was smelly and shabby. We looked at a couple of other places and finally decided to share a room in a more modern hotel. Its main benefit was that it had a swimming pool, which was great after being in such sweaty travel conditions in the hot climate. Through the hotel we booked a driver to take us up to Nemrut.

45 karakus

karakus (black bird– but really an eagle)

Abdullah showed up in his minivan but we were the only passengers that day, so all three of us sat in the front. The first place we stopped was Karakus Hill. There we posed in front of a column with an eroded eagle on it. After that we stopped at another column where the two figures were shaking hands. I can’t remember who the figures were, perhaps Hercules and a Hittite ruler. We also stopped at the Septemius Severus Bridge, built by the same Roman ruler. It crosses the Euphrates River (Firat in Turkish), another name from Latin class. When we were there, picnickers and shepherds were there, one herding sheep and one eating them.

47 goats at septimius severus bridge

septimius severus bridge with goats

48 picnicking on the euphrates

euphrates river (firat)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

52 castle village    51 castle on the rocks

We stopped in a little village near Kahta Castle to have tea. There were only a few houses and of course a mosque. Our driver, Abdullah, asked if we wanted to go up to the castle, but we wanted to make it to Nemrut before sundown, so we settled for just the tea, which we drank in the welcome shade of some trees. After that we went by another bridge, this one built by the Seljuks, who overtook Mesopotamia in the 11th and 12th centuries.    53 selcuk bridge

 

57 molly at nemrut 2 goddesses

goddesses

Finally we got to Nemrut. Practically everywhere you go in Turkey you can see post cards of the famous heads of Nemrut, so I was a little disappointed to see that in real life they were only about the size of a standing person. The whole mountain had been changed in order to build a tomb (never found) and statuary for King Antiochus I Theos of Commagene. You can still see the thrones where the statues once sat and there is some speculation that the heads were taken down on purpose, since their noses are bashed in (often done by iconoclasts). There are also some steles and some other statues, notably a lion and eagle. People try to get up there for sunrise or sunset, as the view over Mesopotamia at that time is amazing. We just made it and it was well worth it.

Abdullah was quite taken with me and called me when I got back to Istanbul. In fact, he went to Istanbul and called me to invite me out, but I declined. I had no idea why he was so interested, since I certainly had not expressed interest in him on our trip.  Perhaps he thought there could be yet another conquest in Mesopotamia.  It was just a funny side story to our trip through time.

 

and look what i stumbled upon on youtube!  poirot in mesopotamia  www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_EwM3p1qsA  right at the beginning of the film there is a brief glimpse of one of the nemrut heads, but judging by the names of the cast, i think it was actually made in tunisia.  it was a better story than mine 🙂

a trip to Diyarbakir

11 tribal man

one of the towers

Diyarbakir is a large city in the central eastern part of Turkey. It has been settled since before Hittite times and has gone through several names. The Romans called it Amida, the Arabs called it Diyar Bakr (named after the Arab tribe that took it over), and finally during Republican times it was called Diyarbakir, land of copper, which abounds in its vicinity. It is largely settled by Kurds, as it was once a Kurdish city. Several years ago I visited Diyarbakir, although some of my Turkish friends warned me that it was dangerous because of the Kurds. I did not experience any danger there at all.

24 join us for tea

these men invited us to drink tea with them

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4 boy in wall arch

a hole in the wall

10 elazig kapi

one gate to the old city

Diyarbakir has the largest land wall after the Great Wall of China. It is built mostly of basalt and encircles the old city. There is a park that goes along it, though it is not a good place to hang out in after dark. The extant old city was laid out by the Romans. The streets are logical and are lined with walls that lead into courtyards for the homes there.

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baa baa little sheep

One day as we were walking through the old city, some children followed us, calling out ‘Money! Money!’ I was annoyed but my friend played along with them, short of actually giving them money. On one of the walled streets we came across a couple of women with their pet sheep, which had been washed and combed. The mother threw rocks at the kids to chase them away, thankfully. When I asked her where there might be a market, she asked why. I told her we wanted to buy some water. Instead, she went into her house and brought us a glass of cold water. My friend was a little shy of drinking it, afraid it would make him sick, but it would have been rude not to drink it, so he took a sip and I drank the rest. We thanked them and then went on.

29 ulu cami tourist

ulu cami. you can see the byzantine decorations, so it was probably once a church, now a mosque

27 ulu cami bare roofs

where people wash before going to pray, ulu cami

 

 

31 long ulu cami

ulu cami sleeper

30 ulu cami interior

Also in the old city are of course many mosques and a few churches. Ulu Cami was probably a Byzantine church at one time, as there are quite a few Byzantine touches in the architecture. We also visited Meryem Ana Church, which still includes the altar to the sun god, as it was a temple before it was a church. We found a young woman there who told us a bit about the church.

41 meryem ana church sun temple

the altar to the sun in meryem ana church

35 beautiful filigree dome

36 beni cami

nebi cami

38 colourful kurd

We saw some traditionally dressed Kurdish men, as well as women. The style of the women’s headscarves showed whether they were Kurdish or not. Especially in the summer they wear a pain white headscarf. When we interacted with people, they were both welcoming and curious. As we wandered, we went into a passageway to a tea garden, where a group of Kurdish men were singing songs. One of them was about a young man who was killed by the Turkish police. The men were a little curious about us but they made it clear that we were welcome to listen to them sing. The main singer would hold his hands to the side of his face, which is also how the muezzin traditionally does the call to prayer. This was one of my favourite experiences in Turkey.

19 songs of oppression

the man with the white cap was the singer

22 amin

listening

 

There is very good food in Diyarbakir, mostly kebab. The area is famous for some cheeses, especially a white cheese that has a wild herb in it and for a braided moist white cheese. It is also well know for watermelons.

These days Diyarbakir is experiencing more troubles as there are protests across the country by Kurds who resent the fact that the Turkish government has parked a lot of tanks at the border but are not using them to protest the Kurdish village of Kobane against IS. This would probably not be a good time to visit it, but when things calm down, I recommend it.

Becoming Canadian again

world map

I have been mostly gone from Canada for forty years. In that time I lived for twenty years in Oregon, two years in Japan, and sixteen years in Istanbul, Turkey. During those years, I often said that the only thing Canadian about me was my passport. However, now I am settling into a small town in Ontario and I am learning how to be a real Canadian again.

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First I spent six weeks at my sister’s, a wonderful nature place on the curve of a small river bounded by two series of rapids. The trees were full of birds– crows, starlings, goldfinches, blue jays, nuthatches, chickadees, wrens, woodpeckers, hummingbirds. A couple of herons often flew to the river to feed, occasionally landing in a tree. Groups of mallard ducks ranging from 15 to five to one, often came by to see if we were going to feed them. Gray, red, and black squirrels came to the bird feeder and scolded down at us from the trees. Once we saw a muskrat and sometimes turtles. It is a beautiful place. But it is not my place. My sister and her husband were very generous with their space and were happy to have me there, but when it seemed that the process for my green card was going to slow way down as I gathered more documents, I decided to move into town, where I could have my own place and potentially find some work.

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Orillia is a very Canadian town. It is at the meeting of two lakes, Simcoe and Couchiching. Samuel de Champlain made it this far on his explorations. Some famous people are from here, including Stephen Leacock, a writer, Gordon Lightfoot, a singer and musician, and Brian Orsi, a skater. There are probably some more. The downtown is still working though the edges of the city are lined with box stores and malls. The downtown is actually rather pretty, and there is obviously civic pride here. The Opera House is tall with two towers, there are flowers and street art, and a general sense of care. The train does not stop here anymore, but the train station has been changed into a bus station and government service office. The former car maker Tudhope’s building has been converted into flats and some classrooms for the Lakehead University campus here.

huronia

Orillia is very white. I have seen maybe a dozen black people, the same amount of Asians, including one Sikh man with turban. There are some First Nation people around, but they are more likely to be out towards Rama, their reservation. There seem to be a lot of older people and more motorized wheelchairs than I have ever seen in my life. In my neighbourhood there are quite a few kids, including a couple of boys I talked to. They have six or seven siblings, so no wonder they are out wandering the neighbourhood. I have also seen several developmentally challenged people, no doubt because of the old Huronia school for the retarded, now thankfully closed.

farmers market

I went to the farmers’ market for the first time the day after I moved in. It is two blocks away in the parking lot of the library. There I can buy weekly seasonal vegetables, pickles, jams, honey, olives from Italy, breads, sausages. I was happy to see that I can buy locally so close, at least until Christmas, when it closes down for a few months, at which time it will be back to the supermarket.

My language is changing. The Turkish words that were liberally sprinkled through my English are gone, though occasionally I still say inshallah, partly because it fits and partly because I want to give a little jolt to whoever is listening. I find my accent is getting more Canadian, little by little. Aboot and oot, but still not many ehs.

winter clothes

The dress code is different here. In Istanbul it was casual for the most part, but people had pride in their clothes. Here it is definitely casual, as it is also usually practical. I don’t see women dressed up much, except perhaps for summer dresses. However, those are already packed away. Long dresses and skirts are not practical, especially in the snow. Everyone seems to wear some form of jeans, t-shirts in the summer, and sweaters in the winter.

mot wheelchair

Many people drive various sizes of SUVs and there are a lot of working pickup trucks. There are also a lot of electric scooters and I wonder what happens to them during the winter. Older vehicles show signs of rust from the salt for the snow, a Canadian tradition.

orillia bus

I find myself asking people for directions. When I took the bus for the first time, I had to ask a few people for the cost and the right bus. The bus was very late and the girl beside me on the bench said that busses were not very reliable. Considering that they only run twice an hour, it seems hard to believe that they can’t stay on schedule. The one I took was at least half an hour late. In fact no one got off the bus until Walmart, so I wonder where the other passengers were going.

 

butter tarts

This is definitely a cultural experience for me. After living in a city of 20 million for so many years, a city with all kinds of public transportation, it is quite a change to be getting around a small town that was started only in 1820. There is still a feel of pioneer about it and definitely a feel of English Canadianness. The things I took for granted in Istanbul– good tea, for one– are hard to find here. However, there is an unending supply of cheddar cheese, butter tarts and interesting breads.

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When I go outside to smoke (yes, no smoking inside anywhere and even not outside at cafes and such), I watch what little is going on on the street. Sometimes there is a traffic jam– six cars waiting to cross the intersection! Some bicycles, skateboards, lots of strollers, electric scooters, and the aforementioned motorized wheelchairs. But really, not many of any of these. People do walk, especially to and from school, which is around the corner. In general there is just not much going on here. The sidewalks are rolled up about 8 downtown and on Sundays. There are lots of squirrels and birds to watch and now flocks of geese are squawking their way south.

I chose to live in this older part of town because it is my style and it is close to downtown. I like looking at the old houses and wondering what they were like when they were new. These must have been built by prosperous middle class families. They are a good size (after all this one was divided into four small apartments) and have yards. The adornment is also nice, under the eaves, over the windows. When my father was here he commented on how the baseboards, which are about 30 cm high, were hand carved (by a lathe I am sure). Now these things are purely practical and aside from paint or stain do not attract attention.

Even in this small place people often do not look at you as they walk by. If you happen to catch someone’s eye, there may be a smile, but generally people are not quick to interact. This is not to say that they are not friendly. Once you get talking, they are generally fine. I do know that the fact that I lived away so long may or may not be acknowledged, and if so, quickly glossed over. That is an experience that most people here cannot relate to. But I expected that.

cdn flag

This is a good place. It is rooted to the earth and I am happy to be here for a while. It gives me a chance to be Canadian again.

a simple life

tiny house cnnI have been reading about people who try living in tiny homes. Some write that these tiny places may be one answer to homelessness. Others tout them as being green and the wave of the future. I think it is a passing fad. As far as helping the homeless goes, they may be a good idea. However, I suspect that most of the people who stay in them for a green vacation or who promise to live in one for a month go back to their regular homes, probably with a sigh of relief.

beatlesI have moved intercontinentally for years, and for years I had a storage unit. Several years ago I finally emptied that in a paroxysm of purging. Some of the things went to my kids, of course, who can do their own purging. A few things I sold, some way below what I should have (my Beatle paraphernalia went for $100), some things went on the street. But I felt freer with only a few regrets. What was left I finally got to my home in Istanbul.

cargo shipThen I decided to leave Istanbul. This time, for the first time, I had movers take it. I had the money and I had about 5 cubic meters of stuff. I had an empty bedroom in my flat and just threw stuff in there that I wanted to send and the rest I sold to my flatmate or left in my cafe. The stuff included a vintage sofa and armchair and lots of boxes. Finally all the stuff got through customs in Toronto after a lot of toing and froing to customs and getting my rental contract translated (the people working in Canadian customs in Toronto are a-holes. It was the nice Asian man at the end who was helpful after two awful women). I could not believe that all my stuff fit into this one big box– but it did. The men brought it all in and I unpacked.

CIMG0090Unfortunately, living in Toronto did not work out for me, so I moved to my sister’s. By then I had bought furniture and household goods and had been given some, so my flat was fairly full. I had a sale and got rid of some things and I sold some on craigslist. What I did not sell or give away went into storage at my nephew’s. I had moved into the flat with 37 pieces and we moved about 25. I had sold my stamp collection, which was about 4 boxes (and one of my regrets still), and I had scanned all my photos and thrown them away, which was another four boxes. Some clothes were passed on, especially professional clothes since I was not teaching and in fact had grown out of them.

Another purging took place when I went down to my nephew’s after several months. This time I had only a couple of big boxes to take to a community yard sale near my sister’s. There I sold a few things, but ended up leaving books, sheet music, and a few odds and ends. The rest I decided to take to Salvation Army, though when we went to drop off one box I was appalled to see that their back room was full of black garbage bags full of stuff and there was junk all around. The next box went to Goodwill. All the rest stayed in my nephew’s basement.

Finally I returned from my last sojourn abroad and decided to get my own little place in the small town near my sister’s. We went down to get my stuff, which took up about 2/3 of a Uhaul trailer. In fact we had just got back into town when the trailer got a flat– the brake had locked and burned a hole right through the tire. So a two hour job ended up being two hours more as we waited for the tire guy to come. It took us maybe fifteen minutes to unload the trailer into my small flat.

img952This is the smallest flat I have ever lived in, though I suppose I could count the tent I lived in for a few months, and that is the smallest. But that is another story. It is comfortable and cozy, though sometimes I feel a little claustrophobic. Thank goodness it has good light and an interesting window in the salon. I am not good at guessing square feet or meters, but it is basically two rooms with a tiny kitchen and a normal sized bathroom. When I lived in Japan, some of my teacher friends were put into containers that had been converted to small apartments– this is probably about the same square meterage.

My kids have made it clear that they are not interested in the stuff I have. And through my purges I have looked at all my many interesting little (or big) things and realized that they are mostly interesting only to me. My aunt talks about how things have stories, which may be, but the stories here concern only me. Yes, I have some things that are family heirlooms of some small value, but as the generations pass, the stories of those things are lost. As I look around here I hear the stories from japan and from Turkey and elsewhere, but they only speak to me. Otherwise they are only mildly exotic ethnic items that might interest someone in passing.

At the end, though, all of my belongings are here in this place, for the first time in many years. I have less stuff now from the purges of the past few years. Sometimes there is something I miss, but mostly I remember things or not. I still have a lot of interesting stuff, which makes this an eclectic and colourful island in this small Canadian town.