Australia, Bucharest/Barcelona/Berlin, and a Coup attempt

I lost my ability to write (obviously) as it has been a friggen long time since I’ve posted. I don’t have a fancy excuse. Only that life has been happening and I couldn’t sit in front of a computer.

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Somewhere in Barcelona

I’m gonna recap the last year of my life’s adventures, but condensed. Otherwise we’ll be here for days.

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Stingers

The amazing continent of Australia welcomed me with burning sunrays and danger signs of death posted everywhere. Unlike most of my adventures, I came away from my journey totally unharmed albeit a few emotional scars from rescuing animals. Story of my life.

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Olaf the Nail-tail Wallaby and Tina

My father was working on a massive natural gas project in Gladstone, somewhere in Queensland. I spent a month with my parents in a 2-bedroom apartment (yay!) with fellow expat neighbors. Champagne brunches became a regular as did rescuing wildlife.

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Harriet the Wallaroo

My mom was volunteering at Safe Haven, which is a farm house/animal sanctuary/breeding ground. They breed wombats and Nail-tailed wallabies, both which are endangered. What the hell is a wombat and wallaby you say. They are incredibly cute (wallabies) and slightly vicious (wombats). To make a long story short, humans are encroaching on their territory, hunting them, poisoning them and hitting them with cars. Thus, some native animals of Oz are in a dire situation. I was lucky enough to scoop wombat shit in the blazing sun.

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Wiggles the wombat going to the vet.

I got to ride along with Wiggles on her trip to the dentist. And yes, she scared me a bit popping out of her box. One evening I was saying good night to the wombats and one lad was following me, so I started to jog back and forth as he chased me (from behind the chain link fence). I asked Pete, the father of Safe Haven, if the furry guy was playing or wanted to eat me. Pete said he wanted to eat me. Well, at least I gave him some exercise.

Dexter

Dexter

Mom and I went searching for emeralds in the town of Emerald. Actually, she sifted rocks and I drank beer and complained about the heat. I was getting something out of the car and felt something sting me. I slapped the hell out of my back until I realized it was the zipper on my shirt. The fucking zipper was like fire on my skin after nanoseconds of being exposed to the sun. That my friends is Australia. On our way back home, we stopped to pick up a couple of kangaroo and wallaroo joeys from a woman that asked for help. Turns out she was an animal hoarder and we ended up taking 8 joeys- red and gray kangaroos and Harriet the wallaroo. Roos aren’t the same by any means- wallaroos are mini kangaroos and red roos like to kiss. About a quarter into the journey home, one little guy was kicking like crazy inside his pillow case (later named Dexter). Pillow cases are how they travel as they should be curled up and secure. Yet another life lesson.

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Turtle breeding season on Heron Island

So, I held a little red roo on my lap for about 4 hours. Needless to say, it was an incredible experience to comfort a furry creature I had only seen in photos. All roo/wallaby joeys were placed in rehab care and were released back into nature if they were able to adapt. Tail strength and strong hind legs are their means of survival so if they can’t hop properly then they stay within safe confines. It was an experience that words can’t do justice.

Phoenix

Phoenix

The highlight of my time with the lovely family of Safe Haven was Phoenix the koala. Phoenix climbed a railroad pole and was electrocuted. Safe Haven took her in and rehabilitated her until she was ready to go back into the wild. The factors in releasing her were based on how much poo she dropped, muscle mass (hard to measure) and ability to eat eucalyptus. And yes, I got to count poo!! My experience in Oz was full of shit and I loved it. Once her burns were healed and her poo was up to par, there was a harrowing trapping of her by Pete before sunrise. We drove for hours to find the right  forest with enough eucalyptus trees. Once we found a place, the moment of truth came. Tina (Pete’s partner and the queen of Safe Haven) was worried Phoenix didn’t have enough muscle to climb a tree. My mom, Tina and I sat on a bird shit covered bench and watched Pete open the cage at the base of a tree. Phoenix climbed the tree like her ass was on fire then stopped about a quarter of the way up the ginormous tree (I’m not good with math; it was a lotta feet/meters up), looked at us, then continued to climb into the leaves. Tina looked at me and said, this is what it is all about. Rescue, rehab and return. It was a beautiful moment when time stopped as we watched Phoenix camouflage herself among the eucalyptus leaves and we strained our necks to keep sight of her.

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Carlos in Barcelona

On to Barcelona I went. I met my darling Brazilian friend Carlos, whom I fell in love with in Turkey (totally platonic). I spent a whirlwind of about 3 days with him in the city of Gaudi, delicious wine and paella. I don’t remember much, so I’ll continue on.

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Happiness in Alexanderplatz

Berlin is a city I love to visit for many reasons, but basically I go to see amazing friends, eat yummy food and photograph graffiti. This year I met my Ugandan hooligans Mugagga and Burney there. They are 2 people that have gotten me in trouble, gotten me out of trouble and called me on my shit every time. They are part of my foundation and really precious creatures. We ran amuck in Berlin. Amuck.

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Laughter among Images of War, East Side Gallery, Berlin

The universe brought me together with 2 friends from high school that I hadn’t seen in over 15 years. In the lovely city of Bucharest, we drank, ate, and talked about everything and nothing. We went to Vama Veche, a pleasant little burg on the Black Sea. All I can say is that it is a miracle we all made it back to the hotel room every night.

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Alex and I in Bucharest

 

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Parliament, Alex and Darren in Bucharest

While I was in Romania, there was an attempted coup in Turkey. As I have lived in Turkey for the past 7 years and was working at the military academy at the time, shit hit the fan for this little American girl. The air space was closed for a couple days, which disrupted tons of flights connecting through Istanbul. It took me umpteenth hours to get back to Ankara, and when I walked through baggage claim I was amazed at the hundreds of bags waiting to be claimed by passengers that never arrived. It was an incredible sight that reminded me to always put a clean pair of underwear and a toothbrush in my carry-on.

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Amazon Woman in Samsun, Black Sea region of Turkey

Life continues with laughter and the hope that summer will eventually come…

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Berlin in Spring

East Side Gallery

East Side Gallery

I’ve been to Berlin a few times over the past few years, and have left each time incredibly hung over and happy as hell. As in my normal life, I experience a wide range of emotions mixed with enlightenment and self-realization, however when I go to

Delicious trout and Miss Maria

Delicious trout and Miss Maria

Berlin it happens within a matter of days instead of years. Perhaps this is why I have a special place in my heart for the vibrant German city that offers proper European

Cem and Maria, tour guides and drinking buddies

Cem and Maria, tour guides and drinking buddies

hospitality. Yes, European hospitality seems like an oxymoron, especially coming from my

Bikes in the Park

Bikes in the Park

life in Turkey, but somehow the city and the people contained within shine like polished gems. And I fucking love them.

My dear friend Maria, who I met in Istanbul a few years ago, was the perfect hostess and tour guide. She made sure we tasted every beer possible, ate all the tasty German morsels, and explored as far and wide as possible. Drinking beer on a rooftop community garden,  Klunkerkeranich, overlooking the city was fucking awesome. Riding bikes around all major historical and government buildings, through parks, and

Art for babies

Art for babies

along the Spree was fucking great. Listening to Hip Hop heads make beats at Cafe Wendel, wandering through Bethanian, an old church converted into art studios, and eating California pulled pork during street food Thursday at Markthalle 9 were, well, fucking brilliant. Let me not forget the May Day festival in Kreuzberg, which was a mass of humanity from all walks of life enjoying live music and life in general.

Cafe Wendel

Cafe Wendel

We heard metal, Hip Hop, and traditional Turkish music all within a 3-block radius, with colorful people dancing tirelessly and imbibing freely.

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May Day

I had the honor of being a “model” for my friend Alesh’s sketch class. While it wasn’t the dreamy, romantic notion of sitting nude, draped in velvet fabric, in front of passionate artsy types, I enjoyed sitting on the pavement, drinking beer and chatting with a

Sketch class with Alesh

Sketch class with Alesh

lovely lady from Hamburg, all the while being sketched.

As I had usually visited Berlin for music festivals and short

Neus Museum

Neus Museum

stopovers, I wasn’t able to absorb the rich history of conflict that is an integral part of the city’s past. Maria is a wealth of knowledge about the GDR, Nazi regime, and the cultural implications both entities instilled into modern

Maria waiting for Korean sustenance

Maria waiting for Korean sustenance

Germany. What amazed me most was how far the German people have come in reversing the damage that was done and how progressive they continue to be. Especially when I compare to police brutality in the United States that hasn’t ceased to exist.

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

Cem and I visited Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum, aka concentration camp, a short journey outside of the city. The small town of Oranienburg is very sweet, with colorful houses, children on bicycles and white picket fences. As we reached the camp, the experience became very surreal as the smell of death permeated my nostrils.

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

While I still have images in my memory from the atrocities displayed in the Holocaust Museum in Houston that I visited nearly 20 years ago, walking on the earth was a completely different sensation. This camp was a “home” for mostly Senti and

Hair and eye color samples to determine race- Sachsenhausen Camp

Hair and eye color samples to determine race- Sachsenhausen Camp

Roma, or gypsies, who are people I deeply respect for their cultural contributions to civilization. Walking around the land, imagining thousands of people forced into a slow demise, was sickening, yet humbling somehow. The categorization of people according to their eye and hair color made me nauseous, but also pushed me to have a better understanding of humanity, both good and evil Hatred for people based on ignorant perceptions is a concept I will never fathom.

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The Victory Column

The moral of my story? Drink beer. Appreciate art. Listen to good music. Respect people regardless of their skin color, gender, or education level. Then all will be well. Peace.

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Maria and Mathias