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.

AHH_4575

Somewhere in Barcelona

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

Stingers_1

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.

Olaf

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.

AHH_3104

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.

Wiggles

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.

Turtle

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.

20160530_194445

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.

AHH_4651

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.

20160625_221735

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.

20160714_174739

Alex and I in Bucharest

 

AHH_4729

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.

AHH_5064

Amazon Woman in Samsun, Black Sea region of Turkey

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

AHH_4795

Advertisements

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.

IMG_3844

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.

IMG_3727

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.

IMG_3947

image(2)

Maria and Mathias

History Repeated Itself last February

Jumping for Joy

Jumping for Joy

During my formative, albeit rebellious years, aka high school, I fell in love with musicians and photography. I spent countless weekends at local clubs in downtown Houston snapping photos of friends playing in Metal and Hip Hop/Metal fusion bands before they were cool. My best friend and the most influential person in my life during those few years was the multi-talented and incredibly self-confident Geoffrey. He taught me bravery, self-love and that musicians are badass. There was a particular night I “stole” my parents ’86 Chevy Suburban, much too large for my petite self, to see Geoffrey’s band play at Fitzgerald’s, in the once decrepit part of the city. It most certainly must have been his overflowing courage that inspired me to drive the ’86 Suburban that night, fearlessly, like a proper dumbass teenage girl should.

Geoff

Geoff

Fast-forward 19 years. As important life events are always put on social media, I learned that Geoffrey was on a European tour with the sultry Jolie Holland. I searched for flights to Spain and France attempting to find the most logical city to meet my high school sweetheart. Logic aside, Valencia turned out to be the right decision. Unfortunately, there was a massive snowstorm in Istanbul the day I was supposed to fly, so I was grounded in frustration at missing an extra day with my virtuoso classmate.AHH_7936

I headed to the airport the next icy morning, in hopes my flights would be on time and get me to the beautiful Spanish land I had always dreamed of putting my feet upon. On my layover in Ataturk airport, I strolled through the throngs of people from all over the world, (literally people wearing everything from dashikis to stilettos) with a skip in my step incited by excitement of this reunion. It had actually only been 11 years since I last saw Geoffrey in NYC, when we had the privilege of seeing the Beastie Boys play Madison Square Garden, but still. My heart fluttered a bit as I went through the 3rd security check, with everyone around me speaking Spanish. Fuck yeah. Let the adventures begin!

20150220_180900

Geoff eats patatas bravas

 

Naturally, I inhaled a few mini bottles of imported red wine on the short 3-hour flight, as I was unable to sleep due to the flood of memories from three lifetimes ago. It had been a long time since I felt like a giddy little girl.

AHH_7621

Breathing deep once outside the airport in Valencia, I headed to the hotel where I found Geoffrey, sitting on a sofa, in all his Texan glory. It turns out people don’t really change much with age, aside from the occasional wrinkle. He still has the death grip embrace that blesses those lucky enough to experience it. After a quick refresher thanks to the bidet (major swamp ass occurred from the lack of AC on the plane), we hit the city streets chattering away as if we hadn’t missed a day.

AHH_7548

Geoff took me on a tour through the architectural history he had learned in his explorations the day before. We drank delicious wine, climbed castle stairs, and noshed on cured pork and patatas bravas. We spoke incessantly of our pasts, relative presents and new found love for Valencia. It’s a city we could live in, based solely on our minimal hours of experience here. Duly noted in my infinite book of future plans. Part New Orleans, part El Paso and part Game of Thrones, Geoff and I conceded that this Spanish city wasn’t so unfamiliar, yet was different enough to incite a sense of vigor.

AHH_7573

AHH_7594

Geoffrey

In the early evening, we were off to sound check at Loco Club, where I met the headmistress Jolie, and band members Breezus, Whoopi, and tour manager Thorsten from Germany. They’re unique characters that produce a band of sedating and lovely players. Speaking with Jolie, much like conversing with Geoffrey, was enlightening, inspiring and motivating. My love and appreciation for musical artists is a constantly burning fire, and these endearing people tossed on logs and spewed lighter fluid.

AHH_7648

Jolie and Whoopi

Jolie appears as the child of Janis Joplin and Leadbelly, who was raised by the nanny Skye Edwards (of Morcheeba). Intoxicating vocals mixed with calculated, yet captivating, guitar picking demand attention on Jolie, despite her distaste for the spotlight. Members of the audience tapped their toes and bounced their heads in the dimly lit dive bar. I felt as though I was in high school again, admiring musicians with guts enough to stand under stage lights while entertaining mesmerized onlookers. The music was a perfect mix of heart warming melancholic melodies and bluegrass enthusiasm that provided the spiritual refreshment utterly necessary for my personal growth.

AHH_7684

Thorsten

 

I joined these beautiful people again the next morning, and watched them eat breakfast as I had inhaled mine earlier at my hotel before racing over to theirs, in fear they would hit the road before I could spend a few more moments with a group of American souls I’ve been missing. (I won’t mention the alcohol had yet to wear off in the three or so hours of sleep that somehow happened so logic didn’t exist yet). Turns out they were still sleeping when I arrived, so my

Whoopi and Jolie

Whoopi and Jolie

indigestion was unnecessary. Ah, we live and we learn.

My final dose of Geoffrey’s utter positivity and smile brighter than the sun prepared me for a day of wandering the streets of Valencia solo, as the band was headed to the North. It was a short, but extremely sweet reunion with the delicate man that remains as my first hero. Death grip embrace number two accomplished, I was ready to take on the world, or at least Valencia city center. We have to start somewhere right?

Breezus

Breezus

AHH_7748

Geoffrey at Loco Club

Walking shoes ready (or so I thought), I explored the architectural wonders of the City of Arts and Sciences. I strolled through a massive kilometer long park full of palm trees, people promenading their spoiled dogs, and children running amuck chattering in their sweet Spanish. To my astonishment, I realized no one was interested in talking to me, and if I knocked elbows or bumped into someone, all parties apologized swiftly. Not like Turkey, where every body wants to ask me where I’m from and overgrown women intentionally “brush” shoulders then scowl at me as if I had run head on into them. It’s quite amazing how a slight bit of decency can change the atmosphere of a city and ultimately, an entire culture. I had almost forgotten what personal space, minding your own business, and respect meant.

Breezus and Whoopi

Breezus and Whoopi

Once my feet were blistered and my mouth parched, I made my way to Mercado de Colon, where Geoff and I made our first pit stop the day before. I sat on a cushiony wicker sofa, kicked up my feet, and ordered red wine. Oh hell yes! Drinking wine on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Yes please. The veggie paella was filling enough to get my shopping legs ready to continue wandering about, with a different focus from history, architecture, and culture. It

was time to find some cool Spanish boots.

 

City of Arts and Sciences

City of Arts and Sciences

Unfortunately, I didn’t find boots, but did manage to understand that “siesta” really means “We will look at you inside the store, but we’re not fucking working.” So I found my way back to the hotel wherein I, yes, drank more wine and ate more cured pork and cheese. This was heaven I tell you.AHH_7899

20150221_124302

The following morning, I somehow jumped out of bed, inhaled the buffet breakfast, and walked briskly to the marina so I could see, smell and breathe in the Balearic Sea (or a cove AHH_7892 copywithin said sea). My spirit and heart were rejuvenated, yet again, this time from seeing nearly everyone on the street walking their pups early on a Sunday morning, some purebreds, some mutts, some big, some small, but all jubilant with wagging tails. I must take a moment to give respect and blessings to people who love and take care of animals.

I made my way back to the hotel with only a few minutes to spare (thank you again my bidet friend) to get my shit and go to the airport. The wind was blowing furiously, and I secretly hoped my flight would be canceled, or at least delayed. Of course it wasn’t, but a girl can wish! As I reveled in my concluding mini bottle of non-imported Spanish wine, I reflected through three decades of existence. It seems the winds of change are a blowin’…AHH_7988

The Best Turkish Wedding Ever

Maybe because she was one of my first friends in Turkey or maybe because she’s a stunning and humorous woman. Regardless, Ceren got married and I was blessed to be a part of it.

Image

Ceren and Naz

What was planned to be a “girls” weekend in Istanbul turned out to be a fucking wonderful and enlightening experience. Leaving dry and dusty Ankara behind, I embraced the 4-hour drive (riddled with monsoon rains) and tried not to think of the inevitable cosmopolitan traffic that would no doubt be waiting for me.

Image

Naz

Arriving late in Bakirkoy, my friend Anika and soon to be new friend Chelsea, were nearly 10 sheets to the wind when I arrived. The sangria was deliciously fruity and the conversation entertaining, candid and much needed. Some of us suckers in domestic relationships forget all too soon the inherent spirit and empowerment born from close female relationships. I haven’t forgotten the need for a proper ladies night, but I had forgotten how lively we can be when unleashed and unbridled.

Image

Ceren and Fatoş

The following hung over morning consisted of meeting twin girls who would be my bosses for the summer, an attempt at going to an overcrowded kuafor, ne hairdresser, and dolling myself up for a wedding I had anticipated for nearly 2 years.Image

Hair curled, heels on and dress covered in cat hair, I went with Ceren’s sister Derya and niece Naz to the family home. I walked in to a room of older women (and 2 men) waiting to send Ceren into her next life.   There was a heaviness in the atmosphere as Ceren and Derya’s father died 2 years ago and though not physically present he was very much in the air. Ceren was in a perfect dress that matched her raven hair, dark eyes, and red lips; nervous smile and impatience intact.

Image

Derya and Mum

The Cevahir Hotel in Bostanci is nothing short of grand, providing a lush green lawn facing the Marmara Sea. I sat with the family as we had arrived too early for cocktail hour, however conversation was very little due to my serious lack of Turkish. A young cousin played the role as translator for me, but by the end of the night he was a man of few words. I had exhausted yet another translator. Naturally.

Image

Ceren and Emre

The wedding was full of lights, smoke machines, Turkish love ballads, American pop songs, deliciously prepared and presented food, and limitless alcohol, and a belly dancer. What more could a girl in heels and creeping (down) strapless dress ask for really.

The following hung over morning consisted of Anika and I dragging our asses off Derya’s couch, primping young Naz and hitting the streets for more. Anika and I met 2 of my lovely students in Kadiköy for breakfast/brunch/tea and loose talk. The “girls” weekend continued with more laughter, more enlightenment and more solidarity. Ah, how I miss Istanbul.

Image

Fulya, Yasemin and Anika

Anika and I then proceeded to sit in traffic for the next 3 hours attempting to reach a tulip-laden park where her friends were having a picnic. The drive along the Bosporus through Istanbul’s most expensive neighborhoods elicited emotions of awe, appreciation, jealousy and conversation about Ottoman history. We finally found Emirgan Park and I must admit the tulips were breathtaking, however the never-ending tour to get there had us a bit frazzled. After sitting in the parking lot for nearly 45 minutes waiting for a space, cold beer calling my name as Anika had began to imbibe as co-pilot, we finally rested the Fiat. By the time I stood up, my left calf was broken and shaking at the idea I would have to use the clutch again in another couple of hours. Nevertheless, we arrived and rejoiced at standing up in fresh air.

Image

The Naz

The girl’s weekend had ended as the boyfriend was there, however my reenergized spirit was blessed to have had the insights, the laughter, the gossip, and the camaraderie.

Cheers to the ladies.

Image

The Season of the Grasshopper

It’s been two years since I last landed on African soil, so needless to say I was giddy like a schoolgirl.  My trip through the African skies was full of imagination, ancient history and childlike wonder.

Image

Her Royal Highness, St Nelly Sade and Yours Truly

I don’t recall the world below during my last flight from Istanbul to Entebbe, but his time around was nothing short of magical. Perhaps it was the clear skies; perhaps I was sober or just simply paying attention.  The first time I decided to lift my window shade and gaze below, we were flying over Luxor.  For me, the name Luxor represents an enchanted and ethereal time in history.  Seeing the lights line the upper Nile and imaging the pyramids of pharaohs I’ve only seen in photos, I smiled as I was transported back in time.  I watched in awe as we continued our flight over the great Nile River, the banks illuminated by small white lights surrounded by darkness spreading away from the shore.

Image

My next grand decision to lift the window shade displayed the sprawling city of lights of Khartoum, Sudan.  Again, having only seen photos of the infamous city, I imagined the bustling streets and night markets in the capital of Sudan.  Flying farther south, I observed the city lights of Juba, the capital of South Sudan; pass by much quicker than those of Khartoum.  The vast difference in the size of the lights made apparent that despite Juba being the world’s newest capital city, its quite small in comparison to it’s neighbor and more often than not, enemy.

Image

Mugagga making lunch

Somehow I didn’t read my flight info (totally possible) or wasn’t provided the information until I was boarded (less likely), but we had a layover in Kigali, Rwanda where we would “exchange passengers”.  Rwanda?!  Yet another place I’ve only imagined seeing, especially since the horrific genocide in 1994.  As the mostly European commuters got off the plane in exchange for mostly Eastern travelers, I sat in wonder that I was actually in Rwanda.

Arriving in Entebbe at 4 AM the next day from when I left  (whenever that was), the first thing I did was take a deep breath of the fresh, moist air.   It was like a circus of banana trees, humidity, and dust in my nostrils.  It was a breath of fresh air, relief, and thanks to the goddess that I was home.  My dear friends Burney and Cyno greeted me, their smiling faces welcoming me back to a country I had truly missed.

Image

Burney and Fasie

Image

CYNO and Mugagga

On the drive to Kampala, I got the latest gossip about everyone I knew, was involved with or was just curious about.  And then there was the laughter.  Cyno has a special way about him.  He’s quiet and almost innocent, but the humorous lines he drops at random make me laugh so hard my sides hurt.  The two of them together are like a never-ending comedy show.  It’s a kind of laughter that comes from the depths of the soul, which you share with old friends or comedic family members.

We met my other dear friend, Mugagga, in Makindye where I lived in 2010.   He yelled obscenities at me, as we do like brother and sister, then nearly squeezed the life out of my body with his hug.  My best friends and brothers together again, we laughed and talked shit all the way to Bukoto.

Burney and Cyno have a home in Bukoto, a ghetto area near Kamowkya.  They struggle to pay the rent each month, but have established it as a base for End of the Weak, the Hip Hop community I established there in 2009.  I was impressed they had a true home and both were happy and healthy.  The last time I was there Burney had tuberculosis and Cyno was dying from a heart problem.  Now they were both fit and maturing as gracefully as a young musician can.

Image

Burney in Namuwango

I fell right back into the grind of business meetings, photo shoots, overeating and drinking like a fish.  The flavors of Ugandan food were something I had really missed and of course, the pork. Oh the pork.  I don’t know why it’s so delicious in Uganda, but it is.   I ate so much my digestive system suffered for the following week or so.  But I admit it was worth the pain and struggles.

Image

Interviewing JDM

I was surprised at the amount of “muzungus” or white people that were there now.  Sure I saw the occasional whitey a few years back, but now I saw them every where every day.  They were young women, such as myself, working with some NGO or arts and music programs, some with their local boyfriends, some still searching.  There is a bar; I won’t say its name as to not give free advertising, which was established by a white South African, or Afrikaner I believe.  He didn’t allow locals into his fine establishment.  Naturally, it went under.  Other white South Africans that actually let locals attend their lovely restaurant/bar/club somehow revived it.   The first time I went I had a bad taste in my mouth and a snarl on my face which was exacerbated by the presence of white business men and the white South Africans working the bar.  Not to even the mention the asshole in an Australian outback hat like a typical Afrikaner.   Let me just clarify that I was born in Johannesburg and upon returning to the country of my birth 26 years later, I saw, heard, and felt the division between black and white in South Africa.  I can start an argument as to why white people don’t belong on African soil and the white farmers that are killed is justified, but that’s really a whole different story.  Enough of my rant let me get back to my fun-filled adventure.

Image

Catching Grasshoppers

Image

Grasshoppers=Money

The highlight of this trip was grasshopper season.  There were “light stations” set up in different areas of Kampala.  Fluorescent lights stripped of their exterior glass rested atop poles, which in turn illuminated aluminum sheet panels stuck into metal drums.  There were piles of burning trash at the base of the barrels and swarms of people around these stations.  In theory, the grasshoppers were attracted to the lights, confused by the smoke, smacked the aluminum panels and slid into the metal drums.  People with plastic bags surrounded the area scrambling to catch as many stray grasshoppers as possible.  The following day, people wandered the streets with plastic buckets full of fried grasshoppers, selling the seasonal delicacy.   One late night, Mugagga and I walked up the hill from Bukoto to Kamowkya, a bustling area of pubs and street food vendors and, well, grasshopper light stations.   The scene was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before and depending on the season may never see again.  As we walked up the street, I looked into the sky and it was a blizzard of grasshoppers.   I looked at the street strewn with carcasses that had met their untimely death upon car windshields.  When we returned home, there were a few visitors that had made their way through the cracked window into the bathroom.  They were fucking huge grasshoppers.  I understand now how they decimate crops in one fell swoop.  As I looked into their eyes, their antenna twitching frantically, I assured them I wouldn’t eat their friends or cousins.  Despite being offered the fried crunchy insects, I have yet to pop them into my mouth like peanuts.  I know one day I will, but now was not the time.

Image

Bon apetit!

By the end of my week, I was thoroughly exhausted. I had secured End of the Weak as an official LLC company, began the organization of a monthly Hip Hop night and instilled the energy to host at least nine European countries, the USA, Canada, and the Philippines at the end of this year for a Hip Hop festival.  It’s a massive project in the making and we could use a prayer, meditation, or lighting of a candle.   My best friends and partners will make it happen regardless if we have grasshoppers as sustenance.

A Simple Review of My Year

Just a quick goodbye 2013 note as I’m still blessed to be breathing, eating, walking, and talking shit as usual.

Chatting with nomadic goats in the Karaman region

Chatting with nomadic goats in the Karaman region

From ringing in the new (2013) year in Keystone, Colorado with loved ones to ringing in the newest year in Ankara, Turkey with yet more loved ones (ok, the boyfriend and 4 cats, but still), this past year has been a whirlwind of transition and growth.  Don’t we all say that?  Damn cliché.

Snowboarding in Davraz

Snowboarding in Davraz

Much of last winter I lived in Konya, but as we (the boyfriend and I) were moving to Ankara, house hunting occupied the majority of our time.  And drinking at the Ramada reviewing all the apartments we didn’t like.

Sunset from the salon

Sunset from the salon

April showers welcomed us to our new abode, which by the way kicks ass.  It’s huge, has fancy wallpaper and a swimming pool.  There’s no water in the pool, but we’re crossing our fingers that next summer more than just rain droplets will find the way onto the blue tiles.  I’m not going to mention that we are surrounded by construction (this is a developing nation, literally) and the security company has been fired, but not yet replaced.  Needless to say, I’m yelling at the management by way of translation through my non-conflict inducing boyfriend.  Perhaps we’ll have security by the end of the month.

Our empty swimming pool

Our empty swimming pool

May I remain strong in my decision to move to this country.  Having already saved 4 cats, I think I may need a villa with a big ass garden if I stay for many more years as the family may grow…  I do, however, dream of having a home by the seaside here, so time will tell I suppose.

AHH_4721 copy

Celebrating Turkey during the protests

Just as my luck would have it, anti-government protests wreaked havoc throughout the country this summer.  I was lucky (and stupid) to have witnessed the protests in the capital city.  Though we had sniffles for the remainder of the summer thanks to the relentless tear gas, the adrenaline, solidarity among locals, and deep political discussions enlightened my excitement of living in Ankara.

Police clashes in Kızılay, downtown Ankara

Police clashes in Kızılay, downtown Ankara

Jet setting my happy ass back to the States to welcome my second nephew was the highlight of the year.  Soren is amazing and growing his marshmallow cheeks as quickly as he can.

Sand sculptures in Antalya

Sand sculptures in Antalya

And the worst part of the year was losing my Gramma in Arizona.  She was a tough cookie until the end.  The gathering of the family (as we Americans only do at weddings and deaths) was a priceless time full of laughter and a few tears.  The best way for Gramma’s legacy to continue is if the Pittsburg Steelers win the Super Bowl for the next decade.

Cactus blossom

Cactus blossom

So as life goes, I had a spectacularly delicious dinner of sushi and fried Chinese goodies to celebrate another year of my existence at our local haunt Quick China.  The name doesn’t’ do it justice.  It must be a direct translation of something.  Regardless, the food and martinis reassured me getting older really is about getting wiser.

Black Sea puppy

Black Sea puppy

October is the national month of fall weather and candy treats, in America anyway, but here in Turkey it’s a bit different. Mind you, I was able to attend a Halloween party as a classy but sexy cat and indulge in sweet treats imported from Colorado.   Most of the Turks dressed up as, well, Turks, but still attended the party with glee.

My partners in crime, Silvia and Cem

My partners in crime, Silvia and Cem

Nothing is more refreshing for my soul than a breath of fresh African air.  Stepping off the plane in Entebbe, Uganda creates mixed feelings of hope, fear, excitement and downright love.  My luck brought me back to my second home this year in which I’m eternally thankful. Granted it was a short trip, but the time with my extended family was beneficial beyond words.

My best friends and brothers, Burney and Mugagga

My best friends and brothers, Burney and Mugagga

Depravity is something only (I believe) felt by those who have it all (the West).  My folks brought, no shit, at least 200 lbs. of American goodness in the form of beef jerky, hollandaise sauce, brownie mixes, cherry chocolate kisses and other various indulgences.  And then there was food!!

the Almighty Zeus ready for Xmas

the Almighty Zeus ready for Xmas

Happy wishes, blessings and colorful light to everyone!!

NYE @ yummy Quick China

NYE @ yummy Quick China

Calcium, Kite surfing and Cleopatra

So off we went, Cem and I, from our lovely home in landlocked Ankara to the Aegean Sea coast in the Marmaris area.  We had an eight-hour drive ahead (it took 10), and as usual, road snacks, my too many pairs of shoes, and Cem’s diving gear were packed.  I was loaded in the Fiat and Cem asked where the beach towels were.  On the shelf in the hallway was my response.  If towels were the only things I forgot, then I was golden.

I had arrived the previous week from my annual trip “home” to Colorado and for the birth of my second nephew.  My grandmother died upon my arrival back in Turkey, so I was returning stateside the following week.  In between, my boyfriend and I were hell-bent on going to the Turkish coast.

Pamukkale

Pamukkale

Our first stop was Pamukkale, about six hours from Ankara in southwestern Turkey.  The city is known for it’s magical chunk of nature that has been utilized for healing waters since the Romans and Byzantines.  Popcorn-esque walls that resemble caves turned inside out envelop hot springs and travertines created by carbonate minerals.  I was in sheer awe when we started to walk up the milky white stone hill.  My eyes told me they were snow-covered hills, but my feet and sweaty back insisted it wasn’t snow.  The first sight that struck me was a 30-something man helping his hunched over grandmother take her shoes off and start the climb.  By the time we reached them they were turning around to go back down the hill.  I assumed she held belief that the water would heal whatever old age ailments she suffered.  We then passed three women sitting on a cliff edge with their feet in the flowing water of the man-made gutter, covering their faces with the powdery white calcium carbonate.  I was convinced the Romans were spot on about earthly healing.

I continued to breathe in amazement as we wandered through warm pools of water separated by soft yet sharp rock formations.  As the German, Russian, Turkish, Japanese and American tourists ambled about the travertines taking photos, lounging in the pools or watching people, I scorned Cem for not telling me we could swim there.  It was however, only a stop over and he knew I wouldn’t leave had I donned my bikini and submerged into the thermal waters.  This minor detail ensured me a

Thermal water and Roman ruins

Thermal water and Roman ruins

weekend trip back to the earthly paradise so I didn’t quibble for long.

Off we continued, another four or so hours to our destination in the Muğla province, farther southwest.  We arrived to find our friends in the center of the town Akyaka, a few beers in and laughing vigorously at who knows what.  Akyaka is a typical Aegean coastal town with a marina, hotels, hostels, restaurants, bars and souvenir shops all draped in various flora and always surrounded by street dogs.  There were a few brave cats, but it was clear this was a dog village.

Cem and I played catch up with ice-cold beer and I fell into conversation with a local about beauty and adventure in Thailand.  Foreshadowing for a near adventure I suppose.  We called it a night and headed to our apartment/hotel conveniently located about five minutes up the hill.

Rising, not so early, the next morning, we had a traditional Turkish breakfast and a few rounds of coffee.  The mission of this trip was to go kite surfing, which is world-famous in this area thanks to the thermal winds.  After bullshitting and catching up with friends Kivanç and Burak, we started towards Gökova, where the kite surfers had already taken to the water in numbers.

Kite surfing

Kite surfing

The drive to the beach, down a dirt road, past fields of crops, a few goats and through a marsh gave me flashbacks to my family weekend excursions in Corpus Christie, Texas.  Unlike Corpus Christie, this dirt road ended at a

Zhewen

Zhewen

perfectly blue sea and beautiful people attached to big ass kites by way of a boxing champion sized belt.  Brightly colored kites, which look like bat wings when not in flight, were scattered about the beach.  The sea was full of kite boarders from amateurs to professionals and even a national champion.  One aspect of this extreme sport that boggled my mind and still does is how the people never seemed to collide.  Sure, there was the occasional amateur flown kite falling on someone, but with the amount of strings involved and the speed that some people surf, I was highly impressed by the lack of incident.

Apparently, Turkey has started to instill restrictions and laws on the people (in various forms), which required instructors to wear bright orange armbands to announce they were instructors.  Which meant my idea to have our friend Kivanç teach me blew with the wind.  Alas, I would resort to taking pictures and naturally, drinking beer.

Ahmet

Ahmet

Over the next few days the routine was the same.  Wake up late. Eat a gluttonous breakfast. Go to the beach. There were a few exceptional outings, if you will, that were the highlights of the end of Ramadan.

Ahmet Bey, “Mr. Ahmet,” is a 60-something retiree who travels the world kite surfing.  When he threw his cigarette butt onto the sandy parking lot, I picked it up and proceeded to lecture about keeping the beach clean and Turks trashing their environment yada, yada, yada.  He then retaliated with Americans destroying the earth with factories, wars and oil, then invited us to his farm to learn about nature.  Deal.

His farm was about 30 minutes from the

The farm

The farm

seaside with a quick stop to buy fresh veggies from a village market.  I only slighty covered my bikini top as the men poured out of a local mosque on the last day of Ramadan, yet another important time for men to gather and pray while the women and young girls prepare food to feed an army.  And their neighbors.

Arriving on the farm, Kivanç and Burak immediately jumped in the mini pool, Cem sat with a beer and I wandered about with Zhewen (like Joanne), Ahmet’s girlfriend from Beijing.  We fed the ducks, inspected the vegetable and herb garden, and discussed everything from learning Turkish to cooking with spices.  Ahmet and Zhewen eventually disappeared into the kitchen where they cooked the most amazing pork, aka wild boar, I’ve ever had in my life, while my crew and I drank homemade wine, talked about something, and danced to the Moody Blues.

After dinner, Zhewen convinced us to don our swimsuits and sit in the (really) brisk man-made pond created by the stream that definitely came from the mountains.  We giggled like little girls (the men included) as small fish chewed at our feet

and legs.  A free exfoliation, perfect home-made meal and strong wine?  This was the most ideal spa I could have found sans the massage.

Another highlight was the journey to Sedir Adası, Cleopatra’s Island.  I went solo and though I was initially put with a group of women on the boat, I ended up sitting with an older woman who constantly ordered tea and gave me cookies.  The boat, a half fishing and half tourist vessel, made stops at bays along the 4-ish hour journey for us tourists to take a dip in the cold yet refreshing and wonderful Aegean.

Yunus Bay

Yunus Bay

Arriving on Cleopatra’s island, I hit the ground running to see the sights before our sunset departure.  Briskly walking under the burning sun, I made it to the amphitheatre in time for a history lesson in Turkish.  Not understanding a word, I snapped some photos and continued on to Apollo’s Temple, which was a bunch of columns that lay in ruin.  The tranquil and turquoise laced view from the temple pushed me into conceptions of Egyptian beauties splashing about in the ancient waters below.   I not so briskly walked back to the beach where I took a relaxing dip in the designated area.  The beach itself is cordoned off, as legend says the sand came from Egypt and must remain where it lives.  Before we boarded the boat to take us back, the skipper washed our feet so we didn’t take any sacred sand with us to modern civilization.  It was a tangible sign I had just walked among the Gods and Goddesses and they insisted on keeping their land.

My final summer holiday was abruptly thrown into reality with a 6 AM drive to the airport 2 hours from my pillow.   It was, as always, a learning experience and a voyage worthy of words and recognition.

Cleopatra's Bay

Cleopatra’s Bay