First two days… at the Labyrinth Music workshop

April 4, 2014

Leaving Istanbul

Leaving Istanbul

It was an early Wednesday morning. I had some things to do, like getting strings, picking up my laundry and packing my bag. I also had to stop at Meron’s place to pick up a small bag and drop off some of my things. I had the massive luck of seeing Maryam, she was with her sister, the two had not seen each other for 3 years… At Meron’s he made me tea, fed me, handed me this bag and we then walked to the Havatas bus station. It still is not quite real at this point.

at 1 PM the bus heads out. I wave goodbye to Meron and I am on my way. At the airport all is well. I am quite early, which is good as the passport check point is incredibly long. I go through security… put all my things through the x-ray machine.. grab my bags and go. I find the gate, go get coffee, walk around…

….

what is missing?

!!!!!!!!

MY INSTRUMENTS!!! Panic hits me like a C2 blast. SHIT!!! WHAT DID I DO!!! How stupid can I be!! I run back to the cafe, fear etched into my face and my heart. No, no instruments here… think! think! think!

security… I… I didn’t… I didn’t pick them up after the x-ray!

So I ran back there, and there they are, leaning on the side of the machine, glaring at me… I ask in my bad Turkish about 2 instruments, they have me sign a form… they hand them to me… Oh my God…

The rest is easy… get on the plane and get to Athens…

landing

landing

a33

Greek land

Greek land

landing

landing

a25

a31

In Athens I stay in the airport, it is a 5 hour layover, I have time to change strings on the guitar. At 10 something we board another plane this one to Heraklion.

It is a short flight, they barely have time to pass drinks around. we land, and there I am… the air is already so different.. I slowly look around… baggage arrives and out I go. I stay at the Heraklion youth hostel. It is OK. I had read appaling reviews but it is ok. I fear for bed bugs.

in the hostel

in the hostel

my bed

my bed

Besides the smell of mold, it was ok. In there I started to see something that will end up being everywhere in Greece: toilets without seats. I thought it was a weird hostel thing but it seems to be all over. I wasn’t sure how to handle this… I had a conversation about this that got everyone laughing later. I must say, I miss the bidet in Turkey 🙂

I went out, not so certain about where I was located on the map, it turned out I was right by the fortress…

fortress in Heraklion

fortress in Heraklion

fortress

fortress

everywhere are traces of past cultures…

part of the Venetian harbor

part of the Venetian harbor

Venetian harbor

Venetian harbor

Ottoman fountain

Ottoman fountain

I managed to find the bus station easily, get coffee and breakfast from so smiley a girl, then wait for my bus and head out to Houdetsi on the bus. the scenery is incredible… like in the picture books… the hills covered in grape plants, olive trees, gardens… small houses… narrow windy roads… just incredible…

I arrived in Houdetsi, we were dropped off practically in front of the Laybrinth music centre…

from the bus

from the bus

labyrinth

labyrinth

in the village

in the village

a friend at the center

a friend at the center

I had thought that coming here would be like falling off the face of the earth and … it is. Maybe more exactly it is landing in a place that is the complete opposite to Istanbul.

First of is the population.. of course
Istanbul: 18-20 million people
Houdetsi: a few hundred?

Nature versus mega city.

Turks and Greeks? Well that is not a fair comparison. I’d have to take a Greek from a Mega city to compare with an Istanbulite. Lets say then that it is going from the harried, exhausted, flustered, stressed human being of the city and the culture of competition to a relaxed person living in a bucolic setting on an Island. So yeah, falling the face of the earth as I was knowing it in Istanbul.

This land is human sized. The homes are human sized. The life is human sized.

On the bus to Houdetsi the scenery reminded me of California but without the cars. Some vegetation is the same. It is now springtime and everything is of a beautiful young green. It will dry up in the coming months for sure but right now the leaves have either just come out or are about to. But the big difference with California is the fact that you’ll run into things that are centuries or beyond a millenia old… ties to the past, to history, to others who were here and created this place. I wonder what America would look today if it had been discovered before the car… it would be amazing …

So I arrived yesterday. The fresh air is so good to breathe. It is easy to forget what fresh air feels and tastes like. After almost a year in Istanbul I had thoroughly forgotten. I don’t know any Greek… so it’s all hand gestures. But people are so ready to smile and laugh with you. I guess it is because I have to absolutely abdicate. I can’t even pretend to be a functional being and order something… I just gesture, it’s interesting to see the words that don’t need translation, like “milk” for example… somehow, the bottles have “milk” written on them, so people know.

I keep wanting to speak in Turkish as if I was going to be understood. But I am not. French, English, Turkish, in some cases, completely useless.

The Labyrinth Music Workshop is right in the village, a beautiful property with stone walls encircling the house. There are 5 dogs (or maybe 6?) rescued from the street life by Ross Daly’s household. Ross Daly is the main mind behind this place. A tall European who created this center many years ago. I got the pleasure to meet him today.

We were shown our rooms, then we were to meet at 5 for a lesson with our teacher Cihan Turkoglu. We are 4 students, a 5th one will come Thursday. About 15 minutes before the class, I realized it was going to be really cold in the night so I asked if I had time to go get my coat. Yes, I was told. So I went to get it but when I came back the class was already going and I felt quite embarrassed… I had to play something in front of everyone… I gulped and went for it… It wasn’t brilliant… I apologized but at least the teacher said it was one of his favorite songs.. “ I probably am the weakest in the class” I thought but then as the class went on I realized it had no importance. We were all going to learn something here during this coming week.

Our teacher is a very precise musician. I have found that with the baglama teachers I have met. Mizrap strokes (baglama pick) finger number, melodies, slurs and ties… it’s all extremely precise and there is no room for improvisation. Thankfully the tuning I am using is the same we are using here… I am not sure how I would have fared if I would have had to learn a new one on the fly like Dimitri…

One page of “etudes” is going to keep me incredibly busy… so many details, right and left hands positions, new melodies, this note tied, this one not… the group pace is hard for me. I like to deconstruct what I learn, I cannot do this here… and I also had gotten in the habit of singing the notes along as I learn but we’re not doing this and it slows me down not to do it.

It is going to be a question of keeping going through and not get emotional when the group speeds ahead. Sometimes I would just wish for a minute to myself to figure things out… but it doesn’t happen and with the pressure, I resort to my guitar reflexes… My native guitarist reflexes trying to rescue me…

So it is going to be hard work, we play about 8 hours a day. Long days. The most I normally practice in a day would be 5 hours.

But this place is incredible. From the cafe where I sit I could hear goats, from my room I hear chickens. The village is an agglutination of small stone houses with narrow passages for streets. Many cats everywhere, few cars come through. The wind blows lazily it’s other worldly in an ancient sort of way. Who could imagine I would find myself in such a place? Everyone is all smiles. I don’t feel this judgment that I am this “ foreigner” it is nice for a change. Strange not to hear the call for prayer through the day.

I endeavor to get all that I can get out of this. I am getting up early, I hope in a day or so I will feel better about that, night owl that I am.

Gotta go practice a bit, try to absorb some of the things I learned over the first two lessons…

over and out!

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