Bon voyage

February 23, 2018

Woah.

I have traveled. A ferry, a bus, a plane, many cars, my feet. There I am. On the edge of the Atlantic. It is a bit unreal still. Not so long ago I was like a salmon in a spring run on the streets of Istanbul. Now I am stunned by the quietness of a small fishermen’s village. A village with much history though. Louis XIV was here, as well as the Germans during the world wars.

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I am on an Island called Oléron. L’Ile d’Oléron. It is close to La Rochelle and Rochefort. An interesting bit : Pierre Loti, the writer who spent so much time in Istanbul in the 19th Century, is from Rochefort. A strange thing to me. He went to Istanbul and came back here, I came here from Istanbul. I have seen where he lived near the Golden Horn. Now I am seeing where he came from and where he ultimately died.

France. Québec. Two more places linked together that are part of my very DNA. I am moved by words. Road signs. Masonry. I see invisible ties that originated here and link to the Nouveau Monde. There are words I have never seen, yet they touch something deeply rooted in my human experience. Is culture in the DNA? A sort of archeology of my genome.

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There is also a sort of reckoning. The French dumped us and abandoned us to the hands of the English 400 years ago and much pain came to my ancestors, our licence plate in Quebec says : Je me souviens. I remember… Yes I do remember. But today`s French people are not at all concerned with these long gone histories. A boat sunk yesterday and that occupied much of the talk in the cafe.

So, yeah. I left Istanbul on Sunday. Flew into Orly, met a French speaking Turk at the airport who helped me get on my way to the A10. I am hitchhiking. I am dirt poor. Those who say you must be rich to travel are lying. But you must put out more efforts and be willing to not know what is next. It is a zero expectation, 100% in the moment kind of thing. I like it.

The sun shines, spring is looming, there is a greening spreading, tiny blooms appearing, birds singing. I am alive.

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I made it to the freeway access ramp. I have a sign on which I wrote ‘Orléans’ that is the first big city on the way south. I took an A4 piece of paper and folded it, writing a different city on each segment. Orléans, Vierzon, Limoges. My destination is Limoges where I`ll meet a friend and stay a few nights. The first ride is with a young guy, we barely go 10 KM but at least I broke the bad spell I had 4 years ago when no one would pick us up in France… Then ride number two. Again, the driver says he`s not going far, but at least I am advancing I`m thinking. He stops in the middle of nowhere, then says to me :

« Ça te déranges si je me caresse pendant que je te regarde?

(do you mind if I caress myself while I look at you?)

– Oui. I answered as I took my bags

– T’es sûre?
(Are you sure?)

– Oui, absolument certaine.

I shut the door and shook my head. Really?? I had never been asked that question before. It seemed so stupid. His shy bespectacled face with the eyes slightly crossed. Young, maybe 25 at most. But the thing I then realized was that he dropped me off in the middle of nowhere. There was a ramp to the highway but the few cars were mostly heading north towards Paris not down this road south. I waited there with my ‘Orléans’ sign for maybe 20 minutes, I ate some of the hard-boiled eggs I had prepared, then understood that I would not get a ride like this. The sun was slightly edging down and it reminded me that I did not want to be on the highway in the dark. So I started to walk towards the highway, knowing full well that hitch-hiking on the speedways is not allowed in France.

I had been walking for about 10 minutes when I heard a horn behind me. I looked back. Cops. A big blue van with two cops in it. They first were a bit tough but I told them about the previous driver and they became immediately helpful.

“Vous avez une description de la voiture?  La marque? Le numéro d’imatriculation”

“Non.” 

So within moments I was in a French police van riding down the highway. They dropped me off at  a rest area for truckers next to a highway toll station. They lectured me for a while about the do`s and don`ts of hitchhiking in France, letting me know that by law,  I was not allowed to go on the road and between the toll booths but since it was really hard, they tolerated it if you thumbed next to the road. They then left.

I didn`t take very long for me to realize that this rest area was deserted. No one came here.  In 30 minutes 2 cars went by. I was torn, Can`t go on the road where all these hundreds of cars were passing by, but I could sit in this rest area for the rest of the month without a hint of a chance to get a ride. I walked up the area.  Then I walked down the area asking myself « what am I gonna do!! What am I gonna do!» Finally I approached the toll booths. There was no other option and I understood clearly why the cops brought it up, it was the only way out.   I looked. The cars would come so fast and just accelerate madly out. It seemed crazy, but at the same time, I had to make something happen, so from the outside of the lane, behind the cement wall, I stuck out my ‘Orléans’ sign.  Almost immediately, a car stopped. I could not believe it. I climbed the parapet then ran to the minivan. It was a family. A boy of about 6 or 7 was sleeping in his child seat, there was a big acoustic guitar case in the back and in the front, the parents. I got in and down the road we went.

“Are you musicians? I asked

“No, just amateurs. and we were on our way.

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I kept looking out. Not wanting to miss anything, but eventually I fell asleep. My 4 hour pre-flight night of sleep was catching up with me. We didn`t talk. I just relaxed. They told me they were going to do a small detour to leave me in a good spot for the next ride. A bit past Vierzon I got off. It was a gas station-restaurant road stop. I used the washroom and went out immediately. I walked close to the exit that was leading to the highway, ate a carrot and changed my sign which now read ‘Limoges’.

I barely finished my carrot that a car stopped, a young couple in a powerful car. We sped down the road, the guy telling me about music and culture in France. They too made a detour, taking me directly to the Gare Monjovis. I had made it and there was still daylight. I was beaming. I read somewhere, sometime back that ‘Happiness the overcoming of not unknowable obstacles toward a known goal.’ Today definitely was that.

When I had first tried to plan my journey it had been impossible to find a bus or a blabla car at reasonable price or time. I would have had to wait 4 hours at the bus station and arrive at 11 PM for 35 Euro. I only had to pay 2 euros for the bus to Gare Massy.

Wednesday was time to hit the road again. We had a last most excellent espresso at the ‘Fabrique du Café’ in Limoges then my friend and I said goodbyes and we headed both in opposite directions. Somehow I could never quite get my bearings in Limoges, the circular and diagonal system of roads left me baffled, especially without sun to give a a sort of compass. I went slowly, making sure I was on the right path. The idea was to reach the N 141 going West by way of Arman Dutreix road. My pack is not too heavy but the bag with my laptop is a real burden. Electronics are always heavy, but I figured out a way to wear it on my chest so I was wrapped with bags front and back which was actually an advantage because the wind was fierce and the temperature quite low compared to Istanbul. I walked about 3 KM, despite the cold, it was sunny and the silent walk was good. As I neared the autoroute, I pulled out my new sign : Angoulême.

It took maybe 15 minutes, a car with a young couple stopped, they were not going far but I figured this was good start. I got out of their car 10km further I had just put my pack back on my back when a car immediately stopped. A man in his 30`s wearing a suit and looking all business like took me in. Florian just came from a job interview, he had been up at 3 am to get from Bordeaux to Limoges. He said he aced the interview. There were two baguettes on the car`s dashboard, he told me all sorts of stories, we talked for the whole ride. Then off I went, somewhere just outside Angoulême. I put my ‘Saintes’ sign up, this guy stopped and said : this is not the way! As I looked up the road signs I realized that I had to get off this road via the next exit 800 meters further. So he said : Come in! I`ll take you there. So I hopped in the car with the bags still on my back, he dropped me off safely and I was down on a new road heading to Cognac. Wanting to be sure I was heading in the right direction I walked in a bakery close by. The woman was so kind as to call the local bus company to see if there were busses to Cognac. There was 1 but I would have to wait for an hour, so I figured I`d try to get a ride and if I was not successful in an hour I could always take the bus.

This time, Dominic picked me up. A middle aged, motorcycle rider who was now coming back from work and telling me that he was not going to do more today. He said he has been riding motorcycles for 30 years, owns a BMW 1200 and was now getting his new girlfriend used to ride. They are planning a ride to Portugal in the summer. He too made a detour to put me in a safe place, a big one at that, people are so kind to me! Then I immediately caught another ride with a musician this time. He ended up taking me 50 km out of his way (which meant 100 as he had to get back home later) And there I was. On the Ile d’Oléron. I was a bit tired but mostly elated. People are amazing.

In Oléron I will be doing an art project.  I found this project on Workaway.info a web site offering volunteering opportunities to travelers in exchange for room and board.  There are all sorts of projects, from baby sitting, language help, farm work, hostel work, meditation retreats… everything.  My project here is about creating a work inspired by the place.  Today was my first day to discover this place and my eyes are full.

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Goodbye Ayvalik <3

December 9, 2017

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Ayavalik, you’ve been amazing. Yeah, I am leaving in two days. Mainly it’s a good thing, there is a tightening of the heart when I think that I will leave the sea, the trees, this clean, clean air and some amazing people.

Why you ask, the main reason is Love. One cannot live without.

At the same time, it feels like I’ve done what I had to do here. Again I had some expectations of what I was going to do, like making a bunch of sculptures but I didn’t. I have accomplished a lot of work on the translation of the Dragons of Nibiru, i am now editing my work. This place was perfect to do this, that’s kind of all I did… everyday at Yedi Cafe.

But lately, the little world I made here is kind of disappearing before my eyes: Yedi cafe (that was where I worked on the book everyday for 2 months, it had become kind of my office) well, it closed yesterday. The sculptures: I made one. Today I cured it, 20 minutes in the over at 130 C. Well I calcinated it. It NEVER ever happened in all my horse making. There was a cloud of toxic fumes coming out of the oven.. the thing just bubbled and turned almost black (should be white). All sorts of little things give me signals that time’s up here. At the house I also feel some tensions. At times being a stranger in a house creates weird tensions and this is happening now. Nothing noxious but I see and feel it and I believe my presence makes this worse. I experienced this before a few times; with a “best friend” among others where it just killed my friendship with this girl. There is a thing about adding a third wheel to a household where a couple lives. It seems to bring to light the imbalances that exist. If the couple is solid, no problem, if there are issues, things blow up. So getting out is OK.

Life is moving so fast these days. The only comfort seems to be in keeping with the motion, movements, velocity, a sort of surfing. But if you try to hold on to something, to slow things down, you’re in trouble. It creates massive anxiety as there is no control to be had on what happens. My heart is aligned with this, I feel I’m on course with the Universal forces, but my logical mind is at times short circuiting with the physical, material realities that are, where to live, how to survive, eat, and take care of the basics when you are on a speeding train?

Here are images from this paradise where the Gods dwell.

 

 

 

 

Ayvalik evening walk

December 8, 2017

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The two silhouettes black against the night blue sky. The smell of burning coal, wood and many other substances eaten by one of the many fires burning somewhere in the cold night, pervades the air. The dwellings are shoulder to shoulder, almost elbowing each other for space, laundry of all shades, hues, designs hang in the windless air. Sometimes they are like  gardens hung up high, filled with flowers of all types, sizes, and colours. The back of the buildings also hold piles of wood, plywood, press wood, anything that burns along ancient cars, a mid ‘90’s Volkswagen model looks massively attractive and shiny besides the four wheeled implements parked on these lots, trucks, tractors, cars and even a horse cart can be found. In a backyard, two goats tied by their necks with ropes bleat from time to time. In the daytime you can see chickens but now they are nowhere to be seen, hiding from predators and likely huddled together to ward off the cold.
A street separates triplexes on one side and a field of pine trees planted a hundred years ago on the other side, it is the concave apex between two hills. The street lights become rare. On a patio of a basement suite a flickering light comes from flames and is reflected on the partition wall. Soft spoken voices rise from there, the fire could be for a tea pot. The other homes around are in darkness, except for another type of flickering lights emanating from TVs. The light bulbs, if there are some, are of a cold white, the glaring white effervescence coming out of the swirling lead ‘eco’ bulbs. On the other side of that road, it is penumbra. Shacks put together with all sorts of woods from antique doors to plywood sheets, covered in blue tarps or various plastics. The whole area is impeccably clean despite the obvious poverty of the dwellings. No one to be seen either.

The city of Ayvalik is laid down on folds of land that originate at the sea coast of the Aegean. Within the first fold, close to shore, ancient stone houses, shops, cafes, cars, and these ubiquitous horrible sounding mini motos that the local teenagers race through the main drag with deafening noise.  An awful rattle of cheap exhausts pinned on 75 cc motors. The kids and their rides tumble down the streets and backstreets without helmets, sometimes solo, sometimes sitting 3 at a time, they are feeling the freedom that these micro machines offer them. Rising to the apex of this first fold, old houses that used to be Greek fill the ground and at the top the military facility has the biggest property and the biggest of flags.

Rolling onto the other fold, lower income du, tri, quadru-plexes fill the space. Every balcony holds a clothes line. No cafes, no shops, strong smell of coal, the air is thick with it. Love birds abound, a sort of out of place nicety in the obvious utilitarianism of every object around. It is maybe equivalent of what would be called “the projects” in America. The locals eye me wearily. My foreigner status impossible to dissimulate or hide. Even the way I walk makes me stick out.

Then at the bottom are the few shacks I described, and from there, one must hike a hill that rolls back up, it is covered in pine trees and blackness. When you arrive at the top, you face an immensity where mountains stretch as far as the eye can see, and to the left a huge beige rectangle of a building coiffed with a bright red sign to be seen from miles and miles around, the hospital, sits there, alone, quiet, indifferent.

Facing the hospital, by the trees, is another shack. Maybe 12 x 10, the size of a horse stall. There they make food. The bit of land next to it has been transformed in an open air cafe, kebap, doner and that sort of meat things. I imagine the hospital workers and visitors stopping there for a bite. In the “garden” there are plants in pots for which the owner has fancied a water system out of empty water bottles and hospital plastic tubing with little roulettes to adjust the flow of fluid that you would use for patients receiving intravenous medication. Recycling at its most creative.

But it’s dark and no one is there. The restaurant is closed, the white plastic garden chairs empty, losing all colour to the appetite of the night who swallows it all.

Here, suddenly there is no more city, only rolling hills and mountains in the distance. As fast as Ayvalik rises from the sea coast, it disappears abruptly into the lap of the mountains laying ahead. If you sit there and don’t look back, you could think that you are in the middle of a steppe somewhere. One road, almost the same colour as the land, winds itself in this land and quickly vanishes between two hills. A dwelling lies in there, not a house, not a shack, just some walls where a human finds shelter, no electrical wires, no modern amenities. Some olive trees and the wind.
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The modern world from here seems an illusion. Here is a human who lives from the hand outs of the earth, from his deal with farm animals; they give their milk, blood and flesh against some hay or grass. Women are stout, wide footed, their hands rough and strong. They wear all these coloured clothes, scarves on their heads to hold back their hair as they work. No religion visible there. Their bodies in trade for survival like those of the animals. On top of this pyramid, sits the man, there because of his muscle mass and easy violence to silence any challenge to his power.

Today I saw a group on a tractor, the patriarch drives the machine. In the trailer; massive bags of the harvest: olives in this case, olives that the men have beaten out of the trees and the women triaged sitting on the ground, then put into those sacks. On the road now men and women sit on the sacks, going back home after a long day of work. They have slaved so hard on this. I feel their eyes on me. I catch the face of one male. Staring at me with a strange expression.

This is something there I don’t know. They are a tribe. I am an individual. People like me buy the work this tribe accomplishes, the oil, the olives. People like me very far away have no idea of this life. No understanding whatsoever. You cannot know this. It does not exist in our countries. We are raised to be gloriously individual. We are raised to wish to achieve Bourgeois-hood. Succeed and climb some kind of ladder of achievement that will give us meaning and purpose. They work. Doing what must be done to survive.
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We, the lucky ones, live on the back of those people to a higher or lesser degree. It gives me a kind of shame. I think of the work I am doing, drawing, translating, playing music, writing. Oh the luxury of my provenance. The luck of my birth. I must trust my Fate. I must trust that this is not just some grossly unfair luck of the draw. That each is on his road learning his personal lessons. Who would I be if I had been born here? What would I do. What would I believe?

The human clay, impressible into any shape. All the solidity of our convictions is but illusion adapted to the reality we dwell in. Nothing is true, nothing false. It just all is holding into a sort of equilibrium for the moment that is.

 

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I keep walking. The wind is beautiful. Cleansing. It comes from the sea and rushes towards the mountains. The shape of the pine trees a black shadow of delicate contours in the early night sky. There are still some oranges and browns and gold whispers left in the wake of the sun that has set. There will be rain as big black clouds fill the horizon. I turn onto a road, back to the village. Dogs bark in the distance. I see them, three of them. They see me. Their shapes are black too against a contrejour. As I reach the inhabited area, I hear the voice of a man coming through the paper thin walls of a tiny home. “Allah, allah…” he says. The dogs bark again. This is a poor neighbourhood. I am stared at again. I look nowhere, at no one, putting my camera away not wanting to be rude. Smells of cooking, onions, smell of coal burning. Two children run across the street, coatless in this cold, one carrying a clear plastic bag with about a half dozen of white eggs, the other carries yogurt and something else I couldn’t see. They must be about 8 years old. Probably running from the market to their mother making dinner. Cats stand all over, under, beside and below and above.

I get back to the sea side. This water is special and so is the breeze coming from far away. It is dark now. I will head home, warm up. Have tea.

October

October 24, 2017

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October saw me everywhere it seems. From Vancouver, Richmond, Montreal, Calixa, Amsterdam, Istanbul, to Ayvalik to Cunda…

I found some photos I had misplaced in the heart of some folders.  photos of some of the friends I visited only a few weeks ago, which now seems like an eternity ago. It was only 22 days ago. 18 if I count back from the day I left.

It’s night now. In the village it’s really quiet, a cat had something to say a little while ago but he somehow is not discussing anymore.

I am doing a translation these days, English to French, a whole novel, the dragon novel. I am getting into a flow. It is intense work. I have tried to divide my day between long walks (8 to 16 km) with a visit to the sea and the translation duties. Now I find the days vanish incredibly fast, time, time, time, how you play with us.

The rain season is on the way, maybe that will make it simpler, no temptation to the sea side. I don’t have rain gear so the focus will be clear, the choice being simple.

Today out there up on the hill among the trees, I sat and didn’t move. I was on a trail up above Cunda, overlooking the sea and islands below, just a little ways past an ancient, abandoned monastery.  I sat there and tried to just be like the trees around me. They can’t run, find excuses and disappear. They are where they are and they stay there no matter what. I tried to imagine what it would be like to not be emotional about heat or cold.  How it would be to let the wind move you however it wanted to at any moment.

 

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I noticed that on the same tree, some leaves move while others don’t, then it changes around. It is like an exchange, a conversation.  I noticed the incredible grace of the limbs being moved by that wind. Olive trees have an incredible grace.  I felt the sun on my back, I felt it’s movement as it peered from the treetops behind me. Imagine being a tree and feeling that sunshine coursing above, then feeling the night stars and the moon doing the same, just being there and seeing it all.  Feeling the clouds, the rain, the storms, the whole year circle around you as your roots deep in the earth hold you upwards.

Suddenly 4 or 5 dried leaves started to twirl, like a dance. Their dried bodies making a kind of maracas sound when they touched the ground in their dance. They made circles around like unruly children. Then stopped. Immediately looking dark and dead. A trick.

Sitting there, I wondered about life, about love, about getting old, about dreams and adventures, wondering if all these individualities could stand together on one team and cover each other’s backs. My hair is graying fast now, all its shyness about doing so, gone. (it seem to be doing it covertly for years until now) But it also started to grow strong again. Seems contradictory. But then I could never quite grasp all there is to grasp about our human existences, too caught up in swirls of moving energies to see the whole picture.

A few days ago the silence made me think for a moment that I was deaf. Up in there, when the wind stands still you might think that, until a bird sings. I had been craving silence in Istanbul. Maybe not silence as such but the absence of …car sounds, motorcycle engine revving stupidly, the Aygas jingle, television dramas out of a neighboring window, airplanes above, groups of gloating young man, car stereos at top volume, the neighbor’s lute practice, barking dogs, howling cats, screeching seagulls, fluting sparrows, full-throated midnight lover’s fights, school song, kids running to and from the school, ezan coming from about 27 mosques at once five times a day, political rallies, screaming neighbors, ambulances, hurdaci, sebzeci, herşeyci…  Oh, but the presence of the wind, the birds and the trees by themselves.

I sat longer. Looking at my hands, feeling the sweat from my climb up here cooling on my back. What am I doing here? Sometimes the foreigness of my presence here is painfully present. Sometimes I can’t put three words of Turkish together and people look at me with their eyebrows in a triangle and a downward one sided slide of one of the corner of the mouth expressing a sort of commiseration, and I feel stupid. I always recall that line from a Robert Redford movie with Mexicans in it: “ I may speak with an accent but I don’t think with one” Urgh, yeah, great quote. Mine is more like… “I may not be able to put three words together but please forgive me, I am really trying but i guess not quite hard enough since after 4 years I still stumble on basic shit so be kind to me anyways, I think…?” I could never pretend to be Redford material.

So when I sit out there in nature, the communication lag disappears. I am just energy along with other energies and the father sun and the mother earth who created us and we all glow out there together in a one breath kind of thing.  I realized recently that the CO2 I put out, the trees take it and the O2 they put out I take it and we should really love each other for it into infinity.

It rains hard now. it’s dark, the wind picked up today and the air turned around telling us the niceties were over. Fall had come with its cold shoulder. I hear it fall. My first Ayvalik rain.

 

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Slowly, slowly

October 15, 2017

 

 

Morning, new home, new people, new place, outside the sun is brilliant. It has not sunk in yet, my new location, my new life. I had a dream, then a second one and I obeyed them and here I am. Ayvalık. The last 6 weeks have been replete with much motion. First a journey along the Aegean sea, then this trip to Canada, via Amsterdam to Montreal, Vancouver, back to Montreal and Istanbul and now Ayvalık. I think of all the friends I met, saw again, it had been a long, long time for some. I have not absorbed everything yet. It seems I need to meditate on each meeting anew and integrate all that happened.

 

My heart swelled with so much emotion, every meeting bringing a different aspect of myself, like a disco ball reflecting light in all directions. Now it seems I should try to sit still for a moment but instead of sitting still I went for a walk over to Cunda Island. Back to the quiet beach I had found when I was here in September. It’s a 16 km walk from my home to there and back but I could not get my mind to stop or my eyes to absorb what was around me thoughts swirling and turning meaninglessly in my head. Finally I arrived to the beach, it’s getting late, the days have shortened since I was last here and the coolness is just about to set in but nevertheless I entered the sea water and swam for a while. There is a magic in these waters, a healing. After I sat on the flat rocks until I dried, finally able to ingest the energies, the air, the light, the sounds surrounding me, zooming into present time.

 

On the way back the winds awoke. It became cool and almost cold. I could understand how fall will feel in a few weeks. It’s a tough wind, the physiognomy of the trees exposed to its force tells their story of resistance. The sun going down, an amazing show of light. I started to re-center into the present. Finally. A couple of cars stopped by offering me a ride but I declined politely, preferring to walk. Back into Cunda I waited for the minibus, a dog was lying down there, he was really cute with long, tawny hair and white spots around his nose.

 

The bus came, we took our seats, everyone knew each other, chatting, laughing, a couple of very old men infused with body pain and walking with canes came on, they were greeted warmly by the other commuters. Night was coming and on the horizon it was dark blues and purples and deep, deep orange slowly disappearing.

I arrived home tired and happy, Levend was home and we started to chat. He has this amazing bas-relief he created, a scene with someone that looks like a king with 3 men on each side, they look Asian. I asked him what it was, he said it is an old, pre-Muslim custom this ancient Turkish tribe had; when the son of the king was in age and ability to take over the power, the old king and his closest people would kill themselves together with poison in a ceremony. This was to allow the new king to reign without interference from the older powers… this culture is full of surprises.

We ate together. Shared tea. The night was calm. Slowly, slowly I am settling in.

 

 

I had a flight to catch at 8:05 PM, this was the big day, the day of my move out of Istanbul,the megalopolis to Ayvalik, the village. I love Istanbul, in a way I miss it already but Istanbul tends to suck a lot of energy out of you and after four and a half years I am ready to get nourished by my environment instead of drained by it so here I am, on the road.

My knowing of Ayvalık came to me a little less than a year ago. I was sitting at my favorite cafe and Metin, the hairdresser turned waiter, connected me with a woman who was sitting next to me. She is a teacher, engineer and an artist. We were chatting away, I told her how the city was wearing me down and she mentioned Ayvalık to me. She showed me pictures from the internet. That night I could not sleep. The images from that town swirling madly in my mind in a repetitive loop of a dream. Two days later she sent me an email, she had found an artist residency in Ayvalık online that I could apply to. This would be amazing as I could live there free of rent and free to create. I applied, they replied, scheduled an interview, I went to the interview, then… I never heard back from them. Which I thought was quite rude for these high falutin’ dudes in HR and other big time businesses living on the expensive side of town.  From then life went on its crazy way and gradually Ayvalık kind of disappeared from my radar.

Fast forward 6,8 months later and you find me on a back packing holiday along the Aegean Coast in Turkey, fate had it that we landed in Ayvalık. The first night the dizzying dreams came to visit me again. This time I am facing a wall and I am trying to make a bas-relief; a sort of sculpture that comes out of the walls, Romans and Greeks used to make a lot of those. In the dream I cannot achieve it, and I keep asking over and over: “how can I make this? Who will show me?”

2 days later while walking along the village’s streets. I heard a voice: “ Are you looking for a place to stay?” I turned around, there was a man at a second floor window of one of those typical stone houses.

“No thank you I already have a hotel…” I walked about 10 steps then stopped. “I don’t need a hotel now but I would like to move here”   … I turned around and the man was still there so I walked back and I started to explain to him that I may be looking for a place in the fall – winter… he invited me in to chat. He is a man in his sixties, an artist, trained at Istanbul University in sculpture, he played music for years, he went to India, he is wide awake about the strange ways of our world and is all for kindness and sharing and caring for the earth. We got along great. He lives with his family, his wife and his 11-year-old girl.

Then he said: you want to see the room?  For sure, I replied.  So we walked out of his kitchen into the garden and down a couple of steps into the lower floor. As we walk in, right in front of us is a big, beautiful bas-relief.  I was astounded.. I asked him : “Did you do this?”

“Yes” he replied

“Could you show me how to make this?”

“Yes.” He replied.

I knew then that this was going to be the right place. We chatted some more and agreed on the details and I said “see you in mid-October”

So on October 12th I had a flight on Pegasus Airlines from Istanbul to Edremit. Rebeca kindly helped me carry my massive luggage to the shuttle bus that was going to take me to the airport.  It was slow going through the rush hour traffic.  The bus stopped and admitted a few more passengers, suddenly a row had started in the back of the bus.  Two men, one in a suit, bald and with a voice that had been extinguished by cigarettes and a younger one.  I am always amazed at the frequency of these brawls in Turkey.  The driver separated them, had the old man sit in the front of the bus on the sidekick seat next to him.  The old man and his rusty voice went on and on and on talking endlessly.  We finally got to the airport.  At the airport little things started to slip and slide;  first at the check in machine, the one I tried to use didn’t work, then the second would not read my passport,so after all this I went to the counter to checked in my baggage. My suitcase was 7 kilo overweight.  I had planned for this and thought that by removing the clay I had put in there the bag would be light enough so I started to open my bags right there in the middle of the check in line and I realized that I barely had about 4 kilo of clay… I was madly trying to find the heaviest things out but somehow everything seemed light. I took out my paint tubes, a notebook, I was sweating, trying to be efficient, I was hoping it was enough and closed the suitcase.   After closing the suitcase I realized that in the bag that contained my paint tubes was the knife I had just bought again ( I had to give up the one I had before at a previous security check as I had forgotten I had it with me) so that meant that I had to give it up yet again.  Sigh.  I was trying to keep an eye on everything, my passport, boarding card, bags, guitar… it was a bit hairy.  I put the suitcase back on the scale and I still had 2 kilo overweight.  I gave up and asked how much it would cost and that was 18 lira. I pulled out a 20 lira bill but they only take credit cards so I fumbled in my wallet for the card.  The only remedy to anything in this world it seems; money. When that was done I had to gather my stuff, and while doing that I managed to lose the 20 lira bill I was going to give the cashier.

Thinking of doing the wise thing, I had chosen the ticket option that cost 40 lira more, this option, as the web site congratulates you, should be the” beginning of smart savings.” allowing for a 20 kg piece of check in luggage, a choice of seat and a sandwich;  simit with white cheese (which would cost about 4 lira) I would have done better just paying for the suitcase as now my extra fees added up to 60 lira.

Of course the flight took off late. In the last month I have taken 7 flights and 6 of them have been seriously delayed for one reason or another.  Arriving in Edremit I felt good, I was almost there with one more bus to take.  I should arrive in Ayvalık in about an hour!  Yay! I got my heavy suitcase, loaded my large backpack and guitar on my back and put the small back pack on top of the wheeled suitcase and headed out.  It was about 10 PM an hour late from the scheduled 9 PM.

Looking out all around, there were no busses. I asked the security guard who said to me: There are no buses coming to the airport at this time, they will start back at 8 am tomorrow. And on the road? No buses. He replied. I saw taxis, I asked a driver:

“How much to Ayvalık?”

“100 or 130 tl.”

Ouch… too much money. I desperately looked around for something to appear, a good Samaritan who would share a ride…

Nothing, no one.

“Shit.” I mumbled. Everyone was quickly leaving the premises all smiles grabbing and hugging their relatives and family members.  Soon the place was deserted. I could now hear the crickets, feel the cool breeze and the silence wrapping itself around me.

“OK… lets get comfortable then. I grabbed the sleeveless vest that the beautiful Alex had just given me a day ago. My hoodie, my scarf… I set up my backpack so I could sit on it so not to be on the cold cement and thought : “that is going to be a long night”. I then wrote a text message to Levend, my host in Ayvalık, to let him know not to wait for me. I didn’t give him the details as I didn’t want to worry him.

There were two taxis still sitting there, with their little 4 cylinder engines running and emitting their distinctive clicking sound. The driver was outside and looking at me.

“He’s waiting for me to give up and pay.” I thought. “but I will not give up. I can live for days on this taxi money. I can wait it out.”

Finally he got fed up with waiting and he walked up to me.

“Araba gelir mi?” (there is a car coming for you?)

“Nope” I said. And then he asked again and I said no again.

“I can make it 100 tl for you.” he proposed.

“No thank you. I will wait.” Then he said:

“There is a dolmuş (mini-bus) coming on the main road. You have to walk up to the asphalt, it will take you to Ayvalık.”

“Oh really?” I said. He then left. I pondered staying here with the certainty that a bus will come, albeit in 10 hours from now, or heading up to the road with its uncertainties. I was in no position to wander around with all these bags and weight to carry. I had to make the right decisions or I would risk a really tiring adventure or even failure… but there should be a dolmuş, for sure! Right?

I took my phone and sent Levend a second text message telling him that I was on my way there but I didn’t know what time I would arrive and not to worry. I loaded all the stuff on my back and headed out in the night.  The wheels of the suitcase making my coming known to the world, I walked up to the main road which was  about 500 meters to the road. There I chose a spot in the light and waited. Big trucks flying by, some cars, it’s pretty quiet. I was thinking that in the end, taking the bus from Istanbul to Ayvalik may seem longer but it may be the easiest way to travel, at least you get from downtown to downtown… none of this weighing bags-charging fees for extra weight-having to go through 2 or 3 security checks-disrobe or be patted indiscriminately-losing things at security checks-having to deal with airlines that are always late-having to book a room in a hotel and being told you’ll be reimbursed only to be told that they are not responsible and leaving you 200 Euros poorer-Oh and also pay grossly overpriced food while prisoner at the airport like paying 4 dollars for a bottle of water that costs 50 cents… and on and on… with the bus, you get on with the food you wish to carry and the suitcases you can carry.  They are luxurious, quiet and fast. Unless I cross one of the oceans, I think I will stick to the roads in the future.

So there I am around 10:30 PM in the dark night on a Turkish highway waiting for a miracle dolmuş to appear. Instead of that a woman appeared. Long coat, scarf on her head and some bags in her hands. I decided to approach.

“Are there any dolmuş coming at this time?”

She dove into a very fast paced information packed reply in Turkish that left me only understanding Midnight and 1 AM and not much else. Teşekkur ederim I answered (thank you) and I waited next to her thinking she was waiting for a dolmuş. Not long after that, a brown small sedan pulled over, she opened the door and got in. I heard something about the woman (me) standing there and going to Ayvalık and other things I didn’t understand.

“Come in!” the man said and when I hesitated they both said “Gel! Gel!” so I grabbed all my stuff piece by heavy piece stuffed it all in the car and sat in. They were heading to Burhaniye as we were speeding down the road I thought maybe it would be better to stay on the road and catch the dolmuş.  I have memories of having to hike back to the highway from downtown and that can be a long way on foot.   I said

“Maybe it would be better if I stayed on the highway…” as he was turning off the highway.

“Hayır! Hayır! Hayır!” was his reply. ( No! No! No!) Knowing how the Turks have a tremendous fear of bad things happening to women who are alone, I could not argue. They dropped me off at the bus stop right in the center of town. Another woman was waiting there. She was cross-eyed and at first I had wondered if that was going to be a bizarre encounter but no, she was just a regular person waiting for the mini bus. Her bus showed up about 30 minutes later. I looked at my phone and saw that it was almost out of charge. Damn, it always seem to work this way when you need them. It rang. I answered.

“So you have arrived by now?”

“No, I am waiting in the middle of Burhaniye”

“What???”

I told him the whole story above.

“Where are you?” I told him where I was.  He went on to search the internet then informed me:

“There is an otogar (bus station) 750 meters away from you. There is a bus at 3 AM and it is 30 tl to Ayvalık. ”

“Hmm I will wait here a little longer, the mini-bus should show up by midnight.” It was 11:30 or so. A little while after a dolmuş showed up, I asked the driver:

“When is the dolmuş for Ayvalık coming?”

“There is no domus for Ayvalık coming.” He said unequivocally.

“Oh. Thank you.” Otogar it is then, i picked up my things and started in the direction of the otogar. As I was crossing the road a young man was walking by, I asked him if I was indeed in the right direction.

“Oh, no! It is neither this or that way, it’s over here and maybe 1.5 or 2 km away.”

“Oh.” Then he started to talk really fast and I could not understand him. Finally I got that he was proposing to walk with me to the otogar. So we set out in the night. All the streets were deserted, so quiet, when I looked up the sky was illuminated with stars. I started to think that this was all not so bad.  I find that if I look at nature, any situation is never as bad as the mind makes it.

“So what is your work? Are you married? How old are you? Where are you from? When did you move to Turkey?” As we walked he asked all those questions. I would reply and then there would be silence. I started to ask him more or less the same questions back, to help time go by. His name was Ibrahim, he was an engineer, he was 25 years old. When he asked my age he just stared at me.

“You don’t look like it.”  He said.

“I know.”  I answered. We took a break by one of the fountains and my phone rang. It was my friend in Istanbul.

“Where are you now?” he asked and I told him and passed the phone to my guide. They chatted a bit and he gave me the phone back.

“Call me when you are at the otogar.” he said and we hung up.  We resumed our walk in the dark, quiet night.  Suddenly it appeared in the night out of a turn, a brightly lit building. The bus station.

“Thank you so much I said. It was a small thing but it was really important to me.” He was looking at me with a strange look. He said I was a strange woman. I smiled and said “I know.” The lack of ability to communicate via words was stopping me to say something appropriate for goodbyes.

“Thank you” I said again. We hugged and I went my way not looking back.

Inside everything was brightly lit by very white light, each of the desks of the main bus companies manned by one person. My phone rang again, my friend it was.

“So where are you now?”

“At the bus station.”

“I looked online and there are no tickets at this time, maybe you should go and ask them.”

“Yeah but it’s difficult to be understood.”

“Go to them and give them the phone.” which I did. We talked like this to 4 different company reps, finally the last one said that I might be able to get on at 1 AM if the driver agrees to make an unscheduled stop on his route for 10 or 15 lira. So the man told me I could leave my bags and relax while I waited. There was a small cafe, I went there as I was ravenous. He started to make toast. I got some ayran (yogurt drink) and waited. It looks like his grill was cold as it was taking forever to get ready.

Suddenly the man from the company came to me and said : Lets go!

“I have toast coming!”

“OK, take your time and get it!” and to the man in the kitchen I said:“ I must go!!”

“I’ll put it in a ‘to go’ package!” I paid him and ran to the bus. They took my luggage and put it under and I climbed in and we immediately got on the road. Oh my, it looks like I will make it after all! I ate my grilled cheese with the appetite of a lion. Then found an electrical outlet on the bus, plugged my laptop and plugged my phone, which had gone dead in the mean time, to charge. Then I called my friend again:

“I am on the bus!”

We quickly made our way to Ayvalık’s bus station. I asked the driver how much for the ride? He said 15. Do you have change? I asked as all I had on me was a 10 lira and a 100 lira bill.

“What do you have?” I told him. “Oh give me 10! it doesn’t matter!” he said a bit roughly. I gave him and got my stuff. I looked around , there was one taxi and one man had gotten in. “how much to Ayvalık?” I asked.

“Oh my friend is coming, I have a fare now…” and he took off. I went inside the station to see if anyone could tell me about the dolmuş.

“Yes, yes, there is one, he’s down there, waiting..” I went back out, walked in the direction of the mini-bus and a man was waiting there, I asked him if he was waiting for the mini-bus.

“No, my wife is coming. You can ride with us.”

“Oh! Thank you.”

They dropped me off at the Ptt (post office) Which I knew was close to my destination. I grabbed all the stuff and started to walk one more time in the deserted streets. I found the right door pretty quickly. Levend opened and we hugged. I had made it.

 

Roiling waters

February 24, 2017

a10

 

Coming back from a gig that didn’t happen.. I was booked to play Yerli Yabanci but there was no one. Taksim is dying a slow death, the bombs and the terrorists and the police have cumulatively slowly instilled their fear and abuse into the minds of the people so now on a Thursday night at midnight the pedestrian traffic is sparse, the percentage of tourists is almost zero. The street itself is torn apart in places, they are refurbishing the trams’ tracks. Which is I guess a good thing but it just gives an aura of destruction and brokenness as the patched and cracked pavement stare at us with painful twisted faces, while the work trucks elbow their way through the pedestrians and lift walls of dust as they go growling and strutting.

Last night I did a Chris Hedges marathon. I was transfixed. He’s an incredibly well spoken award-winning journalist. He sees it all. He spent many years as a war correspondent in Europe and in the middle east and, I’ll paraphrase here; “When you have seen these countries, you cannot unsee… When they announced the war on Iraq I could not help to think of my friends there, I had to oppose the war.. When we come from privilege, like most white American males, there are things you can never know and you must always work at understanding the people who have nothing, their pain…”

I could relate to a great many things he said, being here in Turkey, in what the west calls the middle east, in a Muslim country for 4 years now, my own understanding of life and purpose and time and place and politics has been bulldozed.

The Muslim thing for example, why are you guys scared of Muslims???   They are just people living life.  That’s all there is to it. The amount of fear regarding this in North America is mind-boggling. I read comments of people in Northern BC fearing an ‘invasion’ of radical Islamists…  I now live in a city where in the last few months we had bombs after bombs a failed coup d’etat (likely sparked by America) and yet, life goes on. Why are North Americans so scared? The statistics, (real numbers not Trumped numbers) all point to a diminishing of violence almost everywhere. There is a thousand percent more chances of being killed by some gun-toting white man than by any brown person.

By living here I came to realize the atrocious legacy of colonialism. As a French Quebecer, I always hated the history of colonialism. The historical British violence, their deep desire to annihilate the French-speaking people in my home country, just because they wanted to have it all. I felt first hand racism in BC, like being at Queen E Theater in Vancouver and have 2000 rednecks howl their hatred of French people when coaxed by Kenny Rogers… I had an out-of-body experience that day. That was also the day when I said “fuck them” as I had been trying to belong so hard to my beloved Vancouver’s community but never quite succeeding to get beyond the polite “tolerance” they so kindly bestowed on me. (I hate that word… tolerance…)

But here, working in a hostel I met people from Palestine, from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa, Syria and I saw first hand the horrors that the American, European colonialists distributed and still distribute to people who never did anything to them. Horrors in the name of the economy the dollar and the mighty corporatism. Horrors that steal the hope of the youth generation after generation.

Another blatant fact was how much we have in the west versus how little so many have here. In the hostel the young European and North American tourists come in with a wealth of electronics, technical clothing, shoes, they have good teeth, good hair, shiny faces and this innocence… They walk around with springy steps and with the “sky is the limit” motto. Hedges mentioned this point and it hit me so deeply because I had a first hand experience of realizing this:  this “everything is possible if you work hard enough” rhetoric. I realized that this is not true. The possibilities at times here, just don’t exist.  Period. In Canada it had a ring of truth.. There is so much more resources, money, will and wealth.   Resources and wealth often coming from the labor of third world countries, so when you think of it, the stuff you bought so cheap, was cheap because someone worked for 20 cents a day in abject conditions for you to have it.  So the spring in the steps of the westerner comes from the spines of the third world workers on which the oblivious consumer is stepping in all his shopping glee.

And War.  It’s so close.  Britain, France, America, Holland, Germany are gleefully selling their bombs and having them blown over here…  and how many have their retirement investment packages based on the arms industry?  The same ones who come here on holidays thanks to the dividends of these investments?  I saw and still see first hand the Syrians who find themselves stuck here in Istanbul. Turkey took 3 million of them… Three million in a country a little bigger than the state of Texas.  The wildness in their eyes, the kids begging on the street, the fact that they lost everything and sit here on the cold pavement hands out… heart breaking.

Here I have connected with a wide circle of humanity, not just my safe, white picketed neighborhoods where everyone has their “personal space” to be duly respected.  People from Iran, (yes, they are just people like you and me.. not the enemy)  Iraq, Palestine (oh how heart breaking…) Africa…  I heard their stories, their struggles, their passions and desires… Beautiful humanity dealt a bad hand.

I don’t know how I can connect with my white, privileged upbringing. How could I and others around me complain all the time about what we didn’t have. (we had SO much)  Yet, I will never belong truly here. I am a yabanci, a foreigner. People are generally accepting, I have never been openly berated or threatened for being here and being a foreigner. Not sure a Muslim woman wearing a hijab in Quebec could say the same… I feel a loss of direction, because I realize how much of what gave me direction was just part of the programming. How to be, what to want, how to think, the expectations of the group towards one in terms of income, social standing and of course the definition of success.  The moment you sit in front of the TV, read a magazine, listen to the radio… you start absorbing the conditioning, what is good, what is bad, what you should be as a woman, a man… who to trust.

It’s as if I woke up from a long long dream that I thought was solid ground. The culture is just an indoctrination  meant to keep everyone blind. Oh it’s Christmas: buy, buy, buy. Oh it’s Valentine’s day: buy, buy, buy. Oh I am a woman I need hairdos and 15 different types of outfits. Oh I must be successful and make money. And most insidious, the belief that you are never good enough in a million different subtle or less subtle ways, because if you were good enough, you wouldn’t need all this shit they are telling you to buy.

Hedges is merciless in his indictment of this capitalistic culture. A culture that has to conquer everything and own everything in order to monetize everything. And as blind followers, we have come to accept that food companies poison our food to make money. That our governments give away our land and water to corporate interests. Our governments spy on us and write laws to criminalize freedom of expression. Our doctors keep us sick in order to sell drugs.  That we are factually polluting all our water sources with everything from lead, radiation, oil waste in the name of profits (those profits who actually never will profit you) We are allowing massive corporations to wreck natural resources as a matter of course. We have made the “economy” our driving raison d’etre, the fundamental element in our societies, as we can obviously see that our economy being infinite growth using finite resources is an equation that cannot work. But we are hell-bent on continuing this impossible math until the bitter end where one cannot drink water or breathe the air, where the ecosystems have collapsed terminally and where the majority goes hungry.

How do we knowingly create all the conditions that allow the systematic destruction of what keeps us alive?

How do we accept to be told by some plastic looking, self-important, corporate shill on the TV who to hate and who to trust?

I find myself in this place where I cannot move. I cannot go back to my blindness, once you learn to read, you can never unlearn. I followed the elections in both Canada and America and all it tells me is that this system is not working.  it is inherently faulty.  it is a lie, a fraud, a comedy.  Everything I watch on the media speaks of madness.  To give these madmen air time and to actually discuss afterwards the inanities that were spewed as if it was something worth anyone’s time is beyond me.  Yet we are infighting each other over politics, they win, having successfully divided us to reign over us, and having hypnotized us into oblivion with the rest of the shit on TV and Internet.

We are human beings. We have human rights.  The earth is free. The air, the water… the food, fruits, plants, don’t belong to anyone.  We are here a short time to care for this earth for the future generations.  But we fenced everything and put price tags on all that had form.  We were told to conquer by religions (!) by great leaders (!)  and conquer we did with an unparalleled violence. North America today stands oh so righteously tall on stolen land having created and still do create immense suffering in our doing so.

I feel too much pain sometimes… and shame.  For being human.

When I can, I go look at the trees in the sparse islands of green in Istanbul, Gezi park and Matcka park, they gracefully elongate their fine limbs to the sky, pure beauty, pure magic of life and expression. The sea gulls spiraling in precise mathematical course, the sun dressing them with gold. To feel the earth… Oh mother earth. The shame of us humans, too self-absorbed to care.

We must find our softness again, our sensitivity, our caring, our consciousness, our capacity to be awed and humbled and the willingness to learn again, anew. Because it is a world of infinite beauty and power and expression of divine intelligence and we are one with it. I refuse to think humans are a virus. No, that is the easy way to sanction all destruction and remove responsibility and ethics. That rhetoric is a virus, it’s a duplicitous excuse to permit us to disengage, give up to separate us and leave us drifting in a sea of fear and abandonment.  We are all, every atom, one.

What is my place in this world? These days I feel that I have been so blind, so manipulated by the culture, the accepted views. There is so much to discover, yet my need to please, be accepted sent me down a path of blindness where the size of my thighs mattered more than the wonders of the earth, than all that could be explored and understood. I never had regrets in my life… but  now I do… and it is a very unsettling feeling.  How could I be so limited? So controlled? So un-curious.  Why was I not independent and brave and trailblazing?  These days are days of awakening, world-wide. We contemplate servitude to the corporate masters and monsters in a degraded society and nature, we toy with the idea of acceptance of this dirty pact. Or the other choice is the difficult road of creating a new world. I don’t believe that the model we have had for the last 2000 years can work. We must own up our humanity with its rights and responsibilities and empowerment. Not be pawns of the state but full beings, aware, intelligent, caring and strong.

And love. Love more than you think possible. Everything, every animal, flower, blade of grass, sunset or wind… Love, unconditionally all that exists because it is as one that we will make it.