I’m back from my travels to Istanbul, Samsun (another city in Turkey) and Amsterdam and Utrecht in the Netherlands.
It was a very, very good trip that was soul-nourishing and reminded me of the kindness of many humans—friends and strangers both. I ended up spending a good amount of time with friend and fellow writer, E, who, though he’s been in California for the last 22 years, is from, and happened to be working in, Istanbul. He met me at the airport and helped me find my way into the city and to my AirBnB, and in subsequent days took me to restaurants, showed me various neighborhoods and introduced me to the various aspects of the city’s transportation system—consisting of buses, trains, other trains, and ferries. He also filled me in on some history and context of the places we went in a very interesting way, and we had some conversations about writing and the writing life as well.
Additionally, both of my AirBnB hosts were great, with very pleasant housemates. T, my first host, was a social studies teacher. She made breakfast on a couple of mornings when she was around, and plied me with fresh herb teas and honey and ginger for my cold that had descended the day of my departure. I think her remedies helped, because the cold largely resolved in a few days without ever becoming the kind of scary chest cough bronchitis thing I’ve been prone to manifest in the past. (BTW It wasn’t Covid, and I wore a mask in close indoor situations.) My second hosts were a couple with a 1.5 year old and three cats. He was a computer software engineer, and they both also run a Tango-dancing school and teach classes. We hit is off and, along with E, went out for drinks in their neighborhood my first night.
In between my two Istanbul AirBnBs was my trip to my Solar Return assignment, Samsun. I showed the bus drivers outside the Samsun airport the address of my hotel. They put me on a bus, then, after conferring with each other in Turkish, gestured for me to disembark and get on another bus instead—and it was one that brought me where I needed to go. My two nights at a hotel were a perfect break—alone time with luxuries like my own bathroom and extra pillows. I rang in my birthday by staying up too late reading a novel in bed, and the next day I spend some time on a bench looking at the sea and thinking, and even attempted a sketch, which I haven’t done for ages.
The last leg of my trip was The Netherlands—where I met Paul for his 3-day fast Solar Return trip. We stayed with old friends from Australia who are living in Utrecht for a couple of years, While they were at work we did some sight-seeing in Amsterdam, going to the Ann Frank house and the Van Gogh museum, but the best part was coming home and getting to hang out, play board games and catch up with our friends and get to know their two fabulous kids.
I’ve arrived back in LA spiritually refreshed, but sluggish from the time shift (Istanbul is 11 hours different from LA, and Amsterdam is nine). Tonight, I succumbed to the temptation to fall asleep on the couch at about 7:30 PM, and woke wondering if it was morning… It was 11:30 PM… which is why I am writing this now, at almost 2:00 AM, and am thinking about watching some TV before going back to sleep, even though I know that’s not a great decision for “Tomorrow B,” who is slated to attend two holiday gatherings tomorrow!