Friday, September 24, 2010

Autumnal Yearnings

I love living in Turkey. It has been my home now for going on ten years. I love my job, the food, the travel opportunities, my friends, my students, the shopping. For most of the year, I never really think about the fact that I "live abroad" or that I live in a "foreign" country, but when fall turns, my yearning for the home of my childhood and early adulthood is strong and severe.

Lately all of the foodie blogs that I follow have been including recipes that are autumnal in their origins, commencing my three month lament over not being back in my homeland for fall. One of my oldest and closest buddies taunts me every year (it has become a funny tradition) where she, on e-mail, takes a break to have a "sip" of her pumpkin spice latte, and even adds a "ahhh" before getting back to her message, leaving me in the throws of fall withdrawal. Starbucks is all over Turkey, yet they don't do the seasonal drinks that the states has. When I was home last fall, she promptly put a pumpkin spice latte in my hand and bought me a Starbucks gift card, carefully tucking it into my bag when I wasn't looking. Upon finding it at when reaching into my wallet to buy some coffee, I was so touched by this gesture that I threw my arms round her right there in front of everybody. Every time I reach for my original Starbucks mug, loamy brown in its color, I am whisked back to that brisk fall morning at Pike Place Market with my oldest and closest friends.

Soon after we were married, Koray went to Philadelphia for a conference in October and was mesmerized by the vivid reds and oranges that blanketed and painted the campus. He was finally able to see for himself why fall has such a special affect on me. Knowing I was missing this seasonal splendor, and much to my joy and surprise, he brought back a grocery bag full of bright red maple leaves and threw them all over. The earthy smell made me dizzy. I framed a few of the leaves to display when it finally turns brisk and golden here in Istanbul.

It was just about this time last year that my yearning for a North American fall was at its peak. I couldn't stop taking about it and thinking about it so Koray encouraged me to book a ticket to spend a week back across the Atlantic. The draw of the seasonal change was unbelievably strong last year and through my dad's illness I was brought back to my homeland and reunited with many people that I love and hadn't seen in a while and I was able to experience my beloved Washington fall. Being back in the US for Halloween was a bittersweet treat on its own. The colors were seemingly technicolor in comparison to the muted yellows and browns of an Istanbul fall. The air was brisk and people were bundled up, leaves blanketed the streets and I was home again. The crisp, clean, cold Seattle air invigorated my lungs and helped to clear my head after spending days with my dying father in the hospital. For the earth, fall is the season of shutting down and hibernation, last fall was for me a season of connection and growth, regeneration of spirit and of healing old wounds. In fact, it always has been something to me. It is my season.

And my season isn't here yet. Summer still lingers and heavier layers still wait upon the shelves in my closet. The nights, though, are chilly, and I did see the harbinger of fall, the white crocus, shooting up in our front yard today, and fresh chestnuts are beginning to make an appearance, so I do have peace that cooler days and re-birth are not far away.

If you are in North America, send fally thoughts my way as you kick through the sanguine splendor of the seasons' glory.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Golden Days of Late Summer

It is September but summer is still in the air here in Istanbul. The weather has been holding steady at about 24 degrees in the afternoon and the salmony-pink golden evenings have been delicious.

This streak of good weather has played an important role in my afternoon adventures with A and O. This week a colleague of mine reminded me about the terrapins noting he had seen at least twenty, and a baby duck. This tickled me because I was sure the pond had been bull-dozed by all of the construction on campus and I knew A and O would be up for a turtle-seeking adventure. The next day, on an afternoon walk with the boys and our neighbor friend C, I asked them if they wanted to go and see the terrapins. To my delight, they squealed and chortled at the idea and then stopped and asked, "but what is a terrapin?"

"Well, it is a turtle, but it lives in the water."

(insert long pause and far off looks)

"Ya! let's go see the terrapins"

So we made our plan that after C asked her parents for permission, and if they said yes, she would be at our door as soon as she changed out of of her school clothes the very next day.

So the terrapin adventure began promptly at 4:35 with a definite knock at our kitchen door. We geared up and headed out.

It had been about 5 years since I had seen the terrapin pond, and there are new roads being built, so I wasn't sure where to go exactly. Unfortunately, we went to the wrong water run off which was murky and overgrown by cattails, so even if there were terrapins living there, we couldn't see them. Much to the kids' disappointment, we had to head back with only a view of the diggers and dump trucks doing digger and dump truck things. A way up the road we tried for about ten steps to walk across the field, but O 's leg got scratched with blackberry brambles, so when giggles turned into tears, I decided the terrapins could wait for another day.

And another day was the next day. Soon after school was over on Friday, we again put on our shoes and headed out in search for the water dwellers. After going down another wrong road, and answering two dozen variations of the question "but where are the terrapins?" we finally laid our eyes on the much sought after, and talked about, terrapin pond. In the inky water we saw black pointy heads poking out of the water, ducking under each time one of the littles shifted in the grass or made a noise. I got a good work out from lifting each of them up to get a better view and they were satisfied with finally seeing the elusive terrapins.

On our way back, ensconced in the golden-warm summer evening, we nibbled on wild blackberries, chased butterflies and chatted about our favorite animals, foods and colors.

It was a good adventure with some cool little people.