Thursday, June 14, 2012

Buses, cafes, and motorcycles

Okay, guys. If you didn't know this already, I'm playing catch up. I spent two wonderful weeks on Omid Safi's Turkey Educational Tour, learning about Sufism and documenting examples of Islamic Art for the Kenan Institute. In a way, this was my first venture into a world where my favorite things combine- art and the Middle East. The ART\Islam project has some very noble and exciting goals, and I feel very lucky to be involved with its conception. I think it has a bright future, and I hope to continue working on it throughout my time at Carolina. Anyways, as I play catch up, life is happening. So I'm going to write for a little while about life right now, and return to story telling soon.

Life in the present moment: sitting in a super trendy, chic café tucked a few streets away from Istiklal. It's way swankier than cafes I usually frequent, but there's nothing wrong  with a change of pace. It's called The House Café, if anyone feels like googling it.

Today, I ventured for the first time onto Istanbul public transportation. I've got to say, for being all alone and not speaking the language, and having a vague idea at best of the city layout, I did a pretty good job. I did have a pretty long and poorly planned walk from the Yenikapi bus station to the Sultan Ahmet area (complete with creepers and the overbearing sun), but it wasn't totally dreadful, and just as panic hit, I magically found myself right in front of the shop where we had had a carpet workshop! The guy I needed to see, Adem (Burhan's brother) was there anyway, so I was able to return his bus card to him. They invited me to join them for watermelon, bread, cheese, and salad, and if you can believe it, I almost refused.

How American of me. I really had no where to be. I had a vague idea of getting myself up to Taksim and exploring a bit, then eventually getting some work done in a café. The first words out of my mouth were, "Oh no, I really should be going."


I have a terrible habit of rushing, and an unnatural fixation on efficiency.

I stopped myself, put my purse down, and retracted my statement.

"Actually, I'll stay."

Mehmet (the man who had shown me how he repairs carpets) was there, carefully rolling up the carpets that lay on the floor from a day of selling to customers. Something about his posture is very poetic. He has careful hands, as I suppose you'd expect, and a slow kind of grace in the way he balances on his toes, squatting to roll carpets and meticulously clean the wooden floor. His presence stays with me, quiet as he is.

I sat with Ebu Bekir, Adem, Mehmet, and Yasar, listening to them tell stories about customers, discuss pricing, and laugh  about things I simply didn't understand. The conversation, as usual, was in Turkish. It felt so good to be there, to have been invited in by near strangers. As time goes on I find that I have little pockets of friendship in this city. What a lovely thing.

And now I'm sitting in this trendy café, on a side street, my newfound confidence in Istanbul public transportation leading me to the sad realization that there is so much of the city that I haven't seen. This place of winding streets and endless hills is particularly adept at shielding its gems. I'd need to spend a lifetime here before I felt like I knew any of its secrets. The idea of spending a semester abroad here is on my mind more and more.

As for yesterday, close friends and family will be surprised to find that I overcame my lifelong fear of motorcycles and spent the whole day riding on the back of Ugur's bike. Ladies and gentlemen, 'twas magnificent. I now believe the best, indeed, the only, way to truly drink in the Bosphorous is to speed down coastal roads on a motorcycle. Sheer glory, and apparently, the best place to come to very large and emotional realizations.

After spending the day between the American embassy and swanky meetings with actors and producers (more on that later), Ugur was taking me to a lakeside café for some chill time. It was dusk, and the sky just above the rim of the earth was bruised purple, and surrounded by a ring of gold. The sky above us was still that light, innocent shade of blue, and its reflection in the water was brighter than its true manifestation. I felt like I was gliding between two magical realms. And somehow, in all of the vast mystery above and below me, I began thinking about the little thing that is my life.

How did I come to be on the back of a motorcycle with one of the most important playwrights in Turkey?

1.       Middle school: I get literally the smallest part in the school play, and fall in love with theatre.
2.       Dad lost job
3.       Moved to Greenville, NC
4.       Met Merle Pereira, who would later introduce me to Emily Ocker, who would be the biggest influence in making my decision to attend UNC much easier and keep me from feeling like a total failure. (Not that UNC is a bad school, I just had a very different idea of where I'd be going).
5.       Attended UNCSA
6.       As fate would have it, Julianne Lawson happened to be visiting her home in Chapel Hill the same weekend my interview for Hampshire College was scheduled. I caught  a ride with her and stayed with my cousins instead of having my parents take me and stay in a hotel. They gave me a tour of the campus, which led me to apply to the school.
7.       Rejected from UNCSA.
8.       Emily Ocker was accepted to UNC.
9.       My family's financial situation leaves me with one choice: UNC.
10.   I decide to go, and the two of us decide to be roommates.
11.   She informs me of SEAS.
12.   I apply, and am accepted. Best summer ever.
13.   The next year, I immediately begin applying for grants to travel abroad again. My acting teacher from UNCSA hooks me up with the ART\Islam project.
14.   I find myself with two grants to study my favorite things in Turkey and Jordan.

I have been worrying so much lately about my future, specifically career path foolishness. But God has led me to beautiful things, and through beautiful struggles, why is it that I don't trust that he will do the same in my future? I started crying (I cry a lot here), and felt shivers go down my spine at the realization of how totally blessed I have been, how blessed I am, and how much potential exists within my future. 

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