Thursday, October 25, 2012

Once upon a time, and far, far away [Turkey, pt. 2]

Once upon a time, it was summer, and sunny.

We traveled, O. and I and my parents and his parents and my sister, to a far away land: Turkey. The first night, we lost my parents very temporarily, and I yelled at O.'s father. The second night, we prepared to leave Istanbul. The second morning, we rose at dawn and piled suitcase upon suitcase into two taxis, dividing the Turks between the two cars so that no one would get cheated. The taxis swerved through cobble-stone alleys and across lane-markers, and deposited us, slightly out of breath, at the ferry terminal on the Sea of Marmora. Confused and staggering under our luggage and passports, we found our way onto the ferry that would take us to another continent in a short hour.

On the ferry, we ate cake and sesame-encrusted simit, and O. drank whole milk from an aseptic carton. I stole sips from his paper cup. It was warm and creamy. A weather forecaster on TV chattered on, and I tried in vain to decode her incantations.

Once docked in Bursa, we deboarded in chaos, some squeezing into an elevator. I refused and sought the stairs, suitcase in hand. My sister followed, and my father. On land our party of seven was reunited to stand, looking lost, in the shade of the bus terminal, awaiting a van that would take us into the city.

The van came, and its driver arranged our bags like Jenga blocks in the back. Some roads were closed, there were delays. We wound through the hills and for the first time I saw the Turkish countryside--sun-colored hills rolling away from the road, and olive trees standing in silver rows. It was oddly familiar, evoking California and the south of France, the countryside I stayed in when I was fifteen.

Arriving, after a winding journey, the van pulled up onto the sidewalk in front of an open garage on a busy street: the car rental agency. There the Turks haggled about the insurance portion of the rental contract, and the Americans sat around, bemused and uncomfortable at blocking traffic for so long, and having no idea of the proceedings but noting the increasing loudness of the incomprehensible conversation happening twenty feet away.

Eventually, an agreement was reached and the contract was signed. Having arranged our suitcases in another jigsaw puzzle tower in the rear of the van we were actually renting, we now arranged ourselves inside it, and got on the road in our big black van.

The journey across the Anatolian peninsula began.

* * *

Now it is cloudy, and the leaves are turning red and yellow, and carpeting the sidewalk. We are back in New Jersey, and I am longing for summer (so recently past), for sunshine, for California. O. is talking about quitting his job in a week, and I am thinking: I will never get home to my garden.

But surely this is the start of another journey. Job or not, there will be another road trip across this continent in June. My exile far from the golden state will conclude. In California, even if we can't buy a garden, the hills will be there, rolling and golden, tall grass the color of summer. The oaks will be there. The sea will be there. The sky and the sun will be there, and I will be there with them.

This is a journey, and there will be many arrivals.

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