Saturday, November 6, 2010
Ah, the Frankfurt Airport. The longer your layover, the more pointless the place becomes. I was stuck there for six hours. After the initial exhilaration of surviving my flight from Istanbul wore off, I struggled to find even the least redeeming thing about the place. I found none. Well, maybe just one thing - you can smoke there. Yeah, well, let's back up a bit.
I spent much of my time in Istanbul hanging out with this Russian girl whom I met in Selcuk. As I have previously mentioned, her English was excellent. We'll call her Svetmilla - not because her name was either Svetlana or Ludmilla, but because it amuses me to combine those names. By her accent, I initially figured that she was German. But nope, Russian - although she was of Iranian descent along her father's side of things. Because of her language skills, there was no need for my flawed version of Russian with its limited vocabulary, lack of idiom and plentiful anglicisms. There was no romance, owing to the fact that she was getting over somebody and that women naturally find my advances repellent. And that was fine. When you travel, you fall in with people, then you go elsewhere and you never see them again. For me, that's always been a liberating thing, because you can be honest about everything. I mean, hey, you're never going to see them again, so why lie?
OK, Svetmilla and I did this and that (for instance, we saw Dolambace Palace and shopped for ney flutes) around magnificent Istanbul for several days. We would cap things off with drinks and dinner in the evening. Yeah, it was fun. Now, as you may recall, the final day of my last trip was pretty epic. It was just one of those days when you're squeezing out as much from every moment that you can, because at the end of it, Seattle is waiting. My last day this time around wasn't like that. For one thing, I woke up feeling just awful. I have no idea why. For this trip, I had felt absolutely excellent at every turn - until that last morning. She stopped by my place at 10:00 and promised to meet up at 2:00. That was the last I saw of her. Yep, stood up on my last day by somebody I'll never see again. Plus, I felt lousy, but that situation improved as the day progressed. I'd planned for us to take a ferry to the Prince's Islands out in the Sea of Marmara, but that was a no-go. I spent the parts of the evening wandering around Sultanahmet looking for her. Gosh whiz, what a contrast from my last evening back in May.
It's really too bad, because I had a lot of fun with Svetmilla. She was very different from me. I tend to hate people similar to myself, so it's fortunate she was that way. Her whole focus was on spiritualism - not ghosts or anything, but meditation, chanting, channeling energy, seeking enlightenment and whatnot. If I've misnamed it, I apologize. Me, I've never been into that sort of thing as I'm more into the peasant superstitions of my forebears, but it was interesting to hear somebody explain it. I still don't understand it, as there is no "unified field theory" for spiritualism. For example, with Christianity it's simple: God is responsible for all the good, the Devil is responsible for all the bad. Even a child can understand it. In fact, it makes much more sense to children. The ambiguities come later. The problem with this spiritualism-deal is that it's an individual pursuit, has no dogma and is pretty much defined by the participant, so there isn't much theory involved. Sure, there's a lot of Buddhism in that stew, but it was difficult for Svetmilla to explain why evil existed in the world, as that wasn't her particular area of focus. And why should it be? I mean, nobody becomes enlightened spending their days contemplating evil. Since I'm not seeking enlightenment, I actually spend a lot of time thinking about it. I won't get into it here, but I found her views both thought-provoking and a bit preposterous. She had actually written two books on the subject, which was quite admirable. One evening, we sat in front of the hostel. I read the scene in The Odyssey where Odysseus returns to Ithaca and whacks all of his wife's suitors (it's really violent) and she read me some passages from one of her books. You know something? She's quite a good writer. And I believe that she wrote both in English. Could I do the same in Russian? No, I could not.
OK, so that was that. I got stood up my last day. I said goodbye to X that evening. He told me that I should move to Istanbul and work for him. Yeah, one of the reasons why selling carpets with him is so fun is that I don't have to do it for a living. If my income depended on it, it would assume a completely different - and I'm guessing uglier - character. Still, I do admire X. His origins are very humble, he works extremely hard (you could say he works like a Turk) and he is completely undeterred by rejection. Maybe one day he'll be my boss. Who knows?
I slept for about two hours before I caught the 3:20am bus to Ataturk Airport. The routing for my return was Istanbul-Frankfurt, Frankfurt-Calgary, Calgary-Seattle. Usually, when we're taxiing for takeoff, I make some kind of non-binding deal with the Deity. You know: Get me through this and I'll be nicer to non-crazy bums or some such hooey. This time around, I was in no mood for such malarkey. My last day had been pretty anticlimactic and disappointing. I had a little voice in my head saying, "Just go." Istanbul is one of the greatest cities in the world, but I just wanted to get out of there.
The flight from Istanbul was, for the most part, completely terrifying. For two of the three hours we were in the air, we experienced severe turbulence. And I mean it was severe. We had all three kinds: the intense pounding and shaking, the quick-up, quick-down variety and the scariest of all - the slow roll. That's where the plane lolls lazily on its side and just when it seems like you're about to experience a barrel roll, the pilots whip it back to level. Yeah, it was so bad that the pilot had to get on the PA twice to tell us that everything was just fine and that this was completely normal. The only problem was that the first announcement (in German and English) was completely inaudible due to the violent shaking that the plane was encountering at that time. Even if we'd been able to hear, most passengers were Turkish, so they probably wouldn't have understood anyway. It just never seemed like it was going to end. I was pretty sure the plane (an Airbus A-321) was going to break apart in the air. I didn't care. At least that would have ended the ordeal. Seriously, it was probably the second-worst flight I've ever had.
Obviously, I landed safely - unless of course they've invented blogging from beyond the grave. Thanks to a cascade of French strikes, my Air Canada flight to Calgary was less than half full. I watched many movies and wasn't bothered by conversation. After cramming a two-hour US-Canadian customs procedure into 25 minutes, I hopped this cute little learjet-type plane (actually, it was a Bombardier - just like the one that flew me into Lvv) to Seattle where I promptly froze my ass off on the way back to Belltown.
So here I am. I know this is supposed to be a neighborhood blog and soon it will be again. I plan to return to both Ukraine and Turkey, but it won't be any time soon, as I am broke. So let's get back to all things Belltown. Uh, whoopee.