Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Notes from Istanbul

According to the M.A.S.H. game I filled out during my long flight back to Portland, I’m going to live in a house in the Netherlands with my husband named Aster, two children, and a Newfoundland dog. I will be an illustrator. Aster will be a painter. And we will drive a yellow Prius. The reason I was predicting my future with this game from my childhood is that my last night in Istanbul my friend Kelley gave me a small notebook, which she had filled with her own personal notes and activities to keep me occupied during my trans-Atlantic, multi-stop flight. I had cancelled my previous plans to travel around England and Iceland, deciding to travel to these places when I am not so eager to get back home. These last-minute changes meant that my journey would be punctuated by long stopovers in Frankfurt and Denver before finally arriving in Portland. The notebook came in handy because none of the films on the Lufthansa flight appealed to me. And now I have an exciting life in the Netherlands to look forward to!

Besides the contents of the little notebook, I recall other notes from my last night in Istanbul, flavor notes of cheese and almond in a delectable dessert as well as notes of black licorice from a liqueur from Finland. “Notes” is actually an understatement. It tasted just like strong, full-flavored black licorice, liquefied. I took a photo of the bottle with Kelley in the background, a reminder to buy this stuff if ever I am in Finland.

On my final flight from Denver to Portland, the woman sitting next to me nudged me awake in order to warn me of some threat that needed my immediate attention. In my foggy state, I saw her point at a boy’s hand retreating through the gap in the seats. “He was trying to steal your phone,” she said. She then twisted her face in a dirty look that conveyed disgust and bewilderment that such a child could even exist. I heard the boy explain as he made a video on his own phone that his plan to steal the phone from “the sleeping lady” didn’t work. I realized he was traveling alone when one flight attendant kept checking up on him with adoring smiles and handing him large bags of gummi bears and cans of Coke. Twice the boy yelled, “This one’s for the blog! Exaggerated noises!” and then filled the tiny aircraft with his tortured shriek, perhaps inspired by Macaulay Culkin’s Home Alone scream. I was too exhausted to reach over the seat and strangle him. I don’t know if a video of me sleeping during the foiled phone theft is on this boy’s blog or not, but I can tell you that an American child trying to steal my phone certainly came as a surprise. I have just returned from Istanbul, where I would sit at outdoor cafes with my purse on my lap. If my phone was out, my hand was always hovering over it, so that little Turkish artful dodgers sneaking around wouldn’t see an opportunity and run off with it. Stealing a phone is the sort of thing I would expect from a poor street kid in Turkey, not a spoiled, sugar-crazed American kid on a flight from hell. Thankfully, that flight was only 2½ hours.

During the last year, a woman I considered a friend wrote a malicious blog entry about me pertaining to a time I confided in her about a personal problem. I know I’ve been guilty of expressing my frustrations about random people who disappoint me, but friends are off limits. Also, if it’s just a vent and doesn’t add anything positive to the world, I usually come to my senses later and delete the post. A video of me made without my awareness on some 10-year-old boy’s blog doesn’t bother me so much, but betrayal by a friend does.


A Shakespeare mural I painted. 
As is often the case with living overseas and starting over every few years, I met some people with whom I really clicked right before I left. I wish I had met them sooner because perhaps these fun interlocutors could have eased the stress of living in a big chaotic city. I’m lucky that I did have good friends all along and I did what I could to relax. I painted a couple of murals for my school, and designed a tattoo for a friend. I worked on my illustrations, which, as I look at them now, are not very good. I think calm is conducive to creativity, which is why I’m drawing so much better now that I’m back home. Calm is also conducive to making friends, which explains why cool and interesting people flocked to me in the last few weeks of my last residence, when I was calmly confident that my departure from Turkey, a country that is becoming a more stressful place day by day, was just around the corner. 

A Langston Hughes mural I painted. 


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