"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."   - Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, December 14, 2014

"Notes on a Turkish Train Pass" is back! Merhaba, My Friends!

     Hello once again from Anatolia (the region now known as Turkey). I know it's been a long time since I've written you from here, and I apologize to all of you who have been checking the website every day hoping to see another post. Things are quite different for me this year. Christine had to stay home and get back to work at Camarillo High, so here I am on my own. For just one year, believe me. It's a bit lonely for sure. But the days are passing quickly. Tomorrow is the 15th of December already. My lifestyle is different this time around but not all bad. I'm doing more reading than I have in decades, some amateur writing too. I often take the train to Adana and stroll through the city to Atatürk Park, a beautiful and serene place where I find a bench to sit on and read or do school work for a few hours. It's very enjoyable. There are some nice new teachers here from the states who are good kids. Evan and his wife Lauren from Minnesota, Wayne from Orange County in California - a UC Irvine graduate in fact, and Julia from Ohio by way of India where she's been teaching the past few years. They're all young enough to be my children, between the ages of Peter and Allie, but we all enjoy each other's company when we get the chance. Oh, and I've been working out a lot this year with a few of the lady teachers in the evenings. We do workouts with videos from people like Gillian Michaels and Tracey Anderson, and yoga too. Yoga is much harder than I thought. Pretty damn tough for me in fact. I thought yoga was an easy thing. You'd stretch out gently while listening to some Zen type music, maybe have a glass of wine while you're doing it. I had no idea I'd leave the gym those evenings shaking and wobbling like a newborn colt. But this stuff is good for me. I can feel how much tighter and more muscular I am. I can't wait for Christine to see me naked. I think she's going to be impressed.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Notes on a Turkish Train Pass #7: "Love is Patient, Love is Kind ... "

"Love is patient, love is kind ..." That beautiful and most famous passage was written by St. Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians. Paul, also known as "Saul of Tarsus," was born in this city in the first century AD. He grew up here and later wrote those words in the city of Ephesus, in Western Turkey, where he lived for three years during his many travels spreading the new religion of Christianity. Tarsus, like all of Turkey, is full of such history. It is believed that civilization has been ongoing here for as many as six thousand years. This part of Turkey has been controlled throughout the ages by the Hittites, the Assyrians and Phoenicians, the Persians, and Romans all in the centuries before Christ. The famous Roman orator Cicero once governed Tarsus. Emperor Julius Caesar came to Tarsus in 48 BC and gave various decrees. Thus for a time the city was known as Juliopolis. After the death of Julius Caesar, Mark Anthony, who was in charge of the Eastern territories of the Roman Empire, came to Tarsus to meet Queen Cleopatra of Egypt in 41 BC. The Roman Emperor Hadrian came here in 123 AD. Later it was under the control of the Crusaders and Byzantines before becoming part of the Ottoman Empire in 1517. It was even under control of the French for a short while during Turkey's War of Independence. It was liberated from the French in 1921 to become an important area in modern day Turkey.
     History is all around where Christine and I live. Right behind the campus is an excavation site known as the Gözlükule Mound. Finds there date as far back as the Neolithic Period and include discoveries from the Early Bronze Age. I could go on and on about the history here, but you get the idea. I'll share some pictures of these historical places later in this blog. We're of course getting excited for our return home. Our bags are out, and the packing is almost completed. Christine won't be returning with me next year, so she's got a lot to take home. But as excited as she is to get back, she knows she will miss a lot of people here. I'm still amazed at how she jumped right into the mix when she got to Turkey. She has made many friends, American and Turkish, has helped many of her students and the elementary school's students get better at English, and thoroughly enjoyed the culture, food, and opportunity to travel while here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Notes on a Turkish Train Pass #6 - Heading for Home

     It's Monday, 19 May 2014. Here in Turkey, the weather is getting warmer, the birds are chirping, new kittens are everywhere, and Christine and I are thinking of all of you. It will be like magic to step off that plane and see "the curvaceous slopes of California" again. We've had some good times lately. We spent a week in Munich, Germany last month. Then three days in the beautiful and mysterious Cappadocia region of central Turkey. And I even spent two days on a field trip to the mountains of western Turkey with our prep students and teachers where we hiked, did some high ropes climbing, and went on a 14 kilometer white water river ride. Real white water. And cold too. I'd never done that before. But as I sit here now, it's a little hard this morning not to also think about the serious troubles of this nation. Turkey is a country filled with tension. Within itself. There is great anomosity between many people I know and their government over the government's increasing religious conservatism and desire to have a Turkey more like the old Ottoman Empire. The more modern, more educated people here want a Turkey that is like the American and European models that their hero, former prime minister Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, envisioned and started to build after Turkey won its independence in the 1920's. It is along this religious versus secular divide that Turkey is in conflict. You might remember the demonstrations and violence here last summer over the issue of Gezi Park in Istanbul. That tension also erupted in many other parts of Turkey. And it has been seen again surrounding the nationwide municipal elections last March and the latest event I'm sure you've all been hearing about - the tragic coal mine accident in Soma, Turkey, this past week where more than 300 miners have died. It is the worst industrial disaster in Turkey's history. That event has rekindled much anger throughout the country. I've heard rumblings even here in quiet Tarsus as I wander the streets.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Notes on a Turkish Train Pass #5 - Here Comes Springtime

     Good evening, folks at home. Here's a typical story about how things often go here in rural Turkey. The other evening I went out for a walk while Christine was doing her yoga workout with some of the ladies at school. I decided to find out exactly where the Tarsus bus station is for future reference. I knew the general direction and started out. As I walked through a pretty old neighborhood on the outskirts of this part of town, a guy on the street smiled and said hello in English and started walking next to me. (The people here can tell with just one look if you're not Turkish. I don't think it's the clothes so much. My students tell me it's got something to do with the skin texture that is instantly recognizable.) He asked me where I am from. He spoke just enough English to talk with me a little bit. And my Turkish consists of about thirty words, but he asked where I was going. When I said I was looking for the bus station - just to see where it is - he said he could show me because he often takes buses out of town for work. As we wound our way through a few more ancient streets, and now alongside open fields where sheep and cattle were grazing, a few adolescent boys in the streets looked me over. When I smiled and said "merhaba," they smiled too. Soon the guy walking with me indicated that he had to stop but pointed off into the distance toward some large brick buildings where he said the bus station would be. I said ok, thanks, and kept walking past the fields. In a few minutes one of the boys I'd just seen came riding up to me on his bycicle and seemed pretty panicked that I might not know where I was going. I'm sure the first guy had told him where I was headed. I told the boy I was fine, was just out for a walk, and no need to worry, with words and my best sign language. He continued to point toward the distance and seemed real worried. I think he wanted to ride along and show me where to go. As we talked there for a minute, a police car passed on the other side of the road, going in the direction I'd just come from.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Notes on a Turkish Train Pass #4

     Hello, friends. It is Tuesday morning, the 28th of January in Tarsus, Turkey. Finally, we've had a few days of good rain. We'd been having the same warmer, drought-like conditions here in Mersin Province as you folks back in California have been having. People here have been pretty worried. This is an agricultural area, and the lack of rain was starting to pose real problems for the farmers and has had everyone concerned about the water supply for the upcoming summer. Let's hope it continues and that big storms start hitting California too.
     We're at the semester break. Two weeks off. Christine got back last Wednesday night, and tomorrow morning we're off to Roma for nine days! But that's just one little part of the good things in our lives. The best is that on Christmas Eve, Jacqueline and Brandon brought young William Michael Lucero into the world. What a fantastic Christmas present. And what a perfect day for him to arrive. For the rest of all of our lives, Christmas will be so much happier and more meaningful. I'll show you some pictures of the young prince in a few minutes. Allison just started her first semester as a Chico State Wildcat. Perfect mascot for the school that Allie attends, don't you think? Now there's one more wildcat on campus.
     Before I get to the latest notes on the old Turkish train pass, I'd like to give a few shout outs to some special readers out there:

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Notes on a Turkish Train Pass #3

     It's Sunday evening here in Turkey. About 4:20, so the sun is starting to fade. And it's turned cold. When we first arrived here in August, with temperatures and humidity both in the 90's, I couldn't have imagined it would ever get this chilly. Daytime temps have started in the upper 30's then peaked in the high 40's. Still not much in the way of rain yet, but the locals tell me it will come. Fast and hard. School is going fine, and I continue to be amazed how much like American kids my students are. The two big recent events for me are both negative. The first is that Christine has gone home for six weeks to be with family for the holidays, and especially to be there when Jacqueline and Brandon welcome their new little bundle. Any day now. It gets pretty lonely around here without her. The second is that I recently tumbled down some stairs, in the dark while coming out of my school building, and tore a ligament in my right ankle. I was completely sober. I'm in a cast now and hopping around like a kangaroo rat. It's funny how we suddenly realize sometimes how much our lives turn out to be so similar to our parents. Not exactly of course, but in little things you end up doing that your parents did. For those of you who knew my dad, here's what I mean. Like him, I make my living sitting at a desk much of the time, and shuffling papers in my hands. He was a cartoonist for many years and was always flipping back and forth the pages of whatever story he was working on. I sit and grade papers. And back to the point I started to make. He suffered from arthritis, badly, and for the last fifteen years of his life, he walked with a cane because he had so much pain throughout his body, especially his legs. And now here I am, cane in hand, walking a lot like he did for so long. Everytime I see my shadow limping along, I can't help think how much I feel like old Hank.
     Before I get to the latest notes on a Turkish Train Pass, there's one really great experience I'd like to share.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Notes on a Turkish Train Pass #2

     Good evening, America. It's about 5:30 Monday evening, November 4, here in Tarsus. We're 10 hours ahead of you California folks. I know I should write more and intend to do so. Christine and I are just fine here, rolling along in the school year. We're staying busy with both of us teaching, and plenty to do in the evenings and on the weekends. Since I last wrote, we visited the city of Izmir, a beautiful town on the Aegean Sea, the West Coast of Turkey. It really has a European, cosmopolitan feel. Much more modern than Tarsus. While we were there, we made it out to Ephesus, the ancient historical city, now in ruins. We walked through streets and past monuments that people walked through three thousand years ago.