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:
Hello to my beautiful, sweet niece Anna, down under in Australia. Anna is one of the most avid readers of "Notes" and always writes something thoughtful back to me after each post. Hello to her husband Zac too. Sorry the Niners didn't make it to the Super Bowl, Buddy.
Hello to my dear friend Virginia Meyerson who continues to recover from illness in Camarillo. I can't imagine what my life would have been like without her friendship and help for all our years together at Camarillo High. As they say here in Turkey, "geçmiş olsun," Virginia. Get well soon.
Hello to my friend and fellow peregrino, George Contreras, who could be anywhere from Camarillo to France to Italy to Spain right now. George is a hero to many people, and especially to retirees and soon to be retirees everywhere. I have never seen anyone make the most out of life and retirement like George. He is an inspiration to me as he continues to coach, teach, help, and wine and dine his way through life every day. Let me know if you have any advice for us in Rome, George.
And a special hello to Charlie, my coaching buddy for more than a quarter of a century, who lost his mother a few weeks ago. She lived 100 amazing, adventurous, creative years and will always be one of life's most memorable people to those of us who knew her. Charlie is back out there coaching again this spring, which is good news for all the Camarillo High track kids and coaches.
Those shout outs just reminded me of something I've been thinking a lot lately. This chance to travel and live in another culture has been a wonderful experience for both Christine and me. We've met some wonderful people here and been blessed to see so many good things in another part of the world. But things are far from perfect here, and this perspective of time and distance has also given me a new appreciation for what I've left behind, at least for a while, back home. Of course that's another of the benefits of travel - self understanding. But I didn't realize until recently how much I miss and appreciate the people and places where I live, so many of my friends and family. I look forward to just being in town again and feel old, familiar places. Ventura County, California, and America are still the best places of all and where I most want to spend the rest of my life.
Ok for my ramblings. Here are a few more "Notes on a Turkish Train Pass":
Whenever we shop somewhere, it seems like the shopkeepers always want to give you something extra - for free. At the local wine shop, I've been given oranges and pomegranates when I buy something. There's another little local beer and wine shop where we've been given coffee and tea cups as well as packets of coffee. We've been given tea (chai) many times, and one of the other American teachers here was buying shoes on a hot day a few months ago and mentioned to someone shopping with her that she could sure go for a cold beer. A few minutes later, as she was sitting and trying on a pair of shoes, a cold glass of Efes Beer was served!
There's this funny thing Turkish people often do when they talk to you. When you say something nice, or thank them for something, they give a little smile and blink both eyes at the same time. It's the cutest damn thing. Christine and I will be doing it for you this summer.
There are very few restaurants or food stops that sell alcohol here. And there are only about three bars we've seen in the entire town. I've heard it's because liquor licenses are so expensive, but I think it also has to do with the Islamic tradition. When you see people sitting at outdoor cafes in the evening, they're pretty much always drinking tea. Now if we were in Spain for example, things would be quite different. There, you don't have to walk more than fifty feet to find a tapas bar and a crowd of people inside!
I was quite surprised at how much Christmas was recognized here. Yes, it was a school day, and I worked. But Turkish people were frequently wishing me Merry Christmas. In person and in emails. There were Christmas trees decorated on campus and around town, and I even saw a Turkish Santa walking through the local mall, handing candy out to kids.
My Turkish is pretty weak. I can say a few things, but if any kind of conversation gets going with someone who speaks no English, for some reason I revert back to my California, gringo Spanish. I can't help it. I've said "por favor" when trying to ask for something, "tengo" when saying I have someting, and told my students they better do something "rapido." So far no one has understood me much.
And now, here are some more pictures for you. I'll have a full report on our travels in Italy soon:
William Michael Lucero
With His Beautiful Mother
Will with His Dad
This is believed to be the tomb of the prophet, Daniel, located here in Tarsus.
"Daniel in the Lions' Den" Daniel
One of our favorite fruit and vegetable shops
This kid usually helps us. I tried but couldn't get him to smile for the photo.
Lamachun. Meaty and spicey, and a Turkish favorite. You find it everywhere.
Bread Guy. Right down the street from us.
Local coal shop. Coal is the main source of heat here. On cold nights, you smell it all over town.
So long for now.
Looking forward to more days like this in Rome!