Petra Backstage

We conceived our Istanbul adventure to include travel, and this is a great geography to journey from. With pet care under control, we are free to go, and recently we visited Amman, and Petra in Jordan.

A very deep canyon, made by a trickle of water a long time ago.

A very deep sandstone canyon, made by a trickle of water a long time ago.

Claude Monet was 68 when he first traveled to Venice, Italy.  He was leery of even visiting because he was afraid of repeating what painters had already captured.  Once there, though, he painted multiple versions of the gorgeous views in varied light.  I can appreciate his apprehension as I show these photos of Petra.

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Most Americans may not have ventured to Jordan and Petra, but many have seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  The images of the place are well-known.  And photos are no substitute for the glory of seeing Petra.

One of Petra's "crown jewels" the Treasury appears after about a 2 km. walk into the site.

One of Petra’s “crown jewels” the Treasury appears after about a 2 km. walk into the site.

We had a wonderful day at Petra, and one day was just enough for us.  Winter in this region has been warm and dry, and we had bright comfortable weather at the end of February.  We were about a week before the seasonal onslaught at the beginning of March.  The park was quite empty.  In season it gets 3000 visitors a day.

They are not on their way to school, rather to sell packs of postcards.

They are not on their way to school, rather to sell packs of postcards.  Fashion matters.

We walked the ten-mile round trip from the entrance, climbing 800 steps to the Ad-Deir (Monastery) and down again.  What we enjoyed most was engaging with the Bedouins who live and work in the park.  Once, many families lived the caves. Most have relocated to a modern nearby village, but some 30 families still live there, and host overnight guests, and satellite dishes are in evidence.  We learned the caves have internet, and air conditioning, powered by generators.  The Jordanian government supplies the site with water.

The men line their eyes with kohl.  Some of them had really beautiful features.

The men line their eyes with kohl against the glare. Some of them had  almost beautiful facial features.

Jordan has done a good job in supporting the Bedouins and operating the site.  There are many vendors, most with the similar merchandise, who ask for the sale…once. Unlike at the pyramids in Giza Egypt, they do not hector visitors.  In Petra, a refusal to buy is met with a smile or humor or both, and it is easy and comfortable.

We petted these babies on the way up...they were passed out on the way down.

We petted these babies on the way up…they were passed out on the way down.

The world comes to these Bedouins’ door.  They are attractive people and many are quite well traveled themselves. Some speak multiple languages, at least well enough to cater to tourists. Jim was shown President Obama on one’s cell phone.

Ahmad with Daisy (foreground) and Antonio.

Ahmad with Daisy (foreground) and Antonio.  Daisy is 7, about mid-life, and Antonio is 2-1/2.

Our friend Berin and I had a delightful 3 kilometer camel ride…I rode Daisy (a male), she rode Antonio, and Jim walked with Ahmad, who held the lead, questioning him about his life.  He is 28, his father has 23 camels, they live in the village nearby, and Ahmad has had a girlfriend in Holland for the last three years, who is in medical school. The Bedouin life here looked quite peaceful…it seemed natural and adequate at the worst, and affluent at the best. Ahmad was one of the more affluent.

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One of the things we love in Istanbul is the urban wildlife…street dogs, cats, and birds,  We enjoyed the animals as well as the people at Petra.

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Camels aren’t keen on sitting…but will reluctantly obey orders.

A beautiful part of the day was when all were heading home.  All quieted down.  We were in no hurry, and a lot of the park had emptied before we left. We captured the last long, golden rays of sun, before driving back to Amman in the dark.

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Daisy offered me an interesting vantage point.

Women heading home.

Girls heading home.

 

The Treasury at sundown...sandstone gilded as gold.

The Treasury at sundown…sandstone gilded as gold.

Matching his environment

Matching his environment.

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On the way home.

On the way home.

We had a leisurely, relaxed and stimulating day.  And now, we’ve been to Petra.

Lucy Speaks

Mom loves living in Istanbul. Me, not so much.  Mom says my stress is her stress.

The day Rita's and my life changed. The long car ride to the longer plane ride.  Rita and I were comforting each other.

The day Rita’s and my life changed. The long car ride to the longer plane ride. Rita and I were comforting each other.

When we moved here we lived in a hilly part of town.  I loved all the cats on the street.  They are different from California cats – not afraid of me.  They just stand and spit…I like it when they run and I can chase them.  Mom made me leave them alone.  Now people laugh at me…there was a kitty and it blocked the stairway we were on.  I left it alone as I was supposed to, I gave it wide berth, so there wasn’t room for us to walk on the stairs…people watching thought I was afraid of the cat….can you imagine?  I do chase a cat when I can…

Recovering from jetlag.

Recovering from jetlag.

In California, most people said nice things to me, or ignored me.  Being ignored is fine…I’m not worried about other people or dogs, I just follow Mom and Dad and the toy they are holding.

Istanbul is different.  People and other dogs sometimes are not too nice.  Mom doesn’t always see the mean street dog sleeping under a car, and is surprised when I try to get away.  I have to, because those dogs bark a lot and bite some.  Mom’s learned to hang onto my leash, to protect me from cars, in case I have to dart away from the street dog.  I am glad Mom and Dad respect my need to avoid the street dogs.  Sometimes there are so many on one street that we need to go a totally different way to get somewhere.  Mom and Dad pay attention to my needs, and I am relieved.

My old life.  In Carmel CA.  I used to draw a crowd on the beach...they called me "ballerina"

My old life. In Carmel CA. I used to draw a crowd on the beach…they called me “ballerina”

At least Istanbul has water.  We live in Moda because of this spot.

At least Istanbul has water. We live in Moda because of this spot.

It is hard to make friends here.  Many people act very afraid of me.  They make unfriendly faces and run away.  Some kids think it looks like fun to throw the ball into the water for me, but are afraid of me when I bring it back to them.  Some people want me to come to them, but not too close.  What is wrong with them?

This kid couldn't resist my game :-)

This kid couldn’t resist my game 🙂

Some people are very mean.  This morning there was a friendly dog with a halter but no leash…his mom was nearby waiting for him to come inside.  We played, peed on the same curb, and sniffed each other.  He then went inside.  But, a friendly (surprise!) street dog wanted to join the game, and came to sniff me.  I knew we were in the middle of the street, Mom was calling to me and a car was coming.  We didn’t get out of the street in time, so he just hit us.  His fender was plastic, he wasn’t going fast, it was really just a nudge out of the way…but Mom was really mad!  Dad said, “Good thing I wasn’t there”.

I draw a crowd here too!

I draw a crowd here too!

I like the big park across the street, and I like to swim in the sea.  The park, the sea, the weather are all similar to home, but here I am trapped inside, with no gate that gets left open, so I can’t escape and go roaming by myself.  Sometimes kids in the park like me.  Dad always invites them to pet me, and get to know me.  Sometimes people understand that I am a sweet, obedient girl…mostly though; they don’t even give me a chance.

Dogs with families and homes aren’t always that nice either.  They steal my ball in the park, and their parents don’t stop them.  They get away with things.   Like, they pull their people all over the place, and they bark at me.  Mom and Dad won’t let me do that.  Their parents don’t always pick up after them either.  Mom is so fanatic, if I happen to poop on the steep slope in the park, she climbs after me to clean it up.  I don’t know why she bothers; no one else would do that.

We live in an apartment now.  In our California house I could bark as much as I wanted, although the parents always wanted me to stop.  Here they have some machine that bothers me when I bark.  I limit it now to the things I must bark about, like when the doorbell rings.  When they are gone they close all the curtains so I can’t see dogs outside to bark at.  Pretty boring.  I used to bark my head off at Dolores and the vacuum cleaner.  Wouldn’t you?  I hate that machine, it scares me.  Mom and Dad have been doing the vacuuming, so it’s not fun to bark at them.  Today they have someone else doing the vacuuming…but I’m not barking.  Maybe I’ve outgrown that.

Getting my exercise.

Getting my exercise.

There are some things I love, but I can’t tell you why…the simitici, for example.  He is a man who carries simitlar (Turkish “bagels”) on his head, and walks the neighborhood calling, selling to people who send baskets down on string.  He takes the cash, loads the bread and they haul it up for breakfast or afternoon snack.  That call really touches something deep and primal in me.  When I hear it I can’t help but throw my head back and join in with a howl.  It makes the folks laugh every time.  They call him “my boy”.  Sometimes when we are walking Mom will say “Lucy, there’s your boy”.  I don’t know what she’s talking about…”my boy” is only a sound.  Another thing I love, there are a lot of snacks on the street.  Mom always yells at me to “drop it”, but she’s not fast enough.  I won’t tell you what they are, but they are good.

They call him "my boy".  I don't know who that guy is!

They call him “my boy”. I don’t know who that guy is!

The streets are interesting too.  One day there was a wooden slat box lined in plastic on the street.  I sniffed it and was so shocked at what I smelled that I had to jump back.  I can’t describe what it was, but I did a double take.  Mom looked at it and didn’t see anything.  I could walk for hours just sniffing and peeing.  So many have been by the same place, there is so much to notice.

Mom and I go for long walks all over town in the evenings when Dad’s at the gym.  I like that – so many new streets and places to see. Mom tells me what a good friend I am, and how happy she is I am here with them.  Also, we go watch the boats out on the breakwater.  Sometime she ties me to a post and shops for things.  Being tied up used to make me nervous, but I’m a city dog now.

Mom and Dad are happy.  Rita is doing OK, and they protect me from the street dogs. It isn’t as good as my old life, but it is good.

Turkey in the News

There are two stories in the news now that Americans are reading.  One is the stabbing death of a New York woman at the end of her solo stay in Istanbul, and the other, the unfortunate suicide bombing of the US Embassy in Ankara, yesterday.  I followed the Sarai Sierra story and was sad and disappointed, but not surprised given the amount of time she was missing, that she was found dead.  I feel for her family, I can’t imagine their pain, they must be living a nightmare.  May she rest in peace.

Colorful Ottoman screens in the patio at  Kybele Hotel, Sultanahmet.

Colorful Ottoman screens in the patio at Kybele Hotel, Sultanahmet.

The 1978 movie Midnight Express formed my generation’s impression of Turkey.  A true story of an American jailed for trying to smuggle hashish out of Turkey in 1970, the movie was scary.  Billy Hayes, the prisoner, who escaped and wrote the book, later criticized the movie for its portrayal of Turkish people.  He understands that the filmmakers had to change his story to tell theirs, but complained that they showed no good Türks.  He apologized to Turkey for his portrayal in the book and said he actually loved Istanbul and got along great with the Turkish people until he was arrested.  He conceded that people arrested in the US might not be thrilled with America either.

Street musicians on a rainy day in Moda, Kadiköy

Musicians performing on a rainy day in Moda, Kadiköy

Americans who read the news and ascribe some bad news to define an entire culture might consider what people in other parts of the world think when they see headlines about events in the US.  More than one person from this side of the world has told me they believe there are frequent mass shootings all over the US.  Unfortunately, given the news I’ve read since I left on 04 December, it is easy to believe the same thing.

A winter Saturday's recreation despite gray skies.

A winter Saturday’s recreation despite gray skies.

I’ve been living in Istanbul now for two months.  Admittedly, I am on my honeymoon with the place, but my disappointments are few.  I can think of two at the moment, 1.  I struggle to hear the call to prayer.  I wanted to live with it, to learn its cadences.  Turkey is a secular state.  Istanbullu are busy people – they work very hard.  I have heard it said that the call to prayer is loudest in the tourist areas…in residential areas, people want to sleep in. Because of the society’s secular identity, a Turkish friend has called Turkey “Islamophobic”.  2.  My other main concern is the very uneven streets.  Cobble-stoned streets are charming, but very hard to walk on.  This old city, appears to lack the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulations of home. I’ve gone flying off my feet a few times, which is alarming.  In each instance Turkish passersby rushed to my assistance, and my pride took the greatest bruise.   I hope I will become more fleet of foot with time.

Internattonal guests from the US (Jim and I) and Israel in a Turkish homel

International guests from the US (Jim and I) and Israel at a Turkish dinner party.

I love the place and the people of Istanbul.  It is a huge metropolis, so I most closely compare it to my experiences living in Manhattan.  However, there is an equal or greater engagement with nature in the parks compared even to suburban Foster City, California where we last lived.  There are feral cats and dogs all over Istanbul, and they are fed and cared for.  Türks may not take them in as pets – although many do – but they will cover a box with plastic to house a street dog, and reverse its direction when the wind changes.  Butchers provide scraps.  Residents and shop keepers put out food. Few of these “homeless” animals are afraid of humans.  The dogs and cats frequently seek a petting. Even the very noisy, ubiquitous crows are not afraid of people; I can walk right up to one sitting on a park railing.  There is enough food for everyone, in affluent neighborhoods at least, and there is a pleasant harmony among humans and other species..

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There are odd contradictions, though, with some Türks being afraid of Lucy when we are walking her on leash in a crowd. Lucy also gets annoyed by the street dogs stealing her ball, but they are social and want companionship and to play.  Lucy and a local dog and I were walking together.  I felt sad the other cold rainy day when I had to shut our building’s front door in his face, after letting Lucy in.

A cat hotel in Cihangir.

A cat hotel in Cihangir.

Watching ferries sail swarmed by seagulls is a funny sight, reminiscent of flies swarming a horse.  People feed them off the front and back decks.  It is socially taboo to throw bread into the trash, so it makes its way to street animals and birds.  And, I’ve been told that spring is kitten season!  I will love that!  The engagement with nature extends to the ferry stations too.  Waiting for a ferry, I noticed a woman in the station with a cat on her lap. I assumed she was traveling with her pet, but saw no carrying case.  As I walked out to the pier, I noticed other felines lazing among the waiting passengers, and realized the cat’s lap was temporary.

Getting rid of day old bread on the commute to Europe.

Getting rid of day old bread on the commute to Europe.

A culture as nice to animals as this one tells a different story than the headlines of horrific events.  Merel (see prior post  https://2istanbul.wordpress.com/2013/01/27/running-with-scissors/ ) and I both walk  alone in the dark.  It is necessary to get around.  Both of us pay attention and are careful, and we both feel it is as safe or safer here as unescorted women than it is in our own countries of the US and Netherlands.  To go to my life drawing group’s evening meetings, I have to walk around the construction at Taksim Square.  It is dark and uneven, so I stay close to others and walk purposefully.  Places that would seem forbidding at home, frequently here are just normal walking routes that are not lit as well as I would like.  In all big cities in the world, one has to pay attention.  Even in suburbs in California, unless I have Lucy with me, I’m less comfortable walking alone at night than I am in Istanbul.

Following the ferry.

Following the ferry.

There is gentleness, helpfulness, and a civility among the people here that I don’t see in the US, in big cities or small towns.  It is not nirvana, not perfect. We are all the same, however, under the skin .  Istanbul is very comfortable to live in.  I find it magnificent, and captivating because of its beauty, society and historic civilization.

A metal bed in the sun makes sense.

A metal bed in the sun makes sense.

I visited Istanbul in 2010 for a conference, traveling home August 7.  On August 8, a German tourist celebrating her 50th birthday and wedding anniversary with her husband was killed in San Francisco crossfire between teen-aged gangs. The Germans had just arrived and were looking for a restaurant in which to eat dinner, before 9 pm at night.  Union Square is a central tourist hub in San Francisco, supposedly one of the safest locations in the city. Ironically, a week earlier, I had been referred by a US friend to verify the safety of her American friend’s prospective travel to Istanbul.  To her questions, I could only reply “if you are not afraid to travel to San Francisco, I wouldn’t be afraid to travel to Istanbul.”  Bad things happen in good places, and one may arrive at the wrong place at the wrong time, anywhere.