Turkey: The Architecture of Terror

17 04 2018

I’m getting ready to fly back through Istanbul for the second time in just over a year. This time, however, I have no plans to step foot outside the airport.

 

I wasn’t looking to visit Turkey again, but after chasing a ‘cheap airfare rabbit’ down a dead-end hole with Norwegian Air, I decided to look elsewhere for a cheap flight to Sweden. To my surprise, Turkish Airline was comparably cheap- around $500 round-trip! Bonus points because I actually accrued miles with them last year, and was able to buy my flight for free using other credit card points. So… Turkey is is then!

 

Last year, we flew through Istanbul en route to Sri Lanka, with a hefty 8 hour layover in both directions. Better yet, Turkish Airline offered a free tour bus for anyone with a layover of more than 6 hours! We could safely explore a few highlights in a group, with a tour guide and even two meals provided. I was excited about the opportunity to explore Turkey for the first time. As a young Architect student, I had studied Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, and was thrilled to finally experience these ancient architectural marvels in real life!

On the day of our departure from Chicago, a massive snowstorm was rolling in. While we were incredibly lucky not to be cancelled, it did leave us stranded on the tarmac for 3 hours until we could be deiced. We couldn’t watch any of the in-air entertainment yet, so I decided to catch up on email and social media. When I powered my phone back up, Facebook started exploding with concerned messages. “Are you two okay??” friends asked. Geez, it’s just a snowstorm, I thought. As I read on, however, I learned that this was not their concern. Apparently there had been a bombing in Istanbul at the stadium. It was chaos as the news was breaking, and friends and family knew only that we were supposed to be there, but were unsure of the exact timing. I spent the next hour assuring everyone that we were safely delayed. We were not counted among the 44 dead and 155 injured.

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This near miss certainly did not go unappreciated. Timing is everything, and clearly we were grateful for our 6 inches of snow and counting. Our flight delay did, however, carve into our layover, making the planned excursion impossible. I had mixed feelings, as a renewed sense of security concern washed over our plans to experience this famous city. After all, it was just 6 months earlier that the airport itself had suffered a terrorist attack. Is it wise to still consider exploring the city, after all that has happened there? We knew we at least had one more chance on the way home, and we would call it then.

 

After enjoying a successful conference and a couple weeks of vacation in Sri Lanka, we were renewed in our excitement to see Istanbul. Our flight arrived early, around 6am, so we headed to the VIP lounge (thank you, credit card perks!) to get breakfast and relax until the tour departure. We knew that we would have to get a visa, which supposedly was a quick and easy process. They lied. It was a nightmare! We spent 3 hours running all over, getting conflicting information, and watching the same visa guy treat everyone like wanted criminals. We missed our tour bus. Eventually, after spending way more money than we expected, we escaped the airport and took the metro into the city. This was my only chance, and I refused to let it slip through my fingers!

 

It was just above freezing, dreary, and drizzling. Bethany had lost her winter coat on the trip, so I gave her mine. We wrapped our heads in silk scarves to draw less attention to ourselves, and tried to blend in, knowing that being American was one thing, but being two American women- and lesbians, no less- was a whole separate level of risk.

 

Hagia Sophia WAS amazing, though not as mind-blowing without sunshine streaming in the windows to make the dome appear to float. There is no heat (it was built in 537 AD), and I was frozen to my bones after an hour. The rain had turned to sleet, and the inches-deep puddles were starting to ice over in shallower spots. We couldn’t bear the thought of taking off our rain-soaked shoes to step inside the cold, stone floors of the Blue Mosque, so that was the end of it.

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Just days after our return back home, Istanbul suffered yet another horrific attack, book-ending our trip in the most terrible manner. This pretty much settled it. No matter how much I desired to immerse myself in this ancient city, to go back and enjoy summer evenings strolling through sidewalk cafes, spending days-on-end losing myself in its architecture… Istanbul has lost all appeal to me… for now. So, next time I’m there, I won’t wonder what I’m missing, or expend energy calculating the mental stress of taking a risk being a tourist in dangerous times, or feel like a boring traveler for not getting outside of the airport. Instead, I will enjoy my free drinks in the airport lounge, and spend my layover hours practicing pronunciation with my new Swedish language app.

 

 

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My ‘Test Road Trip’ from Hell

27 02 2018

Ever since the day we met, I knew I had a new road tripping buddy. Even though it was just the beginning of a long, cold winter in Michigan, and we had only just met, we began daydreaming about where we would go together the next summer. Bethany was equally adventurous, and we were elated by how many things we both enjoyed, and wanted to experience together. So, we decided to plan a “Test Road Trip.” Ya know, in case we got sick of each other after so many days…

 

My new best friend and I could hardly wait to begin our adventures, so when her friend, Kristin, invited her up to northern Michigan for her 40th birthday celebration, Bethany immediately squealed, “You should come with me!” Beulah is not exactly a short trip, but if we made it a long weekend, it would be a fun mini-adventure. Except, Kristin’s birthday falls on February 29th. May I now remind you that northern Michigan is prone to some pretty significant snowstorms in February? Yes, clearly this was a brilliant plan from the get go.

 

Lo and behold, as our trip grew closer, the weather forecast grew more ominous. Bethany wasn’t too worried, because she knew that her Swedish tank (aka “Volvo”) would have no problem in a few inches of snow. What she didn’t plan on, however, was that she was taking this road trip with a sustainability freak, who would insist on driving her own Honda insight Hybrid. For the unenthusiast, let me tell you briefly about this car. My “Silver Bullet” is a sporty looking 2-seater, with aerodynamic covers over the rear wheel wells, manual transmission, 2” clearance from the ground, weighs about as much as two women, battery-powered with a gas backup, and averages 65 mpg. So, yeah, obviously I couldn’t be seen in a 20-year-old, gas-guzzling Volvo, tank or otherwise.

 

Bethany (who I was learning is decidedly NOT a morning person), had not yet had any coffee when I convinced her of my sound logic for switching vehicles. We threw our luggage into the back hatch, and got ready to go. Just one small problem. Bethany had decided to buy an unassembled IKEA bookshelf and deliver it to Kristin for her birthday. It was in a long, thick box, and weighed as much as my car. We tried sliding it between the seats vertically, and it fit! But it came right up to the dashboard, completely blocking my view of everything right of the middle of my car, including my mirror, and my passenger. This would NOT do for a 6 hour road trip.

 

Being the problem solvers that we are, we pulled out some straps to tie the box to the top of my car, where I had installed a rack for mounting my bike carrier. The IKEA box sat snugly atop my car, functioning perfectly as a giant sail for catching wind! It was not ideal, but by this point we were well over an hour behind schedule, so I decided to roll with it. (Literally). Off we went on our first adventure!

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Bethany had prepared some freshly juiced “Love Potion” for our journey, had consumed some caffeine, created a stellar music mix on CD, and was happily navigating. She had made this journey before on her motorcycle and had a favorite halfway spot where she liked to gas up, so that was out first destination. I was glad I was driving, because the weather was not cooperating, and the fierce gusts of wind were blowing my sail hard, tensing my arm muscles as I kept it between the lines on the road. As we got further out into the country, open fields of shimmering white crystals drifted over the highway, gusting and swirling into sudden walls of blinding whiteness before they disappeared into thin air. Fun!!!

 

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I couldn’t wait to get to the halfway point.

The driving was too stressful for me to do anything but focus on the road, and I was growing hungry, and needed to pee. Our route looked quite different in the snow-covered terrain, Bethany noticed as she squinted at signs to try to remember which one was her exit. She knew it by sight only. I silently watched as my gas gauge dropped, which was especially alarming because our IKEA sail was depleting my battery as well. I began to worry as the distance between each exit grew further and further. “I think it must be this one,” she guessed, as we finally exited the freeway. “No… this isn’t it. Let’s turn around.”

“Are you SURE?” I asked.

“Yeah, this is too soon, it’s coming up next.”

“Should we just stop and find a gas station here, since we’re already off?” I prodded.

“No, my gas station is way nicer. Let’s keep going,” she insisted.

Against my better judgment, I complied. After all, I didn’t want to argue on our Test Road Trip. I turned around, only to discover that the exit we had taken was one of those where there’s an off ramp, but no on ramp. Only a road to the previous exit, with no way to abort. So, there we were, driving 9 miles the wrong direction, only to then get back on the freeway and try again. We passed two more exits with nothing but an intersection in sight, and I was seriously starting to freak out. Here we were, my new best friend and I, preparing to become that story you hear on the news. That tragic one about two ladies found frozen in a snow drift, after they ran out of gas in the middle of a blizzard in northern Michigan with nothing but an IKEA bookshelf to burn for warmth. So sad.

I started thinking about all the warm layers I could put on, and mentally preparing myself for the long, cold walk from our abandoned car in search of help, when finally, like a beacon of hope, the gracious orange glow of a Shell appeared on the horizon. WE WERE SAVED!! I breathed an audible sigh of relief, trying not to pee my pants, and coasted into the gas station on fumes and prayers to the universe.

 

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I looked over at Bethany, our eyes both wide with amazement, and we smiled at our success! As a peace offering, she offered me a sip of her Love Potion, reaching down at her feet to grab the sealed bottle. As she twisted off the cap, a superheated explosion of beet orange juice splattered all over the inside of my car with shocking thoroughness. Bethany gasped in utter horror as her brain processed the phenomenal fermentation that we had just witnessed. You could not have engineered a better volcano had you tried.

 

Unable to speak, we both opened our car doors to go find something to clean up the mess. That’s when I heard the soft THUD of my passenger door hitting the concrete bollard next to Bethany. “You have GOT to be kidding me,” I muttered, but I could no longer deal with this insane series of unfortunate events. I HAD to go pee.

 

When I returned to the scene of the crime, Bethany was still feverishly dabbing at the upholstery with water and paper towel. Thankfully, the seats were pretty dry, since we were still sitting in them when it happened. I could see in her eyes that she was terrified that she had just killed our friendship. That was it. The Test Road Trip served its purpose and all future adventures were no officially cancelled. But I walked over to her, smiled, and said, “I can’t even believe our luck,” as I reached down to give her a hug. What else could I do?

 

downtown-beulah-in-winterBethany offered to drive the second half, and I decided to take her up on it. My shoulders ached from the tension of fighting with the wind gusts and snow drifts. She drove us the rest of the way, and it grew dark as we approached Kristin’s house. There were two ways to get to her place, nestled high up on a hilltop surrounded by trees. We now had a good 6 inches of snow on the ground, and were strategically coasting through stop signs to keep enough momentum to not get stuck. We turned onto the less steep approach, and I gulped. “There’s no way we’re going to make this,” I thought.

 

To my joy and awe, we fishtailed our way all the way to the top, and could see her driveway! That’s where we finally got stuck. I didn’t care at that point, we were close enough to walk. I grabbed my bag, tromped through the snow to her front door, and waited for instructions from B. “She said she’s not home yet, but the door’s unlocked,” Bethany read from her phone. She reached for the door and a booming series of barks ensued. “Oh, uh, hi Chopper. Do you remember me?” her voice quavered. “Great,” I thought, “we made it all the way here to be eaten by a dog.”

 

“Is he friendly?” I asked, having grown up with large dogs that cans sometimes sound meaner than they really are. B thought so, but clearly had a fear of dogs, so I decided to attempt to enter. I asserted myself and commanded the dog to sit to get a treat, and shockingly, he listened. After befriending him enough to get in the door, we walked inside, threw down our bags, and collapsed on the couch.

 

B’s reunion with her friends was lovely, though I (the introvert) was meeting everyone for the first time. We had some tapas and wine and caught up with Kristin and Kate. We were so exhausted, we didn’t stay up too late before asking where we were sleeping. Kristin’s two little boys had twin beds downstairs, one decorated with Batman, one with Superman. Bethany chose Batman, leaving me with the latter, and we passed out from our crazy long day.

 

In the morning, I awoke with a cold nose, and burrowed my face beneath the comic sheets. “Was yesterday for real?” I wondered. “That was EPIC.”  I began making some grand analogies to the journey of Odysseus, and then the cold found me. It penetrated the rest of my skin, as I shivered myself awake. I’m all for energy efficiency, but this was a little ridiculous. Moments later, my loud thinking woke Bethany and she agreed, so we toddled upstairs to make some coffee and tea. When Kate and Kristin awoke, it was to the realization that they had run out of propane, which is how they heat their house. After some frantic calls, we learned that it would be a couple days before they could get refilled, what with the snowstorm and all. So we prepped the house for the cold snap, and bundled up. Later that afternoon, B & I curled up together on the Batman bed for a nap, sharing our body heat for warmth. This was probably the highlight of the test road trip at that point.

The party was held next door, at Kristin’s parents’ home, which was empty because they were gone on vacation, and had heat. B & I moved over to their garage apartment for the night, grateful for a backup option. The party was amazing! I met so many new people, and had so much fun hearing all their old stories about B. And at the end of the late night, I got to lay in bed and stare up at the stars through a skylight, and make a wish on a falling star.

 

And, yes, my wish came true.

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“Your Touch”

25 02 2018

That moment before you touched me:

A lifetime of possibilities;

A split second of regret;

An eternity of anticipation.

All I could think of was the unimaginable;

The unforgettable;

The undeniable-You.

My world shattered instantly

Into a million smithereens

Glass shards of who I thought I was

Reflecting who I really am.

A sharp pain, with distinct pleasure

Shot through my veins like morphine.

Your touch cured my deepest aches,

Solved the ancient riddles,

And calmed my quivering fears.

Your touch cured my soul

And calmed my heart…

Before it ever even happened.

 

~krw~

3.16.14

touch1

touch1

 





“The Perigee of Two Souls”

18 02 2018

atom-electronsLike a flame licking towards a shuddering moth
you drew me in when we first met.
I kept my distance safely near,
wise to the gravity surrounding the sun.

Our paths must have crossed a dozen times
at the apogee of our separate rotations,
but one day, at our perigee,
we grazed close, and our souls collided.

We expanded like the birth of a star
into a whirlwind of rotating energy,
thrust together in a blissful chaos
more potent than physicists theorized.

Eons of energy, immense and powerful,
fuels our passion, drifting down like glitter
as it slowly settles into rhythms,
like our ever-expanding love.

~krw~

3.15.11

Hubble view of star-forming region S106





“Dreaming”

13 02 2018

rainbow cloudKnowing I’m not dreaming
only lifts me higher
into the stratosphere
through soft cirrus wisps
like feathers against my skin.
The thin air electrifying,
my whole body tingling.
I remember to breathe,
and my body shudders
with amazement.
I know I’m not dreaming
because it is far better
than any dream I’ve ever imagined.

~krw~

3.25.10

rainbow cloud2





“The Blossom and the Bee” Poem

11 02 2018

bloom-1850224_960_720A morning blossom lies before me,
eyes closed to the light.
Her skin as soft as petals,
still tangled from the night.
Lashes brushed like feathers,
twitch like stamen in a breeze,
but when those blue eyes open
my heart is set at ease.
The morning light floods in;
the sky is in her eyes.
Her sleepy smile opens,
soft lips emitting sighs.
In a sea of gorgeous flora
her colors stand alone,
shimmering in brilliance,
the most amazing shade and tone.
Like a fuzzy bee, I bumble,
drawn to her helplessly.
Only once I’ve landed
do I finally fly free.

~krw~

4.27.10

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“Hidden Words”

9 02 2018

i hold my thoughts tightly.
poems on paper close to my chest.
soft confessions of fervent emotions,
reflecting the joys i find in you.

i protect these words as i do my own heart,
shielding them from cold winter winds,
sheltering them in spring rains,
waiting for the right time.

your kindness permeates my layers
and you see these hidden poems.
you bring the light to them
however deeply they reside.

in a still, sunny moment
i open them up to the light.
the dampness disappears,
leaving gentle waves of wrinkles.

as i loosen my timorous grip.
these words can finally breathe.
they flutter in the once cold breeze,
eager to take flight.

i smile as they drift away
dissolving into the horizon
safer than they ever were
hidden in my heart.

~krw~

1.21.10

hidden poem








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