Anna's Journey

In my own little corner

In Istanbul on June 28, 2011 at 2:27 pm

It’s 1:30 pm, and the Call to Prayer blasts throughout Istanbul. A man’s voice, praying, chanting, bounces off walls and echoes into every corner of the city. Inside homes and mosques, people are kneeling, touching the tops of their heads to the floor in prayer. Outside, the chaos continues as though no one hears. Trams barrel through the streets, taxis honk and cut off pedestrians, men nose up beside innocent tourists, tempting them with boat cruises, lunch menus, jewelry. Women with head scarves and long skirts hold the hands of wandering children, while young teens in tank tops chew on corn on the cob, giggling. People are everywhere, and the noise of the city beats down, forcing one to retreat to the safety and quiet of her hostel room, her own tiny corner of the world.

Such has been travel in Turkey. In the morning, after a simple Turkish breakfast of Çay tea, tomato slices, cucumbers, cheese, olives, and bread, we burst into the world. We explored ancient, stunning mosques in Istanbul, bizarre fairy chimneys in Goreme, 18th century Ottoman homes in Safranbolu, and the blue waters of the Black Sea in Amasra. And each day, after horseback riding, audio tours, or a boat cruise, we returned to our little room to relax. The room could be in the second floor of a bustling youth hostel, inside a cool stone cave, or even within the aforementioned 18th century Ottoman home. But regardless, when traveling, it is important to find one’s own little piece of the world to relax and refresh before barging once more into an adventure.

We only have two more days abroad. After that, I return to begin to build my own little corner of the world in Boston. To find a car, an apartment, begin full-time teaching for the first time, and building a life. I’m not sure if the Taste of Olives will continue beyond this post; it was meant to be a blog to keep you posted on my Spanish adventures.

But life is continuing, as is my adoration of olives, so….why not? 🙂

Escaping the rain in the Hagia Sofia

Fairy chimneys left by a powerful volcano thousands of years ago

The Black Sea, baby!

"Blergh, why did we even come to Ankara?!"

Our sweet pad in an 18th century Ottoman home

The final chapter

In Salamanca on June 11, 2011 at 5:36 pm

After a lovely week of dining and driving through Lisbon with my warm Portuguese cousins, Jason and I crossed the border back into Spain for our final six days. This time, we paid our farewells to sleepy Andalucia and headed north. After a brief stop in the ancient town of Merida, where some of the oldest ruins of Spain lie squeezed between painted white homes, we bussed up to Salamanca.

Salamanca greeted us with a fury of culture and life that I haven’t experienced since Boston. Yesterday, we dined on faux-meatballs and cous cous at a vegetarian restaurant, stumbled upon a live digital poetry performance, visited a free museum with documents from the Spanish Civil War, and rocked to a concert in a university plaza. Home to an 800-year old university, Salamanca blends cavernous cathedrals and beautiful antique plazas with the freedom and expression of modern Spanish students. The sounds from the city drifting through my pension window are a mix of the shouts of students marching in the streets against corruption and the kazoos of bachelor and bachelorette parties. I feel as though I am emerging from the protective cocoon of Sanlucar and into the sometimes harsh and always exciting realities of a city.

From here, we are taking the train to Madrid for a final Spanish farewell, and then flying mid-week to Istanbul to begin our Turkish travels. The final chapter of our European adventure!

By the way, I have learned to love the taste of olives.

Sisters reunited in Lisbon!

A protest sign in Salamanca reads: "Stop feeding the debt"

Ooold books at the library of the 800-year old Salamanca university

 

Hanging out at the cathedral

The Feria

In Sanlucar la Mayor on May 15, 2011 at 5:51 pm

Last night, I lay in bed wishing that I hadn’t had green tea at 7pm, and listening to the sounds of Sanlucar floating through my window.

The crow of a rooster? Usually, but no.

The yowl of a stray cat? At times, but not last night.

The chirping of crickets? No, sir.

Last night, the sounds echoing through the wind and distracting me from sleep were the heavy bass of a drum, the rhythm of Sevillanas, and the roar of a crowd.

For the Feria has come to town.

Andalucians are people who will go out of their way to have a good time. They spent months constructing elaborate tents, or casetas, to fill a vacant lot near the center of town. They hung lights throughout the streets, and constructed a giant arch to welcome people to the biggest party of the year. And then, on Wednesday night, Raul the mayor cut the ribbon to announce the start of the Feria. Fireworks sparkled to the sound of a marching band. The Cruzcampo cerveza and white wine flowed freely. Women squeezed themselves into tight fitting, brightly colored flamenco dresses, painted their lips red, men put on their finest white shirts, and arm in arm they strolled the streets of the fair.

The Feria is a county fair with pizzazz. The sleazy carnies are the same, but other than that, this fair is nothing like anything I’ve seen in New England. Each night the town hall hosted concerts with smoke and disco lights that lasted well past three in the morning. Every caseta came complete with tables, a kitchen, bar, and waitstaff. Most were private. Some had televisions and speakers, others had music blaring into the night. Children rode live ponies on the merry-go-round. Trucks parked in the lot selling candy, coconut slices, cotton candy, hamburgers, and – naturally – hot chocolate and churros. People arrived at 6:30pm with their families and stayed out until 6:30 the next morning. At midday, kids rode horses and grandfathers drove their horse and carriages through the streets. People dined on tortilla, jamon, chicken kebab and fried fish.

As we circled the Feria each day with my visiting parents, we stumbled across friends at every corner. I waved to our next door neighbors, we chatted with the guy from the phone store, we complemented our gym teacher on her excellent physique in her flamenco dress, and we were invited into several casetas to partake in the festivities. We danced the choreographed Sevillanas, participated in the line dances, and just enjoyed ourselves with the people who we see every day in our town.

This town in the olive fields of southern Spain has become my community in eight months. I can’t believe that I will only be here for 16 more days before transitioning onto the next adventure (Turkey, here we come!).

And although the Feria kept me from falling asleep last night, I won’t forget the importance that people here place on – quite simply – having a good time.

The arch to the feria