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Harry Potter in Istanbul with Laughing Seagulls

If there’s no better option, I can live with anything, because I must. Until I know better.

First, I will try to change or fix a problem. For example, you may recall that when the sink in the toilet room was not working, I asked my host if it could be fixed. “A reasonable thing to try,” you may be thinking.

When, after (supposedly) fixing the leaky pipes and later that night, stepping into the toilet room, into overflowed water that had formed, again, into a small pond – soaking the bottom of my pajamas (that I had thought safe to wear) – I wondered if this problem was unfixable.

With wet pajama bottoms, I moved the cup that housed my toothbrush, toothpaste, and dental floss, two flights up to the shower room. I would use the shower as my “bathroom sink.” That, I decided, was “fine.” “Fine” because I had no choice. My attitude, as you can see, can be flexible as needed.

When the first trial does not work, if it seems at all reasonable, I will try again. In the morning, I thought it reasonable to send a text to the host that said, “It didn’t work.” I was open to whatever his response would be. I just wanted to know, "What is the truth of it all," so that I could get on with the matter of adjusting to reality.

My host must have agreed that fixing the leaking pipes under the sink in the toilet room was a good idea. He texted that he’d already scheduled someone to fix it, and that (by the time I read his text) it was done!

Ah. It could be fixed. Change could happen. It did happen. “Now,” I thought, “I just have to be ok with living with a toilet room that I get to by going down dangerous stairs into a stinky basement, and a shower room that I get to by going upstairs, and a bedroom only large enough for a bed (and funky windows).” To be honest, I didn’t really think this thought at that point. I thought about this thought later. I am thinking this thought now. And I am not sure the answer is “I’m Ok with things as they are.”

The problem has become that I learned there is a better way – a much, much better way – to live in this “hotel.” Now, more than ever, I feel like I’m Harry Potter, living at Privet Drive, in a cupboard under the stairs.

Earlier, when I had been feeling somewhat relieved because I had a working sink in the basement toilet room, I moved my toothbrush from the shower-sink I had created, back down the two flights of stairs to where it seemed more fitting.

I washed, dressed, and climbed upstairs to the kitchen. I put together a breakfast, with leftover gluten-free pancakes I’d packed and brought from Tashkent, adding a chunk of paneer, and a mixture of tahini and honey, that I’d purchased in the neighborhood the day before. I made a cup of stress relief tea (that I’d brought from Brattleboro, VT) and added honey, and lemon (leftover from last night’s supper: stuffed clams with lemon wedges, that I had looked forward to eating from a street vendor in Istanbul again). I managed to climb with my breakfast upstairs to the roof. I placed my breakfast on the slatted wooden table and sat on the wooden bench. It was glorious.

Then I noticed. Noticing is for me like putting on my Nature Eyes. The process of Noticing takes time. I must be fairly still for a fair amount of time. I must wait, to see and hear more of what's around me.

I noticed how the seagulls rule the rooftops. I noticed that they sounded like they were laughing and then the laugh turned into crying. I thought of Joni Mitchell's song People's Parties, the line: laughin’ and cryin’ you know it’s the same release.

At one point, there was a pack of seagulls forming on a rooftop behind me. There was one large seagull who’d been there first, alone, laughing. He seemed to be the leader, calling to his friends. I thought, “he’s probably like: Dudes, remember that Hitchcock movie with the birds…” And as I thought this, he laughed hysterically.

I spend a lot of time, seemingly alone. I am not alone, though. I have much company. I have relations with the clouds, and the trees, and the water, and the air, and the birds. Sometimes we're reverent; sometimes we joke.

When I thought about my new friend, Laughing-Leader-Seagull, joking about Hitchcock’s The Birds and laughing hysterically, I, thought, “To be honest, it’s hard for me to know what Laughing-Leader-Seagull was really saying, though… because he probably speaks Turkish Seagull.” All the seagulls laughed hysterically. It was funny. I laughed with them.

If I had an Indigenous name, it might be Harry-Potter-in-Istanbul-with-Laughing-Seagulls. Welcome to the weird and whacky world of Ami’s inner workings.

After the seagulls and I calmed down, I noticed life below.

I noticed men talking and smoking on their little balcony, a Turkish flag waving, people below them walking by, and empty cafe chairs waiting to be filled...

I noticed women walking together, and walking alone, and people milling about on the streets in the distance, while the men continued talking and smoking on their little balcony...

I noticed the cars parked in both directions on what looked to me to be a narrow, one-way street, and a white van passing a parked white van, miraculously not scraping it...

I noticed a cat on a car parked on the not-a-one-way street, and a group of people looking at the cat on the car parked on the not-a-one-way street...

I noticed another cat, walking past the cat on the car on the not-a-one-way street, walking further on, to a black van three cars up, jumping up on the roof of the black van, and settling down...

I wondered, if I waited long enough, would there eventually be a cat settled down on the top of each car parked lining the not-a-one-way street?

I noticed a bowl of water that had been left out on a banister for... the cats? the birds?

I noticed more people on their balconies...

...and more people in the distance, more birds, and the men, still talking and smoking on their little balcony...

I noticed splendor and decay in the same neighborhood, from every angle, everywhere. And then a seagull landed close by and looked at me.

"Yes. This is home," he seemed to say.

I noticed people taking pictures of buildings and stairs and people. I noticed a street cleaner, who had had what looked to be a friend standing near him, smoking a cigarette, and, after the smoking friend left, I noticed that the street cleaner stopping working to smoke a cigarette, and then, when done, got back to sweeping the street by hand. I noticed the men, still together, still talking, on their little balcony.

And then, I noticed a balcony – with plants, and a table, and chair, and bench, and umbrella stand – under this rooftop deck, attached to this “hotel.”

I got curious.

I brought my dishes in and down to the kitchen, where I washed them. I talked with Yukari who was eating at the kitchen table. I got my laptop from my room, to bring with me, back up to the rooftop, where I had hoped to write about some of these thoughts and visions. I also wanted to bring the two little glass jars that held Michelle's and Jessica's ashes. I thought it would be nice to have them on the rooftop.

Before I went all the way up to the rooftop, though, I went exploring.

What I found, between the metal spiral staircase from the roof to the next wooden spiral staircase to the kitchen, next to the landing with the (extra? unused? not working?) little kitchen (that I had seen but not questioned), was a locked door with a key in it.

I knocked on the door, listened, waited, and then turned the key, opened the door, and walked in. Inside the door was the most magnificent room, a magical room, a decent room. This room was clean. This room smelled nice. In this room, there was a bed with enough space around it to house another bed - a trundle bed/couch, and a large wooden desk and wooden chair, and a closet area. In this room there was a TV screen on the wall. And, in this room there was a bathroom, a real bathroom – with a shower, sink, and toilet (and towel warmer) all in one room, inside the bedroom. And in this room was a door… that opened onto the balcony.

I closed and locked the door. I brought my laptop and phone up to the rooftop. I texted my host.

Me: I noticed another outside deck from the rooftop... checked out the room attached to it. Will anyone be staying there? If not I would like to move in there.

My host: (nothing)

Me: I don't like the set up where I am. It is very hard for me.

I'm not sure why I start texting like my non-English speaking Turkish-speaking host speaks English. I added, "I would very much like to move today."

My host: It is booked.

Me: Oh, that’s a shame. Do you have a better alternative available?

My host: All rooms are occupied in. This building.

I realized the period after the word "in" and the capital letter T in the word "This" was a typo. Still, I texted, “Ah. I see. Are you suggesting there may be a better alternative at a different building?”

It is possible that my text did not translate well. I have not heard back from my host.

I set my laptop on the table and quickly realized there was no connection to the internet on the roof. I decided to use a Word document to start (this) blog. I set the little glass jars with Michelle's and Jessica's ashes on the table, each in front of a chair, and could very easily imagine Michelle and Jessica sitting there. It was nice to hang out on the rooftop together.

A kitty joined us. He laid himself by my feet...

...and then he moved up to sit next to me on the bench...

Actually, he may have been laying by Michelle's feet, and then, he may have been sitting on her lap.

Then, the Call to Prayer. I noticed how life below continued, (seemingly) with little-to-no-notice of this booming event that continued on and on in a melodious and sacred tone. I noticed Kitty Boy (that's what I'm calling him) also continuing with his life-as-usual cleaning routine.

I have lots to share with you, my friend... about the cobbled hilly streets, the shops, the food, the people… more about Kitty Boy cat. And, I want to get back out there, experiencing Istanbul. So, I'm signing off for now. But first, one more thing...

Let me reel this sharing back a bit, to the disconcerting, fascinating, and dodgy ways of seagulls...

Seagulls not only sound like they are laughing and crying. They can sound like an infant is crying... and then, cooing. They can sound like a dog, "Woof." They can sound like a cat, “Meow. Meow.” They can sound like a dolphin, (I'm not even gonna try). The variety of sounds seagulls make are both disconcerting and fascinating. One seagull sounded like he was firmly telling another seagull to “Halt.” The seagulls seem to have a lot to say, and use lots of speech patterns, dialects, and attitude to express themselves.

After I'd eaten breakfast and drank tea, and was preparing to depart from the rooftop (for the first time), I attempted to capture on video the many disconcerting and fascinating sounds of seagulls. I attempted this for you, my friend. I am trying to bring you fully into these moments with me.

I put down my plate and cup, got out my phone, opened the camera, and set it to video. Strangely, as soon as I hit record, the seagulls got quiet. I mean… they were silent. I say "strangely" because, the moment before, they were loud and chatty, then, I got out my camera and... silence.

It was similar, actually, to when I took out my phone camera at Kira's parents' home, to record the family talking amongst themselves in their native Russian tongue, and they all stopped talking.

“Huh,” thought I, “that’s too bad.” I closed down the camera, closed my phone, configured how I'd carry my plate and teacup, and made to head down, through the glass door, closing the heavy ceiling glass door, toward the metal spiral staircase that would, eventually, lead me to my room. And it was then, hands full, the big heavy rooftop glass door about to slam closed, that the seagulls laughed hysterically. Oh, those seagulls!

That was the first time that I left the rooftop. When I left the rooftop the second time, I got ‘em. I captured their hysterical laughing on video. Only for a moment, and you have to wait for it. But, that particular speech pattern is on the video, I promise. So, (drum roll, please), here my friends are The Seagulls:

I'm honest-to-a-fault. I'm funny that way. So, I feel I must disclose that the seagulls may have let me get ‘em. They may have "let me" capture them on video because they felt badly for me. because of this thing that I did. this one more thing… that I did.

I will quickly tell you about the one more thing that I did. Please don't judge me.

Before leaving the rooftop (the second time), I decided to drop some of Michelle’s and Jessica’s ashes onto the balcony below. I know that often people look to me for guidance as to how to forgive and move on. Yet, here I am to say that I can get pissy (a common word used by my older sister) and (slightly) vengeful (mostly "slightly." In this case, definitely slightly). In this case, I wanted my non-bodied mates to spy on what I am now calling "the good spot."

One more thought-thread before I sign off for now. It’s not strange or macabre. If that last admission did throw you though, this thought-thread may help bring us back together.

I’m not hip to the popular texting acronyms. I'm not even sure if super short formatting of words or phares via text is considered creating acronyms. I’m somewhat sure though, that SOFN stands for “signing off for now.” Ok, here's the thought thread...

I’m thinking, if we add one particular word to that, and make it: “signing off for the now,” it would be cool, right? It would bring us instantly into the present – the now – while inviting us to SOFTEN – to (after ending this moment) begin the next series of moments... the forward movement into the world... with a humbling curiosity and an open heart. (That's what "soften," in spiritual terms, means to me). So, either way, my friend, SOFN. SOFTEN.

(As requested by Monica) I will bring you with me.

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Are there any remnants of Constantinople out and about? I've been commenting on your blog to let you know that you are being read. When that happens you are thought of also, and held in the hearts of those back home. I'm with you. You deemed it important for your friends to read of your travels. Important to you, it's become important to me. As to now, I don't want to argue with you now. But placing 'the' in front of now diminishes now for me. After all Ram Dass didn't title his treatise, Be in the Now. Now stands alone with all of us. Now, nowhere, or as some view it now here is also superfluous. I …

Ami Ji Schmid
Ami Ji Schmid
Nov 03, 2023
Replying to

Now, I love you, Charles :)

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