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Looking back: The last week in Turkey

Updated: Apr 6

The last week in Turkey began with days of making meaning of and celebrating turning 65, followed by days of gratitude and tearful goodbyes. Every day, every person, every thing filled my heart. Every moment overflowed into the next. And then, on March 4th, Turkey was in my past.


Antalya, Turkey - February 28, 2024

It had been a week since I had joined the exercise group on the beach. I had been recovering from oral surgery and Oxana, along with her motivating presence, was not there. I am like a dog. I will lay around the house until my person takes me out. My person was not there to take me out.


On this day, my birthday, I motivated myself to get up and get out. Good puppy. When Oxana had been there, I would leave the house with her while it was still dark. That is how she liked it. Oxana liked to greet the day as the sun rose.


On this day, Oxana was not there. Though my birthday motivated me to join the group, it was not enough motivation for me to wake up before I had to. The exercise group started at 08:30. I woke up and walked out the door at 08:00.


Walking toward the beach, I felt pangs of missing my person. In my mind I saw Oxana's smile, her eyes, her style. In my heart I felt her power, her presence. In my mind, I heard her greeting the day as the sun rose. In my heart, she walked with me and we greeted the day together.


I looked up at the morning sky and said: "Good morning clouds." I continued walking, greeting the emerging day. "Good morning trees... Good morning people in cars... Good morning cats... Good morning man in the parking booth..." (well, to him I said: "Günaydın"). "Good morning mountains..."


I stood and looked at the mountains. This was a time-limited view. Soon, I would not walk this route. Soon I would not see this sight...


I continued walking toward the beach. "Good morning people walking... ("Günaydın." "Günaydın." "Günaydın."). "Good morning, dogs... Good morning, sea."


When I arrived to our spot on Konyaalti Beach, members of the exercise group were gathering and greeting each other. Most only spoke Turkish, so I waved and smiled and said my one-and-only Turkish conversational morning greeting: "Günaydın."


I sought out the one person who understood English. "Today is my birthday," I said. "I turn 65." I believe that, in Turkish, he told others.


During the group, people in the circle yelled out things like, "Ami Ji!" and "Hey America, Happy Birthday." At the end of our hour's worth of exercise, some began to sing a Turkish version of a happy birthday song and the whole group joined, singing, smiling, clapping. I did not understand the Turkish words. I stood there feeling silly and shy and confused and happy. One-at-a-time, people gathered round and hugged me. It was glorious.


I walked over to the area where Oxana and I (and others) swam. I put my bag on a hook and took my phone (you) with me to the shoreline. I squatted down, and listened to the loud and pronounced sound of the sea washing up over the pebbled beach. I listened for both of us. Here...



I walked back to my bag to set my phone in a dry, safe spot, undressed, walked back to the shoreline, and dove into the Mediterranean sea. I met and communed with the cold and enlivening water for what felt like a good, long time.


I had told Mujdat that I wanted to celebrate with him the day after my birth date, on February 29. "I have the entire day and night available," I had said. Still, on my birthday, I thought of him and sent a picture of myself with the message: "This is me turning 65."



I laid on the beach to let the sun warm me. With closed eyes, my fingers felt the surrounding rocks. There was one smallish rock that was smooth and seemed to call to me. I rubbed it between my thumb and first two fingers for what felt like another good, long time.


When it seemed time to start moving on, I sat up and looked at the rock I had been holding.



I texted Oxana the picture (above) and told her what had happened. "I lay on the pebbles and rocks here on the beach and reached for a smooth stone. When I opened my eyes and looked, there was a small heart in the center of it." She texted back: "Supeeeer! This is from me!!!!"


I looked at her response. I texted her (in Russian), "I feel deep gratitude and love for you, Oxana. It can't be explained by how long I've known you. All I know is that I enjoyed every moment with you. And I miss more."


I think my message made her feel guilty. She wrote back (in English), "I am so sorry It's life."


I felt a need to assure her she did not have to feel badly. I wrote: "Nothing to be sorry about. I have sad love - with a focus on love."


I think that was good. She sent a prayer/Namaste emoji back.


My phone, as you may recall from my last post, sends messages that the phone storage is full. When this happens, and I cannot even send a text, I freak out and start deleting everything... even whole text threads. I have deleted all my WhatsApp text threads, except the one with Oxana. I cannot delete that.


I put on my dry clothes and packed up my things. Before leaving the beach, I visited with a group of folks I had become familiar with.


The woman to the left of me (in the picture below) was my favorite teacher in our exercise group. She obviously did and possibly taught yoga. Whenever she led the group (usually for the second half), my stiff neck and overly-stressed shoulders felt completely better. Once, I used Google translate to tell her all of this.


Whenever I taught (some version of my Five-Body-Yoga energy routine), she would smile approvingly at me and, at the end, applaud.


Today she had taught. She added tapping to her routine. When she did this, she stood in the center of the circle, turned toward me, and smiled. It was like she was saying Look, I have added this. We will continue to do this in our exercise group now.


After I took the picture (below), she and I hugged a long, warm hug of mutual appreciation.



I left the beach and walked across the street to Roberts, to enjoy my favorite cappuccino and book.



When I finished my cappuccino, I looked down at my cup, like I was doing a tea leaf reading, and saw a brown bear standing on her hind legs, letting something go.



Then it was time to go to the Hamami by Migros, where I received all of what I had hoped for: a hot sauna, a sweaty steam, a thorough scrub down, elastic bubbles and buckets of hot then cold water splashed over my body, and a Swedish-Tai mix massage. I walked back to the apartment in a rubber body operated by a mush brain.


At the apartment, eighty-something year-old Tatiana said (in Russian, into my phone's Google translate App), "Your birthday has come. Let everyone be happy from dawn to dusk. On this day I give you a forest lake and a whole bunch of daisies."


You may recall, from the February 27 blog, that Tatiana had said something similar to me. Later, I would learn more about the background of this gift.


I quickly ate, because Svitlana had said she would pick me up soon.


Svitlana arrived and we picked up Efe from school. The three of us drove to the Kurşunlu Waterfall Nature Park. This was a magical place. I will let pictures speak the thousand words needed to describe it...


Svitlana liked to take pictures, so there are lots of pictures with me in them...




Svitlana took a picture of me taking a video of the ducks and waterfalls...


And here is my video...



It was funny that we all took videos of the ducks.


I love how, in this video (above), you can hear Efe and Svitlana talking together in their native tongue. Honestly, I could not tell when they were speaking in Turkish or Russian. The family seemed to move effortlessly between languages.


Here are pictures of Efe, Svitlana, and me being our sweet and goofy selves...




And then, the gifts began to pour in. I did not realize yet that giving wishes and gifts of Nature was a family tradition.


While walking, I told Svitlana about her Babushka (grandmother) Tatiana's birthday greeting. "Ah," she said, "that is from a Russian poem."


Svitlana told me that Babushka had memorized many Russian poems, and would recite poems to all of them on special occasions.


It took a while to sink in. Much later, I realized that their family tradition involves giving gifts of poems and wishes regarding Nature. I remembered Oxana's response to the heart-rock I had found: "This is from me." I thought about Efe's gift of a leaf. What he meant was that the leaf represented the plant that it came from. And that the plants would continue to grow. He was giving me a gift, of Nature, that continued to grow. Svitlana's comment: "This is all for you" did not mean that my birthday gift was taking me to the waterfalls. It meant that all of Nature was the gift.


As we walked the Nature trail, Svitlana would see a little flower in the grass, bend down to look at it, and say to me: "This flower is for you, for your birthday."



I was given many gifts.






I loved how Svitlana saw beauty in everything. We both stopped to look at this plant (below). She said: "I know this is diseased, and still it is beautiful."


Along the trail, we crossed bridges from which we could view more waterfalls...




15-year-old Efe was definitely the man...




Nature was definitely boss...



We thought it would be funny to take a picture of me in front of this sign (below) - the 65-year-old about to embark on the trail "not suitable for elderly."



There were indeed places where we bush-wacked, and where there were steep trails and stairs to climb...


The Nature trail led to many waterfalls, trees...



...turtles...


... and goats.


One of my favorite parts of the day was walking with Efe and later, watching the video Svitlana had taken of us...



After we saw the duck ("Ami's duck," as Svitlana called it), I tried to get Efe to play with me. "Let's walk like ducks," I said. Then, "...like dinosaurs." At one point, Efe saw Svitlana pointing her phone camera at us and said in Turkish: "Don't take pictures." Later we would learn that Efe had not eaten all day and was tired and hungry, and wanted to leave.


My favorite moment of this video is when Efe walked in a circle around a tree and I followed him. Then he ran... and, not knowing Svitlana was filming us, I turned to her and said: "I'm not even gonna try!"


Svitlana's little walk-umentary of Efe and me ended perfectly, when she caught me hopping between muddy spots to catch up with Efe, and disappearing into the distant trees.


If you skipped the video above, you may want to watch it all the way to the end. It really is funny.


When we passed the sign we had seen at the start of the trail, we thought it would be comical to take an after-picture of the 65 year-old who dared to walk the (looong) hike.


I was not really tired. I am kind of sure you knew that! It was not really a challenging hike. It was calm and sweet, and I enjoyed all the gifts it (and Efe and Svitlana) offered.


When we left the park it was late in the day. Svitlana offered two more gifts. "This sunset is for you," she said.



An airplane flew by and she added,"this plane is for you."



Before arriving back to the apartment, after Efe left to walk home, Svitlana had one more gift to give me...



I was quite happy that Svitlana seemed to enjoy ice cream and gelato as much as I do. The place she had picked for us offered many unique flavors. I wanted to try something different and ordered: "healing." It was... quite awesome.



Throughout the day I received birthday wishes (from others, other than Efe, Svitlana, and Nature) via text, emails, and phone calls. Each message lifted me up and made me remember my love for that person. All day, my heart was filled up more and more.


My birth day ended with a beautiful online meditation, followed by a long phone call with Ash. I had been looking forward to our meditation group. The hour we spent together delivered its usual peace in my soul and deepening love for those in the "meditation family."


The phone call with Ash proved to be the emotionally-laced icing on the day. It was heart-filling and heart-aching. During our phone call, I realized, for the first time, how much Ash had been missing me.


After we had talked for a while, I told Ash: "Ok, my birthday is over. We can plan your birthday now." "Oh, I've been ready for my birthday since a week after you left," Ash said. This did not surprise me. I left in mid-October. Ash's birthday is April 9th. Ash has been known to start planning for their (next) birthday the day after their (last) birthday.


"I knew you'd be back for my birthday," Ash added. This surprised me.


I had not realized that one week after I had left Vermont, Ash started missing me and had been waiting, since then, for my return. This information suddenly made me glad I had an end-date to my travels. Before this conversation, I was ready to become nomadic.


I went to bed with my heart both fully filled and feeling the beginning pangs of home-sickness.


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Thank u for your visit and also thank you for making me main character of your blog for 3min :D if u miss my jokes, you can come again.


Love from your very peaceful and humanist friend,


-Efe

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I could write a whole blog just about you, Efe. You are a main character for sure. I loved being around you and yes... I miss your jokes. Especially this last one... that you are my very peaceful and humanist friend ;-). You are indeed my friend. I'm not sure I'd use the other descriptive words for you, my dearest!

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Thanks for sharing your stories and travels! I felt like I was with you!! How awesome is that!!! You look so beautiful for 65 ❤️. Thank you for your words and beautiful pics. Truly I felt such Oneness with you and the world. Love you Clara

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I'm so happy to hear your sentiment, Clara. Thank you for sharing this 💕💗💖

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