Sniff Hanger

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August 13:  I’m sitting in the car, zipping by golden fields framed by green pines and dark blue water, and the beautiful, serene surroundings are urging me to write.

(And a few people have been asking for the link to my blog and wondering what happened with it…I just couldn’t bring myself to send out a link to a blog where the last post was about the dangers of plucking nose hairs.)

Plus, after a few brain blunders that have made me realize that the grey matter may be suffering from early retirement, I realized that killing two birds with one keyboard – documenting events before they get lost in the wrinkles of my mind while flexing mental muscle – is probably a good thing.

So, what has happened since my nasal post?

No idea.

See what I mean? The memories have gone to some crack in a convolution in my brain.

Ok, that is not entirely true.

  • I was introduced to Ashura, which I happily devoured along with other lucky friends of our lovely Duygu who took the necessary time out of her busy schedule to make this dish for us. Ashura is served on the holiday of the same name, and was a dish that Noah served on the Ark to help its passengers survive the arduous journey. The holiday has different religious significance, just as the recipe has a few variations, neither of which I will be able to do service to here. However, as far as this “Noah’s pudding” goes, despite being made of a curious blend of beans, wheat, sugar, and different mixes of spices, dried fruit and nuts, it is tasty AND filling, just as Noah intended;IMG_5871
  • I finally saw the Hunchback of Notre Dame without the benefit of animated characters;
  • Was able to move more amazing Istanbulsights off of my wish list, including:
    • The Patriarchal Church of St. George, the oldest of all Christian churches and where we also were able to witness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I – patriarch of 300 million Orthodox Christians – conduct a ceremony (we weren’t sure which one, exactly, and weren’t about to raise our hands from our spots in the pew and ask, but it looked like a priest was being ordained or promoted)…access this link for CBS News coverage of him. There are also some incredible views of Cappadocia.
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      http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/the-ecumenical-patriarch-bartholomew-i/
      (Trivia: His All Holiness was also the neighbor of two of our close friends)
    • The Chorla Church (www.choramuseum.com) and even under construction, the art was well worth a visit (as was lunch at the neighboring IMG_4416restaurant, AIMG_4423sitane, which specializes in Ottoman cuisine); and
  • My sister and her clan came for a 10-day visit that still seems like a dream;
  • …and I attended far too many farewell lunches / dinners / parties for friends moving on to their next expat adventure.

Which brings me to summer.

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The sky in my hometown

The boys (and at 15 and 17 I lose that term loosely) and I went home to the US to visit family. Wonderful as always but complicated by some poor planning on my part. No unlike a trip to a tasty buffet, my eyes were bigger than my stomach.

(Although not in the case of Bob Chin’s where my youngest and I enjoyed a feast of lobster, soft shell crabs and bread with enough garlic to ward off an army of vampires.)

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Wanting to spend time with friends, family and get the boys to their various destinations saw me cruising up and down route 88 between my hometown and Chicago – a 4.5 hour trek – enough times to count the cows, red barns and cornfields along the way and buck up Illinois’ economy in toll fare.

(46, 83, and 102)

(But thanks, mom, for keeping me company on one trip. No barn counting then. Just enough chatting to make us both hoarse.)

Three and a half weeks in the US, then back to Istanbul for 36 hours – just long enough to unpack, repack and thoroughly confuse our dog who will probably ignore us all when we return home – and on to Sweden to our cozy summer stuga.

And limited water.

Call me a snob, but even with a roof, electricity and internet, living in a house without water feels like camping.

And it smells like camping, water being an integral component of basic body maintenance.

Fortunately for the four of us – and our various guests – Sweden has experienced an unprecedented warm, sunny summer which means not only is the normally quite, ahem, refreshing (read “frigid and only for those with polar bear tendencies”) water actually swimmable, but the air temps were actually such that one wanted to seek refreshment (because, frigid or not, who wants to swim when you are shivering in the “summer” air and have goosebumps on your arms?). So, we took advantage of our house’s proximity to the water to swim and bathe simultaneously.

(Our house is on a well. Good weather is a mixed blessing for us. We love the hot, sunny weather but our water level suffers. We are counting the days until our house will be connected to city water, something that is rumored to happen anywhere from 1-3 years. I’m giving it three years and then demanding a mini salination plant to supplement our supply or putting the house on the market.)

Still, it was with unbridled pleasure that I showered at our friend’s well-watered home spectacularly located in Sweden’s west coast archipelago, just outside of Gothenburg (Goteborg in Swedish). Of course, the pleasure of the shower was second to that of visiting with old comrades from our Russia days and enjoying their wit, warmth, wine and culinary gifts again. Since the three years that we both lived in Russia, children have morphed to young adults, which was wondrous to behold.

(And, yes, we had fun commiserating about the special, unique and interesting characteristics of teenagers.)

Of course we adults hadn’t aged a bit.

(Hope springs eternal after all.)

(But actually our friends did look wonderful, life in their beautiful home surrounded by water and nature and access to locally produced food – including their own garden which fed us the best sugar snap peas, beans, carrots and potatoes you could imagine – obviously not doing them any harm.)

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And so, after a few feasts – including on kraftor – much talk, wine and laughter (not necessarily in that order); a spectacular boat ride in the archipelago navigated by our friend who made us realize what driving a boat really is; a scrumptious picnic on a rock island in the middle of the archipelago; and more talk, wine and laughter, we said our “until we meet again” farewells, and here I am.

In the car and heading back to our summer house with crossed fingers that there is enough water to wash dirty sheets, clean the house, and enjoy some running water in a bathroom with a roof and electricity before packing and heading back to Istanbul.

And it’s time. After all, as they say in Swedish, “Borta bra med hemma bäst.”*

Especially when there is running water.

 

* Travel is good, but home is best.

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