Where has summer gone? August is nearing an end and so are the holidays. I still remember the anticipation of summer and sunshine and Starbucks frappucinos – which I actually haven’t indulged much into. During the time I have been off the radar, I spent an amazing week in East Anatolia which is my most favourite Turkish adventure so far, packed my bags and headed back home to Mauritius for reasons I don’t even want to think about and just flew into Dubai yesterday where I’ll be spending another week simply getting over my holidays. Whilst it was actually good to be back home and catch up with everyone – even landed a job during the short time I was there -, I was more than ready to leave when I did, even if I didn’t manage to do all the things I wanted to. There’ll be a next time for sure. I’ll be having my first trip out in the engulfing emirati heat and I’m not sure I’m quite prepared for it. After the genteel and mild Mauritian climate, I seem to have forgotten what the Middle Eastern sun feels like. Nothing like it to say welcome back, I suppose.
Thanks Chelsea from Adventures of an Expat for nominating me for the Liebster Award! It definitely was fun and a bit brain-wracking as well to do this and I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.
Here is the set of rules for your blog post to accept the award:
1. Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog.
2. Display the award on your blog — by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget”.
3. Answer 11 questions about yourself, which will be provided to you by the person who nominated you.
4. Provide 11 random facts about yourself.
5. Nominate 5 blogs that you feel deserve the award, which have a less than 1000 followers.
6. Create a new list of questions for the blogger to answer.
7. List these rules in your post. (You can copy and paste from here.) Once you have written and published it, you then have to:
8. Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster award and provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it (they might not have ever heard of it!)
11 Random Facts about Me:
1. I speak 5 ½ languages.
2. I can sometimes act as an annoying know-it-all. Yup, I’m one of those people. Continue reading
I’ve just spent the past 9 months living in a yurt, i.e. a Turkish dormitory and I have to say, I didn’t think I would make it. It hasn’t been a horrible experience but it hasn’t been all rainbows and unicorns either. I’ve definitely learned a couple of things since I first moved here though.
1. It’s going to suck
…. But then it will suck less and less. I remember my very first day here. I had just spent about 27 hours on the ‘road’ trying to get from Mauritius to Ankara, including at 15 hours at Nairobi Airport sitting in uncomfortable chairs watching chick flicks and reading manga. I was tired and sleep-deprived – the only time I had slept was during my one hour flight from Istanbul to Ankara which was so brief that it hardly counts at all. And seeing where I would be staying the next three years just made want to spend the next 27 hours back on (more than) a plane back home. It’s old and cold – not just in the temperature sense – and it took a while to get used to the communal bathrooms and shared rooms. With the academic year over, my dorms will be closing for summer because of repairs so I’m having to move to a designated one until it opens again (hopefully) in September. It took months to finally get settled in and get a hang around everything, just the thought of leaving now is heart-breaking.
My Turkish Ramadan is unfolding quite nicely even if I did hit rock bottom and lost all hope of survival after spending too much time in the blazing sun the day before. It was apparently the hottest day of the year so far in Ankara, hovering around the 34 degrees – people fasting in hotter and harsher conditions: RESPECT. It definitely made me realise that I need to slow down the tempo a little bit over this month rather than being the busy bee that I usually am. It would seem that the rest of Ankara have received the memo though, putting the whole city under a sleeping spell during daytime hours. The usual buzz of Kızılay, the city centre, has pretty much toned down with even the most popular shops and cafés struggling to find customers. That definitely says something since most Ankaranians can usually be seen sipping çay somewhere if they’re not indulging in their favourite past time – shopping.
Tomorrow marks the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan for Muslims, the beginning of the annual month-long fasting which I, along with millions of others, will be observing. This year I did consider the fact that I might not be able to do it fully or even at all. I may come from a tropical country but it has a very mild climate and the temperatures we have been experiencing these days are definitely more than I am used to. I cannot spend five minutes without wanting to drink something and this is more or less the biggest challenge I will have to face during this coming month.
I’ve been asked before why anyone would want to starve for a month but Ramadan is much more than ‘starvation’. I’ve never felt more at peace with myself and with everything around me than during this month. It’s not only a physical but also emotional, mental and spiritual ‘training’ that we put ourselves through, which makes it one of my favourite religious ‘events’ and one that I willingly and happily participate in. If some of you are wondering, life goes on as usual except for the fact that we don’t eat or drink during the day, and we might need a power nap at some point.
I have to say Ramadan in Turkey is definitely going to be an experience like no other. For one, for the first time in my life I will not spending the month of Ramadan with my family. Last year, I did spend half of it in the forests of Mauritius (that’s another story!) but the other half as well as weekends were spent with my parents, just like the way we used to do it before I left for London, where I spent it with my aunt and her family.
We all got up together for suhoor (morning meal before sunrise) despite how sleepy most of us were and then later during the day, made preparations for iftaar (the evening meal after sunset). It also makes all of it easier when you have family around to support each other, not that I will be entirely alone here. I have to say, whilst I’m seeing this as yet another challenge I will have to go through – Dad isn’t going to be knocking at my door at 3 am to wake me up – I am not looking forward to spending Eid (Ramadan feast after 30 days of fasting) on my own. It will also be the first time that I will be spending Ramadan in a Muslim country. The anticipation is just so much – just the way a child feels while waiting for Christmas. I am definitely looking forward to the metamorphosis the streets of Ankara will go through during iftaar time. Cheeky me may even go up to Istanbul one day – just to have a look.
I just have to wait and see how this following month will unfold, as good or even better than I expect inşallah. Ramadan Kareem.
We’ve finally felt the last drops of rain, or rather downpours in Ankara (hopefully) – only last week I had to buy yet another umbrella which I lost almost immediately – and I’m already in that sleepy summery trance. Which explains my increased caffeine intake these days. You’re welcome, Starbucks. I’m just about to be finished with my Turkish course and every single day it becomes even harder to wake up and go to class. After 800ish hours spent in a claustrophobic room with unopenable windows covering grammar and whatnots over the past 9 months, it’s not wonder that my brain has reached saturation level and is begging for some rest. And the worn out faces on my classmates tells me I’m not the only one feeling it.
My pockets are not deep enough to be able to afford an escape every time I wish (which, let’s admit it, is pretty much all the time) from the mundane Ankaranian life but I did decided I needed some pampering, just enough for that boost I need before the final stretch. So when I saw the advertisement for an Indian Food Festival at the Fire & Flavours restaurant in the JW Mariott Hotel, I knew I just had to go. Even if it meant it was going to be ridiculously expensive.
And then you have the AEGON International held in Devonshire Park, Eastbourne, which is found at the other end of the spectrum. Away from the snobs of Queen’s Club, the event is definitely more relaxed and you can definitely see it in the restaurant – which is actually open to everyone – when you’re sitting next to some of the players (yes, being a tennis fan is quite amazing) or on the grounds which looks more like a small tennis fun fair than a tournament.
With Wimbledon around the corner and the grass court season now in full swing, I really wished I could be in London right now basking in the sun while enjoying some
hot tennis players good tennis matches. The first half of summer in London usually meant getting up at ungodly hours for a spot in the famous Wimbledon queue or to make it to one of the ‘lower category’ tournaments.
The AEGON Championships at Queen’s Club was the first ever one I ever went to and yes, it is as posh and pretentious at it sounds. Continue reading
Do you ever find yourself spilling your guts to complete strangers? I left my hotel in Pamukkale in near-tears last week after the soul-baring conversation I had with someone I had met only three hours before. I rarely travel solo but when I do, I find myself talking more to people that if I was accompanied. Not that it means that I’m airing the dirty laundry out whenever I find myself in the presence of a stranger!
After my tiring day out, I was sipping some çay which the host’s wife had kindly made me when a group of Asian tourists barged in. Having spent the whole day on my own, it felt quite nice to have some (normal) people to have a chat with. It was quite funny when they had a smell at my şiş kebap – they were apparently all on a vegetarian diet for this particular trip and the smell on the home-cooked kebap was definitely too much for them. One of the tourists who had joined us a bit later and hadn’t managed to grab a seat with his travel buddies ended up sitting at my table in the end. And that is how the soul-baring-spilling-my-guts conversation started.
When I think about it, I found it so easy to tell him things that I found and still find hard to share with people who are closest to me. So much has happened in the past year, some of which we just avoid talking about. But it felt quite refreshing to discuss with someone who was not involved in my life, in any capacity. I’m grateful for everyone I have in my life and the support they have provided but sometimes it is just so complicated that I would rather just avoid talking about the whole issue altogether. Or for them not to worry.
The best things about the conversations with strangers is without any doubt the “no strings attached” situation. You know that this person is not going to call you the following week and see if you’re alright, bringing up the issue you wanted buried in the first place. You also know that they’re more likely to be less judgemental because they don’t and won’t know the whole story like your close ones do. You start afresh, with a clean slate and you give out or keep in as much as your want. Rather than seeking emotional support, it’s more of a personal statement you’re making. Most of the times, it probably is the things you’re usually telling yourself when you’re alone – but let’s be honest, it feels better when you know someone is listening.
And it feel even better when you get the reaction that my stranger after our little exchange. It had been a long time since I have seen such honesty and raw feelings in someone and I felt really blessed to have met him. I definitely came back to Ankara with a lighter heart than when I had left. Travelling definitely is the best sort of therapy.
Do you even bare it all out with strangers on your travels (in the most figurative way of course)?
My last stop before heading back home was Laodicea, (yet) another ancient city’s ruins. The city was founded in the around mid third century BC but only became part of the Roman empire around 130 BC. It was an important centre for trade due to its location on the crossroad of trade routes.