Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Why am I in Ankara?

Why am I in Ankara? That topic consumed my thoughts today. I could spend most of my vacation in the wondrous city of Istanbul. I could be in some warm beach city along the Mediterranean or the Black Sea. Instead, I'm in cold snowy crowded Ankara. It was 5 degrees celsius and snowing and sticking today.

I wonder if I'm in Ankara because of some sense of self-loathing. As if I don't deserve the finer things in life. I haven't earned them yet. Or perhaps it's because I prefer to challenge myself rather than take the easy way. Maybe it's because some wise portion of my being understands that the information I am accumulating now will serve me in some important way later.

Or maybe it is because I long to empathize with and understand people from places that are not considered among the world's treasures. But if it is out of empathy, why am I so reluctant to engage with others? Is because of insecurity? Or is because any little interaction affects me so greatly due to my hyper-empathy?

Today, I managed to make it to Anit Kabir, Ataturk's mausoleum. I walked in on a state funeral procession. I don't know for whom. After it ended and soliders began departing, I took out my phone to take a picture of them goose-stepping. As I took out my phone, the commander unleashed an ear-invading yell and the soldiers turned and began marching right at me angrily. I froze, thinking I had created an international incident. Turns out, the commander was simply shouting instructions to his men.

I would be remiss as a Jew if I didn't mention my ongoing ailmetns. From walking so much every day, my feet are in a state of constant agony. My old planter fasciitis acted up in Istanbul, but thankfully has died down. But the tendon in the back of my ankle connecting my heal to my calf was sore before I came and has gotten far worse. My feet are often soaked because of the slush the snow creates. I have an inexplicable scratch on my ass. I strained a groin in Istanbul which healed quickly.

And finally, though I have put down Ankara thus far- I've found myself cussing quite often since being here- it does have its charm. it mixes the ancient with the modern historical with the modern. This is despite the baseball cards with women in their underwear littered all over the Ulus section of the city. However, looking Turkish yet not speaking a word of the language, I feel a sense of anonimous isolation.

I realized it was Valentine's Day sitting in a cafe at 8pm and noticing tons of couple surrounding me and red hearts made out of construction paper on the windows. I looked at my phone and saw the date. Hmm, now those guys selling roses all over the place makes sense. I never have cofee, but I sipped a chocalte cappucino and that combined with the day's self-reflection has created quite the little high.

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