Friday, June 28, 2013

by the banks of the euphrates

We went to the Euphrates that day.
I dipped my hand in that magical river, river of my childhood dreams, and I wondered about about all the people whose hands it cooled. 

merhaba, hello

Thursday, June 27, 2013

narrow alleys and arches

cave of the centaur

On the side of one of the roads that lead to Balıklı Göl, are a series of caves that date back to the time of Alexander the Great. I was told that these caves were part of a necropolis for the Greek city of Edessa, which is current day Ufa— but I can't remember anything else, and I can't seem to find much information on them either.  This particular cave had a beautifully carved centaur with a fish tail on one of the back walls, and though it was badly worn, you could make out some of the carefully sculpted muscles and fish scales.

Rumours are that the caves will be preserved and turned into a centre for arts and culture, which could be very interesting.

scorpions don't like blue

In Urfa I was told that scorpions don't like blue.

a brief interval

I know this is a bit random, because I just briefly took you to Lebanon, but I really liked those photos and wanted to share them. I also never got to finish showing you the photos and sketches from my Urfa trip, because we were all so rudely interrupted by gas bombs and police violence. But there were incredible things as well; the peaceful uniting of thousands upon thousands of people from different backgrounds, speaking out against what they believe is wrong. Because I am nowhere near fluent in Turkish, I know that I lost a lot in translation— particularly in the biting wit and humour, the cleverness, creativity, and poetry. Fortunately, you don't have to be Turkish to understand what is happening, you just have to be human.

Sevgili Çapulcus, I am off to Nepal. I don't know what will happen this summer, I just hope it's something good. I love this country deeply, and though I was not born here, it is my home. I hate to see such violence and suffocation of human rights, and though these things need to be seen and shared, what should also be known is the compassion, the bravery, the standing together. It is truly awe-inspiring. Please be safe, stay strong, and never lose your humour.

I will be scheduling a number of posts from my past Urfa trip— it's such a beautiful part of Turkey with so much history, and a perfect example of how varied this country is. See you in Kathmandu!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


yallah, eat

That Saturday my Tante Leyla drove us up to Batroun. I was seventeen the last time I was in Batroun, and four years had passed since I had seen most of my family. The flood of memories was overwhelming.

Memories of my Tante Aida and her crystal animal collection, the way I howled when she rubbed garlic into an insect bite that had swollen my five-year-old arm stiff. Images of my Tante Eva popping chili peppers into her mouth like candy, and my Amo Skandar grinning beneath a cloud from his hubbly bubbly water pipe. Vivi's drawings, Rani and her oh-so cool roll-on glitter stick that she rubbed on my cheek. Amo Adnan's laugh. Tante Leyla's stories. Tante Hulya playing the piano. Uncle Tony's jokes. Tante Katya, Amo Eduard, Grace and Carole.

Every tante brought a dish for the feast, and my plate was piled high. True to form, the very moment I ate my last bite, an eagle-eyed auntie insisted I have more. I was lead back to the buffet, where more hummus, kibbeh saniye and warak arish were spooned out, and just when I thought I was in the clear, out came the desserts and fruit. I naïvely thought I could get away with nibbling on a few slices of papaya, but then— then came the shou.

"Shooooou Samantha, why no ice cream? You don't like tiramisu? Yallah, eat some Arabic sweets."

Hold tight to your loved ones.
They are all that truly matters in this terribly brief life.

a lebanese weekend

Well my friends, it has come to that time of year again when I pack my bags and fly off to Kathmandu. I am worn out but excited, thinking about that monsoon and all the dearest, smiling faces waiting for me at Shree Mangal Dvip.  It will be magic to see my kids again, to circle the Stupa, to sip my first mango lassi, to look up at the heavy sky.

Things feel quieter here, though unpredictable. Hordes of policemen are lurking around every corner of Taksim, but it has been rather calm. I had mentioned earlier that I took a trip to Lebanon at the beginning of this month— or maybe I didn't, but in any case I have some photos of the trip that I never got to share with you. There were riots to share instead.

We had two deaths in the family in the Spring, and I was unable to make it to Lebanon until June. I hadn't been to visit this side of the family in four years— something I am ashamed of, as Lebanon is only two hours away. But that's how it is, isn't it? You forget that time passes quickly, and that people age. You foolishly believe that everyone will always be there.

So Pedro and I boarded a plane to Beirut.

blue penguin and riot dog

It has been ten days since police took over Gezi Park in a cloud of gas and a deluge of pepper-spray tainted water. I had no idea when I sketched the Park's blue penguin, that it would all disappear that very night. We still cannot enter the park. At this moment, it is completely roped off with tape and heavily guarded by a myriad of policemen. Taksim is surrounded by busloads of cops, some clutching machine guns with bored expressions. This weekend they unleashed another fog of gas upon protesters— people who were merely standing, and tossing carnations in the air.

On Friday I was lucky to walk out of a pub to find the "Scooter Dog Guy" (as I call him) making his way through the very same clogged back alley in Tünel. I've been wanting to sketch this man and his pooch for years, but was never close enough to him until that night. Every so often, the mustachioed man can be seen riding his scooter around Istanbul, his faithful friend perched upon his shoulders— while wearing a pair of white sunglasses. I kid you not. Lately, the hound has received some notice, becoming known as the Riot Dog of Istanbul, due to his uplifting presence at the Occupy Gezi protests.

I have no idea how long I stood there in that dark alley, drawing and chatting to this fabulous duo, occasionally stopping to pet Riot Dog's patient head. I still can't believe I got the sketch!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

spray paint and wheat paste

All expressions of anger, resistance, peace, hope, frustration and humour that came out the hole of a spray can nozzle, have now been scrubbed off or painted over with miss-matched paint. Old stone buildings have ugly, flat grey facelifts— in some ways it looks worse than the graffiti.

I must add that the portraits of the man depicted in three of these photographs are of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the Republic of Turkey— a man who built a secular, modern nation out of the embers of a defeated Ottoman Empire.