Tuesday, September 24, 2013

hey, pelican!

We headed back to Lake Manyas around 8:00 in the morning to spy on its feathered beasts while waiting for the Kuşcenneti Milli Parkı to open. The area became a national park in 1959, and is home to 266 species of birds, 178 of which pass through during migration. Needless to say, Kuşcenneti Park is a very important place, and I was thrilled by the park's cleanliness and beauty. Often in Turkey, natural areas are treated like trash bins by the public, but Kuşcenneti Park was truly cared for. The information center was lovely, and the man who gave us our tickets was excited to show off the park's remote live cameras, which were fixed on the lake. Families trickled in, borrowing binoculars from the nice man, and mindfully headed through the little woods to the observation tower, where you can get a magnificent view of the birds.

I was delighted to discover that the observation tower was made with an Ottoman touch— it resembled an old wooden yalı, and once inside, Pedro found an owl pellet and feathers, which lead me to believe that the tower itself offered shelter. We set up the telescope, and were moved to silence.

The Great White Pelicans were pink.

Monday, September 23, 2013

in celebration of change

I'm a bit behind in posting— it's late September now, and there are still loads of photos from this summer that I haven't shared. So much has happened since July that I can't possibly catch up to it all, so I'm moving ahead with what is current, and will sprinkle in some summer here and there.

I have left Istanbul for a quiet seaside town outside the chaos. No more two hour commutes through murderous traffic, no more bumping my way up Istiklal, no more crazy howling neighbours, no more fearing the inevitable break-in. Upon returning from Nepal, I discovered that someone had taken the time to remove the locks from my front door— fortunately whatever they were using to jimmy open the door had broken off, and they never made it inside. As much as I love Istanbul, it is an exhausting city, and I was ready to move. I wanted owls and bats, the sea, clear skies and friendly faces. I wanted to get home from work in less than 30 minutes. I wanted light.

In celebration of our move and the coming of Autumn, Pedro and I went on a little adventure. Our destination was Lake Manyas, also called Kuş Gölü, and our goal was to catch a glimpse of two species of pelicans: the Great White Pelican and the Dalmatian Pelican. The sky was a violet-pink when we finally arrived at the lake, and the village shepherds were gently coaxing their flocks in for the night.

The air had a bite to it that called for sweaters— summer was over. We layered up and headed to the water, binoculars and telescope in hand. Distant, bulky white shapes brought childlike grins to our faces, and as we set the telescope at them to confirm what we knew they were, a battalion of Great White Pelicans soared past.

After a certain point, counting was futile— I had never seen so many pelicans in my life! One of the joys that got me through doing time at an ad agency in San Francisco was watching these prehistoric-looking beasts from the window by my desk, as they glided smoothly into the bay. Somewhere in the reddening light were the Dalmatian Pelicans, but distinguishing them from the rest of the crowd would have to wait for morning.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

juniper man

Nearly every afternoon for the past three summers, I could rely upon a certain cloud of white smoke following the crowd around the Stupa. Often, it was the scent of juniper branches that it carried with each dissipating puff, and because Kathmandu is home to a variety of offensive stenches, I breathed its whiteness in deeply, feeling the juniper sweep my head clean.

We called him 'Juniper Man', the man who swung the censer like a pendulum, muttering mantras through lips barely parted. He wore a turmeric jacket and a pointed beard, his hair neatly tied back in a bun. I have never drawn him because every time I see him, I find myself caught up in his wake, mesmerized by the movement, by the scent. This year, we came to the point of mutual recognition— I would place my hands together in greeting, and he would nod with a slight smile, never breaking his swing or a syllable of his prayer.

On the night of the full moon, I followed him for several circumambulations, camera in hand. Knowing precisely what I wanted, he slowed down and kindly paused until I got a few blurry shots, smiled and continued on. I asked the older kids at school who he was, but no one knew.

Seeing him was always uplifting. It's funny how a perfect stranger can have such an effect on you.
Thank you, Juniper Man.

Friday, September 13, 2013

two goats and a little news

So I've left the mayhem of downtown Istanbul for a seaside town with pink mornings and space— wide, open space. Claustrophobia be gone! I can walk down a street here without fear of being bumped. People are much more relaxed and friendlier, and I am loving the fresh air. Now that the internet has been hooked up in my new home, I can resume my posting.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

colour among the rice paddies

I never knew how green green could get before I started my relationship with Nepal. Sometimes the rice paddies are so bright, you can feel their colour in the back of your skull. Forgive me for my scarce posts, I am in the midst of a much needed uprooting. Soon, I'll be smelling salt air instead of smog.