Monday, May 11, 2009
Travel to Turkey - #2 More on Istanbul
Our tour guide made sure we saw what needed to be seen in Istanbul - the Old city, Grand Bazaar, Spice Market, and a cruise down the Bosphorus Strait, which connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara. Despite the occasional rain, everything was great. Istanbul was once the capital of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires and ruins and buildings from these civilizations fill the city. Even though I had taken history classes, I never quite understood how these empires came and went. It was something to see the narrow point of the Bosphorus Strait where the Romans had placed huge chains to hold back the Turks; finally I had an inkling of the bloody battles that went on to allow one power to drive another out of the place.
There were epiphanies like this one that happened to me during this visit. For example, as a school girl a nun told us about how the early Christians had to hide in catacombs and caves to hear Mass, and how privileged we were since we could hear Mass any time in Churches. When I saw the underground caves and tunnels in Capadoccia where the early Christians hid from the Romans and where early Monks had carved out chapels and their rooms, I recalled what that nun had said. But I am jumping ahead; let's stay in Istanbul a bit longer.
A highlight was meeting Nurten Hatirnaz, the editor of the Turkish publisher (Bilge Kultur Sanat) that translated my novel, When the Rainbow Goddess Wept, into Turkish. My husband, our friends John and Elizabeth Allen, and I slipped away from the group at the Grand Bazaar, and with the help of our Tour Director found the office of Bilge Kultur Sanat. We had delightful visit with Nurten. We had Turkish coffee, tea, met the staff, and took some pictures, which my husband accidentally deleted sometime during the trip - but that too is another story.
The fact the Bilge Kultur Sanat had translated my novel made me feel connected with Turkey in a special way. The thought had crossed my mind that my novel is part of Turkish literature. Meeting Nurten was like meeting an old friend.
It was like that in Turkey - one pleasantry after another. Even the members of our group all proved to be seasoned travelers - considerate and interesting people. Our tour guide was an archeologist, a Ph.D. who dazzled us with his knowledge on Turkish history, culture, politics, economics - name it. He was so passionate about everything Turkish so that we too started to see Turkey through his eyes and started to fall in love with the place and people. He also amused us with his delightful accent. Trained in German schools, he picked up the German habit of converting "v" into "w" so he would talk in this way: "After we wisit the Topkapi Palace, we will proceed to the Blue Mosque..." or "Even though the westal wirgens of the temple of Artemis had wows of chastity, they did in fact spend time with men who made huge donations and who vished to be united with the Goddess..." In a holiday mood, we turned silly and talked about making a wisit to whizz, in their toilets, which generally charged 1/2 or 1 Turkish lira.
We only grazed Istanbul, had just a little taste of this grand city, because really, how much can you see in three days? - and then we were on our way to other places in Turkey.
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Cecilia Manguerra Brainard is the award-winning author of 9 books, including When the Rainbow Goddess Wept, Magdalena, Vigan and Other Stories, and Out of Cebu: Essays and Personal Prose. She edited four books, co-edited six books, and co-authored a novel, Angelica's Daughters. Her work has been translated into Finnish and Turkish; and many of her stories and articles have been widely anthologized. Cecilia has received many awards, including a California Arts Council Fellowship in Fiction, a Brody Arts Fund Award, a Special Recognition Award for her work dealing with Asian American youths, as well as a Certificate of Recognition from the California State Senate, 21st District, and the Outstanding Individual Award from her birth city, Cebu, Philippines. She has received several travel grants from the USIS. She has lectured and performed at UCLA, USC, University of Connecticut, University of the Philippines, PEN, Shakespeare & Company in Paris, and many others. She teaches creative writing at the Writers Program at UCLA-Extension.