It’s a Staycation

I came home for a week so my mom could see me. At first my dad said it wasn’t possible, then, after my mom didn’t talk to him for three days, he bought me a ticket.

A lot has changed since I’ve been gone. My parents bought a dog to replace my brother, who moved out a month ago. It’s name is Clive Owen, and it’s half lab, half lab experiment. It can jump freakishly high, and it has the ability to become incredibly annoying. Clive Owen spent most of his time outside, sitting by the door just out of my sight.

He’s a great guard dog, though. A couple of nights I came home after midnight and Clive Owen was so thrilled that he woke my parents up and then peed himself. Both true. My mom loves that dog.

I couldn’t come home late very often because my body refused to believe it was on vacation. Instead, it wanted to pretend that it was working a nine to five job, with a two hour commute. I would wake up at 5:30 and want to go to bed around 8. I get that that’s jet lag, but it’s obscenely inconvenient when all you want to do is eat Cheez-It’s and drink Coca-Cola at three in the morning while playing XBOX. I never made it that far and, sadly, I was only able to spend four hours repelling the alien invasion of Earth.

The strangest thing about my time at home was how similar it was to last year. I saw friends, had lunch and tea with friends, but mostly all of my time was spent watching Bones with my mom and dad. We watched almost all of Season 5 (Booth kissed Brennan, but she said she didn’t want a relationship – are you kidding? not like I care). My parents, who don’t have cable, have Netflix, and have slowly been working their way through the series. My mom has even developed a “Bones Dance” that looks a little like the hand jive. During the credits of each episode she would do it with enthusiasm, and my dad and I would follow to appease her. By my last episode the dance had spilled over into the ending credits and morphed into this butterfly catching motion.

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Traveling Update – Or Is It?

I don’t know where to start. I’m on my fourth currency in two weeks. I don’t have a credit card (that’s how they track you). Instad, when I started traveling, I had a Ziplock bag with 4500 lira in it, and I would change at each new country. It was a little harder with languages. By the time I got to Paris, I would start ordering in Turkish, then switch to Italian when I realized it. By the time I made it to French, the transaction was usually over.

The trip, my journey, could be summed up with a picture of me standing in line.

Rain turned out to be the norm for line standing conditions.

There really isn’t an “off-season” for tourism. The guide books say there is, but they also said that La Spaghettari was an excellent restaurant, and we all know better, don’t we? Or at least  now I know. That they charge for the bread in your table basket by the slice, whether or not you eat it.
No matter when you visit, the line to the Colloseum is always a thirty minute wait, and the Lourve is always crowded (except around the classical marbles, and those are my jam), and the Chinese people in London are always yelling at you to try their fried rice when really they know once you try it you’re going to order a serving or two. It’s smart business, I guess.

I think Rome is consistently my favorite city. The gelato is pretty cheap, the baroque churches are free, and the food is not only good but also understandable.

(While I knew foie gras was the liver of a goose that had been specially force fed, I didn’t know how to eat it. After the first couple of bites a waitress had to come to my table, take my fork away, and then show me how to spread the pate of liver onto bread. I thanked her in Turkish, and she said, “You’re welcome” in English.)

Rome was also one of the only places I saw the sun. I could take off my jacket. It was also the only place where it was fun to be outside at night. Every other city we would run from the train station to whatever apartment we were staying at. I felt like I was back at 408 E. Lafayette, the house where I grew up. The monsters owned the night there.

Probably the best part of the trip was British Parliment. It happened as the sun was going down. As we walked back to the station (quickly, and always checking manhole covers to see if they were properly fastened), a guard asked us if we wanted to sit in on a session of the House of Commons. For free. We gave him high fives. In the process of security I was issued a photo I.D. and absolutely zero instructions about where to go. After fifteen minutes of wandering we made it to the gallery above the House floor, where we listened to an argument about privatizing the postal service. But much more than the American Senate, it was fascinating because, once I understood what they were talking about, it became apparent that with each speech the representatives were insulting each other. The most common slander was that the opposite party wasn’t capable of understanding the main argument, but one member went so far as to suggest that his debate opponent wasn’t capable of being a postal worker. The experience made returning to the American way of doing things feel cheap.

This Will Probably Be a Dry Blog Month

I’m traveling at the moment. Wait for it. Okay, I’m stationary. Let’s do this.

I just left Istanbul, where I was for about a week. There, Holly and I stayed with an American family, the Connells. Doug and Jessica let us sleep in their apartment (I got top bunk in the Lego Room; Holly slept next to the crib of the family baby, Moses) in exchange for baby sitting four of the five children on Wednesday. We watched The Sound of Music. It was amazing. I guess it’s been a long time since I saw it last. I still have “Edelweiss” playing in my mind (on vinyl, of course – mine is a hip mind). When the Doug and Jessica returned from their date, Doug told me that not only was “Edelweiss” not Austria’s national anthem (it was written expressily for the musical), but that in the eighties the Reagan administration played it for the visiting Austrian ambassador, thinking it was the true Austrian anthem. I bet the ambassador wished that was his anthem.

Doug and Jessica live twenty minutes walk from the tram that runs through the heart of Istanbul, so Holly and I would eat breakfast with the family, maybe watch a twenty minute episode of Liberty’s Kids (the educational cartoon about child reporters in the Revolution who work for Benjamin Franklin – voiced by WALTER CRONKITE) with the family kids, then trek into town. I won’t tell you what we saw. The government made me swear. But I can tell you that it rained, and apart from being cold and ruining everything I was okay with that. The best thing that happened – well, the oddest thing, at least – happened because, after 45 minutes standing in line outside the Hagia Sofia (in the rain), we broke off and went down a backstreet to have lunch at a Turkish self service cafeteria. While we were eating, a Turk sat next to us and, through conversation it was revealed he worked at a hamam (in turn, I revealed that I was a teacher and that there was a coin behind his earn). He offered us a discount, and, without planning, we ended up at a Turkish bath. In separate buildings. Full of steam. Glorious hours, really.

Not Pictured: Me. I’m hiding from the old Turkish men in towels.

I’m in Rome until Tuesday, then to London and Paris and then, for one week, back in Fayetteville. My mom really wants to see me. This does not surprise me, since I am probably the best, if not favorite, child. I’ll be back in Turkey near the end of the month. Not like you care, though.