Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Hashish Trail - Chapter 11 - Turkish Delights

We could only get tickets to Turkey’s capital, Ankara. The bus dropped us in front of a beautiful hotel, the name of which escapes me now, so we decided to go in for tea and get the scoop on Ankara, where we should stay, etc. We sat down and ordered tea in the elegant dining room and were soon joined by a young man who was finally able to get it across to us that he was a reporter and wanted to take our picture in the carriage just outside. We didn't know it then, but we had arrived during the Turkish Film Festival, which was being held in that very hotel. This little bit of information was painstakingly received through sign language and guessing, as there seemed to be no one around who spoke any English at all. So the carriage was there for something to do with the festival, and we agreed to a photo. Well, after an otherwise uneventful stay in Ankara overnight, and not being familiar with any Turkish film stars, we once more boarded the bus and began our trip through Turkey. We would have to go to Istanbul to make our connection with the East-bound bus. As we bounced along on the hard wooden seats of the bus, we suddenly noticed that we seemed to be the center of everyone's attention, but attributed it to the fact that we were foreigners. Soon, however, a man passed a newspaper to us and there was our picture in the carriage, and the article below was  of course in Turkish, but we managed to figure out that we were "hippelers" (hippies) attending the film festival. Hippies were still a curiosity in Turkey, and indeed, in 1970 Turkey was no hippie haven!

Henceforth, due to our enhanced status on the bus, when we stopped for meals we were ushered into the men’s eating area. This was unusual since women and men always  have segregated meals in that part of the world.
Our bus driver through the western half of Turkey was an unusual young man. During the stops he would come over and talk with us in his broken English, and with much signing and so on we came to understand that he was a journalist/bus driver who would have loved to leave Turkey and go to North America, but that was a distant dream for him. At the end of the first day’s travel he said he would take us to a cheap room where we could spend the night safely. Several twisty streets later we were ushered into a room with 4 cots, a dresser and little else, but it was clean and we began to settle in. We asked him where he would stay and he said no, he would be driving another bus all night and would then be our bus driver in the morning! We wondered how he stayed awake, and he then produced some of the finest Turkish hashish you could imagine, saying it kept him awake just fine. He then left, and we began to smoke the sample he had left us. Suddenly there was that feeling of being watched again, and looking up to the transom over the door, we were greeted by 3 large and somewhat guilty grins from the men enjoying their observations. We shooed them away in no uncertain terms, tightly shut the transom and put the dresser in front of the door, but they still sang (love songs?) outside our room all night.
Another memorable experience from the bus in Turkey was when a man across the aisle from us began a sexual act on himself while reading aloud from the Red Book (Communist Bible). We were shocked and quickly hid behind our head scarves!
The border crossing between Turkey and Iran served as a rest stop as well as the office for document checking. We began to leave the bus to get food but were mobbed by “hungry” men who began grabbing our breasts and our crotches, and we were driven back into the safety of the bus. Several hippie guys started beating the men off with sticks, only to be dealt blows that also sent them staggering back to the relative safety of the bus. It was scary and surreal. We were outraged! Somehow the bus driver managed to calm the mob and we were able to disembark, find some food and use the restroom facilities. And by facilities I mean 2 footprints and a hole. So there I am squatting there, when suddenly I feel like someone is watching me; I glance up to see maybe a dozen men ogling me through the opening running around the top of the walls, I guess for much needed ventilation. I began shouting and swearing at them and quickly got out of there and back on the bus! These men seemed totally ignorant and bereft of any social graces, and obviously had no respect for women.
We were once more realizing how blessed we are to live in a country that has been striving for equal opportunity for women all of my life, and before that.

The Hashish Trail - Chapter 12 - Guests in Iran

And then we were bouncing over the desert sands of Iran, heading toward Tehran, the capital city. We had been briefed on behaving properly while in Iran. In those days one could be shot for smoking marijuana, for example. It may still be that way, I don’t know.
Suddenly I am overcome by my immediate need to find a bathroom. Ha! That’s funny, since the buses aren’t as conveniently equipped as that, and we’re about a half day’s ride away from the nearest civilization. I was urgently explaining all this to the girls when an Iranian lady overheard our conversation, spoke to the driver and he stopped the bus for me. So now I’m standing a ways from the bus and the men are beginning to shuffle out for a stretch. We were in the middle of nowhere, worse the middle of the desert, and not a rock or even a sand dune in sight.  Luckily by this time, and due to our experiences in Turkey, we were wearing a full length shawl over jeans and t-shirts. So I tented my shawl, dropped my jeans and did my business right there in plain view of anyone who might be interested. So em-bare-ass-ing, but only for me, it seemed, as no one even seemed to notice! I was given privacy where there was none; perhaps it was desert etiquette. Dysentry really doesn’t care who’s watching!
The lady’s name who helped me was Nimtadj, and through subsequent conversation as we travelled along, she told us they lived in Tehran and would be honored to have us stay with them for as long as we liked. Her brother was in Parliament and her husband held a respected position in Tehran. I forget her husband’s name but it was Nimtadj that we grew to love as we came to know more about her over the next week or so while we were guests in their home. They were as fascinated by us as we were by them, and they wanted to share us with their friends and family.
Strict Muslim rules were set for Nimtadj. Her husband controlled everything. Nimtadj was not allowed to leave the house without her husband’s permission, and then only in the company of an older family member or her husband himself. She had no access to her own passport or other identity documents, and no title to any of their possessions. All legal documents were locked in a safe deposit box which was only accessible by her husband. Without her husband she would be destitute and homeless. They were wealthy people, but Nimtadj had no money of her own. When her husband chose to do so he would take her to see their son in university in Germany, or to see relatives in Europe.  But just in order to leave Iran Nimtadj and her husband had to post a $1,000 bond to assure their return. So other than these brief excursions (which did not include any freedoms), she lived in their house in Tehran and she ignored the ache in her heart.
Nimtadj had the telltale swelling in her neck indicating a goiter. When we asked her about it she said it was unshed tears. She was a prisoner of a system that allowed her no freedom. Her dreams of being free like us and following the sun would not be fulfilled. This awful realization made her so sad and we comforted her as best we could, though we lacked comprehension of the true tragedy of her life. Over the years since then, we have all wondered how her life played out. We spoke with her about keeping in touch by mail, but she assured us she would never receive the letters. She would also not be allowed to correspond with us.
One day while we were guests in their home, Nimtadj’s husband suggested he take us on a tour of their farm, but Nimtadj was not invited. I’m hoping Donna and Sharei can add to this, because all I remember from the tour was the sexual advances made to both of us for the duration of the “tour.”
Nimtadj’s sister and father then invited us to stay with them for awhile, and they were dear people as well. During the time we stayed with them, we began to notice the huge contrast between the standard of living in Iran and that of Turkey, which we had just left. One day, for an experiment, Sharei and I went right downtown in the heart of the business district of Tehran and began to beg. We stuck out our hands and people immediately started depositing coins into them, but we didn’t stay long at that enterprise. It surprised us that they would view us as even needing a handout. And, more, it surprised us that they would help people they viewed as infidels! I hoped we were as kind to people we didn’t even know.
You should know that input for my story will hopefully be given by Sharei and Donna, and the book will be rounded out with all 3 perceptions. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Walk In My Neighbourhood

Turtle Island & Baby Lilypads
A turtle I saw on my walk through the Marsh
Trail in 'my' forest
View from my balcony

Monday, July 26, 2010

Garden progressions

Here are a few pics of our garden - for some reason they are downloaded in random order, so the best is first!! Didn't get it planted until early July, so the growth is really amazing. Have enjoyed doing this little garden - my grandchildren will love picking peas and pulling up carrots! The therapy received from doing a garden, no matter how small, is probably the best reward - and then there's the vegies!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Hashish Trail - Chapter 10 - Where East Meets West

It was mid-August of 1970. Since we would be travelling by public transportation on The Hashish Trail, we decided to sell "Our Everything". The plan was that Gidonia and Adonia would take the car up to Germany and try to sell it on the base where the two young soldiers we had met in Rome were stationed. Vosharnia and I would go on to Lebanon and look up Hebert whom we had met in the Bahamas. We planned to meet in Beirut September 15th. Vosharnia and I arrived in Beirut and checked into a hotel until we could get in touch with Hebert and get some advice about where the best place to stay would be. The hotel was expensive and we hoped to find a hostel. We were advised that camping in Beirut would be dangerous for 2 young ladies, if indeed there even was a campground there. We had been cautioned about even going to Lebanon as the war was heating up there at that time. In a letter home I wrote, "Well, here we are in Lebanon where it's not supposed to be safe because of the war - but I see no war and no danger - in fact, it's peaceful and beautiful here." We would later see things in a different light.
After a couple of days we were able to contact Hebert and he insisted that we move to his family's condo in a very good area. This was some condo! It consisted of the entire top floor of a huge apartment block. There were at least 6 bedrooms, multiple baths, huge living areas, immense kitchen complete with cook's quarters and maid's quarters. The enormous bathrooms were such a treat after our weeks of camping. I was unfamiliar with bidets back then, and I remember thinking how civilized they were! In the months of "squatty-potties" to come on our Eastward journey, we would often yearn for a civilized bathroom! Hebert's family had a maid to do their work around the condo. I offered one day to help her, and she was most upset. The family asked me not to offer to help because it threatened the maid's livelihood. But after all, I was just an ordinary girl and felt sorry for all the hard work that maid did for us! We were invited to go to the family's farm several miles out in the country. The Lebanon of 1970 was a fertile, semi-tropical land rich in every way, and the family's farming business was growing marijuana - fields of that lovely plant gracing the countryside! They didn't smoke it, however - that would have been illegal! Rather they shared their tobacco hookahs with us after dinner in the evening. It was this family that taught us to love the cheeses of Lebanon. For each day of the milk's freshness, they make a different cheese, so from one batch of milk perhaps 6 kinds of cheese are made. We especially loved a cheese called lubne (don't know the correct spelling, but this is how it sounds). This cheese was soft and very mild, and was eaten dipped in white sugar - sounds awful but was divine!! The first night we stayed at the farm (which featured a large, modern house), Hebert's mom noticed that we had been barefoot during the day and then went to bed without bathing. So she told Hebert to tell us to bathe before we went to bed the next night - she was worried about her fresh white linens, and I don't blame her now. Then it seemed a little over the top!! We were henceforth more respectful of our hostess's sheets. We did indeed go barefoot much of the time - it was part of the hippie statement! We weren't really dirty, but were used to bathing in campgrounds, out of pails of purchased water, or in the ocean, and I guess dirty feet just came with the territory.
But in spite of our dirty feet, Hebert's mom and her elite friends loved our clothes! We had kept a couple of long designer dresses for special occasions, and they had their dressmakers copy the designs for them; they loved our handcrafted leather pouches that Hebert helped us put together so we could carry our passports and money without need of a purse, and our jeans and sandals. I think they all wished they were hippies!! We became curiosities among the Beirut socialites. One day Hebert took us to see Omar Shariff who was giving interviews at one of the classy hotels in downtown Beirut. The security there thought our leather pouches contained tape recorders and ushered us right in to the great one's presence! We were actually able to stand with the reporters and see Omar up close and personal! A special lady we met in Beirut was named Collette Mattar; she was the wife of an Ambassador and had travelled extensively in the East. She cautioned us many times about going to India. She said that if we went, we would never really return. We would be changed forever and wouldn't be able to fit back into our own culture. (Indeed, it's been a tight fit!) These sweet ladies wanted us to stay and live in Beirut. Sometimes I think about all the places where we were invited to live, and I speculate about how vastly different our lives would have been...

Friday, February 12, 2010

On Loving Life

I was just sitting in my sun-bright living room thinking how really good life is at this time of my life. I mean, today I have no agenda until 5:00, when I go to work for 3.5 hours - how sweet is that? I have my ticket for a trip to Phoenix the end of this month, and there I will not only see Donna & Danny but also Sharei and Evelyn from B.C. These are friendships that go back 40 years! I'm so excited to get out of Dodge for awhile and get warmed up on the desert!
And if that isn't enough, my grandsons are on Spring Break this week so I get to see more of them than usual. Olivia, sweetest granddaughter, isn't feeling well today but I'm going to see her anyway. I truly am blessed, and thankful that my life is so rich & full.