Full-length articles, short notes, musings about places, people, me: Life!
25 February 2019, written during a sleepless night in Tokyo “Eureka!”, I yelled, as I scrambled out of my bath and ran down the corridor, leaving trails of wet footprints behind. “Basak-san, stop, you no can run wet in hotel! Danger! Fall, hurt!” I didn’t care. I had understood why travelling was addictive and I … Continue reading Travel vs. Falling in Love
I arrived in Tokyo on 23 February 2019 to work there as an interpreter for 6 days during a big conference, along with 12 other interpreters from all around the world. The plan was to work, then travel, and return home on 17 March. I was afraid I had planned everything too tight, down to … Continue reading Notes from Tokyo
I must get a haircut, I must get my hair cut, I will get a haircut in Kyoto, as soon as I get there, I thought. I had trekked through Kumano Kodo for 6 days, and now I was on my way to Kyoto, city of well-dressed, elegant women, and I felt like an ogre. … Continue reading A Cocoon in Kyoto
Today was our third day here and yet I feel it has been a whole week – not because I am bored – HAH! Far from it. It’s because I have been learning so much, seeing so much, and most of all, I think it’s because I feel so close to the villagers that I … Continue reading Boğatepe village, Kars
Yesterday I spent two hours interpreting during an emotionally charged interview of a prisoner incarcerated for having stabbed and bludgeoned his wife to death one morning on a street of Brussels. You may be wondering, what kind of an introduction is that to an article on exploring a place? I felt compelled to tell you … Continue reading A walk through time: Braine-le-Chateau and Villers-la-Ville
It is my first night in a tent, ever. I pitch it easily, having already tested it three times in my garden. I blow up the mattress and lie the sleeping bag over it. It looks so cozy! It had been so amazingly comfortable when I’d tried it out at home, and now I would … Continue reading Everymember v. sleeping bag
It was alien. It was eminently disturbing. It was awesome. It was a sentient being set in a throne room, more awe-inspiring than any throne room that ever existed — in fact, a temple.
It’s worse than seeing yourself in a mirror; it’s seeing yourself being watched. An ever-watchful eye. The girl stands by it all day, seeing herself be seen in this transparent granite, so alienly transparent, alienly perfect, alienly round, placed on a pedestal, impossibly placed – so high, so unbearably huge, creating such a strong urge of knocking it down its pedestal, down the steep steps – but you know you would only manage to break your foot. It wouldn’t even acknowledge your presence.
I met Nuri on the street, as I was seeking refuge in a group of women who unfortunately had no idea where the Andalusian neighborhood was. I had told them of my claustrophobic, troubling tales of insistence and distrust involving several different men who had offered to guide me there. Maybe those tales could have … Continue reading A friend in Fes
What do I think about Fez? It’s a whirl, it’s a daze of narrow streets, a labyrinth, all ye who enter here, leave hope at the door, it’s shops, curiosity, wonder, beauty, surprises, the comfort of streets blissfully empty of shops, sudden (rare) empty spaces where children play football, walls of ocher, colored decorations, crumbling … Continue reading Fes: a whirl, a daze
Renata and I had been hired to interpret in Rabat during a 2-hour meeting between the Turkish and Moroccan ministers of commerce and the numerous business people who hoped to benefit from the new agreement that would be signed that day. Once the meeting was over, we decided to spend the day together. We had … Continue reading Rabat and Renata: a city, a friend
We arrived in Istanbul after more than 35 hours aboard two trains. To start with, I told my 5 tourists that I couldn’t possibly join them for dinner. The sole idea of hearing one whine about the fact that we were eating AGAIN, the other say he didn’t want “this” only to claim he DID … Continue reading Catherine
beadledom [beed-l-duhm] – noun: a stupid or officious display or exercise of authority, as by petty officials. Our guide, Kurban, had to take us somewhere, so he took us – five French tourists and me, their interpreter – to the Bloody Bastion – Caucasian Front War History Museum (Kanlı Tabya – Kafkas Cephesi Harp Tarihi … Continue reading The Tragedies of the Bloody Bastion
One of the most memorable days was the one we spent with two Kurdish clans who come every May from their villages in Iğdır, right at the intersection of Armenia, the autonomous Republic of Nahçıvan (Azerbeycan), and Iran, to spend the summer in the plateau above our village of Boğatepe. They ship their 4500 heads … Continue reading A day with the transhumant Kurdish clans
Today, we went by tractor to a village 10 km away and came back on foot, when I was treated to 13-year old Ekin’s delightful conversation about his 15 dogs, his other animals, his dream of becoming a vet, his irritating older sister, stories about his wonderful dad, his fights with his classmates, his genius … Continue reading A day in Karatavuk village, Kars/Ardahan
2 weeks ago, I saw an ad on my Turkish translator’s Facebook page: a non-profit organisation was looking for a French-Turkish interpreter to accompany a group of 5 French people during their 12-day visit to a small village in Eastern Anatolia, near Kars. My heart skipped a beat. I was on a 2-month vacation at … Continue reading An unexpected adventure: Kars
I just got back from seven days bathing in the forests of Kumano Kodo. This is one of the two pilgrimage routes recognized by Unesco (the other is the Santiago de Compostela) – you get a special certificate ensuring your place in heaven if you complete both. There are many different trails. I picked the … Continue reading Kumano Kodo – “Wonder in Most Everything I See”
and suddenly the whole floor was shimmering with continuous movement of water, all around the central puddle. Rivulets, glistening serpents of water, gliding forth on the slightly inclined, smooth floor, converging with other rivulets, taking along indecisive droplets, rushing towards the central puddle… Then droplets, rolling along, growing fatter, unexplainably coming to a stop in front of a bigger droplet, staying there passive until joined by a tiny droplet which changes the equation, or by a gust of wind, or a small insect stopping by for a drink… It is hypnotic, all this glistening, gliding, rippling movement…
I am traveling, but am I travelling through space, or through time — or have I landed on a completely different planet? It seems to be the latter. I spent my whole day somewhere totally alien.
It took me around nine hours to get from Tokyo to Koyasan. After my peaceful breakfast of rice balls (onigiri) and tea, sitting on a bench under the sun by a convenience store in the ancient neighborhood of Yanesen, I went to the train station and all peace was lost along with my metro ticket (which still contained plenty of money) and on top of that, I made the mistake of taking the local train instead of the express!
26 February 2019 We are, of course, all fascinated by Japanese toilets! The one at our 5-star hotel is exceptionally welcoming, lifting its lid and lighting up. “Down boy, down! Good boy.” It cleans and dries and, most importantly, it protects me from feeling ashamed of peeing loudly, thanks to the loudspeakers which play music … Continue reading Japanese toilets
So here I am, finally at the airport, finally on my way to a long-dreamt destination: Tokyo. I have been reading nothing but Japanese literature for the past 2 months, I have been watching YouTube videos on ryokans, onsens, Tokyo, soba noodles, any number of things Japanese. I have attended 18 hours of Japanese language … Continue reading H-14: Last hours of pre-departitia
Many cities have kept the medieval tradition of single-ware streets. In Arequipa, for example, the quantity of shops selling eyeglasses is mind-boggling. Never have you seen meter after meter of eye wear shops one after the other, street after street. There aren’t enough Arequipans to buy so many eye/sunglasses/lenses. And most Arequipans I see seem … Continue reading Impressions from Peru & Similarities between Turkey and Peru
Traveling in the North I truly regret I don’t have more time to discover the North, because here I feel like the intrepid traveler! I’ve seen only a total of around 5 foreigners in all of Cajamarca. There are lots of Peruvian tourists, mostly from Lima. I read my Lonely Planet, then go off to … Continue reading Cajamarca: Save the best for last
Let me tell you about the only ugly place that I visited in Peru. Of course there are plenty of ugly towns in Peru; in fact the majority are ugly. I passed through them on way to prettier places, and I told you about them. Unfinished brick apartments with iron rods sticking out, mounds of … Continue reading So ugly, it’s beautiful: Chiclayo and its two shore towns
Yes, I was Jane of the Jungle of Manú National Park, a protected rain forest, for 4 days and 3 nights. You can’t enter Manú without a guide, so yet again I had to join an organized tour. We were a group of 13 people, instead of the 5 promised by the agency. The guide was … Continue reading Me, Jane.
July 30th, Aguas Calientes, the village on the skirts of Machu Picchu. Time: 3PM I’ve been silent for too long but my fingers have been itching to write here and I’ve constantly been writing in my head or taking notes. It’s terrible, I haven’t written since I arrived in Cusco! Not a single word about … Continue reading A long letter from Cusco and Machu Picchu
My landlady, Alejandra, wanted us to visit Miraflores together today at 12 so I went out for a short walk in the morning. And, to my great and happy astonishment, the apartment is literally two minutes away from the seaside! So tomorrow I will have breakfast here: Then I walked to the other side of … Continue reading Notes from Miraflores
That’s what every long-term traveler asks at one point, I think. You wonder, what am I doing? The locals are leading their lives, they’re working, whether it’s in the fields, in their homes, in shops, and there you are, passing through, aimlessly. Do I have an aim? I have the feeling that my “job” as … Continue reading Is this the real life, or is it just fantasy?
Here I am, back in Arequipa, after three days of hiking in Colca, the world’s deepest canyon! I hadn’t thought to stay on here, but I met such nice people during the trek that I wanted to spend some more time with them, plus it was a good idea to take a small rest before … Continue reading Three days in Colca Canyon
Good-bye, Arequipa. Thank you for being so beautiful on our last night together. Your Plaza de Armas was spectacularly back-lit by the setting sun, the sky was colored layer upon layer of blues and dusky pinks. The palm trees stood out like lace against the sky, the white cathedral and other buildings were lit with … Continue reading Bye, sweet Arequipatita
I don’t think I can claim to be seeing the “real” Peru. I took off from Lima on Sunday morning with a bus company called Peru Hop, which is based on a really great idea. The bus follows a fixed itinerary with a fixed timetable, from Lima to Cusco (and Bolivia) and you can hop … Continue reading I’m being “taken care of”: Peru Hop from Lima to Arequipa
I love my school. Nos encanta nuestra escuela 🙂 For five days, I got up with enthusiasm every morning at 6.30 to go to Peruwayna Spanish School. It took me 20 minutes to walk there. I chose to walk by the seaside instead of through Parque Kennedy, which I also really liked, because I had … Continue reading Back to school, Lima
I was walking to my language school one morning in Lima when I thought about the fact that I don’t as yet know the past or future tenses in Spanish. I know only the present. And I am here, on an unknown hemisphere, in South America, in a brand new city, and I am so … Continue reading A happy dog in Lima
Yes, that will have to do for now… I was a diligent, concentrated schoolgirl during my 4-hour Spanish lesson this morning (great teacher, nice students, 5 people in my class, around 20 students in total, really cool school with nice activities), then had a long and pleasant lunch with a Peruvian translator colleague from TTNS … Continue reading Dead tired but alive and happy
I really like what I’ve seen so far of the city. I’m so glad I’m not staying here for just two days, as it seems most tourists do. There’s really a lot to discover. Yesterday and today I went to Barranco and the City Center but I wasn’t at all able to see everything, so … Continue reading Barranco and Lima City Center
I spent the whole morning yesterday in the blissful feeling that I was on vacation. You may say that my whole life is a vacation, since I’m a freelancer, but you could also say that actually, I’m never on vacation. And anyways, when you live in your home, there’s ALWAYS something to be done — … Continue reading Epiphanous night (se dice?)
In my experience, each door has its own stubborn, capricious character, and you have to cajole and coax each and every one. These Peruvian doors are sweet and generous and understanding. They are self-confident and don’t feel the need to humiliate or frustrate you to feel their own self-importance. Each encounter with them is a little miracle; a reminder of how easy life could be if only we were more self-assured.
It took ages for all of the travelers to get their suitcases last night. We all laughed together as we worried. I have the feeling that Peruvians are very open and communicative! “Muy inquietante!” I said to the woman next to me, after we’d been waiting in vain for half an hour. She laughed and … Continue reading Here I am, in Lima!
12 days to go before I land in Lima. I may go crazy first. When did I start to plan this trip? Since when has this torture been going on? I wanted to be all happy-go-lucky, no plans, not even a return date, nor even an idea of WHERE I would return FROM. It seemed like such … Continue reading D-12: Pre-departitia
Yes, Lima sent me off in style. She took me to Museo Larco, far, far away from my neighborhood. The museum is in a beautiful old mansion with an big , enchanting garden. The pathway and garden walls are covered with red bougainvillea, there are ginormous cacti, palm trees, ferns; it’s a fairy tale garden, … Continue reading Lima sends me off in style
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