WARNING: THIS EMAIL CONTAINS SPIRITUAL INSIGHTS AND STUFF. BEWARE.
Today, I took my first bus ride during the day in Turkey, so I finally got to see some of the amazing countryside. This is probably the most picturesque country I have ever been to. The mountains are so incredible and green, full of trees, and spotted with ancient stones. From the road we traveled on, the hills sprawled forth, getting bigger as they got further away, finally giving way to massive mountains with green slopes and snow capped peaks.
The bus ride weaved its way through an entire range of this scenery, en route from Pamukale to Selcuk where I am now. Selcuk is a town near the coast of Turkey, a base from which to explore the ancient ruins of Ephesus, where I am going tomorrow. It is also the final resting place of St. John, author of a few books in the New Testament.
I was glad to leave Pamukale, as interesting as its calcium slopes and ancient ruins were….it just seemed a little desolate for my taste. The roads were barely paved and there were many abandoned hotels and almost no other travelers. I did encounter another traveling couple and spoke to them for a bit. But after a while, they revealed to me that they were on a mission from “The Lord” and were doing his work to spread the good news of the Gospel to the ends of the Earth.They became very insistent with me about the good news and quite zealously tried to “influence” me. I said that’s great and all, but I’ve already heard the story.
They intend to go to Israel next and spread the good news there…..I told them they wouldn’t be the first people to try that on the Jews. But I wished them well and put some distance between me and them, after refusing their offer to pray for me. No offense to anyone out there, but extremists of any kind rub me the wrong way….
As I am traveling, I am trying to have an “inner journey” as well as an actual journey. This involves being aware of what’s happening to you at all times, and allowing the experience to affect and change you. It’s about growth and evolution, both which were goals I established before I embarked on this trip. I guess I have not been too successful up until now, with fulfilling those goals.
It’s a scary thing to go across the world to a strange place, all alone, and allow yourself to be “blown by the wind”. So, I incorrectly opted to join a package tour that would provide structure so I didn’t have to find the courage to roam on my own. The last four days I have been on this tour, while I have seen many interesting things, have not been overly fulfilling. I have decided from now on, not to book anything ahead or make any plans. I am just going to go, and see where the journey takes me. After all, the journey is the purpose, and not the destination. I’ll let you know how it goes.
I did have one very fulfilling experience in Istanbul that I neglected to share in my previous installments, which I shall now share. I had time during my last day before my bus left in the evening, so I decided I wanted to play guitar and sing in public. It would be the first time I would do this on this trip. Up until then, I was unsure of how the masses would react to me, and I didn’t want to offend anyone since it is a Muslim country and all. I didn’t know if people would flock around me or stone me to death….it was a gamble. But I took the chance.
I went to the lovely park that sits between the Blue Mosque and the Aya Sophia, both majestic buildings, the site of which can be very inspirational. I took out my guitar and began to softly strum. The fear was there…”what will they think of me? Oh man, I am disturbing these people…..I should go”. But I suppressed the fear and just continued strumming. I saw a few people looking at me, and I just looked down, not wanting to make eye contact.
A few minutes later, a couple of Turkish guys came over and introduced themselves to me….I thought it was a ploy to sell a carpet, but they seemed very interested in the fact that I could play guitar and asked me if I sing to. I said yes, of course and they became even more excited and said, “Play Hotel California!” That’s a standard, and easy enough, so I put aside the fear and began playing it. Halfway through the song, one of the guys said, “You know, you are very good. I think we should move to a more public place, because you can make some money”. I said, “Ok, if you think so…”
So I followed them to a more visible area, right in front of the Blue Mosque where there were a few dozen people sitting around. The guy told me to open my guitar case so people could throw money into it…..I did….and immediately he put a few bills and change in. He charged me to begin playing….so I launched into “Let It Be”…..and immediately people began to turn around and look at me….many of them were smiling and listening intently….some young kids approached me and sat down next to me….more and more people gathered around to look at the strange foreigner singing at the top his lungs in front of one of the most beautiful buildings in the world.
When I finished the first song, there was a round of applause! I couldn’t believe it. A bunch of people threw some change into my case, and the guy said, “Keep going!” So, I did…and the crowd kept getting bigger and more people threw money into my case. The kids were dancing. Women in the traditional Muslim veils were smiling at me. Several of them took pictures of me. This whole scene lasted for about an hour until I had no voice left, and the crowd started to taper off. I was filled with happiness and fulfillment from this experience, and energized to do this much more often. It’s great to know that I can elicit that kind of reaction on the other side of the world. Plus, I made a million Lira….color me rich.
So now I am sitting in Selcuk at my hostel….so far this has been the nicest hostel…people are very friendly here, and I see some other backpackers so maybe I will meet some of them tonight. Tomorrow I shall tour Ephesus, the best preserved ruins of an ancient city in this country…..I am excited to see it. That’s about all…thanks for reading….