Greece has Crappy Keyboards Too

Ahh, the Greek Islands…

How I have wanted my whole life to come and see them…to hop from rock to rock…feel the history…breathe the air…gaze at the mountains that seem to grow right out of the sea…set sail on the many ferry boats that take you from Island to Island. Well, here I am.

I arrived this morning on the Greek Island of Samos, which is only about a 2-hour boat ride from Turkey. You can still see the Turkish coast in the distance, so it’s not really that far of a trip, but it’s definitely a different country! I could sense that immediately, as our tiny boat sailed into the port of Samos Town, Samos. The town sits on the slope of a hill that leads down to a U-shaped bay that serves as the island’s main harbor. What an amazing site it was to stand on the bow of the boat, with the wind blowing in my face and see the quaint, white houses with red roofs….it’s a very Greek feeling…if you can understand that….and hey, what a coincidence…it’s Greece!

I ran into a guy on the dock that I have been running into all over Turkey…and now here.  His name is Jonathan, and he’s from San Francisco. So we ended up hangin out around town for a few hours and treated ourselves to a Gyro (I am sure you know of this Greek standard), and a stroll through the back streets of this small town. The weather is great and I feel very alive and excited to be in Greece! This afternoon, in about an hour, I will be boarding another ferry that will take me to Mykonos, an island that many have suggested I visit, so I will; thus, begins my voyage across the Aegean Sea.

So what have I been doing for the last few days? I have been in Selcuk, Turkey…as I stated in my last email. This is a town on the Aegean coast and a good base from which to see the ruins of ancient Ephesus, a very significant Greek city of biblical times, where many events of Christian importance took place. Paul the Apostle spent much time preaching there, as well as St. John, who lived out his life and was buried there, as well as Mary, mother of Jesus, whose house you can actually visit – well, uh, so they say.

I arrived in Selcuk and checked into the best hostel I have ever stayed in – The Artemis Guest House. I have never met more friendly hosts who went out of their way to make me feel welcome and included. Plus, I had my own room and my own bathroom, with hot water! What a blessing! I also ran into Jonathan there, mentioned above. We first met in Istanbul, and then again in Pamukale…so I wasn’t surprised to see him in Selcuk, or Samos for that matter. The next day I was supposed to go on a tour of Ephesus, but my travel agent called and told me it was canceled, because I was the only one who signed up! That’s the low season for ya. But lucky for me there was another tour the next day, so I signed up for that instead. That meant I had a day to kill in Selcuk.

The next day I decided I had to have a souvenir of Turkey and since I have been getting into playing chess. I decided to get a nice chess board with wooden pieces….and since my friend Henry wanted one too, I got him one as well and shipped them both to New Jersey (uhh…Henry…you owe me, son). The whole procedure of shipping something was a huge hassle, and it will take about 3 months for it to arrive, because it’s going by boat.  The shipping cost more than the chessboard!

The first night in Selcuk, I met two Canadians and an Australian fellow, and we all hung out till the wee hours of the morning indulging in Turkish beer and getting silly. When I revealed that I had a guitar, it was the start of a big ruckus. The Australian guy knew every song ever written, so we sat around for hours singing Counting Crows songs…his favorite band, and a favorite of mine as well. We developed quite an audience of the entire hostel and their neighbors and I became famous in the small town….so much so that the next day I went out into the main square and did a little concert for the locals….picture lots of old Turkish men sitting around drinking tea and playing backgammon, thinking to themselves “who the hell is this?” It ended when someone offered to sell me drugs, and I thought to myself, “Hmmm, Turkish prison?  Uhh, no thanks.”  End O’ Concert.

Next day I toured the ruins of Ephesus, which are quite well preserved and astounding.  You can walk down the ancient streets paved with marble, go into what’s left standing of the ancient library, which once housed many ancient documents, subsequently destroyed by religious zealots. Shame. Roman columns line the streets and you can see where the houses and baths once stood. There is a giant amphitheatre dating back 2000 years, which is still in use today…recently played by Tina Turner. In the afternoon, the tour brought us to the house of the Virgin Mary where she supposedly lived out her life. It’s at the top of a mountain, reachable only by a very windy road, but Mary had a hell of a view in her old age. You can see all the way to the coast, as well as the entire valley and region around Selcuk for miles…or should I say kilometers….

After Mary’s shack, we went to the tomb of St. John, which is nothing more than a pile of rubble.

After the tour was over, I bought a Turkish carpet. Well, my friend Mohammed was begging me to get one for him, so I obliged. As I am sure I have stated in previous emails, the Turkish Carpet industry is crazy here. There are soooo many shops and soooo many guys trying to sell carpets that it’s hard to know who is for real and who is just trying to rip you off.  I ended up getting it through the hostel which has a store……after about four hours of viewing rug after rug and finally haggling frustratingly….Mohammed is the proud owner of a very nice rug.

Well, my thumb is tired from the space bar on this Greek monstrosity of a keyboard….and I have to catch my ferry to Mykonos…so I will sign off. Some of you people have not written to me in a while. No excuses!!

Jared

Jared in Turkey – Part Cinque

 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….

Jared