A good end cannot sanctify evil means; nor must we ever do evil, that good may come of it... We are too ready to retaliate, rather than forgive... And yet we could hurt no man that we believe loves us. Let us try then what love will do: for if men did once see we love them, we should soon find they would not harm us. Force may subdue, but Love gains: and he that forgives first, wins the laurel.
William Penn

Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone...
George Fox

Friday, January 18, 2013

On to Istanbul, Part Two

I Wasn´t Always a Quaker, You Know

This morning after my Turkish coffee with cookies, a breakfast I have adopted combining Turkish and Northern Italian custom, I sat on the balcony of our host´s apartment overlooking the Bosporus. The view reminded me of my navy life when I was young for three reasons: fırst, it is a view that is similar to the many wintertime Mediterranean ports of call we made, with the freighters, tugs and ferries, the seagulls, the stiff breeze, gray sky and low city skyline; secondly, the ship I was on back then, the USS Tattnall, a guided missile destroyer (I have always admired the honesty of calling such ships "destroyers"), had made an historic visit to a Black Sea port of the Soviet Union in 1975, two years before I joined it, and it would have had to pass the body of water I was now looking at; and third, while attending a navy course to be an Enlisted Intelligence Assistant, we had been told there were American intelligence gatherers living in apartments just like this one whose only role was to identify and report on all the ships passing through these waters. I remember that when I´d heard about that, the romantic notions I´d had about intelligence gathering vanished. Istanbul and the Bosporus, I´d thought, would be far more interesting without the intelligence gathering.

Challenge Not Accepted

So there we were, just about a week ago, Inge with her bicycle and I with this monkey on my back containing all my worldy possessions, trudging towards Istanbul with its intelligence gatherers, presumably now more high tech than in 1980. We were still on the rolling plains, though the emphasis was becoming more and more on the word, "rolling" than on "plains". And the rain came down again.
By about 3 pm, as the rain began to come down harder, we were passing another village when I  suggested we try to find a place to stay there.
Inge said, "In three more kilometers we´ll be at another village. We can try that one."
At times Inge likes to "push the envelope" as test pilots used to say.
Rather than accepting her challenge to charge forward, I stumbled and reeled, limping and hunched over. My face may have expressed a readiness to cry. She had pity, and we took the little side road into the village.
Once again, we entered a tea house, hoping for the warmth of its wood stove and of its patrons.
We were immediately rewarded when a man arranged for us to stay in the village´s misafin hana, the place provided by the local mosque for wet and weary pilgrims like us to take refuge.
The room we were given had two sets of bunkbeds, a fıfth bed, a table with chairs and a heater. The luxury before us made us sigh with relief.

The 0630 Wakeup Call

Since starting out from Edirne, our daily morning wakeup call had come from the ubiquitous muezzin´s call to prayer. At times very distant, on this morning the call was quite loud as we were adjacent to the village´s mosque. I have begun the habit of lying in bed, taking in its hauntingly beautiful sound as a short meditation before rising. On this morning I noticed shadows flickering on the wall, and rolled over to see the high flame from Inge´s portable stove in the darkness. She had arisen before the call came, and was warming up the stove to make our coffee before turning up the heat to a small blue flame.
In my groggy state of mind I watched Inge standing there, staring at the flame and otherwise surrounded by darkness. The muezzin´s melodic voice, the flame and Inge´s trancelike attention to the flame gave me the impression that some ancient ritual was taking place. I was absolutely mesmerized by the scene.
Then the call ended, and Inge quickly turned up the heat, put on the water and turned on the lights.
The spell was broken. Another day had begun.

It´s Destiny, but What does it Mean?

I believe in destiny.
On this walk especially, there have been far too many coincidences not to believe in destiny.
The destiny that I believe in, I also believe comes from God. If that makes me a fool, then I am happy to be one.
While staying at our luxury room in the misafin hana in this tiny village between Edirne and Istanbul, a man told us that a German peace pilgrim had stayed there the night before.
Because of the rain the previous day, when he would have moved on, I thought we might catch up to him somewhere on the road. I thought he might be saner than we were, stopping somewhere when the rain came down instead of marching through it.
Sometime around noon, after we had forgotten about the German peace pilgrim, I suggested a break in a village we were passing. At the tea house, once we had told our story, we were told that the very same peace pilgrim was staying in that village´s misafin hana. A man went to fetch him, and after a while he appeared at the terrace of the tea house.
He was about my age, and was wearing snow boots like the ones I had recently gone through Bulgaria with, then given to a man with a horse cart on the plains after I had bought new, 13 euro Turkish- made hiking shoes. I had thought I was crazy to keep walking with heavy, cumbersome snow boots when the snow was far behind. He also had some sort of colorful tassles dangling from his sweater, which gave him the appearance of a Western Tıbetan Buddhist.
The three of us went inside for more tea.

Several months ago I had noticed on the Couchsurfing website that there was a group of peace pilgrims walking from Germany to Tibet. Their website is www.steppps.net, and I had noticed they too were heading for Istanbul, and that they too would be going to Israel and Palestine before continuing on to Tibet and Myanmar. I had asked if I could join them at some point, and had been welcomed to do so. Then, as I had been somewhere in Bosnia at the time, I forgot about them.
Now the founder of the group, Thomas, was sitting with us in a tea house in a tiny village on the rolling plains some 65 kilometers from Istanbul.
The conversation at the table, however, disappointed me. It was mostly about maps and routes, and as Inge is the navigator when the two of us walk together, I was a bit of a third wheel. Thomas also mentioned that in his walk, and the group´s when they are all together, each individual step is a step for peace. The sign I used to carry on my back had said, "Steps for peace". It had been suggested by a host and now very good friend in Slovenia who had suggested it as more appropriate than what I´d had painted on it before, "Walking for Peace." But most often the steps I take are merely steps. Thomas and the group he sometimes walks with were probably too peaceful for a confrontational peace walker like me.

Back on the terrace, we all prepared to leave. Thomas gave Inge a hug, and she went to her bicycle. I reached out to shake Thomas´ hand, but he gave me a big hug instead. I suddenly found myself gushing.
"I´m supposed to be walking for peace too, but I don´t feel any peace in myself lately."
"Maybe you should slow down," he said.
Thomas was clearly in no hurry. He was staying in the village for a while at the misafin hana. He would only arrive in Istanbul many days after we would. And he would only be in Palestine come summertime, while my plan has been to arrive by April.
"Remember also that you are never alone. We are all together in this. We are with you."
That he knew the loneliness I dreaded hit me hard. I could have wept. My eyes may have welled up a bit.
"See you, Thomas," I said.
As we marched down the road he said once more, "You aren´t alone!"
Inge cycled ahead a bit and I thought about this meeting as I plodded on. I thought about it a lot but nothing came of it other than the realization that my plans from Istanbul were now a mess. So here I am in Istanbul wondering how long to stay and where exactly to go from here to get to my destination.
Give me a sign!

Next: The Rousing Speech that Became a Whimper; Camping in the Suburbs; So What Now?

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