I am walking from Etiler, the neighborhood where I've been living, to Beşiktaş, down by the Bosporus. The backpack is once again in its proper place, my staff is in my right hand, and I am moving along the busy road at a good pace in spite of having to weave and dodge around other people and cars parked on the sidewalk.
The weather is good, and I have yet another host waiting for me just 6 kilometers from where I've started, then another the next day on the Asian side of Istanbul, and more in Izmit, a few more day's walking eastward.
I have a new destination and a new plan; I will march to Iskenderun, very close to the Syrian border, where a new ferry line has begun from Turkey to Haifa. The new ferry was created for lorries to bypass war-torn Syria on their way to Jordan, and I will only have to pay 100 euros to catch it. This is far better than my previous options had been; either to walk through Syria or take a ferry to Cyprus and a flight to Israel. The first option was costly, a bureaucratic nightmare and possibly a bit tricky what with the shooting; the second option was simply costly.
So now I am rested after weeks of sedentary living and eating well (thanks to my host, Bigem ), and I have a plan after weeks of inertia and indecision. But I will have to hurry if I am to get to Iskenderun before my visa expires. I have over 1000 kilometers to cover in about seven weeks, and I will have to get through mountainous central Turkey. It has been spring-like here in Istanbul, but I am faced with winter again as I climb in elevation. But I can do it.
After walking the 6 k to Beşiktaş, I find I am too early to meet my host, having overestimated the distance and underestimated my walking speed. I sit in a square by the Bosporus to kill time, watching skateboarders perform their art. Then I start thinking.
I have been doing far too much thinking lately as a result of cabin fever.
Cabin fever is a term for a claustrophobic reaction that takes place when a person or group is isolated and/or shut in a small space, with nothing to do for an extended period. Cabin fever describes the extreme irritability and restlessness a person may feel in these situations.
Meanwhile, all the thinking I have been doing has made me stir crazy.
From the McGraw-Hill Dictionary:
Stir crazy to be upset and nervous because you have been in one place for too long.
So now that I have taken action and cured my cabin fever and stir craziness, I am thinking by the Bosporus, and I am thinking I would like to go back to the apartment where Inge, Sofia and I have been suffering from cabin fever together. By seven o'clock that evening I have apologised to my host and walked back to the apartment. I have more thinking to do, more fever to sweat out.
Just What Have I Been doing These Past Three weeks?
I have not been completely idle these past few weeks.
-I have been resting and eating, which I feel I should do after 15 months on the road. Lying around and reading are far more economical than running around Istanbul like a tourist, so I feel this creative idleness is justified to an extent.
And I have been eating regularly. I started the walk weighing in at about 180 lbs. When I arrived here I was at 150 lbs., which is what I weighed when I was something like 15 or 16 years old. In the time I've been here I've regained about 4 or 5 lbs, and I have also done this economically. Having a kitchen to cook in is cheaper than eating on the road. The apartment with a kitchen and much of the food, I must add, has been a gift from our host, Bigem.
Thanks again, Bigem.
-I've also been looking for work. I must confess I haven't been trying very hard. So far, neither an English language school, handing out leaflets, or labor have worked out.
-I have been 'waiting' for money.
This may sound rather weak, well , it is weak, but money through donations can get me a residence visa and transportation to Israel, and solidify my plans before I go charging down the road again. And the waiting may be necessary to continue with my work.
I applied for a 'scholarship' and delegation in Palestine with Christain Peacemaker Teams while I was in Edirne, and I got both, but the 'scholarship' means I pay 725 dollars to work with CPT rather than 1450 dollars, and it does not include transportation to Israel. Instead, I hope to pay them a short visit.
I am grateful to them for their confidence in me.
And I am, of course, grateful to those who believe in what I am doing and are providing my daily living expenses, and have been doing so for over a year.
-I have been establishing contacts in Israel. As I hope to be there for three months, not idling at all but working for peace, these contacts are important to establish now.
-I have been looking for a farm to volunteer on, through Help Exchange, but I have not found one that needs my help.
-I have been visiting people, and introducing my petitions, though not with the same vigor as prevıously on this walk.
-I have been devising alternative plans, and weighing the merits of both solicited and unsolicited opinions.
I have been advised:
- to slow down; I will never find peace if I continue to march...
...and in slowing down, to accept whatever penalty I receive for overstaying my visa with equanimity
- to hurry up because I cannot overstay my visa
- to take care of my family before trying to save the world, and to be a better father to my daughter
- to make more friends to help me along the way
- to find a job
- to maintain the integrity of my walk by continuing the walk...
...This last piece of advice coming when I mentioned that one of the options I have considered is to get to Iskenderun before my visa expires by hitchhiking or cycling with a cheap or donated bicycle. Aren't Israel/Palestine and Egypt the real goals of this journey? Isn't insistence on walking just vanity? Most of the time, no one knows whether I am walking or not; what difference does it make?
Of course, I have always said I would walk until I was physically unable to continue, so this last piece of advice is sound, even if it does mean overstaying my visa and taking my lumps for it.
Yet, maybe I am being hard headed about this. I've also been advised not to take too much stock in the opinions of others. Hitchiking will save me the trouble of an extension on my visa, or the trouble from the authorities when I've overstayed my visa. Furthermore, if I hitchhike from Istanbul to Iskenderun, I should be able to get to Iskenderun with the money I've got now, and possibly even have money remaining for the ferry to Israel.
What I Am Going to Do Now
All of the above, and more, I hope.
For example I may busk. I can play two or three tunes on my harmonica and sing a bit; ten minutes worth of entertainment. The entertainment may be of the sort that makes people laugh. Any coins tossed to me may be from pity.
And today I am going to visit Thomas, the peace pilgrim I wrote about recently.
Thomas is one of those who have advised that I slow down, and I am hoping he can advise me in other ways. As I've said before, he seems to radiate peace. I just seem to annoy my flatmates.
Anyway, I have now made the decision that I will not march to Iskenderun to beat the visa date.
I will either walk slowly and somehow get an extension on my visa, or I will walk slowly and deal with the authorities when the time comes.
Or I may hitchhike, or cycle to Iskenderun, then continue walking through Israel, Palestine and Egypt, where I will have lots of time to do so.
Meanwhile, I wait a bit more; for conviction, for epiphany, for renewed zeal; maybe to put on another pound or two.
I won't waste time waiting for Godot, however.