communication, dogs, ideas, music, travel

Still learning new things from a 1996 trip to Turkey…

Last night, while Bill was enjoying an online session with his American Jungian therapist who lives in Berlin, I was getting annoyed by comments on a Washington Post article I read (temporarily unlocked). The article was about how many Americans are taking their dogs everywhere with them, and how–maybe– the dogs don’t actually want to go. I realize I should have known better than to leave a Facebook comment, since most people didn’t bother to read the article before doing their chiming. But, since I live in a country where dogs are welcome in most places, I felt compelled.

The first comment I got from someone was vaguely accusatory, and their comment got a bunch of “likes”. Below is what I posted, and the response:

Mine loves to go with us, but we live in Germany, where it’s normal for dogs to be out with their owners. He’s a big guy who gets nervous, so we don’t bring him often.

I don’t think anything is wrong with this comment. But, someone responded with this:

Out of curiosity, how does he love it if he gets nervous?

I didn’t actually type what I was tempted to post, which was “Do you not ever have the experience of being nervous and then enjoying yourself, once you’ve had a chance to relax? The two conditions aren’t mutually exclusive.” Instead, I responded calmly and rather politely:

He eventually relaxes. We have a wine stand in our neighborhood. We can walk to it. We will take him to that. He starts out nervous and excited, then calms down. And he always likes car rides and walks to new places, but things like umbrellas and sudden noises scare him. He is a street dog from Kosovo.

We don’t take him to big events because it can be too much for him, and he takes up the entire back end of our SUV. But we will take him to Biergartens or smaller events, and he does fine after a little while. This is a totally normal thing in Germany. It’s less normal to leave your dog home alone. In fact, there are laws against leaving dogs home alone for more than a few hours.

I was relieved when that comment didn’t invite any unpleasantness. But then someone else chimed in with this:

it’s normal in the US too…

I wasn’t sure what side of the argument this person was on, so I wrote this response:

Things in the States must have changed a lot since I left. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing, as long as dogs are trained how to be in public and people are considerate. Here, people really train their dogs, so even though they are often in restaurants, you’d never know. We don’t take ours to indoor establishments, but we have seen some dogs that were so well behaved that we didn’t notice their presence until they were leaving.

Personally, I’d rather leave mine at home most of the time, but sometimes it’s fun to bring him. It’s the only way he will learn how to behave in public and realize that humans besides us are good. And he does love the change of scenery.

She came back with this:

they’re everywhere here. Ubiquitous

So I wrote:

Well, it’s been nine years since I was last home. Based on the comments, it sounds like maybe dogs in public are a problem.

Then she posted this:

not really. Most people love dogs.

I didn’t want to continue to engage. Fortunately, she got the hint when I wrote this:

Good. I’m glad.

But then another person– a curmudgeon of sorts– wrote this:

more’s the pity

Despite what the woman above posted to me, a lot of people in the USA don’t seem think it’s a good thing to take dogs in public places. They have lots of reasons for their thinking. And, just like a lot of Americans have extremely rigid ideas about topics such as spaying and neutering, and how it must always be done at six months of age (which is not always a good idea, pet overpopulation concerns notwithstanding), some people are equally lacking perspective about the subject of dogs in restaurants and such.

I was getting a little agitated by the hostile and rigid posturing in the comment section, and had just remarked to my friends that Americans need to travel more. But then someone posted that most Americans can’t afford to travel… which wasn’t really the point. The point is, a lot of Americans seem to think our way is the only way of doing things, and they lack any desire to explore different places or discover new things.

Even a lot of Americans who live in Germany with the military are stuck in that US centric mindset, and they see no reason to evolve or expand. A lot of us don’t have any perspective of life beyond two feet in front of us, let alone how things are in other parts of the world. I was trying to share a different perspective in the comment section, even though I know better than to even try. For my efforts, I got a vaguely accusatory comment, and a comment that seemed to imply that I’m somehow naive, or out of touch with reality. That kind of makes me not want to try to share with others.

Why do people have to be so negative whenever someone shares their experiences and perspectives? Why can’t people be more open-minded and willing to listen? So often, we don’t even let people finish their sentences before we interrupt them. Bill did that this morning; he cut in with an inappropriate response before I’d even finished my thought. But if he’d been a little patient and just listened, rather than focusing on coming up with the wrong response, it would have spared us both time and annoyance.

Living abroad has forever changed me. I suspect that when I go back to the United States, I’m going to feel very frustrated. I love my family, for instance, but I suspect that talking to some of my cousins again someday will be disturbing on many levels. A lot of them are firmly mired in Trumpland, southern culture, and conservative Christianity, and no amount of cajoling will get them to broaden their perspectives on certain topics. But sometimes, I do get a rewarding glimmer when another American gets it. That’s what today’s post is all about.


Last night at about 9:00 PM, Bill finished his session with his therapist. He was in good spirits, because he and the therapist have a very good rapport. As he enjoyed the rest of last night’s wine, Bill told me that he and the therapist got into a discussion about music. He said he’d told his therapist about how I had introduced him to a lot of new music, and how sometimes I “drunk download” stuff. I have very eclectic tastes in music, so it usually works out fine. I’ve found some really great stuff that way.

Sometimes I discover some amazing finds while traveling– especially when it comes to music and art. When we went to Latvia last summer, I found a fascinating all women’s folk group (Tautumeitas) when I went into a jewelry store. I liked it so much that I downloaded the album as soon as I had the opportunity. Ditto to Finland, from where the wonderful band, Frigg, hails.

I discovered Frigg when I read an article about traveling to Finland. I was reading the article because I’d just visited Finland myself. Someone in the comment section mentioned discovering Frigg when they went to Finland, and they emphasized what a great band they are. I decided to investigate, and it opened a whole new world to me. I have shared Frigg with Bill, and with people who read this blog, although I don’t think many people have bothered to listen to the links I included in my post. In fact, not many people bothered to even read the post, which is too bad. If you are reading this, I challenge you to click the link in this paragraph, and just listen to Frigg for a minute. See if you don’t agree that Frigg is at least very talented, if not downright awesome! I dare you! You probably won’t be able to unhear the awesomeness. 😀

Anyway, the therapist asked Bill about the kind of music that puts him in “the mood”… for sex, I guess. Bill got a big smile on his face, because we do, in fact, have an album we have historically listened to when we’re in the mood for lovemaking. It’s one I discovered in Istanbul, back in 1996.

My friend Elaine and I had traveled by bus from Yerevan, Armenia to Istanbul. In 1996, it wasn’t so easy to take cheap vacations out of Armenia. Flying on scary Armenian Airlines was way too expensive for me, as I didn’t have any money in those days. Elaine was kind enough to lend me a few hundred bucks so I could go with her on vacation to Türkiye (Turkey) and Bulgaria, which were pretty inexpensive then. It took three days to get to Istanbul, and parts of the trip, while beautiful, were also kind of scary. We were also exhausted when we finally arrived in the city.

After a night in the Aksaray district of Istanbul, which is in the Asian part of the city, Elaine and I relocated to Taksim, which is on the European side. Taksim was definitely more western than Aksaray was, and there was a lot to see and do there.

There was a big shopping boulevard near our hotel, and I remember walking up and down that street a bunch of times during our time there. One day, Elaine and I were passing a music store on that street, and we heard the most intoxicating, enchanting sounds… It captured both of us like Wonder Woman’s golden lasso, and we were compelled to go into the shop and find the source of that gorgeous music. They were playing music by a Turkish folk band called Kizilirmak.

Kizilirmak is the name of a river in Türkiye, but when I see or hear that word, I’m reminded of a band that captured my soul on first listen. Elaine and I both bought cassette copies of their album, Rüzgarla Gelen. We both loved what we heard, just passing by that music shop by chance while we were visiting Istanbul in 1996. On that trip, I also bought a cassette of Bulgarian music by Trio Bulgarka when we went to Bulgaria. Trio Bulgarka has famously collaborated with my musical hero, Kate Bush, but before they did that, they made beautiful folk music. I hadn’t heard the Bulgarian music first; I just knew Trio Bulgarka had sung with Kate Bush. I bought the music entirely based on that fact, and didn’t regret it, even though it was just an 80s production of Bulgarian folk songs.

Years later, when I married Bill, I played Kizilirmak’s cassette for him, and he also loved it. Indeed, it was very good music for moments of intimacy. At least, for us it was. Maybe it wouldn’t be for other people. Still, when I hear the below folk song, I smile and remember the early days of our marriage, when we were younger and much randier.

It’s a folk song, but I find it kind of erotic… or, at least very soothing. The whole album is interesting and timeless, and it never gets old. I hope one or two of my readers will investigate it and be enriched.

So there Bill and I were this morning, learning more about the above song, “Kirvem”, which it turns out is a folk song that has been done by a number of people. If you go on YouTube, you’ll find different interpretations of it. The link below is not Kizilirmak, but it is a very beautiful version of the song I first heard done by Kizilirmak…

Sigh… makes me want to learn this song. Music really is an international language that knows no bounds.

Now, because of that therapy session Bill had last night, and the trip I took to Istanbul in 1996 with my friend, Elaine– who had made it possible for me to go by lending me some money–, we will be passing along this gem to someone else. Perhaps Bill’s therapist’s life will be enriched by hearing “Kirvem” done by Kizilirmak. Maybe he’ll pass it along to another person.

So true…

I realize that my own former therapist, who is now a friend, also contributed something to this revelation. The above photo was posted on his Facebook page, and it struck a chord with me. Because I recently went back to Armenia, and found out that the time I spent there hadn’t been wasted… I had made a difference by spending two years there, and in fact, I made a difference by going back to visit a couple of weeks ago. I exposed Bill to a place that means a lot to me, and he learned new things, which he’s shared with friends at work and his daughter. I’ve learned new things in my travels, which I’m sharing with you, and anyone else who cares to pay attention. Maybe you’ll pass on some of what I’ve learned and am sharing to someone you know… See what I mean?

So, while I find that a lot of Americans– or really, a lot of people– can be stubbornly resistant to having their perspectives challenged, I have also found that if you’re open to it, you can be exposed to some really wonderful things. It’s not unlike leveling up when you play a game.

Are you ready for the next world? You have to be brave enough to take the first step. That means leaving your comfort zone and trying something new. But that can be very scary for some people. I know it’s scary for me sometimes. Change can be hard… but sometimes, change is vital. Sometimes you have to change or you will literally die. Maybe you can’t afford to travel. Can you afford to be influenced by someone who travels and sees the world? Could you expand and evolve that way– until you do have the chance to get out of your comfort zone? Are you willing to listen to someone who’s seen and done things you haven’t seen or done yet? Maybe you can learn something new that way.

Anyway, that was just a profound thought I had this morning, as Bill and I were sharing something I discovered in Istanbul, Türkiye, back in 1996. That trip is still teaching me new things, which I can share with you. That thought kind of blows my mind.

The featured photo was taken somewhere in eastern Turkey in 1996…

Bill, complaints, modern problems, music, rants

It’s already been kind of an exasperating day…

Like many good children coming of age in the South in the 70s and 80s, I was well-acquainted with the corny hillbilly variety show, Hee Haw, from an early age. This morning, I am thinking of Kenny Rogers’ ex-wife, Marianne Gordon, who starred on that show in the 80s, as a southern belle who regaled everyone with stories about her fictitious daddy, “The Colonel”. She always started her skits off by saying, “It’s been an exasperating day.” That’s kind of how I feel today.

I have to admit, I liked this show. It’s less toxic than ANTM is.

It started with washing the sheets… always a pain in the ass, but especially when I also wash the duvet covers. We also decided to rotate the mattress, to redistribute the lumps in the mattress. My lower back was hurting, so I wasn’t much help. Bill got it turned on his own. Then, I realized the issue probably isn’t the mattress as much as it is the feather topper. It either needs to be replaced, or we need to get used to sleeping without it. Really, we need a new mattress, but it’s not so easy to get an American king sized mattress in Germany.

Then, once I got that mess straightened out, I had to wrestle the duvet into the duvet cover, which is quite an annoying task with a king sized duvet. I managed to do it without breaking out in too much of a sweat.

I sat down to write this morning’s blog post, but then got sidetracked by my music library. A few months ago, I replaced my old computer, but not all of my music moved over on the cloud. Consequently, I’ve got some “greyed out” files on my new computer. I end up having to manually move the music by using an external drive. The files don’t always successfully make it on the external drive, so I have to do it again. It’s a hassle, but worth it to me, because I love my music collection that much. I think I spent about an hour on that today, and I’m not even done with the task. Every day, I move more files, and it seems like the job is never ending.

I finally had to quit moving files, because I was getting so frustrated. It is kind of satisfying to see the greyed out files turn black, though.

I recorded a couple of new songs yesterday. One song went off pretty much perfectly. The other one was a real pain to get right. It’s not actually as perfect as I’d like it to be, but I was determined to get it up yesterday, so I settled for less. I got a comment from someone who thought it was my equipment that caused the issue, but no… it was a psychological issue. You know how, when you try to do something and you mess up, you kind of psych yourself out when you try again? That was me when I was trying to record “All I Have”. I did it nine years ago and it turned out just about perfectly, but no one ever hits that video because it has photos instead of me on camera. Nine years ago, no one watched my channel. Now, I have more people who pay attention to it.

Oh well. Maybe I’ll try again in nine years.

Last night, I found out that a British guy I met in 2011, while on a SeaDream cruise, is going to be joining Bill and me next month on our Regent cruise. He and his wife hung out with us on that cruise and we kept in touch for awhile, but then drifted apart. Looks like we’ll be seeing each other again. What are the odds?

Actually, that kind of stuff happens to me a lot. I have a knack for running into people I either used to know, or who know people I know. Here’s an example. Back in the late 1990s, I waited tables at a nice restaurant in Williamsburg, Virginia. One day, I waited on a couple with Irish accents. I asked them where they were from, and they said they came from Belfast. I told them I had a friend from there who lived in Newtownards (a suburb). We worked at a tiny Presbyterian church camp in the summer of 1994, then we traveled through Europe with his now wife, who’d also worked at the camp. The couple said, “Was your friend’s name Chris Sheals?”

Sure enough, it was… and it turned out he was their next door neighbor. What are the odds? There are lots of restaurants in Williamsburg, and plenty of waiters. Somehow, they found their way to my section.

Another time, a friend and I crashed at a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer’s apartment in Sofia, Bulgaria for about a week. When we got back to the States, I went to the Peace Corps office in Washington, DC to do some career networking. There wasn’t an event going on, or anything. I just went there on a whim. Sure enough, I ran into that guy whose apartment we crashed in Bulgaria… he was from New York and had come to the office for the same reasons I did. Again, totally unplanned…

And, here’s a final example. In the spring of 1999, I went to the Peace Corps office in DC again, that time with a friend I knew from Peace Corps/Armenia. I had planned to meet that friend. We went into the office and ran into another person from our group, Matt Jensen. And it’s funny that I’m writing this today, because Matt died two years ago in Brooklyn, when someone ran into him and left him for dead. I’ve written about Matt before… and that was the last time I saw him, on that day in the Peace Corps office, completely by chance. Incidentally, we’re still waiting for justice regarding Matt’s death. The wheels of justice are moving way too slow.

Those are just a few examples I can think of offhand of my running into people, but it actually seems to happen to me a lot. I run into people, or find out I know someone another person knows… or I end up connecting them with someone else who has a connection. It seems to be one of my special and more memorable traits. So I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised to be bumping into someone I met years ago on another cruise… My world seems to be particularly small. 😉

Even meeting Bill was kind of like that. We met in a chat room in 1999. In 2001, before we met in person, he went to a convention in Little Rock, Arkansas… where he ran into my aunt’s brother, Ralph. Ralph was a member of the Kansas National Guard, while Bill was in the Arkansas Guard. But Bill wasn’t with the Arkansas people, because he was federalized. Ralph was in the Kansas Guard, but he lives in Virginia… Sure enough, they bumped into each other, and chatted. Later, Ralph told me he’d met my “boyfriend”. I laughed and said he wasn’t my boyfriend. We hadn’t even met in person at that point. Ralph said, “Oh, trust me, he’s your boyfriend. And don’t worry. He’s okay.”

I was nervous about meeting Bill, since we met online. Ralph also had the benefit of being a former Virginia State Trooper, which made him a pretty good judge of character. Twenty years later, you can see that Ralph was right that Bill is “okay”. And I guess he WAS my boyfriend, after all.

Well… I guess I should end this post. I am feeling calmer now, so I guess I’ll practice guitar and take Noyzi for a walk, then maybe make another video, or finish reading my freakin’ book. Later, y’all.