On the Ghomeshi trial, so far

Amazing thoughts from Pixelated Notions on the Jian Ghomeshi trial.

Pixelated Notions

A few days ago, I read an article regarding the Jian Ghomeshi trial and how there was a dramatic twist when Ghomeshi’s defense lawyer, Marie Henein, presented evidence showing that Lucy DeCoutere, one of three women who accused Ghomeshi of assault, contacted him a few times after the alleged assault. This is legally significant and, quite frankly, pretty great work by Marie Henein as a lawyer, because it helps discredit DeCoutere as a reliable witness since she had previously testified that she did not make any contact after the alleged assault. I cannot be mad at Henein for doing her job. What I can be angry with is the response it has received.

Sure, this may mean that DeCoutere has lied. Does this mean she lied about the whole thing? Definitely not.

Victims of assault, especially of sexual assault, don’t always stop contact afterwards and ignore the person who assaulted…

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A Letter to Creativity

A beautiful piece on creativity, written by my friend Benita Grace Joy 🙂

Benita Grace Joy

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Dear Creativity,

I’m sorry it’s been so long. You were my saving grace in childhood, before I dismissed you so callously and without consideration. I saw you in me as being somehow less than you in another. I disowned you by discounting myself as worthy enough to be graced by your presence. I ignored you and thought you were for the weirdoes, the underachievers, and the crazies. I curtailed my curiosity for fear of insanity, and ignored inspiration. I’m sorry.

I’m sorry I stopped drawing and singing, writing and crafting, doodling and fiddling with everything my hands could find. I’m sorry I stopped playing music and embracing silliness and daydreaming to pass the time. I’m sorry I stopped making up poems and plays and attempting improbabilities. I’m sorry I rejected the beauty of bewilderment for timidity and boredom for the sake of conventionality. I’m sorry I tamed my imagination and stopped taking risks. I’m sorry I…

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House of Mirrors

I love mirrors. They let one pass through the surface of things.

Claude Chabrol

House of Mirrors

The last thing I expected walking into the Mirror House Q8 was a feminist visionary whose work promotes the Big Bang Theory and other elements of cosmology and the Zodiac. Alas, expect the unexpected.

Lidia Qattan’s magnum opus is the Mirror House, and her pride in her and her late husband’s work is apparent from the moment you meet her. A widower of the award winning Kuwaiti artist Khalifa Al-Qattan, Lidia developed the idea for her home and executed it entirely on her own. The two-story home in Qadisiya, Kuwait is a remarkable reflection of her personal and spiritual philosophy, and of her devotion to her late husband.

After being greeted with homemade cakes and cookies, ginger and lemon drink, and a warm smile, Lidia delved into the inspiration for her home: her daughter and a broken mirror. “If you believe that you get 7 years of bad luck with every broken mirror, then wow!” She laughed and gestured to the sitting room around her with floor to ceiling broken mirror mosaics.

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Lidia’s sitting room, and the first room she decorated with mirror mosaics

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Turtle Mosaic

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In part practical, to prevent the termite infestation from destroying her home, and in part an expression of her spiritual beliefs, the mirrors are found in every room of the home. Common motifs create a sense of continuity and flow from one room to the next. Images of sea creatures such as fish, turtles, sharks and jellyfish adorn the lower paneling of the walls, while stars, moons, zodiac signs and planets adorn the ceilings and upper walls.

My favourite piece of symbolism embedded into the home is the asteroid on the ceiling of the entry hallway. Lidia explained that during the formation of the universe, a meteor collided with planet earth bringing with it water and the first cellular being, which then evolved into life on earth as we know it. Thus, it was apropos to adorn the entryway with a meteor because she believes that visitors to the Mirror House bring life into her home.

After a lengthy discussion of how beliefs and money shape a country (for better or worse…) Lidia brings you to a space themed room with glow in the dark decals, and glowing sculptures. She turns out the lights and plays ambient music while you sit contemplatively admiring the artwork.

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Part of one of the space themed rooms

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Planetary bodies and stars that glow in the dark

Afterwards, we played a tile throwing game, a guessing game, and a spinning wheel game. P even won me a handmade necklace!

After two years of living here and seeking out cultural experiences, this was by far the most engaging, creative and interesting place I visited in Kuwait. It was a wonderful way to cap off my time in the Middle East. A big thank you to Lidia Qattan for having us.

Ma’a salama Kuwait!

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The exterior of The Mirror house

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The elevator!

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My favourite room….the library!

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Another view of the exterior of the building

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A verse from the Quran on the ceiling of the library

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Lidia showing us photos of when her husband was alive

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Even the washroom is covered floor to ceiling in mosaics

Keep Wandering,

W

#109 – Turkish Baths

And taking’ a bath in the creek. That’s the stuff that really made it worthwhile. Anybody can stay in a motel. – Chris LeDoux

There is nothing in the world like a Hamam.

If you’re anything like me, being naked and exposed in a room full of other women (or men, for that matter) isn’t exactly the most appealing experience. However, I think travel is a major opportunity for new experiences that contribute to personal growth. When in Rome…

I knew I had to have a Turkish bath when my colleague and neighbor, J, explained her own experience with the baths. I don’t know J all that well, but she is one of the most animated, boisterous, and hilarious people I’ve ever met. She had nearly our entire apartment floor in stitches explaining the process of what happens on that marble slab.

For those of you who don’t know, here’s how it all goes down.

At the front desk you are given a towel large enough to cover your left thigh and you are escorted to the changing room to deposit all of your garments into your locker. This is your last opportunity to turn back and run for cover. I sincerely vacillated on whether or not to abandon the whole thing and preserve the dignity I had left. Having already spent the money, my miserly ethos would not let me turn back.

This next part was great: the ladies paint your face with some kind of sticky mud mask and stick you in a sauna for 15 minutes. You all clamber in together, trying to sit comfortably on scorching hot seats all the while trying to cover yourself with the face-cloth sized towel that they provided for you. When the mask dries, you hop into a shower and then into the baths proper. It’s quite a sight to behold.

At my particular bath, there was a giant hexagonal marble slab in the center filled with rosy red naked women. Around the outside is marble seating on which you can sit down and very awkwardly look everywhere but at the women who are experiencing what can only be described as a vicious sanding of the body by half-naked lumberjack-esque women. It appears so torturous Jack Merridew would be pleased.

Hamams started out as places for socializing as well as ritualized cleansing and purifying techniques for the elite classes. It’s safe to say that not an inch goes uncleansed or unpurified.

When it was my turn, I ambled over to the marble slab careful to keep my “towel” in place. As I opened my mouth to greet my masseuse, she ripped my towel off me in a way that can only be described as the exact opposite of delicate. She then gesticulated for me to lie belly down on the marble slab. She was an enormous woman, and I was at the peak of my vulnerability, so what choice did I have? I complied.

First I was covered with warm water and a lather of soapsuds – this was an extremely pleasant sensation. The masseuse gave me a total body slippery massage. Next came the exfoliation portion wherein I was relieved of approximately four layers of skin. My gentle friend used some sort of knitted washcloth to sandpaper every nook and cranny of my body, making sure to scrub away all decorum I had left. By the end of the massage I was chaffed and polished into complete apathy for any spectators in the room. Wobbly-kneed I stood up and re-wrapped myself in my accoutrements and exited the baths. My skin has ne’er been softer save for infancy.

Three other girls on the tour finished up at the same time, and having been naked around each other already, we opted to go for a naked swim in the private pool as a cool-down and conclusion to our Hammam spa night.

In all seriousness, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I got over feeling uncomfortable about being naked in a room full of women pretty quickly. And, despite the roughness of the massage – it actually felt invigorating and rejuvenating.

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Until next time, keep wandering!

-W

# 109: Impassioned in Istanbul

“We were together. I forget the rest.” – Walt Whitman

**I’m jumping back in time to the proper chronology of my trip to Turkey. If you’ve read my first post about my Turkey experience you’ll know that I had spent a full day in Turkey wandering around with a stranger-turned-guide-turned friend named Ishmael. If you read my previous post you’ll know that I was totally oblivious to my impending engagement that would happen at the end of the week in Cappadocia.

I hadn’t seen P since late August of 2013 (for those counting, that makes 6.2 months apart – the longest stretch we’ve had, even as a perpetually long-distance couple). You could probably imagine that I was quite excited to see my partner after such a long interlude in our relationship.

Retrouvaille

I jolted awake at the sound of my telephone. I remembered that Ibrahim, our guide, had scheduled wake up calls for each of us, but I was confused and disoriented when P’s voice came through on the other end.

“Hello?” I said groggily. My lengthy sleep the previous night left me feeling slightly hung-over.

“Hi! I’m here,” my love replied. This was much better than my pre-arranged wakeup call.

It took me a minute or two to realize what was happening. I couldn’t have brushed my teeth and gotten dressed fast enough that morning. I sped down to the lobby and practically tackled P to the ground. Finally, the other half of my soul was here. After six months without him, he was here. There is nothing quite like the feeling you get when you lay eyes on the person you love most in the world after a long time apart.

We headed up to breakfast and dined on a traditional Turkish-style breakfast (olives, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, thick slices of bread with butter and jam, cucumbers, and tomatoes) in a solarium atop our hotel with views of the Hagia Sofia and Blue Mosque.

We spent the rest of our day walking through different parts of Istanbul, learning about its history and architecture. Together.

Until Next Time,

W

#109 Cappadocia: The Ride of a Lifetime and #177

I’m going to skip ahead a little bit in my Turkey tales to the end of our first week in the country.

I had been vacillating for some time about whether or not it was reasonable to spend a handsome sum of money on a balloon ride at sunrise in Cappadocia. I have to admit, it was something I thought about a lot, and really wanted to do. But, I had just spent a lot of money in Italy, and the tour in Turkey cost a pretty penny as well. We had until the day before the ride to commit or not. P talked some sense into me, and reassured me that it was not an irresponsible thing to do. He argued that because I have wanted to do it for such a long time, and because the opportunity was presenting itself, that we should go ahead and do it regardless of the finances. So we signed up.

In retrospect, I assume he pressed the issue because he had a plan.

Typically, I’m the one who is the insomniac worrywart in our relationship. I often lose sleep when I know I have to board any kind of aircraft the next morning. But, surprisingly I was cool as a cucumber and very relaxed the night before. P, on the other hand, was very antsy. He even left our hotel room to stay in the lobby on his computer at bedtime so that he wouldn’t keep me awake.

We woke up very early the next morning (so early that I did not shower – I sought P’s reassurance that my hair didn’t look too unruly, first) and we were on our way. After paying and signing our waivers we drove to an open area with lots of other ballooning companies, watched the balloons fill up with air, and hopped into our basket. P’s nerves continued – but I was on cloud 9.

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Our basket held about 10 people very snugly, but we all had the most spectacular views of the valleys and fairy chimneys. The sun rose, casting remarkable shadows in the valleys and causing the most vivid colours to appear on the formations below. It was remarkably beautiful, a view from the sky is an absolute must. Our guide gave us some information about what we were seeing below, but mostly, he allowed us to simply enjoy our experience in peace.

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Our ride was about 40 minutes long. We descended and made a safe landing, and as tradition dictates, our balloonist began setting up the champagne ceremony. P, however, wanted to get in a quick photo with the basket first. He quickly passed my camera over to one of our fellow balloon passengers. This triggered a quick succession of cameras directed at us.

“I just have to ask you something, first,” P said.

For the next few minutes, I had a total out of body experience. I saw P get down on one knee and take both of my hands in his. I know that he said some very sweet and personal things to me (none of which I remembered at the time, but all of which he repeated to me verbatim later on that evening), and the he asked me to marry him. Between crying, laughing, and trying to get my astonishment under control, I managed to squeak out a “YES!” and he placed the ring on my finger.

Let’s turn back the clock for a second…

It’s the night before, and P’s nerves now make sense. He wasn’t nervous for the flight (well, if he was, it wasn’t his primary concern), he was nervous about making sure that the proposal went off without a hitch. So, instead of sitting in the lobby and surfing the internet, he spent who knows how long writing out notes to every member of our tour group detailing his plan, and asking everyone to be ready with a camera when he gives the “signal” (which was, it turns out, asking for a photo). Later on, most of the people on our tour sent us photos and gave me those little notes that P had written as keepsakes of our special day. These notes are still my favourite souvenirs from our entire trip.

As if I wasn’t totally out of it already, the second P and I finished embracing, champagne and mimosas were thrust into our hands. We were congratulated and we all toasted to a safe & fun balloon flight and to our future nuptials. We were given a complimentary bottle of champagne, and a miniature hot air balloon as a keepsake of our special day.

I have to take this opportunity to give a shout out to my MoH Blue and my bridesmaid CS for helping P to orchestrate the most beautiful proposal I could have ever hoped for. These two women stayed up into the wee hours of the morning waiting to hear directly from me what they already knew: I was officially engaged. Thank you both for being such sneaky buggers.

Why tell you this now?

It is exactly 365 days before I get married. If you asked me 365 days ago if I thought this was going to be my lived reality, I would have laughed at you, and said no. It’s not that I didn’t want to get married. It’s #177 on my list (but #1 in my heart). It’s not that P didn’t want to get married or that we weren’t ready – at the time of the proposal we had been together for just over 5 years. It’s just that I could have never imagined that such a fairy tale proposal would happen to me.

Sometimes the best things in life are very unexpected.

Until next time, keep wandering (and expect the unexpected),

W

#109: Turkish Delight

“Smile at strangers and you just might change a life.”

Steve Maraboli

For a long time now, Turkey has been #1 on my Bucket List. Knowing that it was a short flight away from Kuwait, I decided to start planning a trip for my February holidays. I began looking in September, and in November I casually mentioned it to P in a Skype conversation. He mentioned possibly coming to visit me, and he suggested meeting in Turkey given that Kuwait isn’t exactly a happening place to visit. Not long thereafter, we had a trip booked.

We decided to go with a tour for a few reasons. First, Turkey is quite a large country and its major cities are spaced out and difficult to get to if you are arranging for travel yourself. Second, and more importantly, the dates for this particular tour we booked lined up with my February holidays perfectly. Finally, the tour covered the majority of the places that we hoped to see, and promised a large amount of cultural immersion and interaction with the locals.

Istanbul

I arrived a day ahead of P and had an entire day in Istanbul at my disposal. I met with my tour coordinator, Ibrahim, and got some good recommendations from him about how to navigate the city, and most importantly: where to eat. Naturally, the first thing I did was visit the biggest church built by the East Roman Empire in Istanbul: the Hagia Sofia. It was just a five-minute walk from my hotel. I walked all around the outside of the impressive Basilica-turned-Mosque-turned-Museum. I didn’t go inside (due to the enormously long line up), but I learned that the Aya Sofia was used as a church for 916 years, but was converted into a mosque after Fatih Sultan Mehmed conquered Istanbul. It was in use as a mosque for 482 years until Ataturk and the Council of Ministers ordered it to be turned into a museum in 1935.

I also strolled around the grounds of the Topkapi Palace, meandered over to the Blue Mosque (which I am partial to, over the Hagia Sofia), and I ended up eating at a fabulous restaurant called the Pudding Shop on the recommendation of Ibrahim. If you Google “The Pudding Shop” a whole host of websites will come up which detail the history of this neat eatery. Essentially, in the 1970s, it became a meeting point for travelers who were heading east. Many travelers would meet up with others, share their experiences, or leave messages for those who would come after. According to one website (http://www.travelsignposts.com/Turkey/food/the-pudding-shop-istanbul) it was the “famous starting point of the Hippie Trail East.” The vibe in the restaurant is decidedly un-bohemian, in fact it was quite hectic. They had traditional Turkish food on display and the whole place smelled savory and delicious. I highly recommend a visit if you find yourself a little peckish when in the Sultanahmet neighborhood.

Afterwards, I felt a little adventurous and began wandering aimlessly throughout the streets of Istanbul – I wasn’t looking for anything particular, and of course, that’s how I found Ishmael.

Ishmael: The Free Turkish Tour Guide

I am a Canadian expatriate living in Kuwait. I am used to greeting people on the street, offering smiles to strangers, striking up conversation with store clerks or wait staff, and generally enjoying kind interactions with strangers. Maybe it sounds stereotypical, but that has genuinely been my experience in my city back home. In the six months of living in Kuwait, I have learned that smiling at strangers is not only culturally inappropriate, but can also be offensive, striking up conversation with most people is awkward and unwanted, and for the most part, my interactions with strangers in Kuwait have been sexist, rude, or otherwise unsettling. So, when Ishmael struck up conversation with me, it caught me off guard in the most refreshing of ways.

“The Grand Bazaar is closed today,” said the stranger.

“Thank you, I’m not heading to the Grand Bazaar,” I replied – a little too coldly, I’ll admit.

“It’s always closed on Sundays. Do you need help finding anything?” He asked.

“No no, I’m just out for a walk thank you.”

“Where are you from?” he asked.

This launched our conversation. I told him where I was living and my nationality. We discussed my experience with Kuwait and the Middle East, so far, and he began telling me about the buildings that we saw as we walked around. The next thing I knew, I had a tour guide.

“I don’t mind,” Ishmael said, “I just walk on Sundays.”

We walked all around the streets and he pointed out old buildings, “Ah yes, that one there used to be an old newspaper building,” and mosques, “We call this one the New Mosque,” because unlike other mosques in the city it was completed just a few years ago, in 1665. We sat down outside of the Spice Market and he bought me my first apple tea (of so, so many). We talked about religion, the history of Turkey, his livelihood as a tanner, and his family.

“Which reminds me,” he said as we finished our tea, “I will introduce you to my son!” We went into the Spice Market (more on that later) and he brought me to his son’s stall. After being offered at least 10 types of tea and candies, which I politely declined, we left the Spice Market and headed to Ishmael’s place of work. It was then that I received a private tour of the leather factory and shop that he works in. When we returned to the main part of the Sultanahmet District Ishmael and I parted ways, just like that. He thanked me for my company and wished me well on my travels in Turkey. I watched him disappear into the crowds, continuing on his Sunday walk.

I could just tell that I was going to love this country.

Until Next Time – Keep Wandering,

-W