sony a7r

Éireann

Ireland, my 43rd country. Or I mean, Northern Ireland, my 42nd country and the Republic of Ireland, my 43rd country.

This summer was a bit stressful, so I was really looking forward to this getaway. But I wasn’t expecting anything. I just wanted to be one with the crowds and remain as a stranger. I didn’t really see anything crazy in the way I had… marvelled at the the temples of Bagan. Nothing really shook my tastebuds like… the spices in Moroccan lamb tagine, either.

Perhaps I’m saying this because of how I journaled the entire time - I used the BVOY Travel Journal as a gift from Tate. Because of the prompts, I did a lot of reflecting in Ireland vs my day to day in Toronto. I’ve never journaled so concisely before, nor have I been so constructively critical of myself either. If anything, I had fun writing anything that came to mind in an open notebook, but having some specific direction made me see my trip in a whole different light.

Don’t get me wrong, I still went around and explored Belfast, Galway and Dublin. The nature was incredible by the coast - The Giant’s Causeway, Cliffs of Moher, all breathtaking to see with my very own eyes (oh yes, maybe I am downplaying it as well because I don’t watch Game of Thrones). I had experienced yet again, a healthy dose of kindness and hospitality from the Couchsurfing and BJJ community. In Belfast, my CS host Colin shared some of his brother’s vegetable curry with me. In Galway, I left my mouthguard (GUM! SHIELD!) at Point Blank Submissions but realized it hours before I was departing for Dublin. Oisin left work and dropped it off in the city center for me. In Dublin, I was hosted by Denis from Matsurfing and we trained at JSBJJ. I visited my friend Moritz and we trained at ECJJA and day tripped to Howth. I finally tried the freshest pint of Guinness one could possibly try at the Guinness Storehouse (and my goodness it was so delicious).

But the one thing that stuck with me was the high number of immigrants in the city who made the move for a better paying job, or the chance to learn English. The fact they’re willing to share rooms (not an apartment, I mean the room themselves) with multiple other people to save on rent. The fact that there’s a housing crisis in Dublin but unlike Toronto, not enough actual geographical land mass to expand. I met a couple of immigrants from Brazil, Turkey, Croatia, etc. and everyone’s working hard to build a better life for themselves and/or their families back home. But also smiling through it because for a lot of them, it’s better than what they had back home. My conversations with some of these people were more memorable than some of the tourist sights. I think just being in the environment and listening to the stories made it even more eye-opening. I mean, the immigrant story isn’t something new - my parents went through it, and so have many others. But for some reason, I don’t think I really clued into the reality of it all until recently. It was a weird realization to come to because I’m a product of immigration, yet I only understood the textbook definitions of the immigrant struggles until now.

I’m curious to see what Brexit will hold, because if the UK does part ways with the EU, then the ??? between Northern Ireland and the R.O.I will be ???!!?!!! and the R.O.I will be the only official English speaking country left in the EU. What would that mean for housing prices, population density, the job market, etc… the list goes on and on.

Türkiye | Kedi Adventures

05/09/2019 - 05/20/2019

Here’s a photo essay of the Istanbul and Cappadocia I explored in roughly 10 days. I went during Ramadan, thinking it would affect my trip in some way, shape or form (but it didn’t). It couldn’t have been more relaxed. I couldn’t have blended in more (I believe I could’ve been mistaken for Kazakh…). I learned a lot about Turkey’s recent political & economic scene and felt the anxiety from locals about their re-election at the end of June.

Egzi, a tattoo artist in Kadiköy, told me about the Gezi Park riots in 2013 (which I had no idea about) & the shift of bringing life from Taksim Square over to the Kadiköy area - now that’s a conversation I’ll never forget.

I will never forget the importance of the soccer (football) game on May 19, 2019, where the underdog neighborhood team won against the team funded by the government. The happiness Ekin’s boyfriend and all the new friends he made on our ferry back from Burgazada was beyond a sports fan-type happiness. This was the type one would think they’d only experience if they were watching the game in person. It was also a big screw you to the government, and the fact it happened on their Independence Day (Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day) was a double whammy. (Though Ekin’s boyfriend did bet on the game so he was incredibly elated to have won his bets as well). The city was on fire all night, horns honking and people cheering throughout the streets.

Istanbul

Cappadocia

Friendly Faces

It’s not a trip for me unless I meet up with old friends and make new ones! I had such great conversations with the people I interacted with on this trip. For me, even if we only have the opportunity to hang out for X amount of days, I cherish those specific memories/they remain very vivid in my mind for a longer period of time.

Kedi Adventures

Only when you set foot in Turkey and see it for yourself will you finally understand the fascination around cats in this country. I didn’t watch Kedi before going to Turkey and honestly, I think it was actually more beneficial for me to watch it after. I was able to pinpoint some locations and imagine myself back in the city, absorbing all the sights, sounds and smells it has to offer. But true to the documentary, I did see so, so, SO many cats. And even better, witnessing the kindness of people in the neighborhoods taking care of the returning cats made my heart swell ten sizes. I saw fearless cats watching people pass by, accepting any and all the stomach rubs and head scratches. I heard them meow for food and succeed in getting fed. I saw them laze on the couches in a hammam and befriend tourists in a hostel, being passed around from person to person. As I was walking on the streets of Istanbul with another traveler, she told me the best way to find friends is to carry cat food. She taught me how to feed cats without scaring them (although I don’t think cats in Turkey are scared of anything, if you were to ask me) and by the end of my run, I had grown used to seeing little heads pop up from every nook and cranny. That’s something I’ll miss seeing in Toronto.