I am in the airport waiting to return to Antakya after 12 amazing days of holiday. I am so grateful for the time off and the truly blessed experiences. My life is so so blessed and I go from glory to glory. I pray that my life glorifies God immensely. Sometimes I really wonder if I should be suffering more for Christ…? In any case, it is a pleasure to see Him in so many places, people, and cultures. The best thing to share about this vacation is that though I did not travel with anyone, I shared every beautiful moment with beautiful people who truly appreciated being with me in that moment. We experienced life in these days with eyes and hearts wide open. In Psalm 133, David remarked “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”
The first week of my holiday was spent on the Greek island of Skyros in the Aegean Sea where 22 others joined together for a “holistic holiday” at Skyros Centre. Most of them came alone, and there were 3 couples. I took the art class while others took a writing class and a few took a class on presentation. Most of us shared a room with a complete stranger, and my complete stranger was a feminist Muslim Pakistani-British lady whom I came to respect greatly. There was also a Brazilian who’d been in the UK since the late 80s, a tattooed biker Brit, a sweet and hilarious Irish teacher, a South African-British novelist, a British actress, a British commercial producer, and a few others. In my art class was a South African who’d lived in the UK since the 70s, and 2 Russian young ladies in banking who went to school together, now living in London and New York City. Our teacher was the talented and successful Scottish artist Michael Gahagan. We started with sketching, then oil pastels, which I hated, then watercolors and chalk pastels. I learned a lot and enjoyed the practice. Michael’s approach placed importance on learning through the journey, not on the final product, and on being present in the moment, noticing the beauty all around us. Of course there really is more beauty to notice on Skyros than most places! We had 45 minutes of yoga each morning, followed by breakfast, then personal time, then 3 hours of class, then lunch, and afternoons were free, then we usually went into town for some delicious dinners! In the afternoons, I went to the beach to sunbathe, swim, kayak, sketch, and watercolor. I also took a day to wander around the narrow streets winding up and down the mountain. I went to the Manos Faltaits history and relics museum, too. I ate a lot of veggies and seafood, and drank a lot of iced cappuccinos and alcohol. The island had everything that I love and wished for on a holiday.
At the end of the week, we had a gallery viewing of the artists work, a closing ceremony, and a cabaret night where anyone in our group could perform a talent. I was proud to show my work alongside the other artists. (Last 6 in this album.) For the cabaret, I read a poem that I wrote about the Skyrian landscape, below, and sang a duet (with my roomie) of Adele’s “Rollin’ in the Deep”. I practiced this song at least a hundred times this past winter for my singing lessons with Jeremy Ragsdale in Annapolis and reluctantly took this as an opportunity to perform it. We sounded great together!
What surprised and delighted me the most was how close I became with the others. I actually teared up at the airport! It felt ridiculous because it was only one week! But in that one week, I opened up and fell in love with them more than I have with my current colleagues over the past 3 months. The contrast was so clear in my mind and my heart, and I really didn’t want to leave that love and unity, nor the wonderful life-style we had on the island.
The next stop was Istanbul where I met up with 2 of my Syrian colleagues, both kind-hearted engineers. They prepared an itinerary for my 4 days in Istanbul (formerly Constantinople) and led me around to all the most fantastic sights! We went to Hagia Sophia, built in 537AD as a church, and in 1453 was converted to a mosque, and finally in 1931 was converted to a museum that opened in 1935. We also went to the Topkapi Palace of the Ottoman sultans where I supposedly saw with my own eyes Moses’ staff and David’s sword. (It’s hard for me to believe those were the real items…) It was quite a beautiful estate! We also spent a day on one of the Prince Islands, where we biked, swam in the Sea of Marmara, ate ice cream, walked in the car-less streets, and ate the most amazing seafood dinner on the water at sunset. The dinner included pickled fish, fried mussels, shrimp, little fried fish, and a really big baked fish. It was a fantastic tour of the city with sweet gentlemen.
All in all, an amazing holiday!!!
Out of the earth,
high and lofty
dignified wise men
tattered by storms but standing
wrinkled under age
speckled with bushes
split wide by miniscule seeds
caves of refuge
altars of hope
hundreds of corners
straight, crisp lines
icy shades of white
plans and dreams
devised and fulfilled
hollow windows into deep souls
a staircase to the blue heavens
a Babylonian city building higher and higher
crooked teeth taking a bite out of the sky.