5th October, Berlin, 22:23, we just came home from the Berlin launch of a book called “Odesa at Dawn” from Sally McGrane. I loved the fact that there was a microphone, unlike the book launches we attend at Hopscotch Reading Room, which made it so much more pleasant to listen to the conversation between the book’s editor and author.
The book is a spy novel set on Odesa, in Ukraine, around 2015-2016 and the author said she wrote the story while living in Odesa and without knowing that we were on the brink of war. She read two excerpts. The first one was about Mr. Smiley, a cat with a scarred face, who turns out to be the boss of the cat network of the city. Mr Smiley knows more than anyone, including humans, what’s going to happen and where. An intriguing start. I immediately thought about Istanbul with its millions of cats, which could be a great prequel setting for Mr. Smiley. James Bond of cats?
The second part she read was about the spy who was drunk at that moment and having a stomach churning taxi ride, driven by a flat nosed boxer who were talking about the city and its recent guests. A night ride with a chatty taxi driver is a clever way to introduce a place the reader has never seen. She read it so amiably that we decided to buy the book and add it to our signed book collection, which we did right after the talk was over. I think she found my Istanbul catspirocy idea amusing. Well, whoever develops that idea, I can’t wait to read it.
A few years ago it dawned on me that every time I feel tired, but deeply tired, I find myself dreaming of moving back to Turkey, buying a piece of land to practise permaculture, growing a food forest and living self-sufficiently by its all year round yield.
This yearning of going back to the land started in me around 2013 when I was tired of living the fast life in the city. I wasn’t taking care of my health neither physically nor mentally. All I could think of was working hard, trying to make money, make it fast through startups, shortcuts. Then trying to relax on weekends in the worst ways possible. I was clearly burnt out, but I didn’t know it then.
With like-minded friends who were in similar fed up states, we decided to pool our money and started searching all over Turkey to settle. Soon we found reasonably cheap lands in incredibly beautiful parts of Canakkale, Bayramic, which looked like Tuscany in those days. Our assessments were verified later, by the many ecovillages and community farms built in the area.
But our dreams were shaken by a series of financial hiccups which would still allow us to buy only the land but continue working in our soul crushing city jobs until we have the essentials settled in the farm. Finally, I was strongly vetoed by my father who found our farming plans half-baked and said “You’re too young to give up your education and experience in software, and settle in a remote village. You need to be in the heart of the action in your prime.”. He was right. Spock to my inner Kirk. Listening to his sage advice, I went back to work.
5 years later, I was burnt out again after working in Dubai and spending years staying in hotels, like a modern day beduin. I was burnt out because it wasn’t that Dubai was in the middle of the desert and extremely hot, but because I fell into my bad habits of careless living. To escape that dangerous comfort zone, that golden treadmill, I quit and came back to my home town. My plan was to do nothing for a year or two and only work on my neglected health. Building a farm immediately started playing in my mind again, and this time money wasn’t an issue.
2019 became one of the most important years in my life. Although I couldn’t get in shape as much as I hoped, I was finally relaxing after years of grinding stress. I was catching up with all my friends, playing boardgames, sitting in cafes for hours watching people, thinking uninterrupted, journaling ferociously, reading all the books I had left for another day, finally taking the sailing lessons I always wanted. A massive course correction was happening in me.