Saturday, July 26, 2008

Death in the Valley

On 23 July, the day before my 41st birthday, a hiker fell some 30 meters off a trail and died some six hours later. Rumors abound. Management said he had gone off the marked trail to evade payment. Others said he had gone off path in hopes to climb up to a village to buy cigarettes. Still another has it that he was a fugitive, evading military service. In any event, it's a great tragedy that has left the valley shaken. We left yesterday, a move we had planned before the incident. Many others left, too. Now we're at a beach hotel in nearby Oludeniz.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Jolly Equilibrium in Butterfly Valley

Life has returned to some sort of equilibrium, the sort of calm that settles in just as things are drawing to a close. Yesterday Lucia taught her first session of "Beach Yoga," after a day of working reduced hours in the kitchen, thanks to her renewed status as an official teacher, which also involved having her class posted to the announcements board for all to see. After a session of stretches, we all massaged each other with olive oil. The class was well attended and it went very well. People have been nice to her and to us in general. This after she was told that her "punishement" was a response to her immoral behavior: leaving her husband and son to fend for themselves while she ran off with another man to Istanbul. But now that she's been back and acting responsibly and calmly and cheerfully, her detractors have silenced.

Lucia was in a charming mood yesterday evening and stayed up late talking with a Russian couple. Eldar has had trouble sleeping since we moved into the tents, but seemed to sleep well enough last night. There is a new Turkish boy about his age who speaks some English. But many of the friends he made have left. Still, he's managed to find many people to talk to and entertain and will be richer for the whole experience.

I have passed the half-way point in Johnson's A History of the Jews. It's been fascinating. By staying a separate group within the human race, with its own language, customs and values, bent on its own survival, the Jews have at once been at odds with the rest of humanity and on the cutting edge of its "advance." I'm now reading about the Rothschilds, how their financial empire influenced the course of the European economy. Amazing.

There was a "full moon party" organized on a neighboring beach and many people paid a sizeable sum to be taken there by boat where they captively listened to techno music until dawn paying high prices for booze and energy drinks. Interesting how it compares to the full moon parties I remember on Weihiki Island in New Zealand, where a bonfire was lit on the beach and people beat on drums and chanted for hours. They danced in the moonight and listened to the waves. This party last night was - in my mind - and example of moneygrabbers seizing an occasion to exploit young people's desire to be part of something larger than themselves, while disenfranchising their potential to control their own fates. If someone organized a drumming party, there would be no profit in it, just raised consciousness and fond memories. What you have this morning is a bunch of hungover grumps, pissed off that they spent so much money and no closer for it.

It's very educational observing the divide between the money agenda and the "enlightenment" agenda. The former dominates the beach-front facilities with loud pre-recorded music, beer and chips, while the latter hangs out at the "Stone House Cafe" deeper in the Valley with homemade cakes and lemonade, poetry readings and live folk music. Unfortunately, the former is better organised and far more aggressive.

Down here in Butterfly Valley, things are most interesting. I've been working in irrigation. It's way primitive, but I've been suggesting some simple improvements and made some small ones. I also met with an environmental engineer and he explained how some simple low-cost technology - e.g. aerating the water reservoir to keep the water potable - can make a big difference. The trick is to find solutions that make everyone happy. This often means presenting them with the solution that will make them happy rather than involving them in its development. In the case of drinkable water, money is being made by importing water to the valley. One solution is charge a "water tax" on valley visitors" and compensate the valley that way. I've been meeting with Berkeley University linguist about reinvigorating the education component of the Valley, again by sorting out all the details of the program so that the current Valley admin won't need to do additional work, just house and feed the students and faculty the way it currently houses and feeds its guests and volunteers.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Back in Butterfly Valley

That's right, friends! I am alive and well and residing in Butterfly Valley, an isolated fjord in the Southwest corner of Turkey directly on the Mediterranean coast, facing the sunset. Above I stand with a native of this remarkable place accessible only by sea or by scaling a treacherous mountain wall. To post this blog entry I had to travel by boat to Ülödeniz, on a nearby peninsula. Lucia, Eldar and I are living in a "Gilligan's Island" style bungalow. The image blow is taken from the "balcony" of our stilted dwelling and the structure in the distance strongly resembles our own.

Lucia has been teaching Yoga, Eldar has been making art and I have been working in the fields, irrigating and weeding. Been doing a bit of swimming, too. Also reading Paul Johnson's A History of the Jews. Lucia has been hanging out with some of the local boys, spawning much gossip. I don't mind. Photographer Stephen Spinder has joined us in the Valley, down from Budapest. He's enjoying himself, partying, photographing and shagging women half his age. He described his time as "in the top three" of all his vacations so far.