Om, Om on the Range

The delinquent and infrequent blogger is back! I set moderately high expectations for myself to complete all my blog updates before my birthday in November, however, like most things, life went on at a pace that my typing fingers couldn't keep up with. So, I missed the deadline. Good news is, I'm the only one setting the deadlines around here, so I forgave myself for being tardy.

FALL BACK TO MY ROOTS

The summer months came and went quickly and soon it was Autumn on my tiny island in the sun. Aside from a rise in the number of Chinese tourists on my resort, there really was very little difference between the seasons here. The weather stayed consistently perfect, my job remained pleasant, and I continued to to count down the days till the next time I could spread my wings and fly far, far away to a new and exotic place. Naturally the next destination I chose to visit was Nebraska. Aside from it being neither new nor exotic, it was far away and had the added bonus of familial hugs.

Once a year my company pays a roundtrip ticket for me to take vacation to my point of hire. Despite getting hired for this job while I was in the Middle East, I chose my parent's permanent address in Nebraska as the place to which I wanted to return. But would you believe it? There's no direct flight from Male, Maldives to Lincoln, Nebraska! So I had a bit of fun taking the long road home via Istanbul and New York.

12 HOURS IN ISTANBUL, NOT CONSTANINOPLE

There are a few variations of flights that I can book from the Maldives back to the States. Some direct, and others not so much. I chose to book a flight that was somewhere in between those two options which resulted in a glorious 12 hour visit to a city I'd never seen before, Istanbul. Istanbul straddles both the European and Asian continents, bringing together a unique mix of Eastern and Western sensibilities.

My flight from Male landed around 5am, which allowed me to catch the sunrise over spectacular Ottoman architecture during my drive into the city.


(The Hagia Sofia at dawn)

Although I was arriving in Istanbul sans guidebook and alone, my lovely Turkish friend from work, Fatma, provided a 12 hour itinerary for me to follow, which began at a hotel her sister worked at in Sultanahmet. Warmly welcomed by the staff there, they allowed me to freshen up in their lobby bathroom and gave me a complimentary Turkish breakfast from their restaurant.

                                      
(Fresh veggies, olives and figs, cheese and a Turkish bagel...I was in gastronomic heaven.)

With my hunger satiated and the sun fully up, I decided to take advantage of my surroundings and explore Istanbul for a few hours before heading back to the airport. It was still pretty early, so the streets were deserted.

I walked over to the Hagia Sofia where I admired the architecture whilst lazing about the gardens



I got mixed up in a Chinese tour group


And disappointingly discovered that my selfie-taking abilities were majorly lacking in comparison to this lot.

(The selfie level of these three...EXPERT)

I then headed across the street to Sultan Ahmet, also known as the Blue Mosque. By this point in the day, busloads of tourists were descending upon the site.




I met a nice stranger who offered to take my picture in front of the Mosque,


And then invited me to his family's shop for a cup of Turkish coffee as he attempted to sell me a $10,000 rug. 

("That carpet better fly,"-my reaction after he quoted me the price.)

I politely declined his sale admitting that if I paid $10,000 for his rug, I would then have to live in and eventually eat the rug, as I would have no money for anything else after the purchase. I walked away from his shop and began exploring the side streets of Istanbul for the rest of the morning.

I made my way over to the Grand Bazaar where I spent hours haggling with shop owners over the cost of bracelets [sadly, I was too absorbed in bargaining to snap any pictures from this excursion].

After buying a few bits and bobs from the Grand Bazaar, I headed back to the hotel to meet my friend's sister and cousin for lunch.

By the time the mid afternoon sun blazed overhead, I was all tuckered out.
(I feel you, kitty.)

And headed back to the airport to continue my transit to the land of the free...

'Merica! F*ck Yeah!

To say I was excited to be back on American soil would be an understatement. If there's one thing I've taken away from living on a remote island, it's the appreciation I feel for the comforts and convenience of the modern world. No place could feel more convenient than New York City, where you can find things you had no idea even existed, let alone, that you NEEDED to buy #rightawayassoonaspossible! I spent five days speeding through the metropolis catching up [read: eating] with friends,
(This salad is as big as BJ's head. I call it a Freedom Salad.)

Visiting my pals who have created new and amazing human beings in the time I've been away,

 And playing my favorite subway game, "Wizard or Pimp?"
                                             
Five days in New York flew by fast and furious, and it was once again time to board another plane, this time to the Heartland of 'Merica, Nebraska. While there, I did typical Nebraska things like adorn my parents in matching Sri Lankan batiks, 

Reunite with my oldest friends in the world [just to be clear, "oldest friends" in duration not age],

Gush over said oldest friends beautiful progeny,

Have a coffee with my fashionista niece,
                                     

Tailgate at a football game,

Have a dinner date with my cat,

And drive my mom's hybrid car to Whole Foods once a day to have a ladies lunch with my best friend and buy a $5 Vegan Mint Chip Rice Dream Ice Cream Sandwich. Why? Because I can. 
 (Freedom Ice Cream. F*ck Yeah!)

Three weeks breezed quickly by, and once again, I packed my things and made my way to the other side of the world.

But not before one last quick stop in Istanbul to see my friend Fatma [who had just arrived herself from the Maldives],

Meet her amazingly kind and generous parents,

Get a little taste of Istanbul at night,

And have a moonlight smoke of shisha in a cafe under an Ottoman tower

Accompanied with Turkish coffee, chocolates and tea.

After bidding adieu to my lovely friends in Turkey, I entered the last leg of my journey. Although I felt nostalgic upon leaving my friends and family, I was reassured that I was in the right place at the right time as my sea plane grazed the top of a rainbow over a small island in the sun...


And then a double rainbow appeared.
 (Double rainbow! What does it mean? Oh my God! So Intense!)

Well darling readers [or should I just say Mom and Uncle Sid...who reads this thing anyway?], I had one last adventure in 2014 that I will do my best to update before the end of of 2015. Till then, here's a cotton candy sky from paradise.

Love and Island Kisses! X