The 30 days challenge

Today is the 30th day by the way.

Of two challenges that I merged into one: 30 minutes of both reading and writing per day.

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Let me first tell you I am not a fan of these called challenges.

And yes, I did write often yet not daily and probably I read daily but never kept the track of it.

So how did I willingly enroll  myself in this?

Well, out of curiosity regarding time, perseverance, creativity and.. myself.

 I enrolled to know myself better, and to see what am I really  made of.

Finally I  decided to put down 15 things I learned from reading throughout the challenge:

  1. Discipline is required in order to prioritize reading ahead of other distractions
  2. Books introductions aren’t always boring
  3. It doesn’t matter the genre of the book, I can always learn new things
  4. Reading genres that I’m not familiar with stretches me in a way I adore
  5. I can read following more than narration itself, but observing  how plots were composed and characters put together
  6. Long descriptive books do no longer have me as restless as they used to
  7. Dialogues I read  give  voice to  the characters from  my own writings
  8. Books are indeed mirrors in which we reflect ourselves and portals to amazing worlds
  9. Literally  loving the words from books I specifically prefer.
  10. When reading rich compositions I feel my heart opening up and being flooded with creativity
  11. Discovering writers with utterly beautiful imagination puts my heart on fire
  12. Struggling  to read books that are extraordinary in describing human degrading eras or happenings (like Holocaust ).
  13. Being an empath makes me feel at a deeper level, and guides me towards depths I refuse getting to for my own self protection.
  14. A library full of books is for me like a candy store for a child. The mere scent of books wins me every time.
  15. Reading 2 books in the same time is amazing, as long as they are completely different, otherwise they’ll really confuse one’s brain. Always daydreaming when choosing a new book from a pile of endless options.

Reading is like air when one wants to write, it’s like fueling up the engine. What I’ve learned from writing each day for 30 days?

  1. Blank pages are not as scary as I heard
  2. I always have 30 minutes to spare, but I need to choose spending them for  writing
  3. I wrote for 18 days using both prompts and also my own ideas for the blog
  4. Doubted using prompts, but since I was experimenting I gave them a shot and it was a wise decision
  5. Surprisingly, prompts got me writing as soon as touched the keyboard.
  6. It’s incredible how much information it’s stored inside my brain since I wrote all these days and ideas keep on coming
  7. After day 18 I suddenly had an idea for a writing different from all I ever wrote before
  8. I am currently  working on that writing ever since
  9. Won’t stop my daily writing now the challenge is over. I just warmed up
  10. Having set myself a discipline and a routine for writing was the best I could have done in this field so far
  11. Once I have my mind set on something I value, I have all the trust in myself not stopping until reaching my goal
  12. Writing is creating: the power I have with the written word is priceless
  13. There are no rules, but only options. I can use adverbs in  a row and feel free to call it  my signature
  14. Short sentences perhaps, but again, my limits are mine to decide upon
  15. Writing is a way of living

Bare in mind I only wrote in evenings, and up to one hour or more for the majority of time.

30 minutes were not enough, and I wouldn’t have know this without the challenge.

And I read afterwards, just making sure I passed the 30 minutes… always with the thirst for more, until sleep finally won me over.

At the beginning I was counting the days… but haven’t done that for some time.

Today an alarm brought the news: the challenge is over: today, the 30th day.

So, what challenge are you up to right now?

Visiting Istanbul: not ordinary tea and coffee

If you are like me, you just can’t say no to a steaming cup of tea or to a cup of fresh coffee.

And if you are in Istanbul, you will see they developed a splendid craftsmanship around the pottery that serves both brews.

At art level.

Delicate yet strong enough to face the hot liquids from the summer hot days till the snowy December nights.

Don’t get fooled by their apparent frailty.

If tea is what steams up your soul and you want to buy some, head over the Egyptian bazaar (part of the grand bazaar).

Please do not even consider those sad tea bags we are used with in our rushed lives.

What bout these?

Mountains of teas arranged in such a harmony that create a delight for your eyes and enchant your nostrils.

For those of you who prefer single plant teas… behold 🙂 rose buds, linden, apple, pomegranate, mint, of course the black tea, and so many others.

But just for the love of it and for senses to be totally swept of their feet, tea blends are also present.

Be honest: aren’t you just a bit curious what’s the deal with this “love tea”?

Should I even mention you can take that and spice it up a bit more perhaps with 2 slices of dehydrated coconut slices, or blood oranges? Just to add a glimpse of summer in your concoction.

I was explaining you in a shopping related post about their merchants: their skills combined with a special gift of sensing what people want and need.

That was not an exaggeration. You will find yourself entering in a such a shop for curiosity and there the “treasure unfolds” before your eyes.

And of course, the vendor will try to offer you his best supplies. And by offering I mean he will prepare you a glass of fresh tea.

There, in the store. He will catch the glimpse of satisfaction from your eyes that will confirm him which is your favorite flavor.

Who cares outside is burning hot and perhaps you are too? The tea is there to comfort you, and you will not leave empty handed, that’s for sure.

Tea is more than a tradition and a ritual in Istanbul.

Perhaps you know the special tea glasses, perhaps you heard about Turkish people enjoying tea while socializing, after meals, and pretty much each time they have the chance.

It’s lovely seeing the small colored tulip glasses flying up and down the streets, from hand to hand, putting a smile on everyone’s face.

I did not come home without a kilo from 2 of their tea blends and without a gorgeous set of glasses.

And, each evening, before retiring to the living room, I brew some fresh tea, pour it in the glasses and enjoy it… like I learned from them: in totally peace and gratefulness.

That’s the lesson I learned from Turkish tea: being in the moment, grateful, in peace and creating an unique moment.

Ok, coffee lovers, haven’t forgot about you, I got your back also.

I enjoy coffee, in all forms, and to be honest espresso in Italy is my favorite coffee strength, creaminess and quality wise.

Turkish coffee: that’s not just a different story, but this tiny cup is a story by itself.

From the tiny cups in which it is served, to the pinch of cardamom that spices it up, to the sand where it’s traditionally prepared in.

You can enjoy it along a nargila (hookah) or just plain, in small sips, but only after a couple of minutes after they brought it to you.

This is a great tip, trust me (just after it being poured in the cup, coffee grains float around, and they need some minutes to.. relax on the bottom of the glass).

Please for your comfort, don’t skip this step. Otherwise you will get annoyed (perhaps), and start the experience from an unfair position.

You enjoyed your coffee and to complete it, fresh water is always a perfect end to it.

I imagined that in this point it doesn’t surprise you that even the glasses for water are so “not ordinary”.

Why everything so tiny, little, minuscule? Well I asked myself this question over and over again.

And this is what I learned from this: we cherish more all that is amazing and that comes in the smallest quantities.

Now that you know, I am so curious what would you try first when visiting Istanbul.

It’s it coffee or tea?

Visiting Istanbul: flavors of the Turkish cuisine

Once upon a time, there were no shortcuts. Not even in the kitchen.

Once upon a time spices were valued as gold, treated equally and traded across seas and lands.

And Istanbul was in the heart of it.

Lets nor forget the Grand bazaar of Istanbul, surviving the test of time.

As Wikipedia teaches us: “The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 4,000 shops on a total area of 30,700 m², attracting between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily.”

People was taught since the dawn of time to shop for the best, the most fresh and most fragrant of ingredients.

No wonder that a delicious cuisine emerged from this love for produce, and love for family, as I told you about in a previous post.

Stepping out of the bazaar, with spices still tickling your nostrils, you are at least hungry if not famished.

And oh my dear reader: you could spend an entire season here and you will not have time to eat in all the restaurants or try all the street food.

Lots of food, dishes, people cooking it and people inviting you for tasting it.

This lady for example: was not frying pies for her family, but for me and you.. in the entrance of a little traditional restaurant.

A part of her energy and soul were there, in her fluffy pies.. just remember that not everyone could do that and still smile after a serious 8 hours embraced by the heat of a pan in the middle of summer.

Appreciating her for doing something I am not willing to do too soon. Grateful for such people.

And if a pie was not what you craved for, perhaps a Shish kebab could satisfy your lunch appetite .

The tenderness of the lamb, well marinated and barbecued are beyond my words.

And again… not sure about lamb? Perfect.

Let your steps take you in such a cozy traditional restaurant and order a plate for 2 or 4 people of their mixes kebab selection.

Me for example, found on my mixed plate: lamb, beef, chicken (no pork… yet, who cares in stage, right?), roasted vegetables, couscous, fresh spiced white onion, fresh parsley for freshness.

And… between these mouthfuls, do sneak in a spoon of fresh yoghurt, to comfort your tongue from all the spicy meats.

Ok, ok… no more kebabs. Maybe you’d like some comfort food since you’re not at home.

That my dear, has underneath the shreds of beef some serious layers of fresh, white, stringy cheese, called “dil peyniri”.

When it melts it’s almost therapeutic I’d say. if you are tired, stressed or in mood for nothing, go for it.

And for us to finish this post “lightly” I invite you in the port, to a sandwich made with fresh fish.

And those boats you’re seeing… those are not the fishing boats.

Those are boats are just for preparing in front of you these sandwiches so that you can feel the smell, to feel the boat floating underneath your she’s while your meal is cooking.

Istanbul is a city to be felt with all your senses and with all your heart: because he will treat you the same way

Visiting Istanbul: a maze of shops

I was telling you in a previous post about the estimated number of mosques from Istanbul.

Yet, no matter how hard I tried finding such an estimation for the number of shops from Istanbul, that I could not find.

Strange for me having an entire post shops related for someone who does not find a pleasure in shopping but a necessity.

And still, I am , because you must be warned: shopping is insane here.

A shop for everyone, a scent for everyone… no, let me rectify: hundreds even thousands.

This might give you an example. Can you pick just one? Be honest…

First time when you arrive is almost exhausting: the number of shops with at least the same number of vendors… can you imagine?

And the Turkish vendors are not your usual vendors.

No sir, Istanbul s tradition of selling is in their DNA.

From the smallest shop to the biggest one, never too aggressive.. just in a perfect balance.

And you will find even in the shopping section a blend of modern and traditional, just as I will exemplify below.

Here you will find this tiny, colored, crowded street, with hundreds of shops.

It won’t matter that you probably aren’t looking for anything special on it.

You got on it from curiosity and you will be trapped by its charm.

How would you advertise your products if you would own a shop? Definitely not on the ground.

Just tilt your head back here for a second:

That is creativity and thinking out of the box, in the heat of the street.

Can you feel this streets pace? Can you handle it? If they can, you can, and you move to the next one and so on.

Ok, getting you out off there because perhaps you are a tad fancier and these are not your crowds. Istanbul has that covered also.

Fancy enough?

And if everybody is taking photo after photo, and since marketing pays off.. why not having an Instagram ready display?

I must confess: that’s a delicious trap my dear reader.

While you’re be focusing your camera , your brain will understand from the lavishing sweets that you NEED to have that sweet tooth sorted out.

And without any shred of remorse you will go in and let yourself carried away by strings of caramel, syrupy cakes and roasted pistachio.

That was also a spoiler for the next posts in which I’ll cover Turkish food, sweets, teas, coffees and.. cats.

Visiting Istanbul: among beautiful humans

Istanbul is the home of more than 3000 mosques.

So, there was no wonder that each time you turn around you see at least one.

Not previously documenting if any bank or religious holiday when visiting I found myself in Istanbul in the last week of Ramadan.

A Christian like me, amidst a Muslim event is what friendship and unity means.

My God and their Allah, and your god of choice at peace and in union.

Do trust me: if planning on visiting Istanbul aim for that week.

And I will explain you why:

1. You will be able to visit mosques and any other site just as you planned, no supplementary restrictions.

Enter a mosque, enjoy the coolness, admire the beauty, the fine craftsmanship of people from hundreds of years ago. Be grateful for you being there, for you being alive. The chance to be in such a beautiful and welcoming city.

2. All the shops, restaurants and street food were opened, only slight restrictions to alcohol (but perhaps you that would want a beer perhaps can chill with a fresh lemonade or ayran)

3. It will teach you about family, peace and faith. The return to basics.

Ramadan days are fasting from sunrise to sunset for the Muslim community.

And here comes the greatness.

I was amazed how in all parks, people came silently from all over the city with all dinner related items for dinner, called Iftar.

And I said people: but all people was grouped per family.

Here you are shown what family is all about, makes you love yours more, cherish everything more.

Can you imagine hundreds of people gathered on the grass and benches, laying out dinner from frying pan to the finest tea glasses?

In such a silence that if you were blindfolded you have guessed only a handful of people being there… instead of hundreds.

I could not take my eyes from them. Each night.

I was smiling at them and smiling inside when seeing these beautiful humans.

I was happy for being with them and feeling like being accepted in their big Turkish family.

I was absorbing the peace, almost touching the good vibes they sent.

Nobody speaking loudly, nobody starring, nobody crossing any limits.

You need to give yourself this chance.

To see what faith really means, to feel what it really means.

And when in front of the Blue Mosque, when they silently prepare dinner you will hear the call for the prayer.

I don’t know your religion, but let me tell you this: when hearing the call and witnessing such a beautiful crowd you will feel that you are part of something great.

It’s something that you won’t be taught in school because it’s a thing you need to feel.

I missed and still miss the calls for prayer each day after I left istanbul.

Because for me they mean that we are not alone, that kindness is the best religion and that faith can unify people without and beyond words.

As I said in the beginning: Istanbul is the home of more than 3000 mosques.

It was my home then, and it will be my home each time I will be there.

We were “connected”.

Grateful for you, Istanbul.

Handwriting

Don’t tell me that because you are reading this  on your device you believe I was writing this directly on my keyboard.

I can see why it would be a correct assumption on your side.

Only that this time my dear reader, you are wrong.

Let me tell you that I am handwriting this all, even the draft, and will copy and upload it for the media later on today.

 

For some days now I am creating a new habit: the one of  daily writing.

From writing prompts, to random thoughts and feeling, to goal setting.

And since it takes 23 days for  a new habit to be generated, I decided to hand write for all the 23 of them.

I am somewhere in the middle now, and decided to share with you something I learned from it.

I learned that it’s like I even forgot how my hand write looked like.

That’s what a job in front of a PC did, that’s what writing SMS and socializing on media did.

 

Now, if I’d ask you when was the last time when you wrote by pen and I mean a straight page and not filling a form, would you remember?

I know for sure that putting pen on paper and shaping thoughts into words requires my entire, undivided attention.

It’s like words need me to breathe life  into them and grown them.

 

I dare you to hand write these days in order for you to rediscover how patient you are, how concise you are… or to admit what you lack, and into what you need to grow.

It’s interesting rediscovering yourself in front of a blank sheet of a paper.

There is a a reason for which everything that is “handmade, hand write, hand-etc” is so special: because someone added their energy, mindset  and time.

 

I wrote these 308 words so far with no pauses, while being 100% engaged .

I know that writing is like air to me, and it helped me realize that no dream is big enough.

Not unless I write it down into coherent phrases which to be followed and lived word by word, day by day.