My office is now my home. Or rather, my home is my office. Technically, the living room is the work space… unless we are having a meeting in the kitchen while chopping vegetables. Or writing to do lists on the front porch, during a tea break after gardening. As much as I love working on the kitchen couch, or watching our house cat walk across my desk to get a better look at the chickens in the yard, it can feel claustrophobic to spend days here. So I take long meandering walks, and explore this corner of the world I’ve landed in.
Back in California, I would walk my favorite trails on weekends, to the oak groves in Shell Ridge and the lagoons in Briones. I would listen to music or podcasts as I scaled familiar slopes and followed winding creeks, resting my eyes on fuzzy green hills and valley vistas after a week staring at spreadsheets and emails on a screen.
Here in Kars, every walk I take feels new. Gone is the initial apprehension of walking through town – I don’t understand much more Turkish than I did 3 weeks ago, but I feel surer in my steps as I map new routes to the looming castle above town. 45 minutes from my house door, and I am looking over Kars and the still snow-capped mountains surrounding it. Below me, the colorful new buildings interspersed with crumbling stone houses; an old Armenian church, now a mosque; fruit vendors, tea parlors, barbershops. I can walk down to the town center again, passing the decaying old hamams and the popular tea garden, or take the long road behind the castle and follow the river back to town, bright bursts of green trees hiding old ruins, purple and yellow wildflowers blooming as spring finally reaches this high plateau.
I walk past my favorite abandoned building, brick and blue-painted rooms filling with spring saplings. I cross a rickety bridge over a brown river as teyzes in headscarves corral playing children. Past men with lined faces drinking tea in tulip glasses, individually wrapped sugar cubes in pomegranate-shaped jars on each low table. Past endless cheese shops, with their neat rows of round yellow cheeses and shelves of local honey; past hair salons, dried-fruit stores full of heaped apricots and hazelnuts, stores selling shining new teapots and saucepans adorned with swirls and roses. I walk past a former Russian church, now with minarets instead of onion domes, as the cacophonous call to prayer starts up. I pass a fruit and vegetable market, the first greenish stone fruits starting to come in; at the corner, a man selling ducklings out of his duckling-yellow car.
As sun and fluffy white clouds alternate with rainclouds, I walk in the other direction from my house, as well, not into town but into the extended village of Kars outskirts, muddy alleys and fields and cowherds. Closer to home, a herd of sheep grazing by the train tracks, an errant turkey, a flock of skinny chickens pecking at garbage heaps around a crumbling wall. Behind them, white minarets and white flowering trees stark against a deep blue stormy sky. I walk around the cemetery as the rainclouds are broken up by a pink sunset, past kids biking by with multicolored geometric shapes bedecking their wheel spokes, past stray cats, past groups of chatting women or men strolling arm-in-arm, who stare at this oddly dressed single woman walking laps through the alleys, trying to turn at unfamiliar corners each time.