If anyone mentions Turkey

...or, more specifically, the fact that we're leaving for there in a mere four days, I will deck them. I'm simply so behind in everything I need to do that I could easily be coaxed out of my gentle, nonviolent nature to react to the fact that I'm in for another two weeks of international travel sooner than I realize. Not that I'm complaining, for that would make me seem like an ingrate. Which I am not. I am, however, unprepared to deal with the fact that entire weeks are slipping away without my having any say in the matter and we're facing a mere two months left in Fantasy Fellowship land before we're jerked back to reality.

Not that I'm complaining. Okay. For sure, I'm complaining. Who wouldn't? It has been a fantastic experience in Ann Arbor, but I still haven't accomplished the very reasonable goals I set for myself for this fellowship year: lose 100 pounds and write a book. I'm about equally close to each of those goals, if that tells you anything. Still, I'm able to enjoy myself when I'm not immersed in homework for screenwriting class, swimming in guilt over barely being able to qualify as a volunteer for 826 Michigan this semester and trying to keep my toes warm at all costs.

In fact, this weekend ranked high on the fun list for me because my friend D'Na came in town! Yay! She was actually the first person from our "real" life to come and check out the Ann Arbor experience. It's been the long time since I had a girlfriend who knows me around and that's the greatest luxury there is, my friends. And showing someone from back home our life here lends everything some kind of cohesiveness that I can't quite explain. (Clearly, because you probably have no idea what the hell I'm talking about.)

Anyway, it was fun seeing Ann Arbor through her eyes and finding out that it is a great li'l town even if your glasses aren't tinted rose by the KWF experience. She arrived Thursday afternoon and we took her for dinner at Sabor Latino on Main Street, which is about the only decent Latin restaurant we've found around here. However, while the food is still decent, no frills, relatively authentic fare, the service seems to have taken a massive turn for the worse and that's no fun at all, my friends.

Afterwards, we walked over to Zingerman's where I unwisely broke my "no sugar" rule (a recent acquisition to control my hypoglycemia) and did my fair share to kill off a piece of hummingbird cake -- a really gorgeous concoction bursting with flavors of banana, pineapple and coconut topped with a buttery, sinful cream cheese frosting. (Listen to me! Who am I here? Kimberly Porteous?) The only down side was the raging sugar-induced headache I got after just a few bites. Damn you, blood sugar! Damn you!

Friday, we lolled around until a noon lunch 'n learn session at the Wallace House, where we were supposed to nosh on Turkish food and learn a few key phrases of the language from a teacher at the university. While we succeeded swimmingly on the first count, it seems the language part is a bit trickier. Turkish is like nothing I've spoken before, and when I say spoken, let it be understood that I mean "stumbled over awkwardly while giggling uncontrollably."

Once I realized I didn't have a hope in hell of mastering any words -- except, oddly enough, the word for pen (kalem) -- I inquired as to what we could do to avoid causing an international stir and/or certain death with our garish American manners. The teacher basically responded, "Don't do that." Not entirely helpful, but just enough to have me nervous as a cat in a room full of Turkish rocking chairs.

Side note: Should I be at all concerned that the very first activity listed on the fellows' calendar for Turkey is "The Turkish Bath Experience"? I mean, I love a good bath and am quite fond of the fellows, but....

Anyhoo, D'Na and I spent Friday afternoon at the Douglas J Aveda School being manicured and pedicured (respectively) by budding cosmeticians and then having our hair cut. We were just beautiful enough for that night's hockey game, in which Michigan lost to LSSU in a tragic, last-minute score. Last time I saw Yost arena, it was from the ice and with decidedly fewer folk on it, so this was an interesting perspective.

Saturday, we took D'Na over to Canadia, as she'd never been there before. We showed her the finer points of Windsor -- the jokes are so easy there, even I won't touch them -- and then had a really nice lunch at Spago Trattoria & Pizzeria in the Little Italy area. Meanwhile, the snow was coming down in fat chunks that dimmed visibility of the Detroit skyline and other fine sights but that also didn't amount to much inchage on the ground when all was said and done.

We also stopped at the Duty Free shop on the way back into the states and, frankly, there seem to be about 12 items that are identical and sold at all duty free shops all over the world. Not so exciting.

Saturday, we dined at Zingerman's Deli with Rainey, Graham and the former's fine father and did absolutely zero after, changing into jammies and sitting around gabbing for a while. This morning, we revived the brunch tradition at Wallace House and I must say I do miss that weekly chance to sit and chat with people in a smaller, informal setting. Plus, eat. I like to eat, too.

So a busy few days loom ahead as we prepare to leave for Istanbul on Thursday, via Amsterdam. We head back on the 24th, where many of us split off to spend our spring break somewhere in Europe. Chris and I will spend a couple of days in Amsterdam, then jet to Milan where I will see my friend Deborah for the first time in 15 years! I'm excited. She and I have known each other since we were four-year-old lassies whose back gardens abutted in Glasgow. We have one of those life-long friendships where we can go a decade without seeing each other, we are terrible about keeping in regular contact, and whenever we're together it's instant comfort as though we've never been apart. Rare, that.

Then we'll come back to Amsterdam for a couple of nights and then it's back to good ol' Ann Arbor just in time for back-to-back visits from family members and heading into the last eight weeks of the semester. Dag. Isn't writing about this stuff supposed to make you LESS stressful rather than more?