A desperate family tableau

I’m a self-confessed travel addict but no matter how much one enjoys the experience of visiting new places (or revisiting “old” ones), travel does come with its ups and downs…in the case of the Paris metro, there’s lots of ups and downs in the ubiquitous stairs, especially when carrying luggage.

However some experiences reach deep into our hearts and minds.

As we walked up the hill from our wonderful hotel in Istanbul, we were confronted by a 2014 “holy family” tableau which has seared itself into my mind. “Syria, Syria, food, food” he said, waving a pre-printed sign in a plastic sleeve. His face was gaunt and his eyes desperate. Beside him his wife sat with a blank gaze, traumatised by lack of food or the things she’s seen in their country’s conflict. Their daughter, a toddler, sat docilely on her mother’s lap. Everything about them spoke of hunger, trauma and desperation.

Inured to rounds of importuning beggars we initially walked past them but this little family group was different. Their hopelessness spoke volumes and the next thing I was sobbing in tears. We turned back, giving them a donation with the universal sign of food and eating.

On our return a few hours later, they were in the same place, but now the toddler sat on the footpath, looking more animated and nibbling on a simit, a kind of Turkish roll available from mobile stalls for about 1 Turkish lira or 50 cents. Once again we turned back and gave them another donation.

We’re great believers in Kiva and have been part of Genealogists for Families since it was set up by Judy Webster. It makes a difference to those who’ve made steps towards independence and helps them protect the most valuable thing in all our lives – our families.

But how does a family like this one of Syrian refugees ever get to that stage of semi-independence? They are probably among those sleeping rough under the bushes and trees near the waterfront. Most likely they were in the only clothes they owned. You can’t fake the desperation in their eyes and faces…I have no doubt in my mind their circumstances were drastic. How will they ever break loose from this cycle of homelessness and despair? Even a basic job like collecting recyclables from the rubbish bins requires a large bag and trolley in which to carry them. And there we were, having spent what to them was a life’s fortune on a five week trip, buying gifts for our own family and complaining about the amount of luggage we had.

That tableau will remain in my memory for a very long time to come: the impact of war and conflict on the ordinary person.

This post is dedicated to my blogging friend Catherine Crout-Habel from the Seeing Susan ~ Meeting Marie ~ Finding Family blog. Catherine passed on to the land of her ancestors around the time we returned home. I’d never met her in person but felt I knew her from her intelligent and humorous posts. She was a woman who cared deeply for the underprivileged and I’m confident this experience of ours would have resonated with her.

Travel signs and portents

Have you missed me? I’ve been gone so long even I feel like I’ve been AWOL. Later on I’ll share with you my experiences on the Western Front in France and also at Gallipoli in Turkey.

Fun as it was, the Unlock the Past Cruise in February was the start of my blogging slippery slope. After that I got caught up in commitments with family and at home in Darwin and interstate. Inspired by my cruising experience we decided to take our first step into the non-conference cruising world with a voyage between Athens and Istanbul in June. Between all my travel agent duties, and doing the same for my Mum, time just galloped away from me.

Then we also gained a new twig on the family tree not long before we went away, and so the months of 2014 have slipped through my fingers, at least in blogging terms.

Family history at the moment is focused on trying to unravel the findings from DNA results for me, my mum and indirectly a cousin, my post on that will come later when my brain slowly makes sense of it…at least in part.

Meanwhile inspired by this week’s topic on Sepia Saturday I thought I’d offer you some signs from our recent gallivanting in Europe.

We absolutely loved Istanbul with its vibrant mix of East meets West, Islam meets Christianity and the buzz of the city. It was out first visit there and it’s now a firm favourite, whether we make it back there or not. As confirmed cat-lovers how could we not like a city where the stray cats are fed and looked after by the local shop-owners.

A sign on the rooftop terrace of our wonderful hotel.

A sign on the rooftop terrace of our wonderful Istanbul hotel.

Feeling stressed? Try some dessert!

Feeling stressed? Try some dessert!

No dessert needed here...this kitten is super-chilled out...well resting comfortably in the morning sunshine.

No dessert needed here…this kitten is super-chilled out…resting comfortably in the morning sunshine.

Taksim Square shopping festival  -we've got our eyes on you!

Taksim Square shopping festival -we’ve got our eyes on you!

 

Says it all really.

Says it all really.

And now to Prague where graffiti/cartoon sketches seem to be de rigeur. I asked our guide why, and he seemed surprised by the question. I wondered if it was a response by the people during the Communist era.

I don't really "get" the whole John Lennon thing, but this wall is a major tourist site.

I don’t really “get” the whole John Lennon thing, but this wall is a major tourist site.

On the wall of a hotel, with similar cartoons on the windows.

On the wall of a hotel, with similar cartoons on the windows.

On a far more serious note, around the city you will see signs which commemorate Czech people who gave their lives for their nation’s freedom.

DSC_0373 murder

Working in reverse to our trip here are some Parisian signs.

Seen in Montmatre, I know a few Territory males who think three vodkas is only the start of a serious night's drinking.

Seen in Montmatre, I know a few Territory males who think three vodkas is only the start of a serious night’s drinking.

Seen on the way to a lovely restaurant, this sign caught my eye. A number of my early Queensland ancestors settled near the Condamine River.

Seen on the way to a lovely restaurant, this sign caught my eye. A number of my early Queensland ancestors settled near the Condamine River.

What does it mean? Not sure I understand it...

What does it mean? Not sure I understand it…

I hope you’ve enjoyed this virtual journey through some of the travel signs that caught my eye.