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(Note: this is a work in progress. Meaning, I will likely change a few things around when I return to the States, or sooner. Certainly, I will add pic-links, delete some unnecessary notes...such as this one...and "fine tune" it all up, later...much like this Seminar. So, check in later: much may change).
Must. Fight. Jetlag. OK.
I did a lot today. Awakened by a fire engine blaring outside my window at the barbaric hour of 7:30 AM (and just WHAT scion of hotel management figured it a good idea to build a hotel across the street from a fire station and a police station?! Arrgh! ), I barely finished breakfast before my duties came knocking. Moving this, helping Sensei's with that, catching a class when I can (mostly not), relocating mats, helping new arriving groups find the dojo.
After breakfast, I went to the dojo to move some furniture and get in a little practice. Heckler Sensei asked me to uke for the public demo at the Fulbright Center, next to the UN building (formerly a palace, still called the Ledra Palace), in the middle of the Buffer Zone.
How to describe the Buffer Zone? Pretty much how I expected the whole area to look--crumbling storefronts next to stores selling paltry wares here and there; relaxed looking soldiers peering out from various apartments within the Ledra Palace, mean-spirited signs placed at the Turkish and Cypriot Zones---Turkey: "Turkey will FOREVER remain in Northern Cyprus!!!!" or Cyprus: "Express Your Humanity By Fighting Turkish Inhumanity!!!!" with barbed wire decorating the crumbling buildings at various intervals. Sadly, I was unable to take pictures, as I was informed that I would be arrested, if I took pictures within the Buffer Zone (an interesting side-note: the UN military unit tasked with securing the Palace during our event, recently returned from Iraq. Puzzled, I asked the British Commander what the UN was doing in Iraq. "We weren't a UN unit, when we were in Iraq," he said, British accent peppering his English. "We were the British Army, helping the US." About their stay in Iraq, all he had to say was that "it was a bad tour.")
Sensei's Heckler, Wagner and Zimron all gave brief demo's and talked about Aikido. Even tho the talks were geared toward non-Aikidoka, I got a lot out of them.
After this, the "staff" contingent wended our way next door to the Ledra Palace with the UN force blessing our passage with metal detector wands and laminated ID cards. We set up tables to register the Seminar applicants, which is how I spent the afternoon. Shortly after we finished, the whole group met in a plenary session to handle intro's and talk about the genesis of this project. After that, we went through the Buffer Zone, through the half-dead faded commerce, two checkpoints ("Passports, please") and into the Turkish Zone. A left turn and a block later, we made our way to a sumtuously prepared Turkish feast, complete with outside banquet table, multiple courses, and a 2-piece band. We suffered through a few croony Elvis tunes, and then onto some Turkish ditties. When they played "Havra Nagila," many of us jumped up and bounced ferociously in a twisty line-dance.
Off to bed and then onto the next day: the official opening of the Training Across Borders Seminar. Almost everyone is here, and the feeling of shared brother/sister-hood fills us all. The Serbian's, several Israeli groups, the lone Turk are all here (the latter two arriving during dinner to the sound of a welcoming ovation).