Samsun, Turkey

I'm where the mosque is loud and the new apartment construction relentless. Mornings--since I'm up anyway with the morning call to prayer or the early hammering--I 've begun to run warm and barefoot on the beach by the Black Sea between two large rivers (one named Red River, one named Green River). The rivers empty their underpinnings into the Black Sea, mixing eventually and coloring this part of the sea a kelpy brown. Yesterday the jellyfish swarmed in, looking not mystical at all, but more like spent condoms tossed to sea, and throbbing. Today, Saturday, only plastic bags and winged black ants bobbed near shore on the nods of waves.

On the shore the men yell hoarsely shouldering their hot simits for sale. "Çok sicak! Çok sicak!" (Very hot! Very hot!). The refrain echoes the small waves curling in from the sea. His voice ebbs and flows as he distances himself and boomerangs back again, back and forth on the beach for hours walking the damp, cool part of the sand. Simits are thinly rolled out rings of bread, covered in sesame seeds and baked. Whether the bearer of simits is hotly yelling about the weather or about his pretzel-like snacks is unclear. By midday the hottest part of the beach is the sand underfoot. Although the sun-warmed simits may be mildly calid.

I am becoming a fan of sesame seeds, slightly roasted. And of hazelnuts, also slightly roasted. And feta cheese, known simply as "white cheese." White cheese comes in all kinds of flavors, with varying levels of salination, underground aging and fat content. And olives, delicious black olives, slightly wrinkled. I've been bracing myself against the moment where I tire of eating olives, where I OD, so to speak, but it hasn't happened yet, and I don't think I've gone a day without munching on at least five drops of black gold.

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