It’s been a year and a half since I started planning the project that has become Crossing Lines. For more than a year Mohammad Reza Abaee and I have talked via Facebook, admiring each others photography and talking about slacklining in each others home countries. Six months ago I mentioned the project to Jade Tabony and she jumped at the idea. Within a day the website was made and shortly after Kiavash Sharifi was added as a team member.
Three months ago the Iran Slackline team lost their highline equipment in a car robbery in Tehran which lead to our organizing a funding campaign to replace their gear. Two weeks ago we met our goal on that funding campaign and raised enough money to purchase an entire highline rig, but were hesitant to buy and transfer the gear without license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (applied for two months ago), the treasury department that oversees the sanctions on Iran. We decided to play it safe and delay purchasing the rig in part because of support from others in the community. Thanks to help from the guys at slack.fr who got Iran Slackline off the ground to begin with, Mohammad and Kiavash will have a minimal highline rig until we can transfer the equipment free and clear and have them outfitted properly.
Last week in Antalya, Turkey, we finally met Mohammad and Kiavash in person and spent the week highlining, climbing, photographing, and planning (and making bracelets!). Our first night at camp sitting at a crowded table outside the conversation was carried on in at least four languages. An Iranian and a German played chess, bantering in English as a pidgin language while we talked with a few Israeli highliners about upcoming festivals and Mohammad explained to them how the sanctions affect his ability to get slackline equipment, a problem of which they were entirely unaware. Upon seeing the bracelets, one girl declared that she wanted one, but not of flags. “We don’t need flags. I want one in earth colors.”
I spent all of my free time the first couple of days making bracelets and trying to pick up at least a bit of Turkish and Persian. Of course, I ended up mostly being able to say ‘thank you’ in Turkish and remembering one goofy mostly unusable phrase in Persian, but I’m learning. Serious studying on that starts now (I spent most of my awake time on the flights home reading through my phrase book).
Monday we started with a 20m line near JoSiTo camp, one of the less exposed, friendlier beginner lines. Except that it was decently loose. My first highline in months due to cold weather and lack of cliffs around Boston, it took me three falls to get the full man (round trip walk). Mohammad strolled across it lazily. Punk. We moved on from there to the 17m line overlooking the camp, possibly the best line for photos with the bright colored tents in the campground below providing contrast. Just after we arrived, however, someone noticed a problem with the rigging and declared it needed fixed. We moved on to another site, not wanting to waste the daylight waiting.
Tuesday and Wednesday Jade and I set out to climb before highlining, picking out routes
looking through the window over breakfast. A goat tried to eat our bags while I was leading. More on the pesky goats later. Highlining in the afternoons those days. Thursday and Friday we dedicated to highlining, since we are more easily able to climb in Massachusetts than highline. Plus, just hanging out on the cliffs with such inspiring, creative, fun (in the strongest sense of the word) people was intoxicating. There are few things as refreshing as a bunch of adults playing outdoors, wearing costumes, making bad jokes (and good ones) and laughing to the point of tears.
I got into slacklining for myself, for the meditation, for the challenge, for the silence of walking a line alone in the park. Boston changed that. It became about the community, the people, and while I dare say the word ‘slacklife‘ may be becoming overused, there is a truth to the concept. Slacklining and especially highlining has changed the way I view my life, my priorities. It reminds me not to take anything too seriously, to laugh more. Everything in the world seems possible when you send a highline, be it graduate school or world peace. But most importantly, slacklining draws a certain type of person, the type of people I love to surround myself with. These are people who crave a challenge, aren’t afraid to wear a tutu or a bear suit for fun and a silly photo, understand the value of transient moments, handstands, goofy songs, starry nights, and campfires. Highliners are a unique bunch, a fantastic community of strangers around the world connecting via social media, fast friends when met in person. This wasn’t my first festival, and my crew in Boston is amazing to be sure, yet never in my life have I been involved in a community such as the one I met at the Turkey Highline Carnival. I am forever grateful for the experience.
Back to the timeline briefly; two days ago, in Istanbul on our way home from the carnival and only hours after leaving the guys, we received an email from OFAC containing our license allowing the transfer of a full highline rig to the Iran Slackline team. The paper copy arrived in the mail today. Wonderful timing, eh? But late news is still good news at least. More updates on Crossing Lines soon, and probably a post from Jade about her take on the carnival.