July 28, 2004

Second Turkish Update

I landed in this new country three weeks ago……….

Living in a country for one and half months in which one does not know the language and that one has never visited before brings on a unique dilemma. Should one attempt to learn the language and culture as much as possible in such a short time or just try to ‘vacation’ and relax because this opportunity will probably never occur again?

Well, I really don’t have an answer for that one but I think it is somewhere in the middle between the two extreme options.

Typical Day
For the most part I wake up around 10am and start writing outside on the balcony until about noon when Burak wakes up. (I like to listen to the MP3s I downloaded my first year of college when Napster was free. It brings back a lot of good memories and makes me feel like I could be in the States.) We then have breakfast around noon. For the rest of the day I read, study LSAT, work on my law school applications, go to the local town to check my email and news, go to the beach, and/or go hang out with Burak’s parents or Burak.

A day at the beach
At the beach, this one very tanned older man rents out pedal boats and kayaks. Burak and I took each out for an hour each to use the opportunity to work out. The wind was really strong when we took the kayak out one day and we kept being pulled out to sea. You can usually see the bottom of the water because it is so clear but when we were blown away from the shore we started to not see the bottom of the sea. I started to freak out and we had this battle of which way to paddle to get back to Turkey and not go to the Greek island of Lesvos. I kept saying, ‘I don’t want to go to Greece.’ I was really scared because we didn’t know how deep the water was and the wind and waves were strong. Fortunately, we survived and made it back to the shore. It was more of a traumatic experience versus a ‘fun’ experience and next time we agreed to get separate kayaks. I will stay just a couple of feet from the shore. J

Meals
In Turkey, breakfast consists of cheese, jams, small meats, and bread. You can also have honey, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc. Usually feta cheese is a standard. For lunch and dinner, various cooked meals with many fresh vegetable side dishes are normal. I don’t think I am being exposed to all the typical cuisine so I won’t elaborate on the lunch and dinners in a home setting at this point. Also, they drink tea either with or after almost every meal, it appears.

My Diet
Because I am a vegetarian on the South Beach diet ( J ), I can usually eat what they eat minus the bread and meat. I eat a lot of fresh vegetables, low-fat cheeses, and olives. Plus I don’t put copious amounts of sugar in my tea and I usually stick to fruit as my dessert just like they do for the most part.

The concept of Vegetarianism
Turks can’t fathom the concept of not eating meat on purpose. Meat here is very expensive so most people rarely eat meat regularly and don’t understand that a person would choose not to eat it.

Burak said that the reason meat is expensive here is because the Turkish army relocated a lot of Kurds on the east side of the country and they were the ones that provided most of the country with meat from their cattle. So basically, the Turkish army, inadvertently, has changed the country’s diet to almost vegetarian.

Black Olives
I love the black olives here. They have a lot in this region. Actually, I am starting to acquire a taste for the ones grown near Izmir. Their taste changes depending on region apparently. Our village is surrounded by olive trees and they fill most of the road that I have passed up and down the western coast.

Turkish Language
I have picked up many basic words and a few simple phrases. Luckily, all the words regarding civilization, political science, organization, and culture seemed to have been taken from French (which I studied in Belgium). So ‘billet’ (French) is bilet (Turkish) which means ticket (English). Also coiffure (French) is Kuafor (Turkish). So they usually take the French word and spell it phonetically according to the Turkish language.
Now I just need to learn all the other non-French words…..

Day Trips

Ayvalik
Just about 30 km from my village we visited this previously Greek village that is more or less touristy sporting ferries to the Turkish islands and also to the near by Greek island of Lesvos. Apparently, you can also take a boat to Athens from this village as well. We visited the village for a just a couple of hours where I was very excited to find the USA Today paper. I wouldn’t have been that excited to read it in the US nor would I have bought a paper that was 2 days old but oh well.

Ephesus – Efes (Turkish)
Using Selcuk as our base town, we stayed at an Australian and New Zealand ‘pansiyon’ (from the French ‘pension’) which is another word for hostel in Turkish. It was nice to hear English even if it was mostly Australian English. This region doesn’t seem to be visited by many Americans but there were many European tourists in the area. We visited the ruins of Ephesus (this might sound familiar if you read the Bible – Paul visited it on his mission trips), the museum of Ephesus, the tomb of John, and the house of Mary before she died. We also picked 2 kilos (roughly 4 lbs) of peaches for a little more than a dollar.

For lunch we ate at a truly authentic nomadic restaurant where we sat on the floor filled with carpets and ate from a small circular table, called a ‘yer sofrasi,’ just inches above the floor. Luckily, we were surrounded only by Turks, so we figured it wasn’t a tourist trap like much that we had seen that day. We each had a full meal with water/soda for a grand total of $10 American.

I took a lot of pictures of this place because it had this exotic feel like you would come across it in a desert where men gather to eat, drink and smoke Hookah. It reminded me of something from an Indian Jones movie. The place had many wooden poles erected supporting ‘kilin,’ which are cloths that look like rugs used to hang on walls. The nomads used them as walls and that is why they had small slits in them so they could see anyone approaching their home and to let the air blow through. This place was hidden underneath several huge trees along a back road. The colors were amazing and I got lost trying to capture the feel of the place by taking as many pictures as possible.

Right before we left the town, I realized the Turkish word for Ephesus is a favorite brand of beer here – Efes.

Even though there is so much history stored in such a small region, we saw everything in just one day.

Pamukkale – Turkish for ‘Cotton Castle’
We drove 2.5 hours from Ephesus to a small village called Pamukkale, ‘Cotton Castle,’ which is more or less a tourist town based around the ruins of Hierapolis. There is layer upon layer of history at this tourist attraction but I will tell you what I gathered from my day trip there and reading the book about it.

The city was built to utilize the many thermal springs in the area that are said to be beneficial to your health. The city was shaken by earthquakes and destroyed many times. The waters were left to run uncontrolled for centuries after the city was deserted and formed travertines that invaded the area below the city. The water, high in calcium, flowed from the top of the hill and created what looks like a white waterfall and that is where the name ‘Cotton Castle’ came from.

There is a beautiful theatre well intact that sits above the waterfall of travertines. It was even better than the one in Ephesus.

We swam in a thermal pool that had water from a local spring of the special healing water. The water is naturally 35 degrees Celsius which is roughly 94 degrees Fahrenheit. This tourist attraction charged $10 American per person to swim in the pool that just happens to have pieces of the ruins of Hierapolis at the bottom of the pool. We were swimming amongst the ruins of Hierapolis.

Picture many tourists all speaking different languages (mostly Russian) crammed into a hot pool with many sporadically placed columns all trying to get really good pictures with their cameras without them being damaged. It was very chaotic, but we had fun. After you sit in the water for a couple of minutes, small bubbles accumulate on your submersed body surface. The bubbles dilate the blood vessels and this helps relax and improve the skin. They claim that the water is really good for you so the place is filled with either eager tourists or Turks trying to cure their ailments. We saw many Russians actually. It was quite interesting to be in a minority tourist group.

Well….it looks like I wrote a lot this time. As for the rest of the month before we leave for Spain, we plan to do a few more trips. We are going to Bergama tomorrow and then Eskisehir and Cappadoccia within the next few days. We are dreaming about going to Athens for the Olympics since we are so close but we shall see. I plan to start my language school on August 30th for a four week period before I start school which I believe starts around September 27th.

Hope all is well. I am trying to get DSL (fast internet) tomorrow to be able to update my website. I might have a laptop and the know-how, but if I don’t have a fast enough internet connection, I can’t update my website.

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