Thursday, August 23, 2007

The End of Turkey and the Beginning of Trout

Day 14
We spent the morning drinking warm drinks in a cafe and writing postcards and shopping. We then went to a mountain town called Sirince. The town was filled with white wached houses with red-tiled roofs, fruit orchards and fruit wines. For once I didn't mind the touts dragging us into their shops because usually it meant free wine samples. The following happened in Sirince and describes our night bus ride back to Istanbul.

Once when we pulled out our Lonely Planet guide, one of the locals comes rushing towards us. He informs us that his pension was in there and had to see it for himself. Later on, when we were in one of the shops, he comes in to show the shop owner his place in the Lonely Planet. So of course, the shop owner and Lonely Planet guy ask us if we want tea - cold apple tea- as their gift. The shop owner also proceeded to give us gifts. He takes two chains with the fairy eyes on them (they are creepy and supposed to ward off the evil eye), kneels down on the ground and proceeds to put them on our ankles. For the rest of the afternoon, we were followed by their jingle jingle.

When we bought our bus tickets, we were again intercepted by the regular tout, He was very helpful: gave us all the times, promised us that the bus would stop on the Asian side and promised us a servis to Bostanci. He also told us that tonight there was a special bus at 10:00. That was the bus we chose.
So we get on this special bus to choruses of "Christina". This time the whole camping group was on the bus. Group dynamics make for a special bus trip as there were people sleeping in the aisles or upside down in their seats with their feet everywhere.
We arrived in Istanbul, did not stop on the Asian side and were told that there was a servis bus that left at 11:30 (It was 8:30 at the time). We decided to take public transport. By the time we arrived at Amy's at 10:00 in the morning, we had taken the following forms of transportation: bus, bus on ferry, metro, tram, switch to another tram, ferry, feet, train. Needless to say, we had a morning nap.

Day 15
Our last day in Turket but we did not do much except how to get to the airport the next day. We contemplated going to the Grand Bazaar but would have needed to take a tram and ferry there and were done with public transport for now.

Day 16
The alarm souded at 5:00 am. Christina and I jumped out of bed and got ready. Amy phoned the taxi and we left. As soon as I got into the taxi, I realized that I had forgotten the paper with the name of the place that the Havas airport bus left from. Our taxi driver did not speak English ans we were all stressed out trying to communicate. I remember that the guide book said that it was near the Kirakoy ferry terminal. So wehile the taxi driver was babbling at us, I looked yp "boat" in the lonely planet. "Vapur" Finally we clicked,we communicated and he dropped us off.
There were some men in the vicinity, so we asked them (I think) where the Havs Terminali was. They pointed and laughed. We started walking in the direction. We passed another taxi driver (our angel in disguise) and asked the same question. he communicated that he knew where it was and that it was far away (for once the guide book led us to the wrong place). So we got into his taxi and raced to the correct place. After paying the driver (our angel), we were out of money. I ran to a debit machine while Christina stayed with our stuff (apparently there was a closer debit machine but I was to stressed/relieved to think rationally at this time). Our angel would not let us pay the full fare and stopped some women going on the same bus and asked them if they spoke English and then asked them to look out for us. Did I mention that he was an angel sent by God? and typically Turkish at the same time?
Once we were on the Havas bus I could relax and enjoy the scenery and look forward (?) to a day on a plane and in an airport. All in all Turkey was a great trip and I am glad that I came and that I had such an awesome travelling companion in Christina. Thanks Christina for sharing the adventure with me.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Turkey Part Deux

Day 10 - Pammukale
The main attraction in Pammukale is the travertines. A cliff covered in snow white calcium rock with pools that collect water so that you can go swimming in them (the calcium is supposed to be therapeutic). At the top of the cliff is the ancient ruins of Heirapolis.

My favorite mental picture of the day is of the young Muslim couple. She was wearing a head scharf and long cloak. He also was fully clothed. They were both sitting almost completely submerged in one of the pools laughing ewith each other. They deflated our stereotypes of Muslim families. She was so full of life and he was so full of love for her.

We too experienced some drama of our own in Heirapolis. When we were walking back towards the Roman road, this guy walked past us. As we went through the gate, he stopped us. Could we take his picture? That was no problem. Through hand gestures Christina realized that he wanted a picture with me. Not only did he want a picture, he felt compelled to stand really close to me , with his hand on my waist. I have not been so close to a guy in many years. Then he felt compelled to follow us around and try to talk to us although he knew no English and we knew no Turkish. We did get the words disco out of him though and got the idea that he wanted a picture with Christina too. We tried to shake him off but he was persistant. Christina also was persistant and got the get lost message across. Nothing like Turkey to make a girl feel beautiful.

Day 11
Today our sole task was to catch our bus to Selcuk (Selchook). Our ticket was bought in the usual touted manner. We had decided on Metro and were heading into the office when an older gentleman steered us into another office and company. The bus is smaller then normal with five us squeezed into the back seats that do not recline (And I was so looking forward to a nap). But at least we have a seat. In Pammukale, we were full and then they kept on loading people into the aisles. They all got off at Denzili to catch other buses but more people got on there. We have kids sitting on the floor at the front and another man standing with our attendant. Yes, even though it is a small bus, we still get our cake and tea or coffee. . . .

In Selcuk, we decided to wander around the touristy streets to look for dinner. As soon as we set foot in the street, "Hello. Come sit with us. Where you from?" We were still unsure about the properness of this so we said our customary nos. Another person piped up, "Ve are touristy. It's Kay." This group was very persistant at engaging me in conversation so that eventually my reservations broke down and I had a seat.

Three people were from Romania. One of the boys just graduated in finance and founf out that I was a math teacher. He insisted on giving me a math problem with a logarithm. I haven't done logarithms for over ten years and had no idea where to begin. The shop keeper took one look at it and answered it. Then he started testing me about Science. "Energy - is it material? Then how come it is made up of particles? How come it can't go through walls? How come . . .?" I reminded him that these are theories scientists are debating now. So he then started on literature. "Are you reading any Turkish books while you travel?" Christina and I both point at each other as I was reading Birds without Wings, a book about Turkey, and she was reading Snow, a book by a Turk. The store owner goes on to say, "You should read Orhan Pamuk." "But, but," stuttered Christina, for she was indeed reading Pamuk secertively on the buses, "I thought no one likes him here and that he is in exile." "They are racist and small minded," replied the store keeper.

The conversation was liberating. Christina told me later that in her Pamuk book she had read a line that stated, "We aren't stupid. We are just poor." The store keeper illustrated this so clearly and corrected our ethnocentrism.

Day 12
We went to small town called Tire for their weekly market. It was a day filled with bright vegetable colours and smells.

WE stumbled across a music store with hand made Turkish instruments hanging in the window. The owner invited us in and gave us tea and tried to communicate across the language barrier. He made the instruments himself and played a bit of very beautiful music for us. This will be one of my favorite Turkish memories. Sitting in a music store lined with Turkish stringed instruments, drinking tea and listening to a true Turkish craftsman.

Day 13
People and guidebooks warned us about the crowds at Epheseus but nothing could have prepared me for the reality. Everywhere on the grounds there was congestion and guides holding up numbers or water bottles. Once we sat down at an ancient meeting place and could count at least 5 different guides speaking 5 different languages. I would try to listen in to the English groups commentary but couldn't hear over the babble (Babel?).

On the way back from Epheseus, we stopped at a roadside cafe to get a drink. We went around the back to have a seat and hear, "Christina!" It was one of the girls at the carpet shop from two days before with more of her camping buddies. We sat with them and talked with them for awhile and then a few of them start to sing: "I believe in Jesus. I believe he is the son of God. I believe he died and rose again . . ." Christina and I look at each other in astomishment and then join in. They were amazed that we knew the song and asked us to teach them another. So we taught them the Fill up my Cup version of Amazing Grace. Who knew that we would be singing worship songs in Turkey with a bunch of Romanians.

Ok there is a Trout Lake campfire waiting for me so I better go join my fellow teachers. I will continue later. Just so you know, the random Romanian story is not finished yet. There is more to come.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Excerpts from the Journal

OK I have had a few people ask me about Turkey and tell me to write about it on my blog. (Man I have a lot of blog work to catch up on.) So I thought that there would be no better way to tell you all about Turkey then to select some pieces from my journal for your reading pleasure.

Day 1:
Slept in today after being woken up by the 5:00 call to prayer, followed by roosters. Amy (my cousins friend who we stayed with in Istanbul) took us to the sultanhamet area on the European side via train, ferry and tram. There we saw the Aya Sofya, a church built in 500 A.D. The stone work of the church was amazing with layers upon layers of other work done - beautiful tile mosaics, strange Islamic medallions (which were so huge that it almost seemed like they were over compensating for the fact that this was once a church), painted ceiling, arious displays. I wish that I could have seen the church in is original splendour instead of with the confusing and contradicting layers.

Day 3:
Today, Sunday was s true blessing. We went to church with Amy. Her shurch was very diverse - many accents and colours and languages. The church had an intensity to it that must come from believers who are on the edge of persecution. One of the pastors mentioned being evicted from his appartment because he was a christian.
Turks have a strange view of Christianity. They think that it is a CIA plot and that they pay people to take a Bible by putting money in it. being a Christian in Turkey is hard. That is why it felt like such a privilege to worship with the ex-pat community and to have communion with them. It was an extra bonus to see a Turkish man being baptized. The highligh was when the Turkish believers broke out into a Turkish praise song. Very moving.

Day 4:
Today was the day of our Bosphorus ferry ride, herein known as "the cruise". I am not really sure why I was so xcited about this since I have been on at least two ferries every day since arriving in Istanbul. Since Istanbul is built along a strait connecting the Sea of Mamara with the Black Sea and along an inlet called the Golden Horn, it is split into sections by water. There are bridges connecting each section, but by far, the easiest way to get aboud is by taking the ferry and trains. Transprtation here is an adjustment to say the least. THe rules are lax and line ups are non-exstent - meaning that people do not line up but rather move their way to the front through whatever space is available. Often on the train, passangers will prop the doors open in order to get a cool breeze. This would be a major faux pas in Canada.

Day 5:
After our Bosphorus cruise, we caught the night train to Ankara, the capital city of Turkey, where we went to a museum full of ancient artifacts from the Hittites and other civilisations. We also relaxed in a park and visited an ancient citadel.

At this point, my communication ability broke down. I hate being only being able to communicate my name, where I am from and that I want two tickets. It is not allowing me to learn about the Turkish people at all. However, I have had Christina to have deep conversations with. But gradually I have completely lost my voice and now I can only speak in a croaking whisper. Speaking takes too much energy for deep conversation and makes communicating the few Turkish words I know impossible. It is hard to get foreign sounds out when you can make no sound at all. It is very frustrating.

Day 6:
After Ankara we headed to Cappadocia on the bus.

Canadian airlines have some things to learn about Turkish buses. First the seats are comfy with ample leg room. Second, we have been offered water, tea or coffee and cake by the host of the bus, who hardly gets to sit down. After a stop at a station with stores, restaurants and washroms, the bus started to smell of BO, since the air conditioner was turned off. So the attendant offered all passengers lemon cologne for their hands and necks and sprayed the floor with air freshner and now the bus smells sweet again. Very nice. Way better than Greyhound and even Air Canada.

Day 7:
My afternoon of relaxation/errands. First - the PTT to mail my postcards. I searched and searched but could not find it. Then I saw the sign - phone cards, stamps etc. I tried the door. Locked. Then some people started talking to me from next door. Apparently I had the wrong place anyways. The two gentlemen gave me directions but only after I had a cup of tea with them. Afterwords I headed to the bank machine to get cas. I arrived, looked at the # pad and pancked. There were only numbers and no letters. I use the letters to remember my PIN number. I tried a few combinations but they were rejected. I ran through my options - ask Christina for help, phone mydad or look at a telephone number pad. As I was walking to the bank of telephones, I realized that Turks have a different alhabet than us so our phones probably wouldn't be the same. Well I was in luck. It was the same as the Canadian number pad. This is such a typical Jen story. I never thought that maybe I should pay attention to the numbers in my code and learn them. After all I have only been usng them for about 10 years now.

Day 8:
Today we took one of our only paid and guided tours. We went to an underground city, a gorge and various look out points.

The tour was an English tour but in reality Christina and I were the only native English speakers in the van. There was a couple from France, the girls from Germany, a couple from Italy, another couple from Slovenia, a Turkish man and other nationalities represented. It made conversation and connections a bit difficult. We are so lucky to be English speakers because there is always an English translation at museums and the first language spoken in the tourism world is English.

Day 9:
We spent the day hikng and then caught the night bus to Pammukale where we had to have faith past language barriers.

Our bus did not appear to be coming so I went to talk to the bus company tout. He took one look at my tcket, said "Come with me.", took me to another company, where my ticket was ripped up and substituted for another one. No attempted explanation given. We just followed along, trustingly blind.

It was ridiculously early when we arrved in Denzili. All the people going to Pammukale had to get off the bus - not one of us understanding waht was going on r where we should go. Finally, we understood that we had to transfer to a mini bus that would be here in ten minutes. In the meantime they offered us tea and gave me a Turkish donut.

Sure enough, a man did load us into a small van. Then we waited and waited and waited for more passengers. About half an hour later the new passengers arrived and we were off. Five minutes later we had turned around and were back at the otogar. Our driver ran off towards another bus and we waited and waited some more. One more passenger arrived but this time our bus would not start. "But no problem OK. I have trick." He slipped it into neutral and we started going backwards until the engine caught.

When we arrived in Pammukale, the sales pitch started. Our bus driver knew someone who had a hotel with a pool and air-conditioner and breakfast . . . "Come check it out. OK. No problem. You no like. I bring you back." We went to check it out and decided to stay which was good because our backpacks had been deposited in the lobby and our bus driver had disappeared (and the lady of the house had just upped the price by 5 liras but we brought her down again.)

Day 10 and on will appear later. I am bored typing this and hope that you aren't bored reading it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Pictures from Turkey

I know I know. It has been forever since I updated but I am not as scheduled in the summer and take a hiatus from most things Internet. But I thought that I should post a link to my Turkey pictures for all of you that are not facebook friends. I will be blogging more later and will start my weekly update when school commences.