Took a bus ride. The best processing is done on buses and while walking. Don’tcha think?
So as a product of that, here are some random ramblings about our arrival to Turkey, after not being here for almost four years.
Traveling in Europe is coddled and pretty comfortable. We’re all of a sudden back to hardcore backpacking again, after more than a year.
(And you’re right, geographically part of Turkey is in Europe and they in some way like to think themselves aligned with the EU, but the experience of being in Turkey is not European. Although… the influence and impressions from Europe on Turkey are significant. That’s mainly why we- or at least I- like this place. A lot of Turkish people want to be more like Europeans. [This is also indebted to the changes toward secularism made by Turkey’s most influential and revered leader, Ataturk.] Moroccans, generally, for contrast, don’t, although they also see a lot of tourists and sit just below Spain. Different mindsets. Most Turkish people aren’t strong Koran followers. They’re nominal Muslims, chiefly concerned about their families and work, like most people. This could be another post. I digress.)
The transition to a non-western, Muslim culture from home-like, ultra friendly Ireland has been challenging for my mom. She grew up in Boston, where women have as much esteem as men. Here, she has to sometimes deal with condescending attitudes and the often low position deemed for women in the Islamic hierarchy. Not to mention the gap in cleanliness.
Though coming back this time, after now having been many other places, she said Turkey is cleaner and better off than she had remembered.
The untrustworthy Turkish people, infamous for scams and theft, are all mixed in with the truly sweet, kind, and generous ones, which are also by far in the majority. Unfortunately you have to keep your guard. But you’ll get peppered with lovely surprises of kindness while you do.
We talked today with a woman who is a dual citizen in the US and Turkey. Really cool lady. She spent years living both in Turkey and in Hawaii. She said the quality of life has gone down in Turkey in recent years, so you may not see as much of the Turkish generosity as you would’ve in the past.
It’s always harder to jump down in your standard of living and environment than go up. But one thing Turkey does stylishly is bus transportation! They have amazing buses. Probably sounds silly, but I was really looking forward to taking a bus here again. They even serve you a drink and snack!!
I forgot about how they serve you Turkish tea after a meal and when you sit in the lobby of a hotel too. At anytime of day, you can see someone walk in with a tray of little tea glasses, stir in some white sugar cubes, and sip that auburn, hot stuff with their buddies.
We’ve already had a mixture of experiences here. When we arrived to the airport, we couldn’t take cash out for the metro (to get to the city center in Izmir, the metro is the cheapest option from the airport, fyi) because all the ATMs were only in Turkish. The information lady didn’t really understand English and couldn’t help us. We went to the metro anyway, and the ticket lady was totally cranky. She was cranky to everyone, so we couldn’t take it personally. Maybe she was on her period. (jkjk) A guy behind us heard us talking to her and asked if we needed help. There was an ATM at the metro and he said he’d help translate for us. This ATM ended up being in English though, so it was all good. Super nice guy.
Grace also rode free on the metro. Turkey is generally pretty good with making things free or discounted for the handicapped.
When we got to Izmir’s city center, we booked a hotel for three people, but at the hotel they said the room was only for two people and we’d have to pay more for three. They were incredibly rude and, need I say, scammers. We changed hotels, where the next receptionist guy patiently and kindly guided Grace up the stairs. (Another good of example of why it’s best to not book online!)
As for me, I have great respect for western values, such as customer service (serving your neighbor), working hard, and cleanliness. But for travel, I find Western Europe so boring. I can’t help it! I’d like to like everywhere, but I don’t. Having things feel foreign, and being challenged to do simple things such as find a place to stay are fun- well maybe interesting is a better word, definitely not always fun- for me. I prefer it SO much more. However, as I lean more and more into exploring “rugged” areas, my mom is leaning a little away. She has somewhat had enough of certain struggles and frustrations- especially when she feels like she’ll be scammed or disrespected. Or getting sick. Definitely tired of getting sick. All very understandable issues.
She’d spend two years in Ireland in a heartbeat. I could barely yawn my way through five days there. I did like Ireland, a lot, but wouldn’t want to stick around. I’d like to spend two years in Taiwan or somewhere Spanish speaking- somewhere very unfamiliar, like a puzzle to figure out, perhaps even with unsolvable parts- until we go to heaven and pester God with ALL the questions. He answers questions now too, which is fun. He says he gives wisdom to him who asks.
He’s given us a lot of insight while traveling. Before we arrived in Turkey the first time- without knowing anything really about the country, except of course about its rich history, and for the first time going to a fully Muslim nation- God told my mom that she needed to be assertive, that weakness was not honored in this culture. And boy was that spot on. That helped us a lot.
Ya know how there’s a mix in Turkey of the malicious and the malevolent? This dynamic exists everywhere, but is exaggerated here. The Bible talks about where the Turkish people come from and their history. They actually go back to the story of Jacob and Esau. Esau was the eldest son who was to inherit. Esau traded his inheritance to his brother Jacob for a bowl of soup, despising the goodness of God. Jacob instead received the blessing and inheritance. Unto this day, you’ll find those descendants so to say, that dichotomy, of the two brothers. There’s more to this, but that’s a partial example. (Read more in-depth about it here: Turkey, Another Son of Esau)
We thought we’d try to rent a place somewhere along the Aegean coast for a couple months or so to wait out winter. Or travel down the coast. We aren’t sure.
We didn’t have many options for places to go. We have a lot left to see in this part of the world- mostly Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, and places like Georgia and Azerbaijan. But our visa wouldn’t allow us to stay longer in any Schengen country. We also didn’t want to be cold.
So our options were the Balkan countries on the coast, such as Croatia and Montenegro, but there were no good flights from Ireland. We could also go to Cyprus or Israel. But Israel is so expensive and I didn’t really want to visit Cyprus again so soon. I think it’s hard to find a good apartment there anyway. That left us with Turkey.
I don’t really know if we should be here or not, but here we are. We just heard that heating and hot water are a problem in the Aegean area, as there’s no natural gas there. It’s also the rainy season.
We’re on our way to Bodrum- a big peninsula part of the Aegean area- now. Let’s see how it goes!
(Spoiler alert: Bodrum is AWESOME.)