Thursday, July 10, 2014

Boat Ride 7/10/14

According to the Internet--as if it, in itself, is one cohesive and credible source--the best way to see Izmir is to ride the ferries. Izmir stretches around a bay, and from what I've seen, the city doesn't have much depth inland. It's not like, say, LA, where only one small section touches the ocean. The city of Izmir is like the crust around a slice of bread that is the bay.

The crust has some interesting features, too. Some of the hills are covered with high-rise apartment buildings, which seem quite out of place to me. Where, in America, there would be houses for the rich that serve as an escape from the city center, there are often twenty story apartment buildings congregated together in what must be a massive neighborhood. My mind goes crazy trying to understand why the buildings have been built in such unlikely places. My basic understanding of city layouts dictates that you have one or two-story homes in the outskirts and suburbs of a city. Then, as you move closer to the center, you see higher buildings, maybe ten stories tall or so. Finally, at core you see the tallest buildings. Here in Turkey, the cities don't work the same way. There are hundreds of these high-rise apartment buildings congregated in the strangest places, like on the tops of, on the sides of, and in the crevices between hills. Jena asked me what I thought of the ones we saw in the distance, and I explained how I was having a difficult time accommodating the layout of apartment buildings into my schema. I asked Jena what she thought of them. She said the ones covering the hills looked like the scales on the backs of dinosaurs.

In any case, I digress. How do I know I have a sense of what Izmir looks like, especially from afar? After all, it is difficult to see from the sidewalk along the waterfront. Why, it's from a ferry ride.

Tonight, after school, Jena and I decided to go to the ferry station to see about taking a ferry to another part of town where we might get something to eat. Unfortunately, however, after a look at the schedule, it seemed unlikely that we'd be able to get something to eat because the ferries don't run into the night. Our hunger put aside, we decided to go for a ferry ride anyway.

At the station, a rush of people was trying to board one of the boats, and Jena and I accidentally held up the line for a moment. Here, a Turkish woman stepped up and asked us in English where we were trying to go. I mumbled the name of a station, and the woman pointed me to a boat and continued on. Jena and I had heard from our friends that people often pop out of the crowd and can help you get oriented in Turkey, and it was a pleasant surprise that it happened to us. After she left, I did my best to use gesticulations to explain to the ticket vendor that I wanted return tickets, and thankfully, the ticket vendor understood me. Although I was fairly certain that the boat that had been pointed out to me was one not the one I actually wanted, an employee encouraged us to take it after I showed him the name of a station I wanted to go to. Jena and I ran to take the steps to the bow of the boat, and as we did so, we overheard a quick, lighthearted interaction between the station worker and the ship workers about the tourists who were holding them up.

On the boat, now, I went wild taking pictures--I was so proud that we made it onto the boat. We watched the familiar coastline slide on by, and Jena and I were in awe of the shipping container ships that we passed. They had stacks five containers high that looked like Lego bricks. When the path of our ferry became clear--it was traveling up the waterfront that Jena and I had seen by walking--I commented to Jena that I was a little disappointed that we hadn't accidentally boarded a ferry that took us to the opposite side of the bay.

We stopped in at two stations that Jena and I had walked to a couple nights before, and when we were on our way to the third station--one that was much farther than we'd ever gone, Jena reminded me that we might need to look into how we would get back our station. Upon arriving at the third station, I briefly conversed with one of the workers on the boat about where the boat was headed next (fortunately, he knew English). It wasn't headed back toward our station, so Jena and I hopped off, and we used our return ticket to get back into the station for our return ride.

Here, we spoke to a station worker who didn't know English, but we understood his Turkish well enough when he said the next boat would not be going to our station. This was disconcerting. When it seemed like everyone in the station was boarding the next boat, I asked again about the path the ferry would take. The station worker looked to the workers on the boat and asked them whether they spoke English. They didn't, but they told us to come aboard because they said we'd be able to get where we were headed on their ferry.

This ferry headed out across the bay, which was obviously not the direction of our home. Though with the belief that it would all work out, Jena and I sat back to enjoy our view of the entire bay. While riding on the open air second floor deck, the ship's vendor came around, offering tea and orange juice for sale. I was pleased with myself as I heard portakal (orange) since moments like this remind me that I'm slowly picking up the language. Other passengers seemed to enjoy the ferry ride as well. Some took pictures. Some couples sat close to one another, facing the sunset. Children watched the water churn behind the ship.

At the station across the bay, Jena and I sat tight, believe that the ferry would head toward our station after making a stop here. A quick pang of anxiety lit us up when we were the only passengers left on the boat. One of the boatmen came to the deck to tell us in some minimal English to get off the boat and to get another ticket and come back. Jena and I ran through the large and crowded station to do so. By the time we returned, we attempted to get back on our ferry, but the boatman pointed us to another ferry at the station. We rushed aboard. The workers on this boat seemed surprised by us and asked where we were going. We told them, and they let us proceed up to the seating area on the second floor deck.

We sat down, again noticing that we were the only people on the boat. We watched over the railing as the boatmen from the ferry we had taken there explained something to the boatmen on our current boat. We heard the word for foreigners, but it didn't seem like it was meant maliciously. For me, I was impressed by the curtsey of all the employees who had helped us to ensure that we had a way home. I can only imagine how much a taxi would have been. Possibly, thirty or more dollars. Instead, Jena and I were getting about an hour and a half-long ferry ride adventure for somewhere around seven or eight bucks.

We sat on the ferry for about fifteen minutes until it pulled away. (We must have looked quite silly when we first ran onto the boat as if it were about to leave that second.) In the meantime, we compared this side of the bay with ours. There was a grassy park, and like in ours, some people sat in small groups to watch the sunset. The boat eventually began the trip back across the bay, and we arrived back home at our station. I looked at Jena, thinking Ferry Ride around the Bay to See Izmir, check. Exhausted from the adventure, we forewent our plans to have dinner out. We needed a break from figuring out where we were and what was going on, so together we made a nice dinner at home.


  1. I laughed out loud at Jena's dinosaur scales! But I know what you mean - I was surprised to see in Korea how everyone lives in apartment complexes - virtually nobody lives in houses. So even in rural areas we saw from the train, there would be countryside...countryside...a cluster of boring tan highrises...countryside. Maybe I'm a bit like Jena's mentality: I saw giant corncobs.

    1. In the more remote areas of town where I see the high rise apartments, I keep thinking, How can there be enough jobs in that location to support all the people? One of my theories is that the amount of people packed into the high rises immediately creates the need for a little town in and of itself. But that's just a guess. Do you know how remote areas support so many residents?

  2. My new school is in a 'newly developed area' outside of Shanghai. That is to say, it is basically an entire city of high-rises that is not yet 'open' for living or business or whatever. The raised metro line ends here. Ends as in there is an elevated track and if the train kept going it would barrel off and squish the people below.

    Coming Soon: The Rest of the Line.

    The city of Huaqiao was once farms and then factories and then a giant pile of rubble. Homes and businesses still exit in random places along the forgotten paths of factory villages. Many are marked for impending demolition.

    I was walking down a newly paved road lined with trees and flanked by 5-10 half-finished modern high rises, past the hole in the ground that I am assured will be my classroom in not but 1 month’s time, when the road suddenly ended in a flooded rice patty. I'm starting to sense a theme about this place. My apartment was not 500 meters across the field, but no such luck.

    Coming soon: The Rest of the Road.

    I walked the 30 min around back to my temporary living arrangements, through the endless tapping and drilling, and through the temporary camp built to house and feed those conjuring a form out of the scree. Truly weird shit.

    Coming Soon: An Entire Fucking City