Although I was tired this morning due to a restless night's sleep, Jena got me out to the market (which is 100 yards from our house) to do some weekly grocery shopping. We went to our regular produce vendor, and Jena kept saying, "You got it? Can I go buy the olives now?" I kept asking her what exactly I was supposed to buy, and I excused myself by saying that my head wasn't in the game yet this morning. When Jena finally left me to pick out the tomatoes, onions, and peppers, I continually responded to the vendor in English. Even though the vendor didn't speak English, it still wasn't a problem. I've gotten faster with the numbers (thanks to learning how to tell time in Turkish, and, f***, it's hard), so I got the produce successfully in the end.
After the chores, Jena and I spent some alone time, and my first mission (while Jena stayed at home to do whatever she wanted) was to get some postcards. I first went to this funky used bookstore a little off of the pedway. When I had passed it a day or two prior, I thought it was some nerdy Turkish comic book shop. But that's just the stuff they put outside on the sidewalk during the day. Inside it's like walking through a scene of Alice in Wonderland if it were lined with books. When I asked about postcards--in Turkish!--a worker showed me another two floors of books across the street (alley, really) that contained all their books in English. After sifting through some stacks of maps and used and unused postcards, I finally came away with a few to send home.
So, at that point in the day, I wanted to write my postcards even though it was a Sunday and the eve of Bayram. In other words, there was no chance of those postcards going out anytime soon. But, I didn't have a pen on my, so I had to stop by our apartment. Poor Jena's alone time was the interrupted, but I felt like I already had some new life in me from exploring alone--in a bookstore no less!
Armed with a pen, I then went to one of the back alleys where the cool kids of Alsancak sit around, drinking tea and smoking cigarettes and hookah. Since there's no hiding that I'm a tourist, I plopped down and wrote my postcards at a table.
Actually, a funny thing happened then. The waiter came to my table. I asked for bir çay (a tea). The waiter seemed confused by my pronunciation. He said, bira? I nodded. He said, çay? I nodded. When he left I realized that I may have unintentionally ordered a beer and a tea (bira=beer, çay=tea). Normally, I wouldn't have minded making such a mistake. However, beer is freaking expensive here in Turkey (and it's not that good), and it was the middle of the day on the eve of Bayram. (Ramazan Bayram is probably the most important religious holiday of the year for Muslims.) So I freaked out while he went inside, but when he returned with merely a tea, I was grateful.
After writing some post cards, cramming as many words as I could onto those little things, I took a stroll down the pedway. When stopping by a hat shop, I espied an entrance to a basement mini-mall that I'd never seen before. (I should note that due to Bayram, the downtown area has the eerie sense of a ghost town since many of the Turkish people head to see their families over the three day celebration.) So I go into this mini-mall, and it's exactly the type of place you'd expect to get kidnapped in if you were in a more dangerous country. Every single shop sells knives (mostly pocket-sized), lighters, cigarrette boxes, cigar cutters, and liquor. The place narrowed down into a dead end. A younger guy talked to me, and I have no idea what he said, but when he said the word yabancı (foreigner), I said evet (yes). He left me alone after that. Did I mention that interspersed in this sketchy mini-mall were two whey protein powder shops? So manly. I had to get out of there.
From there I wandered through a shopping district that I had never explored before, and eventually, I ended up at Kültürpark, my favorite part of İzmir. I entered the park with the intention to document it comprehensively with my camera, but unfortunately my camera battery was exhausted the moment I got there. Instead, I have tried to list all the things in Kültürpark which, added together, make the place amazing:
- Multiple Guarded Entrances - These make the park easy to access and provide a sense of safety. Admission is free.
- Two Mosques - One is big, and one is small.
- An 1800 Meter Running Track - My record is probably around six fifty after running three or four laps.
- A Public Swimming Pool
- A Long Strip of Fountains Lined by Palm Trees
- An Art and History Museum
- A Tower for a Sky Diving School - No s***!
- A Pond with Paddleboats and Islands to Boat Around - The water is really brown, though.
- A Mini-Amusement Park Comprised of Carnivale Rides - Jena and I road the huge ferris wheel on our third day here. There's a new ride called The Wave or something that is even taller than the ferris wheel. I might have to ride it before we leave.
- Lots of Food Vendor Stands
- An Informal Theater - I thought a public prayer was going on in there today. Then I kept listening. I think it turned out to be a Turkish hiphop soundcheck.
- A Formal Theater - This is a small outdoor amphitheater for classical music concerts.
- Indoor and Outdoor Tennis Courts
- A Tennis Clubhouse
- Small Outdoor Enclosed Football (Soccer) Fields
- Two or Three Outdoor Workout Areas with These Wacky Exercise Machines
- At Least One Big Playground for Kids
- A Police Station
- A Veterinarian Clinic
- Three Massive Conference Room Buildings
- An Underground Parking Garage
- And FINALLY Plenty of Stray Dogs and Cats to Go Around for Everyone
That's why Kültürpark is worth visiting every day that we are here. (In fact, today I went there twice.)
In any case, since my plans to document everything were thwarted, I went to see if our two-legged dog friend was at the vet office where he normally lives. He wasn't. (He recently had an operation, so hopefully he's inside being cared for.) So, I went to the Kedi (Cat) Anthill. There I played with some kittens for a bit and then sat down on a bench to study some Turkish.
Because I've been a little confused about the last two Turkish lessons at our school, I decided to ignore what we are currently learning for now and to forge ahead into the next chapter of the book to teach myself the past tense. After somewhere around two hours, I wrote the following. Basically, it sums up my day in a much more concise and limited way.
Bugün ben şehire gittim. Birinci, kitabevine kartpostalı satın almak gittim. Kitabevinde, adam beni yardım etti. O bene İngilizce kitabın odası ve kartpostalı gösterdi. İkinci, ben eve çünkü kalemi unuttum. Evde Jena oldu. Üçüncü, ben kafeye gittim. Ben çayı içtim, ve kartpostallar ile ben arkadaşlarima ve ailemi yazdım. Sonra, dükkanlarda ben baktım. Dördüncü, ben Kültürparka gittim. Birçok fotoğraflara çekmek istedim, ama benim fotoğraf makinasinin pili öldü. Biber-Hanz'ın evine gittim çünkü yarın ona gördmedim. Ama bugün de ona görmedim. Kedilerin evi ben gittim. Ben çok kediler ile oynadım. Bir saat geçti çünkü bankta ben oturdum ve bu yazdım.
So that's what I did today. I finally got some alone time, and it was just what I needed. I'm a little sunburnt despite applying sunblock twice, but at least it's a reminder of a great time. Here's my mental note to myself to wrap it all up: Take care of yourself, even if that means having alone time. That'll help you stay refreshed and able to be a good husband to Jena.
Below are the photos that I was able to get with my camera before it stopped turning on. Enjoy!
|The Desolate Pedway of Alsancak|
|A Roundabout Near an Entrance to Kültürpark|
|Cool Towers over an Entrance to Kültürpark|
|The Small Mosque at Kültürpark|
|Statues to Greet You in Kültürpark|
|A Mess of Amusements|
|This is what happens when you study Turkish near the Kedi Anthill for one hour.|
|This is what happens when you study Turkish near the Kedi Anthill for two hours.|