At the moment, I’m on a long distance bus ride (to Istanbul) and feeling much more comfortable than I did on my last bus ride (to Izmir). This time it’s daytime, and the bus ride is scheduled to take almost half the time of the last ride. Additionally, I didn’t step onto this bus with the suspicion that I was coming onto a bout of food poisoning.
Now that we’re out of the city of Izmir—the third largest city in Turkey after Istanbul and Ankara, respectively—the landscape is rolling hills covered with green foliage and brown grasses. I see wind farm windmill blades peaking at me from a distance. Groves of farm land for crops I can’t identify sneak into view; their shapes are un-uniform patches of a verdant quilt.
Jena and I have been in Turkey for just about a month, and thanks to our Turkish class, we now have the ability to have basic conversations. Most of these involve a large amount of codeswitching between English and Turkish, and I’m hoping that over time, the ratio of Turkish to English will increase.
If there’s one thing that’s wearing on Jena and me this summer, it’s the lack of work. I wouldn’t say that the two of us are the best candidates for taking a large amount of time off because we both appreciate the regular schedule that work provides and the assurance that what one is doing on a daily basis is making a difference either to others or to oneself. As teachers, I think we tend to favor the notion of making a difference to others, and I know that for myself, I tend to favor the notion of making a monetary difference to my future self. Acknowledging that this extended break from work this summer is making a difference to our current selves is a thought that Jena and I are both likely to avoid since we both have trouble with such self-centered actions. I know on some level, however, that the break is acceptable for us, and that developing a deeper appreciation for work may assist me when it begins on September 1st.
Because we’re scheduled to begin living in Kayseri on August 18th, we now have about fourteen days we’re not sure what to do with. We looked into options like an Aegean tour. We thought about going to Greece. In the end, we have decided to stay in Turkey and tour around. (Largely, this decision resulted from concerns about our visas; they are single-entry, after all.) While this sounds easy on a superficial level, Jena and I are a little wary.
I think my main concern is cost. And when I think about cost, I can accept that we have to pay for our lodging each night. That is fine with me. It’s the notion of eating out, for every meal, that's difficult for me to accept. Jena and I had our first introduction to this phenomenon when we went to Mazatlan, Mexico for a week last year. A week was a little too long, we found out, for us to do nothing. To some extent, the trip turned into conversation after conversation about where we would eat our next meal. Because we were traveling on a budget, these conversations were often quite involved. Here in Turkey, I think we’re going to face a similar pattern unless we can find a place with a kitchen to rent. That’s probably doable; it just comes down to deciding on a location and spending a few hours doing research on the internet.
Whenever I reflect on my concerns about eating out, I often tell myself that I’m not exactly adept at eating out in my regular life. As my friend Heidi can tell you, I decline about a hundred invitations to eat out for every one I accept. Mostly, cost is on my mind because I don’t place a very high value on food. I’d rather, for instance, use my daily living money for gas, beer, and savings.
What this amounts to when traveling is the irrational logic that if I spend all this money on meals out, I have to make a compromise wherein I don’t get the things that I want—gas, beer, savings. I suppose it would be worthwhile for me to remember that on this trip, I’m not spending money on gas (which is quite expensive here), so there’s some consolation for me. As for beer and savings, I’m okay with cutting back on beer consumption. As I think I’ve noted, it’s not very good here anyway. Mineral water isn’t a bad replacement since the carbonation dances in one’s stomach in the same manner as beer. About saving money, Jena and I did take the cost of our travels this summer into account when we created a joint account with the generous monetary gifts for our wedding. Moreover, we’ll be moving to a fairly inexpensive city (Kayseri), and we’ll have at least two major elements of our accommodation covered by our jobs—rent and daily lunches. In other words, maybe, I can put my fears about being miserable and going bankrupt aside for the next fourteen days. It’s going to be okay.
What is really exciting about our first stop on this little self-created Turkey tour is that tomorrow we’ll be meeting up with Özge in Istanbul. Özge was Jena’s housemate in Flagstaff for the past year, and she is from Zungaldok (sp?), a town on the Black Sea. She is an incredibly warm and helpful person, and there have been many instances in this first month, when I have found myself saying, I wish Özge were with us. She’d make this SO much easier.
So we’ll see Özge before she leaves for America. We’re hoping to have her show us how to be a Turk in Turkey. We’re definitely going to do breakfast—what is probably the best meal to get in Turkey—and from there, we might go to the bazaar. Who knows. In any case, it’s going to be awesome to see our good friend on her turf since she dealt with us being know-it-alls about Flagstaff for the past year.
Now that Jena and I are further down the road on this bus ride to Istanbul, the setting looks much the same. I see a minaret poking out of a grove of trees beside the highway. The color of the rock that’s been cut back for the highway is a creamy white. In the distant hills, a high valley cradles a town. The roof tops of the one or two-story structures (an uncommon sight in this country) are a faded red from the clay roof titles.
For myself, it’s time do some reading or tackle some more Turkish grammar and vocabulary while our stop in Istanbul awaits.