Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Bizarreness Continues

It's been a long time since I've written.

Today I'm inspired.

Jena and I returned to school this afternoon to an onslaught of "Hayır olsun's" and "Güle güle kullanın's" from our coworkers. The phrases more or less mean "Congratulations" and "Use it well," though the second one has a literal translation of "Use it while laughing."

While we were gone from work for the afternoon, it seems, the news had spread that we had gone off to buy a car.

My officemate Salim said to me, "That was fast. You just started talking about getting a car two days ago." I agreed. I told him that Jena and I were having trouble following through with our plans. First, we wanted a new apartment, and although we looked at one at one point, we didn't like it and gave up our search soon thereafter. Our next half developed plan was to find out whether we could rent a car every other weekend for six months for a good price. After looking into that, we realized it wasn't particularly cost effective. Our most recent plan to spice up our rather dull lives--a dullness that set in quickly after we returned from a refreshing trip to Germany during our week off--was to buy a bunny. Technically we aren't allowed to have dogs and cats in our apartment, but we thought we could get away with a rodent. We debated this idea for at least a week, and even though we couldn't come up with a good exit plan for the bunny when we move, we still thought it would be a good idea. We made a list of things that we would need--a pen, a bunny rug, a litter box, hay, leafy vegetables. We sat there on the couch, waiting for one of us to make the first move to take the bus downtown to the pet shop. We stared at the list again. We decided, actually, maybe it wasn't a great idea.

A day after we had gone an a great day hike and to lunch with some friends, we decided that buying a car might be the way to go. While Jena was doing the dishes, I pointed out that we hadn't followed through with any of our life-improvement plans thus far. I suggested, "We need to be more strategic."

Jena said, "What does that mean?"

"We need to have concrete steps to follow and a deadline. I'm thinking the end of February. By the end of February we should have a car."

That was three days ago. Now we have a car.

If there's something Jena and I are good at, it's working ahead on projects that motivate us. You should have seen how early we completed assignments in graduate school.

Our car is dark red. It is a Hyundai, which I always considered a poor man's Honda. I think I developed this notion because we always had Honda's growing up, and the prices of Hyundais advertised on television were relatively low. In any case, I'm happy it's a Korean car because of it's potential longevity.

The thing about a car here in Turkey is that it's like driving a chunk of very, very slowly depreciating gold. We put a lot of money into it because used cars here aren't cheap they way they are in the US. But everyone you ask says that you can expect to sell it for nearly the same price that you bought it for. Some people say you might be able to get more. This sounds good, but it also makes me paranoid because my money has been converted into a big metal shape that could easily get smacked around in an accident. Banks are more secure parking lots. But in the end, I guess you have to live a little sometimes and take a risk.

I plan to go hiking this weekend. I don't care where we go, whether it's to Cappadocia or to one of the canyons around Talas. I'm just psyched to be able to get into a vehicle and get out past these apartment buildings quickly and efficiently, instead of doing it laboriously with a 45 minute walk.

My dad used to drive to trailheads to go running. On some level I never understood that. Why not run to the trailhead to get more exercise? As a runner, I know now how it feels to be wasting away on sidewalks and at intersections when the only place you want to be is in the mountains. Running is more than the sum of the exercise that you put in. It's a peaceful feeling of being alone in a setting that you enjoy.

The year of our new car is 2007. Jena pointed out that it's significantly newer than either of the cars that we had back in America. Mine a 1998 and her's a 2000. 2007. Was it a good year for cars?

In 2007, I drove my mom's white minivan back to college during the middle of our winter break. I drove through a snowstorm. When I got to my house in Colorado, I got snowed in and only braved the road once to pick up a friend at the airport. He bought me dinner and suggested that I get out of the house more.

During the second half of my senior year of college (2007), I used the car to drive to Classic literature readings at a professor's house. I drove to concerts in Denver. I eventually packed up everything and set up a bed in the back. My plan was to drive back home to Utah overnight. I would pull to the side of the road and sleep in the back when I got tired. I never got tired. (Well, actually, I did, but I didn't stop driving.)

Toward the end of senior year, when all of us were talking in uncertain tones about their future plans, I decided to throw my plan to move to Denver into the wind. I would live in my minivan instead. I dropped my things at home, worked for a month, and on the Fourth of July, I took off on a road trip that involved touring through the West, eating canned vegetables straight from the can (my vegetable-hating father donated these foodstuffs to my cause), staying overnight at rest areas where I could find free electricity for my computer and free light to read by, and a visit to a sparsely attended family reunion Nantucket where I wondered what the hell I was doing and why I had left my only means of escape, my car, on the mainland, twenty-five miles away.

It was during this time that I spoke to a friend and decided to move to Portland, Oregon as soon as possible.

Then, before the year ended, I decided to move from Portland, down to the sunnier climes of Arizona. I met up with my parents in Utah, and I happily volunteered to transport our family dog Walter to Arizona where he and I would live together in Flagstaff.

While driving through the winter barrenness of Utah, an hour or two or three south of Provo, I looked into the sky and saw a metallic object. I fixed my eyes on it as I drove. It remained stationary in the sky. Slowing from 75 miles per hour, I pulled over on the highway and stopped. I pushed past Walter who was copiloting my minivan, and when I looked into the sky again the object was gone.

I almost swore it was a UFO. Then I called my father. He said that it wasn't unusual for the military to potentially fly experimental aircraft over that part of the country. And besides, B2s can do crazy things like like practically hover in the sky. My UFO became a possible IFO. Not nearly as interesting.

So yes, 2007 was a good year for cars. It was a good year for my minivan, anyway. My minivan kept running until 2014 when I sold for 800 dollars to a solid guy in Flagstaff who promised that he'd try to keep it running until it reached three hundred thousand miles. Now that's a car. (It needed about twelve hundred dollars of repairs, but I think they guy actually did them.)

All of this has very little bearing, I realize, on my new car, but we will take it on new adventures. Our adventures may not be as reckless as running around the US from coast to coast while sleeping in the back (I want to keep my money in better shape than that). But I'll be happy if once in a while the car gets us out into the world where we can feel that 1950s sense of freedom, empowerment, and wind-blowing-in-your-hair mobility.


  1. Loved this post - entertaining stories from your solo road trip and the bunny episode is hilarious!! We went through the same thought process in Africa and ultimately bought a vehicle, too. But it took us 6 weeks... so hats off to you!

    I hope you have many happy road trips in your new car. But sorry to tell you it's a Korean car, not Japanese. I think you're ok, though: from what we saw in Korea they have their act together! ��

  2. Thanks for the comment, Bobbi!