Prosecards from the Edge (of a Continent)

A running commentary on my life in Izmir, Turkey...and other thoughts.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Tales from the Road - Lycia, Day 2 (Tuesday)

10:30 a.m. I am drifting in and out of a lovely, lazy sleep, enjoying the utter stillness outside and the faint rocking of the boat. Suddenly, there is a loud, urgent rap on the door. It comes again. We both sit bolt upright. Turgut’s head and arm appear through the partially opened door, proffering M.’s telephone, an uncharacteristically grim look on his face. You need to take this. M. pauses for a moment to rub the sleep from his eyes, takes the phone, and after the first ‘Efendim…’ there is a long silence. Then he attempts to speak, ‘tamam, Huseyn Abi...’ ‘Ama, evet, ama Huseyn Abi…’ This happens a few times; apart from the man’s name, he is incapable of getting a word in edgewise. Finally a long silence, and I think that he is listening, but when I look I discover him sitting with his head in his hands, telephone on his lap. I don't know when the conversation ended, but it can’t be good…and somehow I have a feeling I know what this is about.

For a long time he will not answer my pleas to fill me in, just sits with pale face staring blankly at a spot on the cabin wall. It finally falls to me to speculate out loud. The boss? A nod. Problems? A nod. He wants me off the boat? A long pause, a heavy sigh, a slow nod.

Have you ever been asked to leave a party, an apartment, any sort of place or function? If so, you know what a wretched, humiliating thing it is. The ego gets wrapped up in it – what, they don’t want ME??! – and it takes some processing before you can ascribe it to something other than a defect in your generally sparkling personality (unless of course there really IS a defect in your sparkling personality). My eyes begin to well up as I reach for my bag, contents untouched. There is anger -- I had the best conversations with those traitorous bastards last night…they were smiling and friendly, totally engaged…and now this???! I later learn that someone from the group had phoned their father, who was the mayor of the city (i.e., pompous bigwig), who found this totally unacceptable, phoned the agency, which of course jumped as soon and as high as he wished, and it in turn phoned M. with orders to remove me from the boat post haste. It was sadly a question of the passengers acting too hastily -- by the time the agency phoned, outraged, everybody except the agency was perfectly happy.

My forced disembarkation wasn’t the worst of it: he was told to leave the boat at Kaş the following day, and they were sending a new captain. This latter news completely floored me, making me forget all about my self-pity at being evicted. What?? The man has lost his job over this? This thankless job where he slaves for six months without a single break just to earn a fraction of what I do, this job that sometimes goes unpaid when unscrupulous owners or agencies decide to keep the profits for themselves, this job to which people keep returning because they desperately need the work…this job where he has to be ‘on’ 24/7, where he works in sickness or in health, has no private place to talk or sleep, this crappy job…he’s lost it because of not asking special permission to have me - a person who is important to him and hasn't seen for two nonths - on board?? I am devastated at having been somehow involved in this horrible turn of events, sick at how the whim of holiday-makers can determine the fate of the underdogs who serve them, sick at a system that allows this. It is not that I think the passengers were entirely wrong, but I am sick at the results. And, I think, they could have handled it differently. Not a word was said to him or to me before this telephone call was made -- a call that cost him his job.

M. himself admitted to having made a mistake. Back in the winter months, back when he was sanding and painting the boat and in frequent chummy conversations with the owner, he had discussed in broad terms the possibility of having a visitor on board from time to time over the summer. Not a problem, he was assured...but this time, it was a private group; protocol dictated that he ask special permission from the agency and from the group. But he was ill, exhausted, fed up…I can well understand why he said to hell with it, just come.

Fifteen minutes after the phone call, I was walking the plank at Demre. Okay, a ladder, not a plank, but at the time it felt pretty plankish. A wizened old man in a motorboat ferried me to shore, where another loaded my things in a mini-van and shuttled me to the bus station. Where to? Two mini-busses idle: one to Fethiye, one to Alanya. Fethiye, I sigh, beaten, figuring from there I will catch the bus back to Izmir. On the bench-seat in the bus, through tear-stained eyes I glimpse the signs pointing tourists to the church of St. Nicholas, and some far-away part of me wishes that I were in any kind of condition to see it. It is, after all, the birthplace of Santa Claus. Still, this awakens an idea in me…I can’t return to Izmir sad, teary-eyed, defeated, in no better condition than when I left. And as I am already here, many hours from Izmir, why not stay a while? I grab my bag, jump out and clamber into the bus going east, to Alanya. Who knows? A change of scene might do some good…


The ride in the mini-bus, whizzing around teeth-clenching, white-knuckling hairpin turns on the edge of precipitous cliff, passing slower vehicles on the curves, is far longer than I expected, or at least seems longer than I expected. We pass Finike, the orange-growing capital of Turkey, then climb, climb, climb, through lush pine forests and sweeping sea views. We pass the intersection down to Olympos and the great fire-breathing Chimaera, continue past the holiday resorts of Tekirova and Kemer. What seems an eternity later, we arrive in Antalya, where I have to change busses to get to Alanya.

My mind is wiped. I have gone from distraught to empty, devoid of feeling or ability to think, operating on pure auto-pilot. I had arrived with emotions bursting out of me, ready to offload some; now it's as if a circuit has shorted. Not only did we not have the conversations I had hoped for, but things have now taken this unpleasant wretched can life get? I am standing there in the bus terminal parking lot, lost in these thoughts. Fortunately a helpful man helps get me to the correct bus and ensures that my bag gets put on it, otherwise I might well still be standing there.

Then we are off again, along the Antalya Gulf to the smaller city of Alanya. The scenery begins to change. Aromatic pine forests give way to lusher, more tropical vegetation. The wind dies; humidity rises. Palm trees and flourishing plants of all sorts are everywhere. You sweat prodigiously, day or night.

I am surprised, again, by the length of the trip. Probably over two hours, although I do not count. When we arrive, it is evening. I unwedge my cramped body from the tiny space into which I had managed to shoehorn it (tall people should not travel in Turkey), stumbling out into the moist and windless evening air. I stand blinking, rubbing my eyes, not sure what to do, not caring to do much except sit on a beach somewhere, and sit, and sit, and sit...

It dimly occurs to me that I should get on the service bus to the city center. As we are driving off I realize I've left my bag in the bus. A man on a scooter brings it to me. Duh.

Driving through the city, dim clips of memories past flicker in my head. L. and I came here years ago, when I was new to Turkey. It was L.'s youthful stomping ground, home to many short-lived romances and long, boozy nights. He had showed me some of his favorite places, some of which still existed, some of which only lived in memory. I met G., 'his captain,' a man he knew many years ago and deeply respected for his seamanship as well as his quiet wisdom. Must go with the job description, I think...damn those captains.

The service bus winds its way through the streets and I crane my neck to peer down the side streets, hoping to recognize a neighborhood from that one trip here years ago. Not that it really makes any difference: any hotel, anywhere, will do. Hell, at this point any flat surface will do. Still, when in a place I have been once before, I find I am drawn to the familiar, and I want to find the area where we had stayed, not because the hotel was wonderful or out of nostalgia, but just because it is known and conveys a sense of comfort.

The Hotel Baverya, quirkily enough, caters to Scandinavian tourists. There are signs everywhere offering myriad forms of entertainment, from excursions to beach parties to belly dancing, written in a language that I cannot quite recognize beyond being vaguely 'Scandinavian.' At 50 YTL a night, they are affordable, too. They have no room for me, however, and send me off down the block, to a shabby sister hotel that under other circumstances I might have objected to. This time, I settle in without a peep and sleep until 9:00 p.m.


Trying to find a restaurant in Alanya that does not print its menu in six languages and serve spaghetti in addition to Indian, Mexican and, oh yeah, Turkish food, too, is difficult. I wander the streets for an hour or more, trying to find a 'normal' restaurant. I try explain to somebody that I don't quite have faith in restaurants that attempt to 'specialize' in four different countries' cuisine. But what's your speciality? I insist. All, he says. My hackles are suddenly up. How can you possibly specialize in 'all'? I half-sneer, finding suddenly that I have become a totally unpleasant person. Trust me, everything very good. I elect not to trust him. Finally find a typical kebab place in the back streets and it becomes my local for the next couple of days.

Wandering back to the hotel, I am wearied by the humidity, quickly annoyed by the hustlers and the dazzling visual display. Bright lights, cheap toys, merchandise everywhere; it's buy, buy, buy, it's the hawk-eyed young men who lurk at the entrances of shops and restaurants with the yes, please, hello, where you from? Can I ask you just one question? Please, wait! I love you...

I am in no mood for this. Cranky, suddenly ready to turn on someone, any hapless soul that inadvertantly crosses my path. Another Yes, please! and I've had it. I stop, clench and unclench my teeth, take a deep breath. Look, buddy, I got a little tip for you. Give you an edge up on the competition, like. See, in English, 'yes, please' is an answer to a question. I didn't ask you anything, so don't say yes, please. 'Buyurun' doesn't exist in English, got it? So if you must say something, just say 'hello.' Capish? Better yet (this said to myself), just leave me bleedin' alone.

Feeling worse rather than better for having gotten some sort of an outlet, I march off to my shabby palace, where I take a long, cold shower, then flop into bed and sleep depression's sleep...twelve hours and still no sense of being rested.



At 9:01 AM, Blogger Barbara said...

Kate, when you get back to Izmir -- hopefully well-rested and feeling better -- shoot me an email and I'll buy you a beer. Or three.


At 8:17 PM, Blogger 日月神教-向左使 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Post a Comment

<< Home