Prosecards from the Edge (of a Continent)

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

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Tales from the Road - Lycia, Day 4 (Thursday)

I'm up early, 6:00 a.m., determined to get out before the heat gets too intense. Strange, the rhythms of my sleep these days....sometimes I fall asleep early and slumber deep and long, ten hours or more; other nights I cannot sleep at all, writhing on my pillow until first light and birdsong.

A morning dip in the sea refreshes. I've brought my goggles, and swim to the rocks where the fishermen try their luck. Sheer delight as a shimmering school of thousands of tiny silver fish encircle me, and a feeling for a moment that I am embraced by the universe.

Back on the beach, sunrise, beach pebbles, stillness and meditation. And then, without warning, it is disturbed by a smirk-wearing young man passing too close to me and wishing me good morning with more emphasis than is called for from a stranger. He passes me several times, good morning-ing me each time, and there is a rising irritation in my spleen. Then an elderly man passes, also wishes me good morning -- at least he's harmless, I think -- but he is back a few minutes later, and has the audacity to sit down inches away from me, as if we are old friends sharing a morning on the beach together. Rattled, hard-pressed to believe that I am being harrassed on a beach by an old man prior to seven o'clock in the morning, I leap to my feet, grab my things and go. I am dismayed and angry at having been robbed of this moment of peace and beauty. Why are people so cheap? I wonder.

Back at the hotel, breakfast, the usual Turkish hotel kind: 3 kinds of olives, 2 kinds of cheese, bread, butter, jam, cucumbers and tomatoes. Whenever I get tired of this breakfast I think back to our trip to Cyprus when I was a kid: the word was tomato salad. No other kind of salad to be had, and it was nothing but tomatoes. It became a kind of running joke on our trip. At least here we've got cucumbers.

Fatih shows up at the hotel mid-morning, offers to take me up to the mountain, where one can sit in the cool shade over a river, splash in the water, and eat trout from those very same waters. I readily agree, having nothing better to do, and we go. He takes me to an out-of-the-way place, not the one frequented by all the tourists to Alanya, and the road, which I suddenly realize is two-way, is terrifyingly narrow along the edge of a gorge. Fatih handles the vehicle well, however, and soon I am lost in conversation, forgetting about the vertical drop to my right. We cover a range of topics. Politics: People hate Americans because you keep meddling in other countries' business. Telling other countries what they can and can't do. The Jewish conspiracy: When the Jews take over the world...Me: oh, come on, you can't be serious! Well, most of the world is run by a relatively small group of people, most of whom are Jewish. Hmmm... Islam - me: is it true that the Kuran mandates the killing of the infidel? Him: Absolutely not! Where on earth did you read this? I refer to the book The Crisis of Islam and he insists that either I misremember or the author doesn't know what he's talking about.

The difficulty of arguing any serious topic in Turkish leads me to say boşver (forget about it) and comment on the loveliness of the scenery.

We have a tranquil lunch under the trees and over the river, pausing to dive into the cold -- but not as cold as expected -- clear water. We doze a while in the shade, then make the trip back. I thank him and head for the hotel room, diving once again into sleep beneath the A/C.


Late afternoon beach, a swim, a doze in the slanting sunlight. A sudden presence so near me that it brushes the hair on my arm. I open my eyes to find a pair of earnest-looking brown ones staring down at me. He is not so much sitting next to me as on top of me, and I recoil slightly.

Guy (in broken English with a strong accent): I saw you sit here I think you alone I come next you.

Me: Oh.

G: What's your name?

Me: Katherine.

G: (rapturously) Ahhh! I am Serkan. (Rolling the words on his tongue...) Serkan...Katherine...Katherine...Serkan...ahh...together so beautiful!

Me: (creeped out, and switching to Turkish because if I have to put up with creepiness I'd rather not ALSO have to put up with bad grammar and a broken accent) What are you doing here?

G: (breathing, rather than speaking the words, in the manner of an all-too-excited patron of a seedy cinema) I saw you looking at me...come on, you were looking at me, weren't you? (He is gently picking pieces of sand off my skin in the manner of an amorado and I swat his arm away.)

Me: (testily) Yeah, I was probably counting the psychos on the beach today.

G: (totally unfazed) What are you doing tonight? (try to imagine this being said in a heavy-breathing pervert sort of way)

Me: I have plans.

G: Ohh! But Katherine, you and me, tonight, you know? We could be together...

Me: Like I said, I've got plans.

G: Cancel them! This could be our only chance! Tomorrow I return to Istanbul! You and me...

Me: (pushing the guy off me and gathering my things) The thing is, I don't want to cancel them. But I hope you have a nice night and a pleasant journey home.

G: But Katherine! I can't bear it! You can't leave me like this!

Me: Goodbye.

G: Don't you have a telephone number?

Me: (laughing out loud) You seriously think I would give you my telephone number???

G: Pleeeease....Katherine, tomorrow I return to Istanbul!!!! Don't do this to me!!

Me: Like I said, have a nice trip.

G: (with insanely pleading eyes) Can I at least give you my telephone number?

Me: You can give it...

G: (eyes lighting up) Really! I'll get a pen!!

Me:...if it makes you feel better, but I'm not going to call you.

G: (crestfallen, but nonetheless writing carefully) Please call me...this is my last night here, you know? You, me...

Me: (pocketing the number) Yeah, whatever. Enjoy it.

G: Wait! Can you read my number??

Me: Yup, it's clear.

G: No, read it out loud to me!!

Me: (Just to get rid of him, I read the number out, then begin to walk away.)

G: (scurrying after me) Say, is your hotel on this street??

Just when I am contemplating making use of my runner's legs, a tall, severe-looking elderly man intervenes with harsh words to my harrasser.

Man: You again!!! What the hell are you doing? You've been harrassing the girls on this beach all day!

G: What, me??!

Man: Yes, I've seen you! Get lost, and don't let me see your face around here again!

And thus I am spared from having to make a sprint in flip-flops and sweltering heat. Thank God for guardian angels.


A shower, a spontaneous decision to take another crack at a run to the castle. Out into the lowering dusk...only to discover the legs are hamburger, wasted from the day before. I take the turnoff down to the marina, where I wander pensively, looking at the boats and the captains and crew having tea or dinner on board, their day's tours finished. I am soured on boat tours; it gives me a pain to watch these men, to listen to the hustling, Yes please, would you like to take a boat tour? to remember the days when I was an innocent in this country, excited and beguiled by everything, and now feeling simply tired. I slowly turn away from the wharf and return to the hotel.


Overlooking Damlataş beach is a restaurant where I have been told there is fasıl (a trio of muscians playing classical Turkish music) every night. Wearied of this cheap, fast environment I find myself adrift in, I decide to put on a nice dress and treat myself to a civilized evening out.

The man at the door greets me with an expression that says I'm so sorry; he was mistaken, tonight there will be no Turkish music because of the beach party. Beach party? Yes, you can have a look if you like...

I choose a table on the edge of the terrace, closest to the beach, from whence you can get a good look at the goings-on below. Loud pop music with explicit lyrics blares. Gorgeous young blonds, mostly women, gyrate their sleek, tanned hips alongside dark-haired, olive-skinned men -- probably Turkish, probably employees. The girls are from Norway and Sweden, and most of them can't be more than 18 years old. I watch as they dance, seeing how free they feel and how they revel in their youth and beauty, how they know they are beautiful to the men who watch them with hungry eyes...for a while I am envious, wistful. Aging is cruel, I think, the gradual dissolution of the body...I remember being young and beautiful once, I remember having that sense of wide open horizons. Why do I feel as though I've reached the end, that all those doors have closed? What do I have to replace the vanished youth? Am I wise? Somehow I do not feel so...

I eat and drink in silence, the dance continuing almost as if in a dream, me lost in contemplation of my own place in the scheme of things. Life goes on, we live, we age, we die. Perhaps we contribute an idea, a smile, or a child to this planet. But in the end, what does it really all mean? Stuck on this, I gaze beyond the revelers to the now-black sea, and think how just now I would like to run down there, strip off everything and throw myself in, abandoned to the tides and the winds.

The spiral down into these dark chambers of thought is interrupted by the ringing of the telephone. It is Fatih, he's finished work and wants to know if I'd like to meet. Glad to be rescued, I walk with him along the streets with the shops half-closed. We go for a drive; he offers to take me to the mountain again, but tonight I am somber and I decline. Instead we cruise slowly along the coastline for what seems a great distance. I talk and he listens, and gradually tales of conflict and sadness emerge, this great darkness that fills me dispersing a little as I talk. I am glad to have a listener. I take his hand, squeeze it, thank him. I may never see him again, but it's okay, I feel that I have nonetheless found a friend. He drops me at my hotel and I go to bed, a little lighter than when I left.



At 11:28 AM, Anonymous orson said...

...but where is M.?

At 4:49 PM, Blogger Kate's Occasional Blog said...

Excellent question...I have no idea (at this point in the story ;-)


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