Friday, August 5, 2011

A Thrilling Adventure

So last weekend LE and I hopped on the city bus to see where it ended.

This village has a big tree in the middle of it, as they all should.
It turned out to be a good idea.

It wasn't a total mystery where the bus ended, not like the time we hopped onto a dolmuş a few months back and ended up in the loveliest little village with a beach. I mean, I knew there would be a beach because the dolmuş sign said "plaj" at the bottom, but I had no idea the drive out would look like Oregon, with rolling hills and trees and different shades of green and the occasional farm and the cutest old farmhouses ever. We wound around through a village that may or may not yet have had the misfortune of being incorporated into Istanbul.

Eventually, LE and I were the only ones on the dolmuş. We got to the end of the line and the driver, a big fellow with an enormous mustache, suddenly noticed us and was like, "Hey what are you doing here? I thought you were getting off in Zekeriyaköy!" Zekeriyaköy is the place where the foriegners usually get off. And I was all, "No, we're going to the beach." And he got all happy about that, perhaps because we weren't some lost foreigners who were his responsibility, but also because I had a kid with me and kids love the beach and he wasn't the sort of fellow who would worry on my behalf that my kid may get cold or dirty on the beach, on an unseasonably chilly day. He pointed us the way, and then he refused me when I offered him the fare for the place we had got to, rather than the place he'd thought we were going to when he took my money.

I'm never quite sure what to do in situations like this, as it seems like "offering the money," or "not offering the money," could both be construed as rude in a myriad of ways, but in the end, I never want to be the one who didn't offer to pay up.

The beach was nice and empty, with lots of sand and very few tarballs. On the way back, the driver, who apparently lived in this village, pulled over the dolmuş a few times to greet passersby and show off the vehicle. Then some women got on the dolmuş and asked him to wait because their friends were still up the road, and he did them one better by backing up the road to fetch their friends. They'd all been out gathering wildflowers. I'm enormously pleased that there are still people in the world who make a day out of going to pick wildflowers. It was an joyful trip back into town, like a party dolmuş with everyone cheerfully telling everyone else off and trying to get LE to say his name or age, and then some little girls figured out I speak Turkish, so it all became the sort of thing you read about in other people's travel journals and it was all fine and good.

But we didn't get any pictures. There's a çeşme along the road I'm dying to take a picture of, but I won't tell you what's written on it because it's better as a surprise.

Last weekend's trip was to another village that was okay in its own way. Back to the tree.
There are only men under this tree.

This is a really freaking nice tree, which is why I just had to post two photos of it. Its shade seemed to pretty much cover the entire downtown of the village. Now look, what I don't know about trees could fill a book, but I'm thinking this must be one of those çınar trees I'm always hearing so much about. So many places here are called Çınaraltı, and whenever you read books about Istanbul, there are always lots of plane trees, a tree type I'd never heard of until I started reading books about Istanbul.

This one rises up out of the concrete and has benches built around it, and the village planners were also kind enough to build the streets and buildings around it too. How could they not? It's truly a magnificent tree.

It was a hot day, and LE and I had traipsed awhile from the bus stop. He was fixating on every display of beach toys we passed, assuming my plan of going to a surprise place meant he was going to get a toy. I was thinking some time spent under this tree would be a good idea, and surely there would be some tea nearby.

But when we got up close I looked around, and realized there were only men under the tree, and near the tree, and in the large tea garden not far from the tree, and in all the businesses and restaurants around the tree. Lots of sons, but not a single daughter, of any age. I counted 2 women in the area-- one in a headscarf scurrying away, and one in her early 20s sitting at a table with like 5 men. And it seemed like all the men were staring at us.

Look, I still pretty much really like living in Turkey. But, on a hot day when you find a shady spot and realize it's yet another freaking Man Place, and all the men are staring, well, it kind of sucks. Big time. Especially when I'm not sure why they're staring. Do I have a stain on my shirt? Is it my boobs? Is it because I'm blonde and foreign? Or maybe because my kid is so damned cute? Maybe it's just because I'm not from these parts. It's enough to make one want to cross one's arms over one's chest and scurry out of there, like the headscarf lady was doing, because standing tall and proud to be yourself and a fellow human is definitely not the thing to do in such a situation. I've been here long enough to have figured that out, at least.

But it also occurred to me that the prevalence of men could have been Ramazan-related, because this was on the Sunday before Ramazan started. Maybe the women were at home doing some big Ramazan preparation thing. There was definitely a holiday celebration feeling in the air. And an awful lot of imams, and imams-in-training. We saw like 3 carloads of imams go by, so it could just be that we came on a bad day, woman-wise, and in fact there was just some sort of religious doing afoot that got past me entirely.

Anyway, LE lately seems to be directing much of his linguistic abilities towards bitching. And whining. When he's not telling me about some nice thought in his head, or some little idea he's had, he's btiching and whining. So by the time we actually reached the tree (it was only a 5-minute walk from the bus stop, mind you) he had informed me in the whiniest of voices that he was hot, sweaty, hungry, thirsty, and tired. Oh, and the minor owie on his knee where he'd scraped it a couple days before, not even enough to bleed, was apparently devastatingly painful and in need of a bandage. He also wondered why there were so many men everywhere, so at least that shows my influence has worn off onto the little mite somehow.

To distract him, I gave him the phone and told him to take some pictures.

Not bad...

Action shot!

Of course, LE takes pictures of the stuff he really likes the most.

I can pretend it's the strawberries, but it totally isn't.

I made him quit taking pictures when we got to all the men, because I didn't feel like drawing any more attention to ourselves. So when we went down some stairs and there was a young bull walking by, he still had ahold of the phone and wouldn't give it up because he was so thrilled about the bull. Daily farm life sightings in the street have not inured him to the coolness of seeing farm life in the street.

Then, the best part.

The kids standing around laughing at the dog were freaked out that LE was taking a picture.

A dog that had cornered a cat and was barking at it, but too afraid to come near. The four-year-old world order has had enough Tom and Jerry in it to know that a dog being afraid of a cat is extremely silly. It kind of blew his mind. When you're four and you see a dog being afraid of a cat, it probably suddenly seems like the world has been turned upside down and anything is possible.

LE was still going on about the dog when I spotted a restaurant that had women in it, so we went there. And they had calamari and balık köftesi, one of the yummiest köftes known to man, plus there was cheese inside so all in all it was a pretty good day that turned out to be a thrilling adventure.


Nomad said...

What a lovely story. Thanks for sharing.
Nothing better than to wander aimlessly picking up odd or unexpected observations. With a child it must be twice as good- but I am pretty child-like anyway.

Jack Scott said...

Turkish men stare. In the genes as well as in the jeans. They stare at us too. I wonder why?

Stranger said...

Really, Turkish people stare-- men and women alike. The staring I can live with, unless it's a sort of critical mass, like everyone within eyeshot, then it just makes me feel really weird. And of course, there are those really creepy guys who stare intently without stopping for a long time. Nothing to be done about those freakshows except pretend it isn't happening, but that kind of staring is really threatening. If we were dogs, that would be asking for a fight.

I think staring is just a small-town thing more than anything. People in Portland stare quite a lot too-- it drives my parents mad coming from San Francisco-- and a lot of people there are small town transplants. Really, it just seems to be idle curiosity from people who are used to kind of knowing everyone around them. A smile or a nod (or in Turkey, an exaggerated blink) makes them stop, or even makes them feel comfortable enough to try to chat, or at least exchange pleasantries...

A Seasonal Cook in Turkey said...

I love this post! Good for you for making an adventure out of it for your kid. You make it sound like you had a fun day out! As for that awful staring, the older you get, the more it doesn't phase you. Take it from me :)).

Stranger said...

I suppose it's not too far off that I'll like the staring! :)