Is there a way to describe what it feels like to have lived 2 months in 2 weeks? That is what I feel like now. I feel a lot older too. I have roasted and burnt like a coffee bean and am now ready for good european food and air again. After spending a week in Turkey, I'm less sure of where to start than after a whirlwind tour of Germany.
First of all, a lot less happened in terms of adventure, but I got a huge culture shock in visiting a near east/middle eastern land. My city of exploration was a small resort on the far side of the mountains and squished between the sheer cliff walls of the mountains and the Mediteranian. 30-40 minutes away is the city of Antyla, a rather dismal but busy Turkish center of culture and tourism that resembles a cross between a high tech shanty town and a porcupine. The later because tall, identical spiny high rise appartment complexes with balconies and clothes lines have taken over and tower above concrete shop buildings and shady one story shacks of homes and continue to climb up the mountains like sentinal towers. The mountains are piled in heeps like a child's sandbox and trees and plants cling to the earth and rock like mold, struggling to climb up and over take the mountains; scattered little clumps of vibrant piny and shady trees that should look like dead twigs because the land is so dry but are not. The land is littered with rock and dirt as if the earth was still untameable for mankind. In the midst of all this, where cacti grow like weeds and dry river beds so big that you can bearly see the other side live thousands of people in open concrete buildings lavishly covered in oriental rugs and cultivated citrus and shade trees. There is little difference between inside and out where shaded porches with dirt floors become livingrooms and meals are eaten on the floor in rooms with little more than a fireplace and sink. Livestock take shelter in the first floor rooms and sleep in the dirt under the treed yards that have grown to be like a roof where one can take shelter from the beating sun. The air smells of flowers that fall in vines from walls and peek out behind rows of laundry flapping in the breeze from any place that will support a line.
If one wants water, it is in short supply.... tanks collect rain on every roof top. Ice cold water from the mountains is channeled off and run to every house in canals in a sophisticated system, not unlike the electric wires that string every american house together. Where there is water, flowers and plants bloom in an unmatched paradis of shade, color, and beauty. Everywhere else one sees scrub brush, citrus trees, and dark green pines. Olive trees line the roads in some villages and the rounded roofs of mosques poke out from above. The tall thin towers of the mosque, wired with speakerphones echo chants at midday and ring out over the mountainside.
All that of course doesn't even take in account the people. The Turkish have two very distinct cultures. A traditional one like the one I have partially described, and a vibrant modern one where the young are flocking look for education and escape from the struggle of life in the country. The people are a darker skin color, an olive color if you will. Most of my time I spend in more traditional villages, so that is what I can only describe. In these places, women wear head dresses and are covered from foot to toe. Men escort the women when they go out in groups, although occasionally you will see a lonely woman walking home from the market with a deathgrip on a few vegetables and fruit. Men and boys are seen out walking and the young males are often on bikes. But very few women or young females are seen in public, except for the small small children.
In the town, the turkish, men and women alike, are hungry for money. They stant out in front of tables with goods spread out. If you go too close they plead with you to buy their goods and demonstrate every way why. Many have shops filled with cheep, probably imitation goods of every name brand possible. The number of leather stores and precious gems and jewelry is astonishing. The more traditional markets are less hectic where tables and mats are layed out with fresh vegetables and goods. Women sit with a lap full of children silently watching.
I could go on forever describing what I saw, from a turkish rug factory (women at looms making fabulous oriental rugs... and seeing the practicalities and the potential horrors of child labor), to a resturant where you wonder who's cow was slaughtered in the village to provide the meal, to signs in the middle of no where pointing to villages 8-9 hours away, somewhere over the mountains and through the caves. Somehow i have the impression that what I have learned of Turkey is somewhat skewed, because the traditional villages and way of life is dying out with the young, who are moving to the cities. There is a tension between these two stark cultures that only naturally explodes into violence and that is what we see on the tv when these people rise up against the tide of westernization. In my opinion, from what I have seen in the past week, the American decision to go to war in Iraq and the ensuing conflict is only the product of a vast cultural misunderstanding. We have no right to be there. Sure, Iraq and Turkey are two very different countries... but when was the last time Mexico, Canada, France, or Germany looked or even resembled an arid middle or even near eastern land!?!? I'm sorry for the blantent comment of my opinion and if I offend anyone. And truely I have not seen enough to make an informed opinion of it so mabye I am making a rash and unbiased opinion, but even the glimpse of what I have seen gives me a new view point of the War on Terror.
And to be honest, I only got the chance to see all this in the span of 2-3 days. Most of the week I spent on the beach, sleeping in the sun. The resort life is vastly different than that of the city and of the villages. Everything is green and shade trees and flowering vines tumble off of white walls and arbors while the deep unimaginably blue and turqoise water plays with the sun and laps across stones of every imaginable color, shape, and size. Endless buffets of food line the beach side and turkish men wait on you hand and foot. It is impossible to describe how the mountains tower above and it takes a moment to figure out where the mountains end and the clouds start. People just lay spralled on beach chairs and under umbrella's. In the evening, when the sun goes down behind the mountains at only 5 and the earth begins to cool rapidly people flock to the sauna and turkish baths, which are a whole adventure to themsleves. The issue of nudity becomes a point of beauty where it doesn't matter if there are 20 people of all ages, both men and women, crammed into a sauna room, sitting only inches apart. The turkish baths are the hight of luxury where marble stone is heated and cooled by running water fountains and bath founts and one can take a bronze bowl and pour water over oneself as your muscles melt against the stone. And in the center of the steamy room are the turkish men literally bathing those who pay with scrubbies and pillows of bubbles, rubbing down, washing and massaging in luxury.
It was a week never to be forgotten. And I know I will never be the same.