Day 10, Selcuk
(Ephesus Museum, Inside. )
The mother of the family I’m staying with handed me a piece of frozen aloe when I walked into the kitchen. She demonstrated what to do with it by rubbing her piece on her face, arms and hands. I lifted the frozen plant to my face; the cold was shocking. I copied her through my discomfort, covering all exposed skin, because as any woman knows when it comes to beauty regimens, we love trying new things.
Within moments my skin felt awake and refreshed. I stood dripping with aloe in front of her and asked her what I should do next. She shrugged her shoulders, not understanding. “Should I leave the aloe dripping?” I asked her as I pointed to aloe dripping off my chin. She shrugged again, still not understanding. I walked into the bathroom and pointed to the water then to my face.
She said, “I need to you wash with the water.”
And so started our ability to graduate from the translation program for small talk.
I rinsed off the goo and told her my skin never felt so soft or hydrated. “Good?” she asked, not understanding. “Very good.” I said. “Very good” she repeated with a dreamy look on her face, the look she makes when she’s trying to memorize new English words.
It’s become a game with the family to have me try foods or experiences that are new for me. Today for breakfast we had little spoons filled with rose jam.
“Rose?” I asked. “Like the flower?”
“Yes,” the daughter said, “Like the flower.”
I ate it and became an instant fan; the petals add texture to the sweetness. They also had me try tomato jam. I said, “I prefer the rose jam.” and pointed to the bottle.
“Sad.” the mother said. “I like flower good, too. You like tomato?” We laughed and both dripped more rose jam onto our spoons.
For the daughter’s English lesson, I found an online copy of “Green Eggs and Ham” the Dr. Seuss children’s picture book. Daughter was able to read the book flawlessly and even understood it with her years of English practice, but found the repeating phrases like tongue twisters. The book did not convince her to try green eggs.
I asked a lot of questions about the stray animals. The mother asked me, “You have street dog cat with New York?” I held up my fingers to show a small amount and said. “A little.” The mother picked up the translate program. “Why is this so upsetting to you?”
I took her phone and said, “In my country cats and dogs beg at the table even when they are inside the house and getting enough food. Here the dogs and cats do not bother us in the restaurant.”
The mother took the phone back. “People who like cats and dogs feed the street dogs. They are not hungry.”
I said, “In my country cats and dogs jump on the table to eat extra food. And they open garbage bags to find more food.”
It’s almost like there’s some invisible animal trainer that teaches the strays to not go after the bread crates or dig through many bags of garbage that are waiting for collection. The stays don’t approach strangers for food or attention of any kind or jump on tables. How could this be?
As our day continued Daughter pointed out pots of water around Selcuk. “For the animals.”
We walked past a restaurant and some cats were eating a pile of something on the ground. “Is that fish?” I asked my friends.
“Fish restaurant.” the mother pointed to the picture of a fish on the restaurant sign as the cats gnawed on fish bones without any hissing or arguing of any kind between them.
“What about the doctor?” I asked. “Who takes the animals to the doctor?
The daughter said, “People who love animals take to doctor.”
I nodded. Sometimes I understand the words but have more questions than I can formulate. That’s why I wanted to stay with a family; so they might help explain their culture to me and so I could experience their lives at a family level, not at the tourist level.
We met some of the mother’s friends at the inside Ephesus Museum which is filled with artifacts that date back many thousands of years and come from this one archeological site. That’s why I wanted to come to Selcuk so badly, to see Ephesus.
The daughter and her friend proudly taught me the lessons of the various empires that built, tore down, relocated and exploited the famous archeological site. The girls would call out, “interesting learning now” in the museum whenever they thought my mind was wandering from their astute teachings.
We played the “Rabbit Game” which is based on Eros’s love of rabbits when he was a child. Our group laughed so loudly that the people who thought a museum should be a place of quiet contemplation were insulted and left, which I thought was perfect. Because without those stuffy types around, I found the courage to ask the mother if I could stand behind a headless statue to get my picture taken. (I was once thrown out of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City for getting a friend to pose for a picture in this same way.)
The women in my group squinted at me and I thought maybe I’d gone too far. Breaking a rule. Posing with a relic. Treating serious artifacts as folly. Acting like a tourist and not a friend. I was about to apologize and ask the girls for some more interesting learnings, when mother looked around and said, “Ok. No touch statue.”
Classic tourist photo taken, check.
Later I taught the daughter a piano lesson to learn the song, “If the Stars were Mine.” which would scare my former piano teacher; my piano skills are minimal. “I love this song.” daughter said, and practiced it again and again, first one hand, then two, while we sang along.
When her father got home at 7:30 PM, he suggested that we rush to the beach to watch the sunset, but we’d have to leave right away. We grabbed some snacks and our cameras and he drove.
“Maybe tonight we will see the sun.” I joked, since last night the ball of fire had set moments before we arrived.
“We will like sun today.” the father said.
But as we drove closer, the sun sank closer and closer to the horizon.
When we arrived we grabbed the chairs and table and ran to the water. “Stop.” the daughter yelled at the sun. “We want to see you up.” We laughed and ran to the edge of the water.
“Now. Fast,” the father said. “Take a picture.”
We laughed and snapped photos of a sliver of sun sitting on the horizon.
We sat in our chairs and ate peanuts that were grown in Turkey and local cherries, since the family had figured out I needed to eat my weight in cherries every day, there are always cherries for us to share. The wind off the water felt colder than the posted temperature, so after an hour or so we met friends at a cafe in town for a cup of something warm.
We settled outside with our warm drinks and one friend asked about the museum and if I’d had a good time.
Before I could answer, my friends were shouting my name, which confused me; we were sitting at the table together.
“Holly, like this.”
I tried to piece together the last string of conversation with this new outburst. It can be tough speaking to people who are learning my language.
“This.” the father shouted with earnest. “Now. This.”
I looked at them, shaking my head, not understanding, then noticed they all had their hands over their tea cups.
“Now.” the mother said. “Fast.”
I put my hand over my teacup just as a truck drove by spraying a liquid into the air and all over all of us. A mist lifted off the spray and covered us and the trees around us with a layer of … something.
I looked at my friends.
“Insect.” the father said.
“That was insect spray, pesticide?” I asked.
“Yes.” they all said keeping their hands over their cups until the mist settled.
I wanted a shower and a new set of clothes, and would it be too much to get a new cup of tea? Since I didn’t cover my lumps of sugar, I wouldn’t eat them. And though it is likely that I just got a city-size dose of RoundUp, none of my limbs fell off immediately, which was fortunate.
If I were comparing new experiences, I’d prefer the rose jam next time.
A friend asked, “What breakfast you eat New York?”
I said, “Never big pieces of cheese. Or olives. Or tomatoes. Or cucumber.”
The friends were quiet.
The father said, “If olives no breakfast, when?”
“Lunch or dinner.” I said. “In salads, or maybe with meat. Or as a snack.”
Another friend said, “It is not breakfast no cheese.”
I told them I posted a picture of the breakfast foods of Turkey and that friends were surprised. The group of friends laughed around the table.
One friend said, “Maybe new summer we all us go at New York and breakfast cheese, olives with people of you.”
“Yes! Please come.” I said. “I have some jams for you to try.”