Day 20: Antalya
The morning started quietly as the sisters and I migrated to the kitchen and started preparing breakfast. It was my last morning with my friends and I was already feeling sad about leaving.
The librarian washed some eggs. “These are boiled eggs.”
Wanting to help put breakfast on the table, I picked up an egg and was about to bump it against the counter so I could peel it.
The librarian shouted, “These will be boiled eggs.”
We laughed and laughed at this perfect demonstration of using those pesky verb tenses, hello future tense.
Teaching English at this stop, with the sisters and their children was a different experience because the sisters are English teachers at the high school level. Rather than pointing to objects and naming them, I tried to help them go deeper.
When they were looking at photographs on my phone, I showed them a picture I took of a bunch of ducks swimming in a row. I told them the saying, “All of my ducks are in a row.” We’d practice it on and off as they fought to get the prepositions correct.
We’d passed a restaurant called the big apple.”That’s the nickname for New York.” I said. And if you love someone you can say, “You are the apple of my eye.”
Although the sisters use fun and games to teach English in their schools, many programs in Turkey base their language learnings on complicated grammar lessons; so the sisters’ children were reluctant to talk to me. Was I the grammar police sent to haunt them on their summer holidays?
But when I pulled out a deck of cards, the kids were willing to play.
We started with the game, War, the irony of which was not lost to me. It was an easy game to teach: we each put down a card, highest card wins--meaning if the librarian put down a 9 and it is the highest face value on the cards, then she gets to add all of our cards on the table to her hand.
The librarian’s 14-year-old girl and the sister’s 12-year-old boy loved the game. We played for a long time, I lost almost immediately because I was the first one to run out of cards, which proves thai I am not a card shark.
Next I taught them the game, “Go Fish” which sneakily required the kids to use their English skills. The object of the game is to make as many matches as you can. Each of us held five cards, and when it was your turn you had to ask the person next to you, “Do you have a 4?” The person would have to respond, “No. I do not have a 4. Go fish.” and the asker could pick up a card from the upside down pile on the table in hopes of making a match. Or the person you are asking can say, “Yes. I have a 4. Here it is.”
I lost this game, too, which proves that I might be a winner when it comes to travel, but cards… not so much.
In their excitement the kids kept trying to switch languages. Um, sorry, no Turkish at my Enlgish lessons.
The boy wanted to teach the next game. His embarrassment in speaking a second language changed to frustration in finding the right words to explain himself.
It was a bluffing game where you placed cards or matches face down on the table in a central pile and stated what the cards were. “I’m putting down two 3’s.” Anyone in the group could challenge you. If you’re caught in a lie, you must pick up all of the cards. If you’re caught in a truth, the challenger must pick up the cards. The one who runs out of cards first wins.
None of the teachers in the group lied about the cards we put down: it wasn’t in our nature, but I did shift in my seat and look nervous after I put down a few cards, like a backwards bluff. The boy challenged me and had to pick up the entire stack of cards.
“But you look bluff.” he said.
I shrugged. Teachers may not be good at lying, but we excel at bluffing.
While we were eating breakfast there was a squeal from the other room; I thought the daughter was still sleeping. Mouse? Mosquito? Spilled nail polish?
Her mother ran in to check and came back with tears in her eyes. “She just heard about her exam to get into high school. We have waited so long.”
In Turkey, all students must take competitive exams before they start high school. Their score will determine what schools they can attend. Each school is rated on a continuum. Her dream high school required a dreamy high score on the exam. Though she had taken it a while ago, they had to wait for the results.
The librarian returned to the kitchen and stood in the doorway with her hands on her cheeks. “She got in to her school.”
We all cheered and laughed and hugged.
The girl started checking in with friends, one after the other. While we ate breakfast, she regaled us with live updates.
Her best friend got into her school, too. Another friend made it. Oh, but one didn’t make it. The daughter called her friend who didn’t make it and they cried together on the phone.
The librarian started calling her friends to share the good news while the sister and I washed the dishes from breakfast. At this house they fill a basin with hot soapy water and wash the dishes on the counter; the sink is used to rinse.
We went to the bazaar so the sisters could buy their food for the week. This “farmer’s market” was so much louder than the one in Selcuk. The vendors called out what they were selling, and the voices of people buying added to a happy din of a community supporting each other: buying, selling, greeting.
The sisters greeted various friends and family who were also shopping. I started losing track of who people were, it’s especially difficult to recognize women who didn’t wear a headscarf when we visited them at home but are wearing one in public. And even the women who wore a headscarf at our first meeting had different scarves on for this meeting.
It didn’t matter. I greeted every person as if I’d already met them: hello friendly people.
When it was time to say goodbye, the father became serious and spoke Turkish to the librarian.
She translated, "He said that next summer there will be an important wedding in the family and he would like to formally invite you to attend."
I said, "Ask him if there will be fresh goat to eat at the party. If there is fresh goat, I will be there."
It was difficult to leave these lovely people, but if I wanted to see more of Turkey, I had to move on. The sisters and their children drove me to Isparta.
We parked at the bus station and the boy “drove” my suitcase behind us. The librarian asked a man about the bus to Antalya, and he pointed to a bus backing out of the spot next to us. The driver understood the international sign of the point, and pulled the bus back into the space.
We hugged fast and hard and I tried to say thank you again and again. The driver took my suitcase and put it under with the luggage. We hurried our goodbyes, but it takes a while to kiss each person on two cheeks and then look them in the eye and thank them again.
My friends ushered me to the door of the bus. The driver pointed to the front seat, telling me to sit there. Ok. I can sit there.
The sister shouted in to me. “Are you ok?”
“Yes.” I said. “But tell him I don’t have a ticket.” I was losing my translators.
The sister yelled to the driver in rapid Turkish.
The driver nodded an annoyed look that said, “Obviously she doesn’t have a ticket.”
My friends waved to me for a long, long time.
I moped during the two hour ride to my next destination. Leaving never gets easier.
I hadn't done my homework, so when I arrived in Antalya, I didn’t have a cheap way to get to my hotel. I checked my phone, the hotel was an hour walk from the bus station, no thanks. I went to the ticket office, but when the door opened there were so many people inside and I didn’t know who to ask and I still didn’t speak Turkish and I didn’t feel like going through security just to save a few dollars.
This next hotel was my splurge of the trip. I was gifted with a few hundred dollars and told to find something special for myself in Turkey. I thought a room in the old quarter for two nights would be fitting.
Antalya is the start of what is called the Turkish Riviera. When I showed the sisters where I was staying, they said that the old mansion that had been restored to a boutique hotel was the best place in old town.
The only problem was that my taxi driver had no idea how to get there. He called to someone before he started the meter. I think his mentor might have told him to just start driving. I could visualize the price of the ride tripling as he slowed in front of every hotel in the city in looking for mine.
I pulled up the location on Google Maps and leaned into the front of the car where I held the phone so the driver could see it. Together we decided each turn; if we got lost, we could blame Mr. Google. The one way winding streets of the old part of town were not made for a meandering taxi. The driver squeezed the car through openings between buildings that were so tight, I’m pretty sure we only made it through because my sharp inhale made the taxi a little bit smaller. Or something.
The driver’s only English was, “No problem” and he said it after every narrow squeeze. I’m always happy to let someone practice learning my native language.
After checking in to my dream room, I plugged in my phone for a while, to be sure it had enough power so I could find my way back to the hotel, then started wandering, stopping to photograph anything that caught my eye.
Whomever designed this town, back in the Ottoman days, must have been a rebel who didn’t believe in a grid system. This town is as difficult to navigate as Seville, Spain.
I found notable things by accident: Karaalioglu Park. The Roman Harbor. When I happened upon the Ethnology Museum, I went inside right away, knowing that the chances of me finding it again were pretty slim.
Back in the room at the end of the day, I sent some photos to the sisters and let them know I had figured out how to get back to my hotel and had also figured out where to get the bus to the next place when it was time to leave in two days time.
The librarian returned my message: “All of your ducks are in a row.”