Day 15, Denizli
I arrived at the breakfast to a table laden with small dishes of food. Will I ever get used to the colorful Turkish breakfasts? The woman hosting this international group knew all of us, but we didn’t know each other. We ate and compared travel stories and were treated to some musical performances. A man played the Ney, a traditional Turkish flute. The simple melody pulled the group together and felt like I was in not just my happy place, but in a happy trance.
“Yes.” someone in the group said when I mentioned the mystical feeling to the music. “This is the instrument they play for the Whirling Dervishes.”
Several more people sang and then the woman hosting the party gave me a tour of the library she runs on the site. People from all over Turkey have sent books for her to loan to anyone in the mood to read.
She said, “I think books should be available to anyone.” Most of the books were in Turkish; it’s funny to see Bridget Jones’s Diary with a Turkish cover sporting a dark-haired woman.
“I liked this book.” I said to her sister. “I like to read diaries.”
“Yes.” she smiled. “And now we are reading your travel diary.”
I returned to the house where I have stayed for the past week and was relieved to see the mother eating a simple breakfast. She had to go to the hospital last night and was still weak, but she looked a lot better than she did when she got home this morning. I told her about the breakfast and how the woman who hosted had to walk me almost all the way home because I was so accostumed to hanging out with the family that I didn’t know our address.
The mother laughed.
I got her a glass of water which she reluctantly accepted with a thank you. “You must drink.” I said into the translate program and refilled the glass when she was finished. “Dehydration is a serious problem.”
She pointed to the water. “No like water.”
I mimed an IV in her arm. “Water good. IV not good.”
She nodded and sipped the water with a frown.
I was packing when the daughter came into my room.
She said, “Do you want to go with my mother to a cafe?”
“Yes.” I said, surprised that the mother was going out.
“We leave now.” the daughter said.
The mother drove and we dropped the daughter off with her friends and one of mother’s friends, a literature teacher, joined us. The mother stopped to pick up her prescription and then we drove to the same cafe where we hung out yesterday.
I ate a rice pudding, creamy, sweet, fresh milk, with cinnamon. In leaving my new friends, I’m going to be on my own again in figuring out what is gluten-free. It’s good to know that I can eat the rice pudding in Turkey. I ordered a lemonade and that freshly steeped drink was like an exclamation point on my stay in Selcuk: just right.
We drove by the bus station and the literature teacher helped me talk to the ticket agent so I could buy a ticket for the 4:30 bus. The same man who told me yesterday that I didn’t need a reservation or to buy my ticket ahead of time said today that I needed a reservation and should have bought my ticket already; the bus was full.
“Is full” the literature teacher said.
I sighed and asked if there was a train. Yes. 16:53. But the trains were nortoriously full; likely I would have to stand for three hours.
“Don’t worry,” I said into the translate program when we got home. “I am from New York. I know how to get a seat. If there is a seat on that train, it is mine.”
The mother went with me to the train station. I slipped the ticket to Denizli into my back pocket and we sat on a ledge waiting.
I couldn’t explain the level of comfort and attachment and love I felt for this family I’d only met a week ago. The mother told people I was a sister; I felt that too.
“It is so comfortable with you.” the mother said into the translate program.
“Like a family.” I said.
We sat quietly for a few minutes.
I spoke into the translate program, “Promise me you will take care of yourself. Drink water.”
She nodded. She spoke into the program. “You be careful. And call me if you need anything. I can help from far away.”
We could hear the train coming. Transitions in train stations are swift. I gave her a hug and said thank you three times while she nodded slowly. I lined up behind a woman so nobody could get in front of me. Whe the door opened the woman waited for the many people to get off. I lifted my even heavier suitcase thanks for the new book of poetry the woman who hosted the party gifted me with, and climbed aboard.
It’s always a quandry when entering a busy train: which way do I turn? Where are the empty seats? The woman in front of me turned right, so I turned left. i walked half way through the packed car and found an aisle seat.
The mother stood outside the window and I motioned that I got a seat. I waved goodbye to my friend and then lifted my suitcase over my head onto the rack about the seats.
And that’s how chapters end and new ones begin.
The train pulled out of the station and I got that familiar feeling of wondering if I was on the right train. You know, what if? Since the mother helped me find my way it was highly unlikely, but the thing with train travel is that there isn't anyone to ask what train this is. And besides, nobody here speaks English. Note to self: get a timetable to carry with me.
I settled in for the three hour ride. Every time I was close to sleeping, I would think about how amazing it was that I was in Turkey. Turkey. I was in Turkey. Can you believe that I’m in turkey!
I sighed. I’m on a train in Turkey. I studied the landscapes from the window.
Sweeping countryside vistas of the valley with mountains standing guard over us all. We stopped in small stations for people to get on or off and the train itself became a metaphor for life, choosing to move or choosing to sit and watch the world move, or moving a triple speed to get to the next thing faster.
The man sitting next to me moved to a different seat and a young woman wearing long sleeves, long pants and a headscarf sat next to me.
She seemed to be about the age of the daughter of the family I’d just left in Selcuk. I turned to smile at the girl, and she looked away.
Ok. No problem.
The girl picked up her phone and started taking selfies of herself and out of the corner of my eye, I saw that she was posting them on Instagram. At one point she sneezed and I automatically said, “Bless you.” She looked at me and smiled, then picked up her phone and tapped away.
After another hour or so the girl continued taking selfies, but made sure I was always in the background. I kept a half smile on my face so I wouldn’t appear to be scowling. Soon she was taking videos. Of me. At profile, which is not my best angle. I wondered if she would talk to me, maybe get an interview for her page. I sat and relaxed and let her film more video footage of me than’s been collectively recorded in my life.
Is this Karma for all fo the photos I’ve taken of others over the past few weeks?
I booked my hotel room through a site called, “Turkey Travel Planner.” For the city I was visiting, they recommened two hotels. A good one and a two-star one. Both were next to the bus station, which was convenient. The better one had no vacancies. The two-star one boasted “unfussy” rooms for a mere $15 a night.
I didn’t expect much but they were ready for me when I arrived. One of the young men at the desk rolled my suitcase and led me into the elevator. He hit the third floor button when we got inside, and all the lights in the elevator went off.
Not the warm welcome I was hoping for.
The lights went back on in an instant. The man looked at me and laughed as I may have looked a little tense.
“No problem.” he laughed some more. “No problems, no.”
Though the room was far better than expected with a bathroom, working lights, a comfortable bed with a working phone next to it, air conditioning, a refrigerator (!) and a balcony (!), the thing that resonated with me the most was the decleration from the young man in the elevator.
“No problems. No.”