Published: February 24th 2011February 22nd 2011
New view from our balcony
This appeared after two workers with sledgehammers knocked down the illegal 3rd story from the building across from us.
Welcome to Bill and Carol's Senior Years Abroad, our travel journal for Months 8 and 9 of our two-year adventure in Turkey. This journal's theme, "Burada Turkiye" (This is Turkey), is a phrase that we've uttered a lot recently to express admiration, befuddlement, or frustration. For example, when we moved into our flat, an old, unused building across the street was quite an eyesore. We learned that it couldn't be refurbished because it had an illegal third story, made of thick concrete. Then, one day, two men with sledgehammers showed up. With bare hands and their own brute force, they knocked down the top story. We watched as huge chunks of cement, glass, and plaster came crashing into the street (which was not closed to cars or pedestrians). Now legal, the building is being renovated as an art gallery, and --voila!--the missing top story gives us a nice view of the mountains. Burada Turkiye!
On another occasion, a male teacher, Saban, from the dershane where we volunteer invited us to his home for tea. The "tea" turned out to be a spread of about twenty-five elegant Turkish dishes Saban's wife and daughter had prepared for us to sample. The whole
family had set aside the day for us, and their kindness was just plain humbling. Burada Turkiye!
Then last month, Bill developed some troubling shoulder pain from an old injury, had an MRI done, and got the name of a well-regarded shoulder specialist. Medical appointments are often very quick here--sometimes the same day as the request--but Bill couldn't make an appointment with the shoulder guy. Why? Well, the ruling party of the national government had just declared a new policy that would change which specialists and surgeons could practice in which hospitals. Since there was no advance notice about the new policy, medical practice in much of Turkey was in chaos for several weeks. Burada Turkiye.
Finally, Bill was able to see the shoulder specialist--thanks to a personal contact by our friend and Turkish teacher. But it was a very unorthodox appointment. When Bill and I arrived at the university hospital where he was to see the doctor, the receptionist paged the shoulder guy, who came out of the surgery theater in scrubs, greeted us, scrutinized the MRIs against the ceiling light, then wrote out a prescription for cortizone serum. We called in the prescription to a pharmacy,
and the serum arrived by motorcycle messenger, who delivered it to Bill in the lobby of the hospital. Then, as instructed, Bill had the shoulder surgeon paged again. He came (again!) out of surgery and injected the serum in Bill's shoulder. (Note: I was relieved to learn that we were in a teaching hospital, and the shoulder guy was not performing surgery, but supervising it--thus he could leave briefly.) There was a quick, genial exchange--the surgeon had studied at Yale, so his English was flawless--and Bill left with instructions to meet with a particular physical therapist, a process that is beginning well.
This year began with a New Year's roadtrip with our New Zealand friends, Anne and Dave. We had been wanting to explore some spots on the Mediterranean coast that are choked with tourists from May through October, so on December 31st, squinting in bright sunshine, we took a short cut across the Taurus Mountains on the way to Fethiye. On the way, we stopped at Tlos to scramble around some of the most amazing ancient sites we'd seen yet. One large rock outcropping is filled with carved tombs from the Hittite period, circa 14th C B.C. ,
Beach at Oludeniz
We are the tiny specks swimming in the distance on New Years Day. During the summer this would be choked with people!
and on top is the remains of a 14th C A.D. castle--one cliff containing buildings 2800 years apart! Tlos was quite a city in its day, and the crumbling auditorium, acropolis, and gracefully arched walls are all arranged around the edge of a lovely valley where a goat herder was napping while his flock watched us with curiosity. Burada Turkiye!
About dark, we arrived at our destination, Oludeniz--a gorgeous beach village that is notorious for unbearable summer crowds. But on December 31, Oludeniz was completely dark--so dark that Anne was sure that there had been a power outage! But no. It seems that there are so few people around that the village doesn't even turn on the street lights in December and January. We did find THE ONE OPEN HOTEL and booked two rooms, then convinced them to cook us a New Year's Eve meal. The food was dreadful, but the evening was saved by our own giddy fatigue and the wine we'd brought for the occasion. New Years Day was a fantasy come true: as the sun beamed down and paragliders looped around overhead, Bill, Anne, and Dave swam in the turquoise sea--and I even frollicked around in
the water myself. The solitude was glorious! Later we took our rental car up the cliffs high above the Sea along a narrow road that provided breathtaking moments--both for the scenic beauty and for the heartstopping cliff edge just inches from the wheels of the car. (No guardrails: burada Tukiye.)
Another memorable stop was at the "ghost" village of KayaKoy, made famous in the novel "Birds without Wings". This Ottoman-Greek town of roughly 2000 stone houses was abandoned after WWI and the Turkish War of Independence when the League of Nations moved its inhabitants, most of whom were Orthodox Christians of Greek descent, to a new settlement near Athens. Most had never been to Greece and spoke only Turkish; that first generation of "repatriates" suffered mightily. Now vacant for about 90 years, Kayakoy has a very eerie, desolate feeling--a monument to cultural upheaval caused by war and forced relocation.
For me, the highlight of the New Years roadtrip came the next night near Mount Olimpos. Booked into a rustic pansyon nearby, we climbed that night with the help of flashlights to see the chimaera, a cluster of flames that blaze spontaneously from crevices on the rocky slopes of
We climbed up the rocky slopes of Mt. Olympos to see flames that blaze spontaneously from the rocks as described by Homer
Mt. Olimpos. These flames were mentioned in the writings of Homer. Since they could be seen from the Sea by early mariners, they've been the focus of a lot of myths and legends. Ancient people attributed the flames to the breath of a monster--part dragon, part goat, part lion. Today scientists still don't know the exact composition of the gas that seeps from the rocks and bursts into flames--but the chimaera are still there--roughly 30 of them. And the mountain slopes around them are littered with intricately carved stone remnants from various temples. The experience gave us both goosebumps--and not just because it was a rainy January night. As with so many spectacles and ancient treasures in Turkey, there are no audio guides, no guards, no ropes to discourage falls or vandalism. There's just an unmarked parking lot, a smiling Turk who takes a modest fee and points you toward a path, a bathroom, and a cozy spot to buy hot tea after the rainy climb. Burada Turkiye.
Some friends have asked our views about the revolutions that have just occurred in Tunisia and Egypt and those that are brewing in other countries..in Libya as I write this. We've
been following it all closely on BBC and CNN as well as on the internet. It was particularly thrilling to see a relatively peaceful popular uprising force Mubarak out, though the next stage is not clearly delineated. Of course, in Turkey we are geographically quite close to much of the action: if Sarah Palin were here, I'm sure she would be able to see Egypt and Libya from our balcony! However, Turkey is quite politically and economically stable right now, and the majority of Turks are at least moderately happy with the current government. After numerous coups during the 20th Century and economic crises as recently as 2001, a lot of Turks are contented with the stability and security they feel now. So this is not a country where a popular uprising is likely to take hold anytime soon. As the only Islamic country thought to have a successful and stable democracy, the world seems to be looking at Turkey as a model. Bill and I don't consider Turkey as an "advanced" democracy because of the critical need to strengthen human rights (especially for Kurds, Alevis, and women), freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press. But
Above the City of Fethiye
5th Century BC Lycian Tombs
maybe Turkey does represent a successful First Stage model in democratic development. We certainly feel safe and respected here--unless the paragraph I'm writing at this moment gets me deported. Burada Turkiye.
Our lives continue here with many pleasures. We feel particularly rich in friends--both Turks and non-Turks-- music, good food, adventure, and sunshine. Though we take turns feeling discouraged about slow progress in speaking Turkish, we still keep at it: three lessons a week and daily homework. These winter months have been lovely, and just last weekend we savored a visit from Bill's graduate school friend, Ed Bergman and his wife, Luisa Gil. Next weekend brings Nathalie Gehrke, a Seattle friend of a friend spending three months in Gaziantep, Turkey as a consultant for the education faculty of a new university there. It will be wonderful to trade tales of Turkey with her. We're eager for March to come, too, and with it more visitors: three of our children with spouses and friends as well as our two grandsons.
Well, the 6:00 p.m. call to prayer is blending with the incoherent rants of Moamar Ghadafi on BBC in the next room. Bill says that Ghadafi is addressing Libya
Chess at Ancient Perge
Bill and graduate school old friend, Ed Bergman, play on a chess set from 300 BC
from a bombed-out building, and that I should not miss the experience. These are thrilling--and dangerous--times. And, personally, we are so very fortunate!
As always, we're very grateful to each of you for following our adventures and misadventures. We especially love it when you chime in now and then to offer news of your own lives.
Carol (with Bill by my side)
There are more photos below