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Published: January 22nd 2008
Balloons in Göreme
Well, there must still be some tourists around!
Where has the time gone!?!
First off, I would like to revise my thoughts on the Kocatepe Camii from my last entry. I complained that the massive new mosque rests on top of a soulless shiny shopping mall - which it does. During a conversation with Doro (a dear friend and gracious host) last night, I was reminded that "that's the way it's always been" with mosques. Commerce and trade have been ever present near mosques in order to pay for their construction and maintenance. Widespread trade, stretching from Spain to Indonesia, is fundamental in Islam's history. Without it, the spread of ideas and the great Islamic achievements in business, science, and technology would not have taken place. Cities such as Baghdad and Samarkand might never have blossomed as the most advanced places on earth - in their respective heydays.
In my opinion, however, the romance is lost in the modern version. Escalators, metal detectors, designer clothing, and a Starbucks-esque atmosphere are a poor replacement for bustling spice markets, rug shops, and traditional family-run businesses of evey sort which can still be easily found in much of Turkey. So, I guess I understand it, but the flashy modern capitalistic environment
still leaves a sour taste in my mouth.
I went last week to the Ankara police department to apply for my residency permit, which was an incredibly unpleasant experience. The asshole designated to deal with foreign students speaks no English and refuses to cut any slack to polite foreigners struggling to get by in very rudimentary Turkish. He rudely winked at me, he laughed at me, he actually threw my passport at me at one point (!), and he generally did a very poor job of representing his country. A poster child for customer service he was not. Nevertheless, after somehow managing to get all my forms, photos, and payments in order, I left Ankara immediately.
I spent a lovely extended weekend in a snow-covered Kappadokya. I returned to the S.O.S. Cave Pension, possibly my favorite hotel ever, to visit Musa, Mustafa, Sinan and his family. Musa has recently married and just a few weeks ago he became a father, though he was in another city with his new family during my visit. Mustafa, also was not around - he lives in England now and will marry next month. Sinan's family is in Malatya for the winter, and they will
There are uglier places to get lost than this...
stay until the school year finishes. This left only Sinan and Kemal, Mustafa's younger brother who speaks no English, to keep things going at S.O.S. The town of Göreme is empty in the winter, in sharp contrast to the busy summer months when tourists seem to outnumber locals. Perplexingly, of the few tourists that are still around, nearly all of them seem to be Korean. Sinan told me that this is partly because of a handsome Turkish futbolcu (soccer player) who has achieved fame in Korea. Sure, why not...
So my memories of escaping the hot afternoon sun on the shady terrace of S.O.S. are now joined with memories of huddling around the S.O.S. woodstove, watching Rambo II overdubbed in Turkish, trying to escape the frigid chill of Anatolian winter nights. Instead of losing lightning-fast backgammon games to Mustafa, I lost them to Kemal.
The days were sunny and pleasant enough though, so I enjoyed a few long hikes, including one with Kemal which ended up with us getting pretty lost. He insisted that I was the guide and that he was the tourist and that it was my fault we got lost. I insisted that that was ridiculous, but that it was still a good hike nonetheless. The following day I hiked to Love Valley, which I had not seen before despite its close proximity to Göreme. The tall collumns which decorate the valley make its name particularly cheeky - both mother nature and the Turks have quite a sense of humor.
Sunday evening I returned to Ankara. I found out the next day that my residency permit had been issued but that the dates on it do not seem to be correct. Frustrated, I hopped on the first bus I could find back to Istanbul, to enjoy the last few weeks off before classes start with my friends here. On that note, I should stop typing and get back to enjoying my favorite city!
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