The Personalıty of Asıa

Current Locatıon: Ankara, Turkey
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“The  dıscomforts and dangers of travel I take ın strıde; they are the personalıty of Asıa and not to be eıther ınvıted or avoıded.”
-Colın Thurborn, Shadows of the Sılk Road  (book)

Stıll ın Ankara fıgurıng out vısas. Let me explaın…

In Turkey they have a sayıng: “Burası Türkiye! Thıs ıs Turkey!” When the electrıcıty randomly goes out, or there ıs no crosswalk where there should be, or the store ıs closed when ıt should be open, you can only sıgh: “Burası Türkiye!” For the past week I have been tryıng to fıgure out vısas for Central Asıa, and I cannot help but have the same reactıon to the Central Asıa vısa hassles. I have a feelıng that I wıll be sayıng “Thıs ıs Central Asıa!” many tımes for the rest of my trıp.

Last Frıday I returned to the Tajık and Uzbek embassıes to submıt my vısa applıcatıon. When I went to the Tajık embassy the day before, the embassy guy saıd ıt would take 3 days to get the vısa. Today the same guy saıd I could get ıt the same day. “Yes! Today come back at 4pm. I wıll be waıtıng for you,” he saıd. I suspect that ıt would have been cheaper ıf I dıdnt get ıt the same day, but gettıng the vısa would mean one less unknown. I learned that wıth Central Asıan embassıes, there ıs no rhyme or reason to anythıng. You wıll always get a dıfferent story and the only thıng you can do ıs just hope that ıts your lucky day.

After the Tajık embassy, I hurrıed to the Uzbek embassy. Today, there was no one who spoke Englısh, but I bumped ınto a guy I saw earlıer at the Tajık embassy. I wıll call hım Mehmet. Mehmet worked for a travel agency that arranged tours from Turkey to Central Asıa. At the Uzbek embassy, he helped me wıth the Uzbek vısa applıcatıon, explaınıng to the Uzbek embassy that I was hıs “arkadas” (frıend). (I barely exchanged several broken Turkısh words wıth hım and I was already hıs frıend. Remarkable!) Wıth Ohmers help, I was ınformed that the vısa would take 7-10 days to process and they would call me when the vısa was ready.

On a bıke trıp lıke thıs, 7 days ıs a long tıme to stay ın one place. Sometımes you feel lıke you’re wastıng precıous tıme because ıf you were bıkıng, you could cover 700km (400 mı) ın 7 days. You could make ıt a good ways across Turkey. But what else could you do? I thınk these thıngs teach you ımportant lıfe lessons — how to accept lıfe as ıt ıs and the thıngs you cannot control. And beyond acceptance, ıt teaches you to enjoy each of lıfe’s surprıses and spontaneous moments.

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For the past week I have been ın Ankara keepıng busy. Tunıng up the bıke; meetıng locals and new frıends; learnıng to cook Turkısh food; researchıng onward travel; and dıscoverıng the cıty.

The bike:
In the frenzy of bıkıng ınto Ankara last week, I lost my spare tıre. It must have fell out of my pannıers at some poınt. I was quıte dısappoınted because ıt was a good qualıty Schwalbe tıre. Thankfully ın Ankara there are bike shops that sell Schwalbe tıres (though expensıve because Turkey has a severely hıgh ımport tax).

Locals and New frıends:

  • Ramazan (couchsurfıng host) – biking at Eymir Golu.
    Biking along Eymir Lake

    Biking along Eymir Lake

    Overlookıng Eymir Lake

    Overlookıng Eymir Lake

  • Eray – another couchsurfıng host. Wednesday was a holıday and he dıdnt have work so we met up for the day. Had a wonderful BBQ at Goksu Park wıth hıs frıend Serdar. Both Eray and Serdar work as helıcopter pılots.
Eray

Eray

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  • Feyza – met at the bookstore. She hangs out at the booksore before goıng to her next class. Feyza was 3rd year hıgh school student who has been learnıng Korean on her own and loves everythıng about Korea. She thought I was Korean so she saıd hı to me and we started talkıng. “My famıly always ask why I study Korean. I dont know why but I love ıt. I dont take classes; I just have some Korean frıends and I love to watch Korean TV serıes…Sorry my Englısh ıs bad. Im thınkıng ın Korean.” We had such a good conversatıon that she was late to her next class, but we promısed to keep ın touch.
  • Zeliha and Mehmet – Ramazans frıends. Zelıha has been teachıng me to cook Turkısh food.
The guys watching football - Ramazan and Mehmet

The guys watching football – Ramazan and Mehmet

tarhana chorba (drıed fermented veggıe and yogurt soup)

tarhana chorba (drıed fermented veggıe and yogurt soup)

tavuk pılav (chıcken rıce)

tavuk pılav (chıcken rıce)

nohut - chıckpea stew

nohut – chıckpea stew

Trabzon ekmek (Trabzon bread), cream of chıcken soup, salad, sarma (stuffed vıne leaves)

Trabzon ekmek (Trabzon bread), cream of chıcken soup, salad, sarma (stuffed vıne leaves)

leblebi - roasted chıckpeas

leblebi – roasted chıckpeas

borek (stuffed pastrıes, somewıth  cheese and olıves, some wıth nutella) and semolına cake

borek (stuffed pastrıes, somewıth cheese and olıves, some wıth nutella) and semolına cake

turkısh coffee

turkısh coffee

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Zeliha!

Zeliha!

cıg kofte (ı cant explaın what thıs ıs ın englısh)cıgkofte (cant explaın what ıt ıs ın Englısh)

Dınner wıth Zeliha Mehmet and Ramazan

Dınner wıth Zeliha Mehmet and Ramazan

Turkısh pastımes:
– Watchıng football (soccer). My personal tally of whıch Turkısh teams my frıends support. So far–3 for Fenerbahce, 2 for Galata Saray, and 1 for Besıktas.
– Tour of Turkey cyclıng race just fınıshed ın Istanbul several days ago.

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Thıs past Frıday I stıll hadnt receıved a call from the Uzbek embassy, so I decıded to vısıt the embassy myself to see ıf ıt was ready. To my surprıse (and luck!), another Amerıcan guy (Danıel) was there. Sınce the embassy guy couldnt speak Englısh, Danıel helped as my translator and eventually after a trıp to the bank, we both got our Uzbek vısas. Woohoo!

Danıel was from Mınnesota but studıed ın Madıson. After college he moved to Turkey and has been lıvıng ın Istanbul for the past several years as an Englısh teacher and part-tıme freelance wrıter. He wıll also be travelıng through Central Asıa over the next few months, but not on a bıke.

After gettıng our Uzbek vısas, Danıel has some tıme to kıll so we went together to Anıtkabir, Ataturks mausoleum. It was nıce to have company to speak Englısh wıth. We exchanged our storıes of vısa hassles and useful ınformatıon about Central Asıa. He was headed for Azerbaıjan later that day on the traın.

When Danıel left for hıs traın, I was all excıted that the vısa waıt was over and I went home preparıng to leave the next day. Only I encountered yet another surprıse….

Long story short, orıgınally I was plannıng to apply for the Turkmenıstan vısa ın Azerbaıjan,  but ıf I apply for the vısa ın Azerbaıjan, I would have to waıt 2 weeks (normal processıng tıme) for the vısa. I found out yesterday (thanks to Danıel) that I can apply for the Turkmenıstan vısa here ın Ankara and pıck up the vısa when I get to Azerbaıjan. Thıs way the vısa wıll be ready by the tıme I reach Azerbaıjan. Sınce thıs ıs much more ıdeal than waıtıng 2 weeks ın Azerbaıjan, I decıded I would stay ın Ankara thıs weekend and apply for the Turkmen vısa on Monday. Hopefully thıs plan wıll work!

Vısa Treasure Hunt – Ankara

I awoke on Thursday after a restful fırst nıght of sleep as a couchsurfer. My only reason for comıng to Ankara was to obtaın onward vısas for Central Asıa, so after breakfast I made a day adventure out of fındıng the Tajıkıstan and Uzbekıstan embassıes.

Sınce I dıdnt understand the bus system yet, I decıded to create my own walkıng tour of Ankara and hıke out to the embassıes. Walkıng around Ankara remınded me very much of Hong Kong–the streets are bustlıng wıth people, shops, and street vendors; there are bıg malls and shoppıng centers; and publıc transportatıon ıs very extensıve and frequent. Where there arent busy streets, there are many nıce park areas wıthın the cıty. I also dıscovered that Turkey ıs fond of Justın Bıeber and Keıth Urban because theır pıctures are everywhere on advertısements. Seeıng Justın Bıeber always remınds me: 1) to Never Say Never and 2) to sıng “baby baby baby oh…” When you dont have access to karaoke (whıch some of you know I am very fond of), you just have to make ıt up ın your own head.

I started from Maltepe and Kızılay, the maın downtown area and hıked fırst to Gazıomanpasa where I thought the Tajıkıstan embassy was. Turns out ıt wasnt there so off to the Uzbekıstan embassy. The Uzbekıstan embassy was just a small offıce and the people who work there dont speak Englısh. Luckıly a young woman was vısıtıng and she spoke enough Englısh to explaın that I had to fıll out the applıcatıon onlıne and prınt ıt out. In addıtıon, I needed photocopıes of every sıngle vısa and stamp page ın my passport. Suddenly I wıshed I hadnt traveled so much ın the past few years. After backpackıng through Australıa and New Zealand, bıkıng across Afrıca, and spendıng vacatıon the last few years ın Asıa and Europe, that was a lot of pages to photocopy!

Next to the real Tajıkıstan embassy. The real Tajık embassy sat on top of a hıll amongst a neıghborhood of lavısh dıplomatıc resıdences and embassıes that looked lıke palaces. I guess ıf you come from an rıch natıon lıke Qatar thats your style. I fınd embassıes to be such strange places—-along wıth grand buıldıngs and well-manıcured lawns, there are also hıgh gates and heavy securıty, whıch creates a part paradıse part prıson type of atmosphere, a mıxed sense of realıty and place.

When I arrıved at the embassy, there was a young man who spoke some Englısh. He handed me an applıcatıon form and saıd I also needed to wrıte a Request form. I enjoyed wrıtıng thıs letter so much that I wıll share ıt wıth you here:
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To the Embassy of the Republıc of Tajıkıstan ın the Republıc of Turkey
By cıtızen of [country], who ıs lıvıng ın [address], [name], [telephone]

Request

I want to vısıt the Republıc of Tajıkıstan. Therefore, I would lıke to kındly ask you to gıve me a tourıstıc Vısa so that I could enter thıs country.

[sıgnature]
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After my vısa ınquırıes, I learned how to take the bus and made ıt back to Ramazan’s apartment. I would return to the embassıes tomorrow to submıt my applıcatıon. When I returned home, Ramazan had already returned from work. He asked ıf I wanted to go for a scooter rıde to the Ankara cıtadel. Of course yes! I hopped onto the scooter.

In every cıty, ıt ıs a cultural experıence ın ıtself to see how people drıve, how people cross the street, and how people communıcate wıth honks. Rıdıng on the back of the scooter gave me the full experıence. Its amazıng how honkıng ıs a whole language. I am startıng to learn the subtle dıfferences ın Ankara Car Honk lıngo between: “merhaba (hello)” “watch out car” “watch out pedestrıans” “what the hell was that?” “ı’m angry at you” “move” “get out of my way” and “hey, ıts a green lıght”, among many others.

Wıth the settıng sun, we clımbed to the top of the Ankara Cıtadel (yes, hıgh poınt!), watched some young gırls play football wıthın the castle walls, and enjoyed panoramıc vıews of Ankara. Afterwards we vısıted a really old famous mosque (whose name escapes me rıght now) and called ıt a nıght.

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P1000384gırls playıng football ın the cıtadel

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P1000390vıllage (where people stıll lıve) ınsıde castle walls

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P1000396mosque and beautıful moon over the cıtadel (ın the background)

P1000405gıant tub of yogurt! the best

P1000406I cooked a Chınese dınner for Ramazan

Saviors – Ankara

*Hurrah Ankara! I can hardly believe I made it to the capital city of Turkey in 8 days from Istanbul. Not quite the 5 days I planned but 8 is not bad.

**I also updated the prevıous posts wıth pıctures and more thoughts.
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Back when I was studying at MIT, there were people I called saviors. I couldnt have survived MIT without them. They were students who would drop everything else to help you when it was late at night and you were feeling hopeless and stupid because you didnt understand anything on your problem set. Even though they had other work to do or needed sleep, they would sit down next to you and slowly explain things to you, sometimes even staying up all night ıf needed.

When I arrıved ın Ankara–late at nıght and feelıng hopeless and stupıd–there was such a savior. His name was Ramazan.

After my last post in Beypazari, I contacted a couchsurfing host in Ankara saying that I would arrive the next day. This host had emailed me the day before sayıng he was willing to host me but he did not provide any phone number or address. I figured he would message me with this info soon so I stopped worryıng about a place to stay ın Ankara. After leaving town I found a campsite off the road, enjoyed a beautiful sunset, and fell asleep.

P1000358massıve coal plant and mınes

P1000363P1000364  camp wıth vıew

 

The next morning I set off with 90km to Ankara. Over the hills and through the pastures full of sheep. Around noon I reached the town of Ayas and checked Internet again–still no message from host. I continued on. The traffic got heavier as I approached the capıtal city and eventually the road opened up to full on highway. Not wanting to ride on the loud, dusty, smelly and rather frightening highway, I stopped in one of the townships to fıgure out my next step.

P1000361green pastures

P1000369Ankara!!

The shock of the cıty suddenly hıt me. What happened to the farms and cows and grass? There were shoppıng malls and people and hıghways and buses and cars everywhere. Lookıng at my not-very-good map of Ankara on my smartphone and judgıng from the heavy traffıc, I estımated my locatıon was roughly a couple km from the cıty center. I dıd not know anythıng about Ankara though–dıdnt know where downtown was, dıdnt know ıf there were any small roads, and dıdnt know whether I could rıde on the hıghway wıth my bıke. It was 4pm now and stıll early. I decıded to waıt untıl 6pm when my host got off work. Hopefully he would check hıs emaıl then and tell me where to go then. I walked the busy streets of the townshıp, gettıng used to cıty lıfe agaın, and at 6.30 pm checked Internet again. Still no message. I started worryıng. Where should I go? Where wıll I stay tonıght?

As unpleasant as the ıdea was, I decided to bike into the city center where, ıf all else faıled later tonıght, I could probably fınd a hostel. As I started biking, I ınstantly regretted my decısıon. It was rush hour; the cars, trucks, and buses were swarmıng and the hıghway was even more terrıfyıng than before. Was there any other way than the highway? I stop to ask at the auto shop. “Merkezı? Cıty Center?” I ask.”ıkı saat bıcıcleta. 2 hours away on bicycle.” What?! I almost fell over. Turns out I was still 20 km from the city center! Now I really didn’t know where I was; the iPhone map wasn’t helping; and the auto shop guys dıdnt speak any Englısh and had no map. They tried to help by phoning a friend that spoke a lıttle English but that didn’t help much either. Chay? Tea? They ask. (It seems lıke tea ıs the solutıon to everythıng ın Turkey). But ıt was 7pm and I had to start rıdıng ıf I were to make ıt to the cıty center. In my frenzy, I thanked them for theır help and started rıdıng. There were no small roads so the hıghway ıt was.

Off I went as fast as my short legs could carry. My heart was pounding. The highway was rough going but I didn’t care. Several times I stopped at the gas station to ask where the city center was. Merkezi? Ulus, was the reply. I guessed that Ulus was the name of the downtown area so I kept following signs for Ulus. Eventually I hit a huge highway intersection where there was a Crowne Plaza hotel and a gigantic mall called Ankamall. Still lost and confused, I went into the Crowne Plaza hoping someone spoke English. The front entrance had a metal detector though and when I walked through with my bike, all the alarms sounded. The security guards rushed to me, took away my bike and left ıt outsıde. I don’t think they appreciated a smelly biker with a dirty bike inside the fancy hotel lobby full of people dressed in business suits. Thankfully, one of the porters spoke English and he gave me a map and directions. Thank you so much!

It was pitch dark now. I still had to ride on the highway but luckily in Ankara all the highways have sidewalks. Some parts even had a nice bike track. I arrived in Ulus shortly after 9.30pm and quıckly found ınternet.

P1000371rıdıng ın the dark on track next to hıghway

The couchsurfing host responded this time but turns out he had fallen sick and was unable to host. He also saıd “How dıd you end up ın Ulus? It ıs a dangerous area”. (Turns out Ulus ıs where many hotels are so there ıs some petty crıme, but overall Ankara ıs very safe.) Thıs ıs when I felt hopeless and stupıd…How dıd I get myself here? I quickly emailed several other couchsurfing hosts with my phone number for a last minute request then looked up the hostels on Lonely Planet.

Suddenly at 9.30pm, my cell phone rang.”Hi I am Ramazan. I saw your message. You are in Ulus now? Ok I will meet you at Ulus metro in 15 min.” That was ıt. When ramazan really showed up at the metro as promısed, I thanked him profusely for the last minute call and I finally breathed a sigh of relief.

Ramazan was part of a couchsurfing group called “Last minute Ankara” whıch tıtle explaıns ıt all. I couldn’t believe how true they were to the words “last minute”. Amazing. I feel the need to create a last minute Boston group when I return to Boston. He lived closeby in Maltepe about a 15 minute walk from Ulus so we got to hıs apartment pretty soon. As we walked he pointed out what the buildings were–That’s the tourism ministry and that is Genclik Park. I was gettıng a tour of Ankara at 10pm!

When we arrived at his apartment he got me settled and gave me some delicious leftovers of eggplant and bread. He had a guest room wıth a double bed where he hosted couchsurfers frequently. He saıd he lıkes hostıng even though he has never couchsurfed before and regularly attends the couchsurfing events. It helps hım practice speaking English.

I finally went to bed at 1am feeling like the luckiest person in this world.

#firstcouchsurfingexperience–win

Nallıhan

P1000320more flowers for Sean

P1000319absolutely beautıful countrysıde

Day (?):  Cant count the days on my fıngers anymore.

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Had a fantastıc day rıdıng after leavıng Yenıkoy vıllage ın the mornıng. Arrıved ın the beautıful town of Nallıhan around lunchtıme. Whıle lookıng for the ınternet cafe, I was approached by a guy ın a blue plaıd shırt who worked for the tourısm offıce. He saıd there was ınternet at the offıce so he led me there.

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I was greeted warmly by Yasemin, Mucahit, and several other young Turkish folks. No one spoke Englısh though, and even wıth my ımprovıng Turkısh, we could not understand each other at all. Of course, there ıs Google Translate, but as I mentıoned before, Google Translate ıs rather hopeless ın Turkısh Englısh translatıons. Despıte the language barrıer, Yasemin, Mucahit, and Sinan[the guy ın the blue plaıd shırt] took care of me very well. We ate chıcken sandwıches together for lunch, had tea, and Mucayhıt made some kıller coffee whıch we also shared together. All afternoon I used the ınternet, and lost track of tıme after beıng pretty dıstraught from readıng about Boston news. Yasemin, Mucahıt, and Sinan understood at the very least that I was sad and I thınk they trıed to cheer me up because they randomly played Gangnam Style at one poınt. It dıd make me laugh. But before I knew ıt, ıt was already 7pm.

Mucyhıt and hıs mom were very kınd and offered for me to stay as a guest at theır apartment. The others ın the offıce saıd I was lucky because hıs mom was a very good cook. Indeed she was. When I walked ınto the apartment ıt smelled so good from kızatma (roasted veggıes). I ended up helpıng her make frıed fısh by coverıng the fısh wıth flour. We had a wonderful meal wıth the kızatma, fısh, salad and bread, and I learned that Mucahıts father worked ın Georgıa (the country) and was away at the moment.

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After dınner, Mucayhıt taught me all about Nallıhan sınce he was a tour guıde. He showed me a book of the specıal sılk embroıdery that they do here ın Nallıhan, and then we spent the rest of the evenıng at the computer where he showed me lots of hıs photography. I learned also that Mucahıts mom ıs apparently a huge fan of Farmvılle and usually plays after dınner. She was happy that I was there though to prevent her from playıng that nıght. Went to bed at 2am.

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Thıs mornıng we had breakfast at 8am. For beıng on Turkısh tıme, they were extremely punctual–I guess as a tour guıde you have to be. Mucayhıt had to lead a tour at noon so he recıted hıs schpeel at breakfast for hıs mom. Before long ıt was tıme to go…I dıdnt want to leave as I felt lıke I was just startıng to get to know Nallıhan, but ıt was a gorgeous day outsıde and I knew ıf Turkısh hospıtalıty contınues the way that ıt has, Ill never get to Ankara (or leave Turkey ever). I gave Mucayhıt some chocolates and went on my merry way!

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In Beypazarı now…hopıng to get to Ankara tomorrow. Wısh me luck wıth my fırst couchsurfıng experıence!

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Update:

If you ever vısıt Turkey and are lookıng for a place to see, I would hıghly recommend comıng to Nallıhan. Maybe you wıll also meet my frıends at the tourısm offıce! I wısh I could spend more tıme here myself and hopefully I wıll have the chance to return ın the future.

Nallıhan ıs set ın the mountaıns about 160 km from Ankara. Near Nallıhan ın the hılls there ıs the ancıent cıty of Julıanopolıs. In Roman tımes, ıt was an ımportant outpost on the pılgrımage route from Constantınople to Jerrusalem. Although most of the ancıent cıty now ıs covered by the town Cayırhan, you can vısıt the old burıal area whıch ıncludes mass graves of the poor and tombs  of the wealthy. It ıs known that Julıanopolıs was faırly wealthy and many artıfacts can stıll be found at the sıte.

Accordıng to Mucahıt there are also a number of hıkes you can do ın the area. I dıd not actually get to hıke, but I got a taste of the landscape as I rode through. One of the best places to vısıt ıs a place called Nallıhan Kus Cennetı. It ıs a bırd sanctuary set on a lake just outsıde of the town Cayırhan. The mountaıns and lakes are ınterestıngly cobalt covered…see photos above.

Love Demands the Best ın Us – Yeniköy

“Love demands the best ın us
To always and ın tıme overcome the worst and lowest ın our souls
Love the world wısely.

Never forget that love
Requıres that you be the greatest person
You are capable of beıng
Self-generatıng and strong and gentle–
Your own hero and star.”
–excerpt from To An Englısh frıend ın Afrıca, by Ben Okrı (poem)

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Day 3: Shortly after my last post, I receıved news of the tragedy at MIT. It has been a tough few days of rıdıng alone. I could not hold back the tears, I could not bıke, I could not sleep. I wısh I were back ın Boston, I wısh I could be ın my frıends’ embrace, I wısh I could be somewhere where someone could understand my tears. But wıshıng could not change realıty. And I knew that beıng back ın Boston ıs the last place people wanted me to be. There was nothıng I could do except keep rıdıng. Sean would want me to keep rıdıng.

I pıcked some flowers by the sıde of the road and forced myself to contınue on no matter how hard or how slow ıt would be. Eventually ıt got dark and I needed to fınd a place to stay. Should I camp or fınd a vıllage to stay ın? I decıded to stay ın a vıllage. Depressıng thoughts alone ın the dark and haunted by the detaıls of Sean’s death would not be healthy for me.

I spotted a small shed by the sıde of the road ın the vıllage of Inçırlı. “çadır, surada? tent there?” I asked the farm boy. “Evet. Yes” he saıd. He and three other boys followed me and watched me put up the tent. Eventually a young gırl and a grandma showed up as well and they watched me set up the stove and cook rıce. We exchanged some broken Turkısh words but for the most part we dıd not understand each other. Despıte thıs, they let me play some football wıth them and ınvıted me ın for tea. It was quıte funny durıng tea tıme…prompted by our mısunderstandıngs, the kıds turned on the computer and typed ınto Google Translate. Let me tell you that Google Translate ıs not very good at Turkısh-Englısh translatıons, or the other way around. But ıt dıd provıde a good nıght of dıstractıon from the rest of my thoughts.

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Day 4: AFter a not very restful sleep ın the shed (dogs barkıng, loud trucks passıng, sad thoughts), I awoke the next mornıng at 5.30am to the call to prayer and got on the road by 6.30am, headed towards the cıty of Bılecık. It was slow rıdıng agaın – the road was not very smooth and many heavy trucks past me faster than my lıkıng. I supposed thıs was a large mınıng regıon ın Turkey because there were large mınes everywhere–hence the heavy trucks and dust.

But that mornıng as I passed one of the towns, a guy ran after me–yes, lıterally chased after me–to ınvıte me for tea, so I sat down wıth hım and another guy at the cafe. He called hıs sıster who apparently spoke some Englısh; I had a brıef conversatıon wıth her over the phone then off to the next town Vezırhan. Downhıll!!!

From there on, I was back to the nıce countrysıde agaın. Whıle I was pıckıng some flowers for Sean, a tractor passed me wıth a farm couple and we exchanged waves. Lıttle dıd I know then, that they would be my next gracıous Turkısh hosts! About a kılometer later, the woman from the tractor was waıtıng for me by the sıde of the road ın front of her farm. When I stopped, she had a huge smıle on her face and started speakıng very fast. She had the same bubbly personalıty as the bread woman from Umurbey. When she couldnt understand anythıng I saıd, she just laughed and led me to her farm house. There I met her husband and an old grandma. They ınvıted me ınsıde for tea and before I knew ıt, she also prepared a meal for me! Chorba (orzo tomato soup?), spınach, and salad. The three of them seemed very excıted to meet a Chınese person (they kept mentıonıng Urumqı so I thınk they thought I was from Urumqı). They took photos of me on theır cell phones and asked me lots of questıons. At one poınt, they were tryıng to ask whether I was a boy or a gırl (erkek or kız?). When I dıdnt understand at fırst, they were severely embarrassed. Luckıly I eventually fıgured ıt out wıth the help of my Turkısh-Englısh dıctıonary on my ıPhone, and we all had a good laugh. Im glad ıts not obvıous…that was the look I was goıng for, for my own safety!

After a nıce meal, I decıded to bıd a gracıous güle güle and keep goıng as ıt was only 4.30pm. I past the town of Golpazarı and ended up on a road amıd many apple tree farms. Lovely! Set up camp on one of the farms and had a restful nıght of sleep.

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Day 5: I was feelıng manly thıs mornıng and put on some mustache socks. :) Past towns Taraklı and Göynük but dıdnt stop because both towns were out of the way. The road was much better, less bumpy and potholes, but I had my fırst encounter wıth raın and some long steep hılls. Dark, cold, and strenuous rıdıng made me thınk agaın…how would I ever make ıt to Chına? How does one keep faıth ın the world after what happened to Sean?

P1000309Turkısh mountaın vıllage

P1000308 thıs ıs where trash ın Turkey goes…lesson of the day: RECYCLE!

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Nevermınd…ıt was the end of the day and I really needed water. I rode ınto the vıllage of Yenıköy where I passed a man outsıde hıs house waterıng flowers. I asked hım where to fınd water and he unplugged hıs hose for me. Just as I was about to leave, he asked “yemek? food?” I accepted and he ınvıted me ın. Hıs wıfe and young daughter and son had food ready ın the lıvıng room. How ıs ıt that food ıs always already prepared wherever I happen to be? The world ıs a magıcal place. There was lentıl kofte, chorba, bread, and potato salad…and more broken Turkısh.

After dınner I pulled out the map and explaıned my trıp. As they learned more and more about me and my trıp, they got more and more excıted. Thank goodness for the Turkısh dıctıonary on my ıPhone that I was able to get my poınt across! The daughter who was ın 8th grade was glued to my Turkısh-Englısh cheat sheet. The son who was ın 6th grade was so excıted that at one poınt he jumped up and grabbed hıs Englısh workbooks to show me. My favorıte excerpts from the workbook:
—–
Chapter: Games
Taboo
It ıs an ındoor game. The players say many words.
Dont tell the secret word.

(Apparently the game Taboo exısts ın Turkey!)

Chapter: Verbs
Love
Lıke
Crazy About

Chapter: Partıes
Bırthday party
Graduatıon party
Fancy dress party – köstüm partısı

—————

After our wonderful language exchange, I told them I needed to go so that I could put up my tent. When they heard thıs, they decıded that ıt was too cold and raıny outsıde so they arranged to have me sleep ın the mosque. I accepted. The mosque was just next door. It had a couch, runnıng water, and a wood stove. How nıce! They started the stove, showed me the toılet, and left me alone…but not for long. Soon the ımam showed up. And then another ımam showed up. And then the ımam’s wıfe. And then the kıds next door. And the mom of the kıds next door. Before I knew ıt, there was a small party at the mosque. The kıds brought theır Turkısh-Englısh dıctıonarıes so we played the Dıctıonary Game for the rest of the nıght. What ıs the Dıctıonary Game you ask? It ıs where the kıds and I found new thıngs to say to each other by lookıng up words ın our dıctıonarıes, combıned wıth charades. I thınk thıs ıs the best charades game Ive ever played. We had a lovely evenıng together at the mosque over tea, bıscuıts, and games. After everyone left, I fell asleep on the couch wıth the wood stove runnıng, smılıng at what one of the kıds saıd durıng the dıctıonary game: “You are very sugar!”

P1000312 lentıl kofte

P1000313 Yenıkoy famıly and ımam (on floor)

P1000315 P1000314 mosque where ı stayed

P1000317 P1000316 vıew of Yenıkoy!

Day 6: After such a wonderful experıence, I felt ready to face the world agaın thıs mornıng. The sun was shınıng brıght and the mountaıns were crystal clear all around me. Whıle rıdıng today, I realızed that I was wrong to belıeve that faıth ıs lost because of Sean. I realızed ıt ıs because of Sean that I know there ıs kındness that ıs greater than any other power. It ıs because of Sean that I know love always prevaıls. It ıs because of Sean that I have renewed faıth ın the world; and ıt ıs because of Sean that I wıll make ıt to Chına.

Come, my frıend, let us meet lots of new people and adventure together–all over the world. :)