Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Jar of Flies in Turkiye

Road Trip! Posted by Picasa

It's amazing to me how music reminds me of a certain time or place in my life.

As I was listening to some music on my iPod on the way home from work tonight, a number of songs played that took me straight back in time: But it was Alice In Chains Jar of Flies that took me back to October 2003, and Brian and my trip to Turkey.

It was a long trip we were on. Twenty-four days, starting in London, going to Paris, Venice, Florence, Rome, with a flight to Athens, Greece, a boat to Samos Island, and ultimately another ferry to Turkey, where we landed in Kusadasi, and took another short bus ride up to Izmir, where we saw the ancient city of Ephasus.

From there we took a 9-hour bus ride to Istanbul, and this is where the stories and pictures begin.

The Ferry To Istanbul Posted by Picasa That 9-hour bus ride, which most people would want to avoid with a plane ride, was one of our best memories of Turkey.

In Izmir, a port city of 3 million people, was extremely welcoming, and not used to seeing American tourists. The two nights we spent there we enjoyed dinners on the waterfront, and shopping in their downtown area where I was stared at as if I were Julia Roberts walking down the street. The Turks' interest in us and overwhelmingly friendly attitude took me by surprise.

As we boarded the bus for Istanbul one morning, we met an Australian & Canadian couple who we would end up spending 4 days in Istanbul with, sharing the same hotel, and going out to dinners together after a day of touring on our own. It was so neat to make some new friends, and we are still in contact with Sergei & Sarah.

On that bus ride, we also met some kids. A high school-aged girl was reading a Harry Potter book in Turkish, and Brian struck up a conversation with her about the book, not knowing that it was something of a social taboo for a man to talk to a girl without some sort of formal introduction and someone there to chaperone.

But it wasn't the international incident one would think -- The girl spoke limited English, and Brian was soon using his Turkish phrasebook to talk with her and her friends. By the time the bus got to the ferry, which would take us across The Dardenelles to Istanbul, he had a following of several teenagers, including the ones pictured here.

Which brings me to Alice In Chains -- The boy in the picture on the far left began sharing music from his CD player with Brian -- he would play a Turkish song, and Brian would share some of his music. As the Alice In Chains, Jar of Flies CD got plugged in, his eyes widened -- apparently never in his young life had he heard the Grunge Rock music that is Alice In Chains. He smiled, and immediately tried to talk Brian into exchanging some music on a permanent basis.

I still wonder what he said to his parents or friends, and the story of meeting Americans on his school field trip to Istanbul. The very thought that we had such an impact on these kids -- who were so pleased to meet us and had so many questions about life in these United States, at least as many as we had about their lives. It warms my heart yet that we were there at that space in time, and that those kids got to meet some "regular" Americans who were friendly and open.

Pop Rocks

Boy On The Way To Istanbul Posted by Picasa

The kid in this picture was also on the ferry. I still have the small pack of Kleenex tissue that I bought from him. But he also got a remembrance of us. He was about 8 or 9 years old, wearing a Ford Motor Co. hat, but otherwise didn't have much in the way of experience with us foreigners. He persistently bugged me to buy some Kleenex from him, and finally I gave in.

But then, I surprised him. I pulled out a pack of "Pop Rocks" -- the candy that explodes in your mouth when you eat it. It was a tip from Rick Steves to bring things you could share with children as an ice breaker...and in many countries, the old addage "Don't take candy from strangers" doesn't apply.

I gave the kid a packet of the Pop Rocks, and he opened it as I told him to eat it -- He did, but ate the whole thing, and his eyes widened as the candy started to explode in his mouth.

"BAP!" he said. "BAP! BAP!" he said. My limited knowledge of Turkish figured that was the word for "POP! POP!"

He smiled a grin that still sticks with me. A grin so big, you would have thought he had heard Alice In Chains for the first time.

It's funny to me -- before Brian and I went to Turkey -- He had been there once during a USO Band Tour in the 1990s, I remember asking what I would now consider stupid -- or at least ignorant -- questions about Turkey.

Today, when I visit a internet board about travel, I do everything I can to explain what a wonderful country Turkey is (spelled Turkiye there). To tell the few stories I know of their national hero, Ataturk, to explain that they are a secular Muslim country, which means they separate Church and State just like us -- to explain that there are few placees on this planet where one can feel more genuinely welcomed. That is the joy in life.

That, and sharing a little "Jar of Flies" with the world.

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