Turkish Delight - It Wasn't Just the candy

This Spring Break, I absconded my usual Isla Vista lethargy and actually accomplished something over my week that didn’t primarily have to do with drinking. I went to Turkey Land, and I don’t mean the amusement park.
First, the boring itinerary stuff. I spent most of my time on the West Coast, by the Aegean sea, hopping in between Izmir and Ephesus. Bornova, Izmir is where I broke most of the Cardinal Rules of international travel, including sneaking into a mosque, getting into a car with strangers, and talking to Kurdish “terrorists” (we ended up playing pool at a local club). I also found out that a green Turkish scarf I’d purchased at a bazaar meant that I was supporting Kurdish nationalism (the Kurdish flag colors are green, yellow, and red) but since I was “so white” the Turks didn’t think anything of it.
My travels also took me to the ruins of Ephesus, which are two hours out of Izmir. The ruins were besieged by a bazaar with the most ridiculously-priced souvenirs I’ve ever seen, including what one sign advertised were “genuine fake watches.” But the ruins were epic. I climbed fallen Roman columns, explored ancient marketplaces, and sang Amazing Grace with my friend Hilary in a huge amphitheater to the delight of fellow tour groups.
Okay, anyway, to prepare you for Turkey I’ve made a little list of things to keep in mind. Here goes:
  1. Watch out. Turkey borders both Iran and Iraq, two countries with whom our Facebook status is “it’s complicated.” The east is dangerous for a variety of reasons, including anti-American sentiment, extremist Muslim activity, and Kurdish terrorist groups like The PKK. But don’t sweat it. Turkey’s the size of Texas; there’s room for everybody.
  2. Be a learner. There might not be Western Standards pedestal toilets everywhere you go. Learn how to use a squatter. We had one in our apartment and we used it to dump our coffee grounds. Don’t go around criticizing Turkey’s secular politics, lifestyle, or Ataturk (they love that guy) especially since “insulting Turkishness” is ILLEGAL and the Turkish government can do anything it wants, like ban youtube. Which it did.
  3. Socialize. Talk to people. Be nice. The Turkish people are extremely friendly and they’ll show you where to find the best House Foods, the best cafes, the best bars. Your Turkish friends will most likely want to get coffee at a local café and play backgammon, or tavla. If you’re not careful, they’ll hang out with you forever. A group of girls brought me to their birthday party the first day I met them. Others brought me home to their family and cooked me dinner. All I’m saying is be prepared to hang out. A lot.
  4. Finally, my deepest condolences to you bacon-lovers out there, but there is absolutely no pork anywhere in Turkey. You’ll have to settle with what they call “meat” which is just ground up everything. AND DON’T TRY THE AYRAN! It might look like a milkshake but it’s really salty yogurt CRAP.
That about does it. Have a fantastic day, think about Turkey, and don’t forget to surf youtube for awhile in appreciation of your God-given gosh darn Americanism. Cheers!