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You Need Some Tea

Tues Oct, 20, 1992
Goreme, Turkey
      I've just tried to phone Dad with my calling card and twice I got about five seconds in before getting cut off. Damn Turkey!! This country is testing me, I've decided. The last entry in the previous journal book chronicled the sad tale of my getting pickpocketed and the sadder tale of dealing with officialdom to attempt to get things replaced. But this is a new journal book, a new beginning. If only I didn't feel like someone's trying to kick me in the head and keep me down, today's manifestation borne from my attempt to call home.
      Yesterday in Istanbul was centered on whether the Syrian embassy was going to give me a visa. They did, despite my new passport photo giving me a vague resemblance to Jesus. I wonder if Jesus returned and wanted a visa for Syria, would he need a letter of recommendation like everyone else? No, he wouldn't be allowed in because he'd have an Israeli stamp in his passport (or would it be an Israeli passport?)
      Although I spent 11 days in Istanbul I didn't see enough. Went to the Aya Sofia, Topkapi Palace, Egyptian (Spice) market, Grand Bazaar, Blue Mosque and made frequent visits to the Doy Doy Restaurant. It seemed odd that the backpackers ghetto was on both sides of the Blue Mosque, a fantastic building beautifully lit at night with--surprise--blue lights. Although so often I had to march past it to catch the tram, sometimes I couldn't help but to stop and stare. Unfortunately, almost as often, if you stop and stare, the swarm of peddlers approach.
      "Hello! Where are you from?"
      "Hello! Would you like to see a carpet?"
      "'Ello mate, (I'm mistaken for an Aussie) 'ow about a look at a cah-pet?"
      When I am fed up with these people I say I am from Hungary or Turkey or, the worst thing to say, Kurdistan.
      Every group has their place to stay in Istanbul. It is the easternmost point for the railpass crowd and they stay at the youth hostel because it reminds them of something familiar and it's cheap compared to the European hostels. The Eastern Europeans often sleep in Laleli, a shopping district where they buy low quality stuff to sell back home. Popular are fake Levi's with steel rivets that rust and labels that say "San Fransisco". Lots of signs are in Polish, Hungarian and Czech. The Russians come to buy but arrive with no money, and many women become prostitutes to get money to play the trading game. Lots of Russians are prostitutes in Turkey. Russians seem to be the great whores of Europe. It must be a sad country.
      The thrasher/wreck/dive backpacking crowd goes for maximum economy and crashes near the Blue Mosque at places like the Pansiyon Ilknor (or "GEUST HOUSE" as the reverse of the sign says.) It's just an old couple that has turned their home into a flophouse for travelers. I think the redesign was inspired by a Brady Bunch episode, one where Bobby and Peter cook up some idea on a Saturday morning to build a neat shed and by Sunday night it's a shambles. There are some pillbox-sized rooms with mattresses on tables and in the former attic, the dormitory with 10 beds. In the late evenings everyone gathers to watch CNN on the defective TV. Every few minutes it'd go to static and need adjustment. After a while CNN becomes horribly repetitive and there are endless commercials with the snotty byline, "CNN is available in these fine hotels…" We thought it was appropriate for them to advertise the Ilknor Geust House, show a wide angle photo of the mishmash of 10 mattresses strewn on the floor of the attic--and then the ad would get cut to static.
      But I left Istanbul. I bought a bus ticket to here from a young woman who spoke English well at the student travel agency. I was with another traveler at the time. No one else was in the office and I took the moment to make an impassioned speech about this woman helping me. I put forth my case that in lesser developed countries like Turkey (I forgot how I said it, but it was more diplomatic than that) where few people speak English well, travelers always become infatuated with the first girl who speaks English and helps them. I told this girl that I bet she has a stack of postcards at home from boys who've been temporarily SMITTEN (I forgot how I said that, too) with her. She became very embarrassed and, trying to be stern, said, "You need some tea."

Thurs Oct 22 1992
Goreme, Turkey

      There's a good group of travelers here at Tuna Pension. People think I'm a nut, a basket case, maybe because I often joke about being a war-hungry, imperialist, nationalist yobbo, saying things melodramatically like, "Someday we will all be Americans!" and so forth. So many travelers are earnest, caring and deep thinking to an extreme that this line of humor just freaks them out. If they're so wrapped up that they can't see that I'm joking, it's their problem.
There are lots of oddballs running around. Exhibit A would be two Canadian girls that brought from home--"because we couldn't just leave it there"--a package of salt. Natural salt, I'm always corrected when I razz them about this.
      The village has a restaurant that advertises "vegetarian spaghetti with meat sauce".
      Saw some Pirelli P4 tires on a donkey cart.

Sat Oct 24 1992
Antakya (Hatay), Turkey
      Miserable day. The things I put myself through. To top if off, I'm in a miserable hotel and feel strange biting sensations on my legs as I lay in this bed and write.
      Most everyone was in a stupor this morning by the time I left. I gave the Canadian girls such a bad time about this. They keep saying, "We're on a budget…on a budget…on a budget" and then it seems every night they're blowing all their money on alcohol.
      I decided to try and hitchhike but the Saturday morning traffic was almost non-existent so early. Hardly a soul was to be seen. I did witness a small convoy of gypsies roll by me silently in horse carts. They looked like nothing I had ever seen, and the unfamiliarity was heightened by the eerie quiet. They looked like something out of a pre-Industrial Revolution time warp, not one thing to clue anyone that they might be from the modern age. I couldn't take my eyes off them, nor them to me. About 10 people were piled on to one wagon, mostly kids in their homemade-looking clothes with all their belongings stacked or strapped or hanging. The dogs were tied to the rear and had better keep up or else they'd drag along the ground. Their faces and clothes blew me away. I wonder what they're like.
      After a lot of useless waiting I took transport farther south to try again. Then the bigger problem arose: the wind. It was fierce and it brought a dust storm of Biblical proportions. I foolishly tried to hitchhike. I could barely see, my Clint Eastwood squint coming naturally. All the locals tried to shield their eyes and walk a straight line, but it was powerful, and here I am trying to get rides. It was hopeless. I got a ride to the bus station in Adana to continue on.
      At the bus station there were two young couples with their arms around each other in public, purring and cooing, the first I'd seen in Turkey. I had to mention this to them and one girl told me they sometimes got disapproving looks. It didn't appear that they cared. It is interesting to note that all of them were educated at an American school in Adana. The things we are teaching the locals…
      Adana is a gateway to a city east of here called Batman. In the station it was strange to hear the touts selling tickets and yelling, "Batman! Batman! Batman!"
      On the bus an assistant to the driver scurries around and gives passengers a drink and a snack or two. He also brings lemon water for your hands. He pours it out of a restricted flow bottle, but when the passenger with the window seat brings his hands closer to the aisle for the lemon water, the excess drips on the crotch of the person with the aisle seat. And I saw it over and over again.

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