July 2008


Lessons Learned

I am in Germany, back from Beach City, Turkey, where it was boiling hot, until about four hours before I left. Doh!

Make no mistake: the wedding was fantastic. I have no complaints about the wedding. It was a beautiful affair with the mayor administering the rites quickly after the starters and before the main course.

Turkish culture dominated the wedding with a few nods to the groom’s Swedish background—a cake brought from Sweden on the table, plus a few traditions adapted from Swedish culture injected into the wedding by the groom’s family and friends.

Despite the uniting of Swedish-Turkish culture by the marriage, though, the families stayed separated by origin in seating, and despite the fact that I know the bride, I sat with the Swedes because they spoke English and the Turks did not—the linguistic barrier is formidable since Turkish has a fundamentally different structure to its language and I am a linguistic idiot. It helped that the groom had invited a friend from France who understood a few words of Swedish, so we were able to affect the language spoken at our table.

The worst part of the trip, as far as I was concerned, was the heat.

Fundamentally speaking, I am not built for heat, so when I saw a digital thermometer reading 40 halfway from Istanbul to Beach City, I was concerned. 40°C, for those who don’t know these conversions off hand, is a mere 104°F. It was probably 35/95 every day that I was in Beach City, and I melted.

Fortunately the hotel room was air conditioned (but one had to divide the key into two in order to keep the power turned on in the room, otherwise the air conditioning would have to start anew with each return to the room), and I didn’t do much in town. I can say that I’ve put my feet in the Aegean Sea, seen Lesbos from afar, and explored the offerings of Beach City, but I felt somewhat like a crotchety American tourist, constantly complaining about the heat.

I learned several things about myself that I hadn’t recognized from before, or if I had, they hadn’t really sunk in.

First, I hate heat. I know from past experience that Madrid in July is a mistake. I should probably never go any place where nighttime lows are higher than daytime highs in Britain.

Second, I think beach resort towns are fundamentally boring. I much prefer going to real cities or to the mountains, despite the fact that I love the beach in Lisbon. There were 10 kilometers of beach at Beach City, and a thousand little booths selling magnets, rugs, greasy food, and more. These, for me, are interesting the first ten minutes. The next ten hours are awful.

Thirdly, I should never go on a cruise. I took an all day boat turn of the area with the wedding party, and when the boat was in motion and we were looking at passing landscapes, it was great. When the boat dropped anchor and people went swimming, I was bored. I suspect my interest in riding on boats maxes out at about 3 hours. After that I want to jump ship with the anchor attached to my foot.

Fourthly, I like fish, but not fish heads. The main course at the wedding was a lovely fish, with its head attached. I quickly and efficiently removed its head and after putting it another plate, covered the head. After that I was fine. On the boat, we had fish for lunch, and I spied a head, and another, and another. These were small fish (perhaps sardines) and I felt physically ill at the sight.

Fifthly, I hate touts and shadows. Walking down the beach front road in Beach City, I passed a lot of touts trying to get me to eat in their restaurants. These people annoy the hell out of me, and actually turn me off—I ended up picking restaurants where there were no touts. On the same level, I detested the helpful shop keepers who would stand directly behind me as I wandered their shops. Leave me the fuck alone—when I need help, I’ll ask for it. Most of the places I’ve gone, shop employees understand this from my body language or a quick sentence—in Turkey they are impervious and I end up leaving the shop without having bought a thing.

Before I forget, I want to thank IUMike for his contributions to the blog—I hope he feels like continuing his contributions whenever the mood strikes him, as it’s nice to have a second voice on the blog.

Comments are closed.