In early February, I received an email from a good friend. She commented that I seemed to be enjoying myself in Turkey, and she was mesmerized by my tales and photos. Although very active in her community and working diligently for causes she believes in, she had quit her job to spend time raising her son Eddie, who was born last June. She was somewhat flexible with her time, itching for an international adventure, and wondered if the idea of her traveling to visit me and get taste of this country I love—and bringing along her 10-month old son—was crazy. Of course not! Several friends had expressed interest in visiting. I know it is quite an undertaking to get here from the States, so was not fully expecting confirmation. We exchanged a few more emails, and pretty soon her tickets were booked. They were really coming!
Madeline and I became friends while working at the coolest, most happenin’ pizza joint, The Hideaway, in college in Oklahoma. We had similar interests—laughing, dancing, saving the world—and hit it off. After a few years she moved back to her hometown of St. Louis, but we always stayed in touch. She’d stay with me while visiting family in Oklahoma, and I with her while purposely stopping in St. Louis on various road trips. Now, she was flying around the world to hang out. How lucky was I! Plus, this would be a chance to share some of what I love about Turkey with someone from home.
She and Eddie arrived in Adana on a late night flight on April 12, and they hit the ground running. She had checked out language cds and had her phrasebook in hand. She started off strong, with an excellent accent to accompany the Turkish vocabulary and phrases she had picked up since making her dream a reality. She spouted off a slew of friendly comments and responses to my Turkish friends that helped welcome her.
Our first stop was a popular bakery in Adana that stays open late. We ordered an assortment of delights and feasted while passing around Eddie and catching up. After just a few meager hours of sleep that night, we joined several Fulbright friends on their journey to the beach in the most southern province, Hatay. It was Eddie’s first beach experience and he loved the sand. We relaxed and braved our way into the cool Mediterranean. It was still too early in the year for Turks to find the water enjoyable, but we had a good time. Eric successfully piloted our rental car there and back, which is always a feat in Turkey since traffic is insane, even on quiet highways. Many props to him for a smooth journey. We returned to Osmaniye for a dinner of fresh fish and meze, and then slept hard.
The next day, after breakfast, Madeline, Eddie and I joined my roommate Eda at her aunt’s house in Tarsus. We were of course greeted with the warmest hospitality. We dined at the famous şelale, or waterfall, and walked around through Tarsus that afternoon. One of the highlights was cutting through a massive cemetery, where we spotted graves from before the Republic, written in Ottoman Turkish, and compared the various styles. The calendar was different before 1923, so there are graves for people born in the 1300s but who died in the 1900s. Crazy! The next day, after an incredible breakfast prepared by Öznür, Eda’s aunt, we took in the rest of the sites. More details about these can be found in the upcoming Tarsus post.
Traveling with a baby in Turkey is truly an experience. To say Turks love babies is a drastic understatement. They absolutely adore them, and do not hesitate to express this. They stopped on the streets to coo and pinch Eddie’s cheeks. Crowds gathered outside shops we were visiting. Madeline quickly learned the phrases Maşallah, çok tatlı sen (you are so sweet), and seni yerım (I want to eat you). While dining in restaurants or in hotels, the wait staff immediately swooped the baby off our hands so Madeline could enjoy her meal. People pinned evil eye pendants to his clothes after brief encounters to ensure he was protected. And what troopers they both were! Eddie handled hands grabbing his face and feet, strangers holding him, crowds of people swooning, just like it was no different than what he was used to every day. Madeline was relaxed and accepting of all the attention, keeping a watchful eye over her son but also going along with it and exchanging words with the smiling faces.
She and Eddie ventured on their own to Şanlıurfa, Harran, and Göbekli Tepe while I was working. Together we journeyed to the Cappadocia region in Central Turkey, where we climbed through caves and hiked in a canyon. We then flew to Istanbul where they joined in a conference I was attending on intercultural exchange and education, and also took in the big city life and all the wonder Istanbul has to offer.
They tried different foods, learned new words and customs, discovered more about the history of civilization, and I believe had a grand time. It was such a wonderful experience having them here, hosting them in my Turkish life, sharing some of my world with them and watching them discover new things on their own. Many many thanks to all those who helped make it an incredible time and showed so much hospitality to my visitors. It was an unforgettable two weeks, and I am so grateful for them making the trek to Turkey. I hope they come again!