Diving Toward Integration
Wandering Rule #2: Never forget where you are.
I’ve been living and working in Olympos now for three weeks. Tyler and I split the 16-hour bartending day as we see fit which has enabled me to hike, bike, rock climb, sun bathe, star-gaze, and swim on my “breaks.” During my shift, I talk to guests, which has yet to really feel like “work.” I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to meet some phenomenal people, Aussie, Canadian, English, Kiwi, Russian, German, French, Italian, and the occasional American. I’ve formed some incredible connections with fellow travellers, each with their own story and their own journey.
Although I’m rusty, I have made use of my French and Italian in order to facilitate conversation between the Turkish staff and the guests. Though I must admit that listening to a Turkish man speak to a French man in English is quite possibly the funniest conversation to eavesdrop on; their accents are so thick that despite speaking in their common language (English), neither one can understand the other. But at the end of the day, in this melting pot of culture and language, I have to confess that I’ve been speaking primarily in English and have spent the majority of my time conversing with other native English speakers.
I came to a very disappointing realization yesterday: my knowledge of Turkish language and culture plateaued a while ago. I have been in Turkey for over one month, and I still can only answer “Çok iyiyim” (very well) when asked “Nasılsın?” (How are you?). I don’t know how to say that I’m tired, sad, happy, or frustrated. I know how to count from 1-10, but if you tell me to “put it on room 14,” I draw a blank. I can say hello, good morning, please, and thank you, but those are the P’s and Q’s that I pride myself on knowing before I enter any foreign country.
I realize that I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself, but after one month, I should know more Turkish. I should have done a better job of diving into Turkey. What I’ve done is dive into the tourist’s Turkey. I have an amazing opportunity over the next month to fix that fault. I have a group of Turks who adore me and have so much to share. Fifteen year old Emrah loves to play his favorite Turkish music for me. “Chefy,” as we affectionately call the hostel cook, enjoys showing me what he has planned for today’s menu. Servet’s sister is getting married in a few weeks. Camil is going to be a father this summer. Memet is eager to show off his dance moves. I want to be a part of all of it.
While Olympos is a fantastic getaway for tired backpackers and avid thrill seekers, I must not forget that it is home to these Turks. And right now, it is home for me too.
So tomorrow, when asked “Nasılsın?”, I plan to respond with “Harika” which means “great/fantastic.”
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