Tuesday, June 14, 2016

I Might Need Another Wife

A few days ago, Red and I returned from our vacation to Turkey. We spent ten days driving around ancient ruins and huge cities while struggling with the language barrier and trying not to get lost since none of the street signs made any sense to us. We ate exotic foods, drove through mountains, overlooked the Aegean Sea, walked the streets of the ancient city of Troy and got to tour many of the places from the part of the world that is considered to be the cradle of civilization. It was a great vacation despite the dozens of people who tried to talk us out of going to this "dangerous" part of the world.

Throughout this fascinating journey, I was repeatedly amazed at how friendly the people there were. They went above and beyond to make sure that we were happy and having a good time. One day, Red and I were trying to cross a busy intersection in downtown Izmir and were waiting on the median for several buses to cross. Before the last one crossed, a man approached to show us a better way. Where we were trying to cross would have left us in the street too long because of a pedestrian gate. He then walked with us for the next 15 blocks, telling us how much he appreciated seeing Americans in his city.

Due to the recent bombings (most of which are on the Syrian border) and the government-issued travel advisory for Americans, most will not venture into Turkey and it is really hurting their tourism money. We heard the same thing from a man selling tour books at the Temple of Artemis and from the proprietor of a rug store. They all wanted to know why Americans are so scared of Turkey.

For me personally, I probably wouldn't have traveled there with the recent warnings if we hadn't already been planning this trip for the last year, but there was no way I was going to cancel after all the effort we had put into this trip. And I am so glad we didn't. We met so many wonderful, smiling people. One today, two kids (about 15 and 12) were really excited to get to talk to Americans. It felt like they were practicing their English, but it was hard to talk because their smiles were so big.

Despite all this friendliness, we did meet one man who struggled to be nice. On our way into the Basilica of St. John in the city of Sel├žuk, a man approached me to sell me some ancient coins. He claimed to be part of the excavation team there and on Sundays he would sell small artifacts for extra money. He had an ancient Roman coin (w/ the face of Caesar), an Egyptian coin, and a few others. As he was showing me the coins, Red asked if I would display the coins or just end up throwing them in a box. This is a valid question and the man recognized it also. So, re-positioned himself to stand between Red and myself hoping to exclude her from the remainder of the conversation.

I wasn't really sure that I wanted the coins, but he was very aware of the fact that he had my interest. He held up one coin and told me what I could sell it for in the States. Red spoke up to ask if he had a Certificate of Authenticity.

"For what?"

"We can't sell it without one."

"Who told you that."

He shot her a dirty look and then started pulling out business cards of people who buy from him in the States. By now, I had decided that I wasn't interested and started to walk away. He yelled, "WAIT! STOP!"

He ran back to his bag and pulled out another coin. "With this coin right here, this one..." and he stuck it in my face. "You could buy a new, younger wife."

I started to laugh, but he persisted.

"When you only have one wife, she will kill you. You don't need her. Buy this coin and get a new one. More wives is easier."

We then excused ourselves from his persistence and tried to stop laughing. We spent the next few hours touring the Citadel and Basilica. However, he was waiting for us when we came back out.

"I waited for you like you asked."

Red snapped at him, "We didn't ask you to wait."

I just kept walking, but Red decided she still wanted to fight about the legitimacy of having a Certificate of Authenticity. Since I was no longer part of this conversation, I stood at the end of the walkway and yelled to her, "Just keep walking."

Once she successfully excused herself, he called out "Would you like to buy some rugs?"

Over her shoulder, she dismissed him by saying "We bought rugs yesterday."

He retorted, "Mine are better. They can fly."