Tag Archives: Turkey

The Untold Story of Steve the Saz, part does it even matter, this story is endless.

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The store was closed.

So Steve came on the bus to Ankara with us, and rode along the bumpy, bumpy road as it’s temporary, or unintentionally forever, owner regrets drinking that liter of water for about 75km, abandons Steve at the bus stop, and ran the fastest, spazziest dash her legs could carry her past forty bus terminals, through the 1 lira turnstile to the bathroom and slipped into her stall, the ground sopping wet as this was one of those deceiving “it’s just a porcelain hole in the ground” stalls.

Side note, you know those pink little hand buckets in every labor and delivery room of every maternity ward that are kept filled with ice for mommies? Same buckets sit as rinse buckets next to every porcelain hole in Turkey.

We check into our Ankara hotel. It’s 4:45. We have a flight to Bulgaria tomorrow. Steve is not getting on the flight if I can help it. We find the address to DHL (it can’t be THAT much to send it). The hours online tell us we have until six o’clock – a taxi is hailed. Steve is getting the heck out of Turkey. Our taxi driver talks to us. The entire time. Only in Turkish. Apparently no mime trick in the box was enough for us to say “we don’t know what you’re saying.”

Flash back to Steve and I on a happier day…
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…and back to present.

“It is too late.” the man at the counter says. I panic. It’s 5:25, the internet, the DOOR says 6:00! (actually it says 18:00, but you get it). I think the panic is starting to show. He says wait. Explains in Turkish something to a woman on the phone, hands the phone to me. I explain my predicament. I don’t care that the van left for the airport, I just want it taken from me, it can stay in Turkey for days more! Take it home and play it for your family, I will marry your firstborn if you think I’m a catch and you’ll just take the damn saz.

I think I was in more control than that. I hope.

And next thing you know, Steve is mummified. That boy is making it to the United States. Success.

“That will be 911.”

I’m sorry?

“911 Turkish Lira.”

No, no, that’s impossible, I… I can’t. I can’t, I mean I just can’t do that, I lied on my claims form but not by much when I said it was worth 75TL.

“Can you send it… Slower? Anyway slower, it can take a month, walk it there. I… Can’t.”

***********

Mummified Steve sits in our hotel room. He is coming to Bulgaria. He may get abandoned at a Bulgarian orphanage, the epitome of “it’s the thought that counts.”

And that’s where we’re at.

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The Untold Story of Steve the Saz, part two of two too many.

This was supposed to make for a cute side-note paragraph in a post someday, but someone had other plans, if just to really, really mess with us.

Steve, Andrea and I get off our twelve-hour bus ride a little achy, a little sore, but the bus had just enough empty seats we each had our own window and aisle seats to stretch out on.

What do you assume when you see someone strolling down the street with a guitar? Artistic? Musically competent? How about a girl with a my-size backpack, long black skirt, and a saz? I’d unintentionally created this amazing alternate identity. Left and right, Turkish men call out. “Do you play?” “Play me something!” and lastly, “Take it out, I play song for you.” We laugh. If only they knew.

But Thursday, day one in Cappadocia, we’re wandering, sans saz, and shining like there is a halo above it, a DHL is in front of us. Phenomenal. We returned the next day on the way to the open air museum (lots of caves). And DHL is still there looking pretty, and looking pretty darn dead-bolted. Guess what Steve did that day.

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On the way to the museum, Andrea stopped for coffee, and I believe to engage me so I’d buy coffee (I was far too cheap for that, ironic based on anyone that knows me + what is now on my back), the barista takes out the saz. Makes “you’re cute, kinda gross” faces at the postcard. I still don’t buy the coffee.

On our way back to the hostel, we ran into other hostel guests from Australia we’d talked to that morning. They didn’t remember our names, and we didn’t remember there’s, but Andrea and I had a great laugh as the boy, later identified as Derby, asked us “Did Steve enjoy himself?”

Because honestly, who’s going to forget the two idiot American girls running around town with a baglama. Nutty. And sometimes picturesque.

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Saturday. Best day of our lives. We felt bad, but we left Steve behind.

Sunday, Steve and I return to DHL. I’m prepared to take a jumping photo in front of the door and send him on his way. At this point, the story has nothing – nothing – to do with the original intentions. This saz was worth the story.

But DHL is closed. Still. And I’m exhausted. I’m about to take a picture, say “Saw this saz, thought of you, gave it to someone else.”

Two men at the Turkish Delight store wave me over, with a “do you play.” Exasperated, I explain. Only one man speaks English, but suddenly the other is on the phone. “He’s calling his friend. If the owner is in Goreme, he will come and open DHL store for you.” Oh no, no, no that’s okay, that’s so unnecessary, no.

Steve has left my hands. Actually, non-English-speaking man is weighing Steve on the candy scale. His friend says he is asking DHL guy (who is 100km away) how much it would cost to mail – if I am leaving Cappadocia, I can leave it and they will mail for me. But no, that won’t be necessary. Andrea just arrived to tell us we have one more day in Cappadocia since bus tickets weren’t available. They say DHL will be open at 8:30, tomorrow.

Sure.

The Untold Story of Steve the Saz

Wouldn’t you know, this whole time I’ve been holding back the greatest story of the entire trip. This was a slow-cooking story, one meant to take some time, but honestly, it’s gotten to a point this so-called story’s end might not come. Ever…

Let’s go back.

It was Saturday, August 27, 2011, and two girls went to the Grand Bazaar. Not much in their pockets, not much on their agenda. They’d been up until five a.m. the night before, talking to friends from home, awake for the morning call to prayer. They look at lamps, rugs, belly dancing costumes, the like. But suddenly, they’re spotted. The sazes. Hanging above our heads, beautiful, never seen by us before string instruments. And the wheels start turning. For fun, we ask how much. Shocked by the (cheap!) affordability, confident of our haggling ability. But how to get home? For me or someone else? It would look great on my wall someday. A real piece of art. But, no, for someone else. Someone who might appreciate it for what it really is.

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How do you ship home? Oh, for less than $30 we’re told. I’ve spent that on bar nights. I can CouchSurf. But no, this is irrational. This is the magic of the Grand Bazaar. Where I’ll never be again. Where I’ll never have the opportunity to do something like this again. Phrases like “bucket list,” “once in a lifetime,” “unforgettable” come to mind.

And I ask Andrea. Who says, responsible friend or fun friend? Well, responsible friend says shop around. And at the next vendor, fun friend says “you can’t just get the plain one, you have to get the striped one… You know it’s SO MUCH better!” And she’s only supports this because she loves who it’s for, so with a confident “I’ll take it,” I leave with the lightweight saz (also referred to interchangeably as baglama) on my back.

It feels fantastic. I just did something really, really fun, and it came with a how-to-play book, extra set of strings and soft case.

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And immediately around the corner, signs for the post office. Andrea and I look at each other. It was meant to be!!!

Except the post office was closed. I mean, it’s Saturday. We might have to wait until Monday. So the baglama comes with us through the bazaar, through town, up and down side streets. That night, we’d leave Baglama at home for cover bands and karaoke. When I come home, I write an Istanbul postcard to its recipient and tape it to the face of the saz. I tie a note and a Horace eye, a symbol of good luck, to the case’s strap. It’s cute.

We knew better than to try on a Sunday. Plus, we saw a FedEx logo on the closed business next to our hostel. Tomorrow, we think. FedEx would be nice. Tracking.

Monday, we took Baglama with us next door. The woman looks at us, looks at baglama, shakes head. No, no, no. We take it to the Air Cargo store two doors down. They look like they ship stuff. The man that speaks English just looks at Baglama and says “Problem.”

We figure we’re bound to find a post office on the way to the bus station where we’ll buy our Cappadocia tickets. Who cares if it takes two months to get there – cheap, and I’m still gone then! Bus stop. People mail stuff when they leave places, right? No. 130 bus terminals, not even a mail box.

Baglama rides two legs on the tram, goes through turnstiles. Honestly, Baglama gets bonked around. Nothing nowhere. So I say Andrea, I KNOW from Semester at Sea there’s a post office at the port. I’ll pay your tram fair. So we go, and we pass the men holding air rifles and enter the port. The post office is closed. I start cracking up as the tourist information lady tells us this and can’t shake the laughs as she tries to explain. I feel terrible when she asks why I’m laughing.
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We’ve been informed all government buildings are closed, as it’s the end of Ramadan. From Monday to the following Monday. We’re told the only luck we’ll have is a DHL or FedEx. Baglama goes home.

Tuesday, baglama, now being referred to as Steve, takes the trek up an 800m steep, painfully steep hill, because we’d Googled FedEx locations and found one in Taksim Square!

And dripping in sweaty, sweaty Saz, it’s not only closed, but there’s an iron gate pulled down over the entrance. The teenager working at TurkCell tells us “tomorrow.” Steve comes with us shopping for shower sandles and tanks, sits with us for coffee.

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Wednesday. Steve, Andrea, Janae climb the damn hill again. The iron barricade is lifted. I rejoice, I run up the to FedEx door.

Closed. “Baglama is becoming kinda a bitch.”

Steve is coming with us. To lunch, and on an overnight bus to Cappadocia.

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As we sit in the Stray Cat Hostel for our last time, the owner finally says something. “I see you come and go with it everyday. It has become a part of you. Are you going to lessons?” With embarrassed, ridiculous laughter, we tell the story. And he takes the case, sees the note, gives a side “you’re a cornball” glance. Opens the case, sees the saz, sees the postcard, again, rolls eyes. You’re cute.

Remember the trauma tram on the way to the bus station? Where I got in a bit of a predicament with a too close male in a stifling hot mob crowded car? And forced my way off it? Go ahead and picture Steve held high over my head as we escape. Like a child being held above water. Steve almost got sacrificed.

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Stressed out yet? Look for Part Two.

Like stretching in the cave ever wasn’t weird.

We woke up sore.

Really, really sore. Sore enough to question how good our friendship was, and if massages were acceptable. Not yet.

“No post today… What’d you guys do?” NOTHING.

But the great thing about living in a cave is the stretches you can do against the walls. And ceiling. And floors, and windows, and everywhere rocky because it all feels like the ground. Which led to ten minutes of absolute absurdity as we ached to stretch the correct aching muscles.

We questioned the appropriateness of uploading these photos… But then decided there is nothing less sexy that these pictures or the tan lines in them.

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Exhausted. I can play mountain climber for about four hours, but that is IT. Thank god Adam’s thoughts of horseback riding and then taking motorcycles and a bottle of wine up the cliff for the sunset didn’t pan out (not kidding).

There are a lot of bugs here. A lot of flies, and a lot of bees. Always around us. I like to think the food must be fresher here, thus the surplus of bees. We talk often about the Bee-to-Mouth ratio.

But here’s the thing, I’m exhausted. So this monologue happened at lunch today as poor Andrea watched me crack up to the point of tears.

I’m going to write a children’s book about a bee named Humblebee. He’s going to have a shy friend named Mumblebee, and they’ll go on adventures.

And then, if it’s a series, they’ll have more friends. Like that hot mess friend? She’ll be Jumblebee.

And of course, don’t forget their depressing emo friend Numblebee.

There will be the clumsy twins Tumblebee and Fumblebee…

The cook will be Crumblebee, and that one with digestive issues?

Rumblebee!

Yep. That’s where I’m at, kinda a Dumblebee.

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New heights. Part five.

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Our parents.

We stop at a pottery workshop, because this day just gets greater. We learn about the three important things in any art: patience, respect and love. It takes twelve years to become a master pottery maker. Andrea gets up and makes what turns out to be a cereal bowl. It was beautiful, and the entire tour group sighed with disappointment when she didn’t get to keep it.

We end the tour, exhausted, on one more patch of land overlooking Cappadocia’s valleys as the sun goes down. An absolutely perfect day. The night to follow would include winding down with our Efes, talk about life at our perch above the pool, Adam and family sitting, chatting, below. We talk to Adam about differences in cultures, family life, friendships. Being open to talking to new people, new experiences. Laughing. Being funny while still being nice, sincere. The American girlfriend he once had. Overcoming barriers such as language, geography, culture. We went for a late dinner to the third brother’s restaurant, at a discount (though not free, this was not a date). Just a day of memorable experiences and conversation.

From an unbelievable sunrise to an astounding sunset… No complaints here.

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New heights. Part four.

We’ve had an unbelievable day, already. Balloons at sunrise, underground cave, and I’ve beat my fear of heights and dying twice so far. Adam had started the day by telling Andrea and I “you’ll never forget this in your life.”

Our new family for the day is perfect. Dad tells me to keep up with Andrea, walking at the front of the pack. “Go up with your friend. Keep together. Keep smiling.” Mom has the heartiest, greatest laugh, made better by the fact she’s sarcastic and cracks herself up.

Our gorgeous valley walk ends at a small house/restaurant. We sit for a long time, chatting with our family, laughing. Pang, the youngest new friend, and I bond over having hard-to-introduce names. Hers is pronounced as though you’re mixing a “p” and “b” sound at the same time, and we laugh over our tendency to use fake names at Starbucks. “But then, you’re staring off in space, and they’re calling “Sam, grande mocha for Sam… SAM.”

In the van, Andrea, Adam and I share the back bench and learn about each other. Adam: “It is… My life strategy. I ask you what music you like and your hobbies. And then, maybe I know you.” We dance to the music we share. We talk about how I like to write. He says maybe someday I’ll write a book that has covers with pages inside.

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We’ve stopped at multiple sights by now, and we pull up to a winery. Toast with Adam and his brother, the driver, also our chef every morning at breakfast. Adam says when he looks at Andrea, he can tell she is the crazy one. I’m appalled. “I’ve climbed MOUNTAINS with you today, and SHE is the crazy one?”

Picture Turkish accent, slowly thought out sentences.

“Well, she looks crazy, fun. You, you are different. Your outside and inside are very different, I think. I think, when I see you, ‘She is serious. Boring maybe.’ But then, we talk, and inside, you are very fun, and that comes out. And when you climb, you are wild.”

I’m having flashbacks of three years ago, when in broken English, someone told me his ideal date was “an average looking girl with a great personality,” moments before asking for my number.

Back in the van, post winery, Adam flatters Andrea and I more, as he eats seeds straight from a dried out sunflower. “You see, in my job, not everyone wants to talk to me. And some days, its very serious and boring. Usually, I am only saying there is the valley, those are the fairy chimneys, this is the church (“WAIT, we could have been learning historical information today?”) but you make it seem like we are old friends. Like one or two years already. There is this positive energy around you. So, thank you for making me… Be myself.”

Side note, to my side as I write is Andrea. “You’re kidding me. You’re kidding me. The new iCal I just started? In Arabic. HOW DOES IT KNOW.” The girl needs to get back to the states.

Scenery photos at various stops…

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Up next, another valley (names escape me, I’ll mark them down later) with a massive rock shaped like a camel.

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And when I decline to climb it, Adam is disappointed in me. Andrea has a long discussion about his disappointment in me.

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“She comes to me, and says help me, I am a poor, boring American girl in need of stories. And I say lady, I have many people to entertain today, but I’ll do my best to help you. And then, she becomes a master climber and doesn’t need me anymore, and she will go make her millions with her book that has covers and pages with words. And it is fine, I don’t need my favorite climber, another will come along. I will go home tonight, drink one bottle of red wine, and be done with her.” Andrea does her best to egg this along. “I know, just look at the way she’s walking now, her nose in the air like that. Look at her.”

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Granted, I was getting a little independent.

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Look for part five, when the day wraps up.