Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Girl and I worked on writing Halloween haikus today (part of the homeschooling and all).  Hers reads:


Halloween darkness
Boo! Ghosts and witches, Bats fly
Ooo! and vampires

Mine reads:

Halloween Theft

Dressed as a gypsy
Nasty boys stole her candy
I gave her my gum

True story.

A handful of hours after Haiku Time, we headed out for recess.  During our walk, I took photos.  Here is one, with accompanying haiku:

Stairway to Heaven

If you build a mosque
Eventually it falls
This is what remains

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"The Locals May Cover Their Arms, Legs, and Hair from Public View During the Day, but Lira to Simits* That They're Watching Chelsea Handler at Midnight"

The children don’t go to off to school.

They don’t go to soccer or karate or swimming lessons.

They have no friends, ergo no sleepovers, playdates, or squirt gun battles.

To their everlasting credit—and with many notable hours of painful and frustrating exception—they are coping admirably. They’re taking succor in books, each other, a few odd toys, people watching, learning to use a pottery wheel, and the ritual of complaining about walking to the bus stop (actually, only one of the kids grumbles about it, but I won’t mention which one he is by name).

For the parents, the coping is a bit more complicated. Being severed from our usual support systems, communities of friends, variety of activities, and slate of “sanity-saving outs” from each other results in a whole lot of ‘round-the-clock togetherness, and if you think I sound a little bit screamy right here, you are to be commended on your excellent auditory detection.

A little later, when the togetherness is over, we all congregate in the kitchen to eat some breadsticks and stare at each other over the sugar bowl.

Then we go out to the terrace, open up the math workbooks, and rub elbows for another few hours.

Before we all walk up to the market to look for cabbage so’s to make some slaw.

After which I cut their nails or hair, and they give me braids.

Followed by some Uno.

And lunch.

All of this constant companionship has its upsides, of course. The sugar bowl feels incredibly secure and well socialized, for instance. As well, we are split end and hangnail free.

Plus, we like each other.

The downside is a lack of disruption to many of our days—disruption being a powerful agent of dynamism and vitality. Two kids plus two parents make four: a square, a rectangle, always a serviceable shape, never a hexagon or octagon or anything multi-faceted enough to conjure up prisms and kaleidoscopes.

Don’t get me wrong—I love a good square; it is perfectly suited to dancing, playground games, tablecloths, Mormonism. Beautifully basic and simple, it has elegance. But tack on a few extra straights and angles, give them a pull and a tilt, and suddenly new dimensions emerge, from security of square to the rainbow of prism.

It was a challenge, thus, when, after about six weeks in Turkey, away from our established supports, I realized we were struggling to find the additional angles and tilts that habitually expand our family’s simplicity into greater dimension.

It takes time to create dimension.

While I realized time would yield new facets—that we’d make new friends, figure out a structure to our days--I also realized the winter months were closing in, and if it those months were filled with just the four of us, squaring away inside our house, day after day,

there existed the distinct possibility of only one or two of us emerging come spring, leaving in our wake well-manicured corpses and one seriously traumatized sugar bowl.

It was at this point that I announced to Groom, “Okay, I know we’re trying not to buy too much stuff since it’s all going to be left behind in a year, and I know you’re not really a fan of a lot of electronic input into our brains, but as the breadwinner for the household, I’m issuing an executive financial decision: we have to get a tv, and we have to get cable. If the world shuts down during the winter here, as we’ve heard--with the buses running on limited schedules, the streets being impassable and covered with ice, the markets carrying only two vegetable choices (one of them being turnips), and everyone spending three months sitting around their coal stoves spitting pumpkin seed shells onto the floor—my sanity is going to require that I am allowed some make believe friends who come to the house to fill my brain with words besides ‘Mom, I can’t get all the shampoo out of my hair.’ I need special pretend friends like David Letterman. And Khloe Kardashian. And Tina Fey. Except Tina wouldn’t be a make believe friend because she actually really likes me and called last week to see if I want to go shoe shopping with her and Tracy Morgan.”

Since Groom is what we in the Midwest call a Strong Personality, his response was a strident, “Yea, okay. I agree.”

The process of getting a television involved approximately six bus rides to neighboring towns to eyeball sets and prices. Eventually, Girl and I bought one from Turkey’s version of a Super Target, a place called Kipa (It has peanut butter! It has Pepsi Max! It had fans during the heatwave!); of course, and this is why we're constantly reminded of how lucky we are in the States to have a car, every purchase without one becomes a major production. Finding the desired product usually takes a few days or weeks. Getting to the desired product may require a walk of a few kilometers in conjunction with a couple of bus rides. Then, of course, the desired product has to be carried back home through bus and walk. What’s more, as long as you’ve made the effort to get to a store where there is good stuff to buy, you may as well load up. In the case of Kipa, we may head over for a toaster, but we also like to buy a week’s worth of groceries, too, which we then hoof and dolmus back to Ortahisar in our big travel backpacks.

Translated, this means one glorious night in September Girl and I toted home a flat-screen television (something we don’t have back in the States), a DVD player, and about 40 pounds of food.

Naturally, the first thing we discovered was that the DVD player wasn’t “universal” at all, as I’d hoped (DVD’s are made by zone, which means many European players won’t spin U.S. DVD’s, etc.).

There are few things more fun than making a return when it involves walking a few kilometers and taking a couple of bus rides with elementary aged kids, along with not being able to tell the nice lady at the service counter what the problem is.

Fortunately, we have the boon of several seasoned expats in our lives. Our friend Christina helped negotiate the return, along with helping us find a universal DVD player. Our friend Elaine called the people at the cable company and organized the installation; much to my delight, she gave both the Digiturk cable guys and me scripts to follow. They were to call me before showing up and give me notice (in case my lolling self needed to strap The Ladies into a bra before receiving visitors, I suppose) by saying “Digiturk. Geyliyorum,” which basically means “Digiturk. I am coming.” In response, I was to say, “Tamam,” which means “okey-dokey, Poodle.”

In reality, everyone departed from the script, but the thing happened nevertheless. I received a phone call, and at some point I said “Tamam,” and half an hour later our landlord knocked on the door, having led two Digiturk employees through the maze of walkways that leads from the village center to our house. I was so excited at the prospect of cable (which, like a flat-screen tv, is something we don’t have back in the States) that I hardly cared they were showing up during the first afternoon I’d had alone since leaving Minnesota. In a valiant effort to provide me with some personal time, Groom had taken the kids to a nearby town for a few hours. My insistence on cable, though, resulted in two new kids—albeit fully grown ones sporting drills and paperwork--being deposited on my doorstep. They stayed for nearly three hours.

Because here’s the thing: when you’re new to a place and don’t really have a full bead on your surroundings, everything takes longer than it needs to. First, the nice lads, who were dealing admirably with the fact that they were alone with a woman, wanted to know how they could get up to the roof to install the dish and then snake a cable wire down into the house. I knew Girl’s room has a trapdoor in it that leads to the roof, so I sent Beefy Installer Dude up to give it a try. However, the presence of a huge wardrobe underneath the trapdoor sent him back downstairs, shrugging hopelessly; strangely, they seemed reluctant to let me go up to her room and move the damn thing myself. It’s a shame “sliding” isn’t in the skillset of Turkish cable guys. Smoking is, though.

Next, I suggested, through many antic aping motions, that I get a ladder so that he could climb up the side of the house to the roof. Yes, yes. Tamam.

It took both guys 15 minutes just to set up the ladder and hoist Beefy Installer Dude over the edge. Never tell them that we recently discovered a staircase and doorway to the roof. Never tell. Tamam?

While the dish was being installed by Beefy, Paperwork Man set about the business of discerning which Digiturk option we wanted to subscribe to. Having done the homework assigned to me by Elaine, I already knew we wanted the Ekonomik Paket. In an effort to explain to me the information I’d already gleaned off the Digiturk Website, Paperwork Man jotted many numbers onto a piece of paper, making sure I understood the monthly costs. Tamam, Paperwork Man. We, too, do math in the United States. Sometimes in our heads.

He was very dear, though, especially when we got to the actual paperwork. Even after he’d taken my passport and run down the main road of the village until he found a place to make a fotokopi of it, many forms still needed filling out, the words on which I understood not a whit. Groom had taken our Turkish dictionary with him and the kids, so I couldn’t look up the basics. Imagine, then, trying to act out the words “hometown,” “father’s name” and “mother’s name.”

Because it’s nearly impossible to use charades to communicate such stuff, Paperwork Man finally took out his own Turkish citizen identification card and, casting about for a place to have a tete-a-tete with me (older houses in Turkey don’t have traditional living or sleeping spaces, necessarily, so finding an easy formal gathering spot can be difficult), realizing there was no way he could sit on the bed with me, dropped to the floor. I joined him there, keeping a good foot between our bodies, and craned my head over the papers. Painstakingly, he went through each line of the forms with me, showing how his personal information corresponded with each line. Guess what? Paperwork Man had a name: Riza. His father’s name was Fatih. His mother’s name was Hayriye. He was from Nev┼čehir.

And although I’m pretty sure I’ve gone on record as being from the city of Minnesota and the state of Duluth, everyone ended up satisfied.

Two and a half hours after they first arrived, Beefy and Riza were nearly ready to go, with just one more step to complete: channel training. Fortunately, Groom and the kids got back home just in time to witness the twenty minute instructional session in how to hold the remote and push the arrow keys up and down. Each time an arrow key is pushed, the channel changes, you see. Tamam? Also essential to this training was an explanation of each station and its programming. By this time, we were such good friends, and the afternoon had become so epic, that Beefy actually sat down on the bed…

which served as a perfect segue into the stretch of pay-per-view channels that made Riza hush his voice and leave out detailed explanation: Hustler, Penthouse, Intimacy…

Pointing the remote with a steady hand and adopting a carefully-neutral voice, Riza pushed the arrow keys, noting for each one,






…before clicking again and finishing--to everyone's relief--with a jubilant “Disney!”

Carefully not looking at Groom, I thanked both men for their good work and paid the installation fee. As they put on their shoes and lit up cigarettes, I marveled at what a classic Turkish experience the afternoon had proven to be: modern doused with traditional; confusion eased by earnestness; wholesome peppered by sensual.

As soon as the door closed behind them, Groom and I turned to each other, locked eyes, and, together, repeated simultaneously what has since evolved into a recurring marital mantra:

“Erotik. Erotik. Erotik. Erotik. Erotik.”

And I think we all know the best Erotik is always punctuated by an unexpected Disney.


*Lira to Simits = Dollars to Donuts

Friday, October 15, 2010

"For My Next Selection, a Little Ditty Called 'Stuffing Newspapers into My Sopping Shoes'"

There’s a door up to our rooftop which doesn’t latch properly. Last night the wind was gusty, and so the door banged and thwapped all night, even though Groom had tried to wedge it closed. This morning, he went out a couple more times to try to stop the whacking. Coming back inside, he announced, “Well, I jammed it once, and that didn’t work, so then I jammed it a second time, and now I’ve jammed it again, so we’ll see.”

My response was to start singing, to the tune of “It’s Been a Long, Long Time,”

Jam it once
And jam it twice
Then jam it once again

As I warbled, I did a little soft shoe, gave him a spin, and finished with a “reach for the rafters and then bend to the floorboards” flourish.

See, I like to pretend that life is a musical in which I’m all-too-often awarded a solo (strangely, the other cast members don’t seem a bit envious; rather, they act as though they were too busy paying the bills to show up for the casting call). For me, though, everything in life, from the making of pancakes to the folding of laundry, takes on a whole new sheen if it is accompanied with high kicks and jazz hands.

Yesterday, however, I realized that sometimes I’m just not in the mood for drama.

The stage has certainly been draped with dramatic scenery in recent weeks: our October has been grey, grey, grey, with ominous clouds hanging overhead all day, every day, usually unleashing after sundown into pounding sheets of rain that gradually seep under the door jam and soak the stone threshold. With such a dreary backdrop, I’ve been reluctant to explore new valleys and canyons around the village when I go out running, telling Groom that I’d rather venture into new landscape theatres on bright, sunny, classically-Autumn days and avoid the combination of stark tone and unknown places that would smack of Ibsen more than Gershwin.

But since the weather doesn’t seem to be shifting, and my time in this place is clicking away, I decided yesterday to throw myself out there and break a leg.

In late afternoon, I headed up towards the crumbling monastery outside of town and started piecing my way through the warren of trails that jigsaw throughout the valley below. Humming a little, listening to Terry Gross’s silverbell voice on Fresh Air, I stuck to garden roads as much as possible, deciding to take a left whenever the trail diverged. Eventually, I realized I was in sight of a panoramic overlook frequented by tour buses, which pull over and disgorge French and Korean travelers in need of a cup of conveniently-available pomegranate juice.

After a couple of minutes, I noticed the panoramic tourists noticing me, so far below them on the stage of the valley floor, a living, breathing part of the spectacle they’d been ogling, and I was tempted to belt out an echoing “Everything’s coming up roses and daffodils” a la Ethel Merman in hopes that my performance would be rewarded with a shower of Turkish lira, raining down from the appreciative onlookers.

At just that moment, I entered Act III, during which the action began to rise with a long roll of thunder resonating across the valley. Looking up, I saw not stage lights but a black cloud moving with startling swiftness directly towards my mark. Just above the rapidly re-bussing tourists, the sky popped white with lightning.

Oh, there’d be showers raining down upon me, all right, but suddenly it looked like my show had received the worst of reviews, and early cancellation was imminent. Actually, the storm was so majestically Broadway compared to my off-off-off production that I immediately quit the profession—and, mercifully, all attempts to weave corny theatrical metaphors into every thought.

Because, dayyyyy-um. I was a half hour’s run from home, standing on the edge of kind of a cliffy thing somewhere in a confusing valley in the middle of Asia Minor, and the sky was roiling with noise and light.

I was a little scared.

Time to turn up my podcast and use NPR as a mechanism of danger denial while I skeedaddled myself out of there.

It was okay for the first few minutes. Even though I was being pelted by raindrops, I could still see well enough to find the trail, and Terry Gross was telling me that Teddy Roosevelt’s amazing legacy to the United States is a system of national parks and public green spaces that are one of its greatest treasures, which is, indeed, pretty cool to think about, even when booming thunder obscures some of the words, and you think author Timothy Egan just said “mild tires” are a huge concern in the parks, which—HELLO—makes no sense and so why would you want to read this lunatic’s book, but then you rewind a bit and realize he actually said “wild fires,” and so, okay, Timothy Egan, I will read your book.

As my vision blurred into nothingness (damn glasses!), and the raindrops hardened into stinging, my mood slid into alarm. There I was, out in a huge public green space, watching lightning strike all around me in fire-making fashion, and so maybe, no, I didn’t need to read Egan’s book after all because he didn’t seem to realize he was my only source of comfort at that moment, a job at which he was failing dismally, so why on earth would I ever give him a royalty when he couldn’t even talk about innocuous things like camping and picnics and wildflowers when I needed him most?

The combination of my annoyance with Timothy Egan; a complete inability to see where I was going; a tragic sense of direction; clothes that had gained five pounds in water weight; trails that had turned into rushing creeks; impulsive shrieking whenever lightning zapped around me; and a sky that had turned so dark and misty that I could only see grey fog in every direction

all synergized into A Seriously Lost and Jumpy Jocelyn.

With less than an hour until dark, I felt a certain pressure to keep hacking my way down and back up dead-end trails, knowing that eventually I’d find my way. There was one huge, distinctive rock formation that I could consistently see, and I knew it had to stay to my right. I also knew that if the torrent of the storm slowed a bit, and if I were heading in the right direction, I would eventually be able to hear traffic from the major road in the area, at which point I could just bushwhack towards it.

However. The lightning was truly on top of me, and that created a danger bigger than dark. The Wise Lost Jocelyn would find shelter.

I’ll be a Hittite if it didn’t turn out that, in this region with literally hundreds of thousands of abandoned pigeon alcoves, cave homes, lemon caves, and churches, there wasn’t a single carved out opening anywhere that I could pop into. Were I able to find the trail back to my starting point, it would take me only a few minutes to get to the monastery—an idea that roused my sleeping dramaturge and made her muse, “Hey, then you could always tell people that you once sought shelter in a monastery!”

Effing monks didn’t know jack about signage, though.

At some point, as I kept running and trying trail after trail, unable to find any overhang or refuge, I decided, “Well, hell. I guess this is one of those points where I become a Christian of Convenience—nice job not winning me over in any lasting way, Dumb Monks—and start muttering, ‘Oh, God. Please, God. Oh, holy Jesus. Please, please, please.’ Because what else can I do? Keep plugging away at finding a route, and hope to the high heavens that I don’t get sizzled by one of these bolts.”

Chortling with power, my God of the Moment chose just then to kick up a cold wind.

On the positive side, that meant being lost had suddenly dropped to #3 on my list of worries. Completely soaked and well into the second hour of running, I started mulling over the ins and outs of hypothermia. The uncontrollable shivering that overtook my body seemed a reasonable start, and I do so enjoy seeing textbook explanations manifest into real-life experience! If only my kids had been there, it would have been an illuminating, dare I say dramatic, homeschooling science lesson.

Perhaps my thinking of the children in this time of crisis softened God of the Moment, for that three-headed, snake-haired creature took mercy. Although there would have been fitting drama in my kids reporting, for the rest of their lives, “My mother was killed by a freak intersection of lightning strike and hypothermia one day when she got lost in a wild valley in Turkey,” it apparently wasn’t time to drop the curtain just yet (but apparently, it was time to start up with the corny theatrical phrases again). Suddenly, the sky got lighter, and the storm blew past, leaving behind only a gentle, continuing rain.

Naturally, it was at that moment that I spied an abandoned pick-up truck off in a field. Ah, well, it lacked tires—mild or wild—anyhow, so it wouldn’t have grounded me from the electricity that had stabbed at the earth.

After five more false starts down wrong roads, I finally happened upon the road leading towards the monastery, which I promptly renamed The Timothy Egan Of-No-Help-To-Me-When-I-Needed-You-Most Monastery.

Soaked to the marrow, but with a song in my heart, I trotted the last fifteen minutes home, down the main street of Ortahisar. Each step squished loudly. My hair dripped down my back and forehead. My pants refused to stay up, due to the weight of the water pulling them down. My shirt clung to my torso, serving as an anatomy lesson for onlookers brought up in a culture of billowing, layered clothing.

And really? I’ve never before had a more rapt audience than I did on that long stretch to the village square. At one point, near the taxi stand, I actually stopped and took a bow for three men who couldn’t believe the soggy apparition that had emerged from the raindrops. Had one of them not finally blinked, I would have been forced to burst into a few verses of “Sunrise, Sunset.”

All things considered, I’m pretty sure my next run is going to be Standing Room Only. 

(*fade to black already*)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

"Second Grade Tour Guide"

A few weeks ago, we experienced the Black Sea area of Turkey when we took the bus from Istanbul to the town of Amasra. While there, we flew rocks into the sea, walked over an old Roman bridge, and ate fish (well, some of us not born and raised in landlocked cattle country did, anyhow). Other highlights of our days there were Paco's mini-movies, one of which is featured below:

Paco Minaret

Friday, October 01, 2010

“Bus Boys”

Unless it’s wafting past the Wall of Whips in a high-end pleasure dungeon, the smell of burning rubber is never the precursor to a good time.

Thus, it was unfortunate, as the bus traveling between Istanbul and the Black Sea coast chugged up a hill, that the smell of burning rubber grew in intensity. Moments later, all fifty passengers started exchanging uncertain glances, casting about for confirmation that the vehicle had, indeed, just ground to a stop right there on the highway.

In Turkey, the first response to such a situation is for the bus steward—he who had been serving Pepsi, tea, Nescafe, and Little Debbie-quality snack cakes over the previous two hours—to walk up and down the bus aisle spraying the floor with air freshener, the underlying hope being that collective denial (“Whaaat? I don’t smell anything. Except maybe some sun-warmed daisies waving near a mountain spring, that is”) will somehow revive the dying engine, that source of noxious odor. Sadly, even dreamy alpine scenarios and freshly-spritzed ankles didn’t counteract the reality of one big dead bus plopped onto the shoulder.

After watching the driver, baggage attendant, and steward gather in a circle, take out their cell phones, and act vaguely panicked, we passengers started to key into the fact that this was no easy case of Jes’ Let Her Sit Quiet-Like for About Five Minutes and Then Jam the Clutch In Real Hard and Off She’ll Bolt. As the temperature inside the bus crept up 11 Celsiusian degrees, women in head scarves, teens in tank tops and unfortunate mullets, old men with canes, and six sweating Americans climbed off of and back onto the bus, alternately seeking breeze and shade.

Seeking breeze. Do you think they might be related?

Twenty minutes into the stall out, the baggage attendant in his crisp white shirt disappeared behind a folding door, re-emerging in a navy blue sweater—an act that made the tiny person who lives inside my skull shout, “See how we are all ONE? That’s totally what I do, too, when it’s edging up past ninety degrees and the car’s gone kaput! I put on my best navy blue sweater and go stand on black asphalt!”

Once the tiny skull smartass seated herself on a Eustachian tube and shut the eff up for once, I was able to see that Sweatered Baggage Attendant seemed worthy of a subtitle, namely Troubleshooter with a Wrench Who Is Smart Enough to Cover Up His Tidy Whites Before Getting Near Oil. First, he, sweater, and wrench went and banged around the side of the bus for a few minutes. Because every job performed by males in Turkey requires one man to take action, one to stand nearby and provide moral support, three onlookers to discuss other options and methods, and at least one know-it-all drinking tea to imply that he’s done this task before, better, and would do it again—quite adeptly—if only he had a navy sweater, a crowd congregated, until only an elbow of navy could be seen from outside the cluster. After the time it takes moral supporters, onlookers, and know-it-alls to smoke two cigarettes, the elbow grew in size, until Baggage Attendant’s torso emerged. Luckily, his pelvis and legs weren’t far behind.

Shucking his helpful crew, Baggage Attendant, sweater, and wrench hopped up inside the bus, excused themselves past a cadre of sun-sensitive ladies (plus one Paco), and knowledgeably ripped up a huge floorpiece in the back third of the bus. There, now visible from the top, was the engine. Who knew such a thing was possible? Certainly not this sun-sensitive Jane Austen reader who only understands wrenches of plot, not steel.

You can imagine the genteel gasp that issued forth from my bosom, then, when Sweatered Baggage Attendant suddenly dropped through the floor into the engine and began whacking about. Shouts of encouragement and advice from his support crew carried through the carburetor and, um, gasket-things, lending him strength, courage, and the hope of a lint-free jumper.

Time passed. Cigarettes were smoked.

Eyes scanned the horizon, looking for a relief bus. Sweatered Baggage Attendant twittered around the engine pit for some time, looking dapper if uncertain.

Meanwhile, delighting Austen readers and headscarves alike, the bus steward applied himself to working hospitality magic. Up and down the prickly terraces of waiting passengers he roved, toting a big bottle of cold water, filling, refilling, chatting, joking, attempting to convey comfort to the American passengers with his six words of English.

Reader, I married him.

Oh, all right. I bet all the tiny people who live in your skulls are caterwauling right now that Jocelyn’s already married, and she only gets one husband at a time, or no fairsies.

I’ll amend:

Reader, I contemplated adopting him, but mostly so he could be my houseboy.

Just as the Houseboys R Us social worker was helping me fill out the paperwork, though, I got distracted by the sound of a bus engine revving and the sight of the baggage attendant back in a crisp white shirt.

Two kids are enough, anyhow. Plus, adopting a child in his 20’s would—rimshot, please—throw a wrench into our family’s works.

Suddenly, it seemed easier to jump aboard the bus and relax as the thermometer dropped two degrees in the course of the next hour. Eventually, we pulled over at a restaurant stop and were urged to eat chicken sandwiches for a fair bit, until, like Mr. Darcy astride a white charger, a new, reliable Metro bus pulled up and reversed our hapless fortunes. It didn’t hurt, either, that the much-beloved steward welcomed me to the new bus with an apology called Heaping Stack of Snack Cakes.

Three hours after our planned arrival time, we finally got to the bus’ stopping point. Despite the lengthy day behind us, our family still needed to make a plan. We were sure the local mini-buses had stopped running for the evening, yet we’d hoped to transfer ourselves from the larger city of Bartin to the smaller town of Amasra (our ultimate destination). With no accommodation booked nor means of getting to where we were going, we realized the Metro bus company had done its job, but we were about to be deposited in the middle of a parking lot at a deserted bus station on the outskirts of an unknown city.

Just as we were starting to yank at our luggage with controlled desperation, my almost-adopted son--S├╝pannalah!--bustled up and pointed over his shoulder, “Mini-bus. Amasra. You go.” There idled a smaller Metro bus which whisked us to a spot in town where we were subsequently shuttled on to the last dolmus of the night to Amasra.

Thirty minutes later, as that dolmus pulled into the coastal town we’d been aiming for all along, the kind-faced woman sitting behind me tapped my shoulder and asked, “Pension? Pension?”

Well, um, maybe.

The dolmus stopped; we all got off; she walked us down the road 30 feet; we took a gander at the pension while our kindly dolmus helper faded off into the darkness…and suddenly the six of us found we had rented a four-room, three-bathroom apartment to the tune of about $70 per night.

By 10 p.m., we were eating fried egg sandwiches, sniffing our ankles appreciatively, drinking beer, counting up the five buses we’d been on that day—from hotel shuttle to first Metro bus to second Metro bus to mini-bus to dolmus—and absorbing one of Turkey’s best lessons:

even when things don’t work out as planned, they work out perfectly just the same.


P.S. Two days later, when we left Amasra by bus, we saw our same adorable bus steward at the main station. He had to run over for handshakes and an exchange of “Ah, what times we had” communicated with virtually no common language.

P.P.S. Throughout the entire day of twelve hours on five buses, including a breakdown, the kids didn’t make a distressed peep or issue the smallest complaint. My point here is that if anyone ever wants to say a thing against either one of them, I reserve the right to face slap.

P.P.P.S. My in-laws are visiting us for a few weeks, which is why there were six of us. They didn’t complain either, so beware my slappers.

P.P.P.P.S. The biggest issue raised by this post, for me, was if, technically, it shouldn’t be “knows-it-all” rather than “know-it-alls.”

P. P.P.P.P.S. That is all.