I am really liking Antalya a lot. I took a random wander yesterday, and every turn had pleasant surprises. Off the top of my head, I like
- the downtown full of sharply dressed men in suits.
- cafes and parks that are always full of people. I'm reminded of Michael moore's comment on moving to San Francisco: all these people do is go to coffee shops ... doesn't anyone work ın this town?
- getting cruised in any neighborhood. Despite what İslan told me some guys seem very open. I haven't seen anything flaming, but there are definitely open flirts, guys who will stop and look back and smile, some quite shamelessly.
- the endless parks along the coast
- that, if I dress right (button down shirt, jeans, no backpack or camera, and a leather jacket) I can be confused for a local. There are a surprising number of blondes in Anatolia. Other times it's very obvious that I am a visitor.
- that people will talk politics. In the smaller towns and tourist centers everyone is polite and formal. Here I have a better idea of what folks are thinking.
- that tourists stay in a few small neighborhoods and rarely venture out
- that I have to pass through a Roman Gate to get into Kaleiçi
- the incredible deep blue color of the eastern Mediterranean
- The Rock Club, with all the dissaffected youth hanging out in the alley outside smoking cigarettes and looking oppressed.
- Tea shops where shawled women and fashion models share the same table
- That the Kaleiçi Soccer Team share a smoke in the locker room after a game. I know not everyone would appreciate that part, but I do.
So there are problems - traffic is bad, wages are low, people work to hard to make ends meet - all the standard developing world issues.
So, I spent most of the day solo again. Had coffee with Reza, which exhausted me. The poor guy really is depressed - I heard all about his marital problems and financial difficulties (he spends all his money, not sure on what, and the wife gets mad). I grabbed a drink across the street, and he could barely hide how upset he was. Too bad - I liked the guys across the street. They're well read, and I've got some questions for them. I'm reading Snow by Orhan Pamuk which is confusing me (a theater troupe stages and a renegade military unit stage a violent coup in a Turkish border town, and the narrator wanders through the massacres writing poems in his head and searching for god). And I'd just rather talk about literature with the cute guys than counsel the exile.
10pm and I was ready to call it a night. Ha. And again ... ha. Stopped to chat with a shop keeper (bugger thought my jacket was imitation leather and I had to correct him) . It was closing time, and he and his buddies needed another player for their soccer team. I tried to explain that I had no idea how to play soccer, that any sport involving a ball was beyond me, but they just stared at me blankly, as if it wasn't possible that a grown man wouldn't know how to play. I showed them ...
So eight of us piled into a taxi and headed to the field. I was super happy that I had broken through, and was now part of the life rather than a spectator with a camera. I was also nervous as hell that I would let the team down and that it would all turn into a big disaster.
The taxi drove on and on - through the downtown, through a warehouse district, and past the suburbs. I realized I was in this for the duration - there was no way I'd find my way back alone. I wondered where we were headed, and then saw an apartment complex looming ahead. It all looked very planned, like every housing project HUD built ın the 1970's - a Cabrini-Green on the Anatolian Plain.
They have an indoor sports complex, and we take the field at mıdnight. I'm the goalie, and for ten minutes I hold my own. And then it all goes down hill. The other team was serious, while the boys (and one girl) from Kaleiçi were good, but more cool and laıd back. The other team figured out pretty quickly that I sucked (and I did) and pretty soon balls were flying to my left, right, between my legs, and over my head. It was fourth grade all over again. The jocks were picking sides for basketball, and it would be down to the fat kid, the girl with thick glasses, and me. Some things just don't change.
I did what I could. I dove, I skidded in the grass, I took (and gave) kicks and head butts and body slams (at least I'm bigger than I was then) and still only stopped about twenty percent of the balls. I'm kind of bruised and battered this morning, but it was still a good time.
I extended my stay another two days here so that I can catch a dance performance at the restored Roman Theater at Aspendos. It's a show by Mustafa Erdoğan, Fire of Anatolia, that involves 120 dancers performing modern takes on Anatolian folk tales. It has just toured the world, and is now making it's return to Turkey. From their website (bear in mind it's their translation, not mine) :We are following the silhoutte of the first dance,
where the human being first was expressed himself in every field
We are sort of trailers.
We have just been realizing the way on which we have walked for thousand times.
Its just like the earth we landed has started to talk.
We are calling from Aegean,
where a thousand year old olive trees have been getting green,
to the mountain of immortality...
Our guide is Anatolia...
THE RIVER THAT FLOWS TOWARDS ITS ESSENCE