Saturday, April 27, 2013

Turkey: Convertible hitching, VIP tour of Ephesus and olive picking


“You realise its only 200 metres, you could walk to the entrance easily”

There are times when things just fall into place so perfectly and you can’t explain how or why. Darcy and I arrived in Selcuk eager to check out the ancient ruins of Ephesus.
We stayed with a lovely Turkish guy called Mehmet, who runs the local (and the best) kebab shop in town. We then met another Aussie guy Matt who also had big travels plans of his own of travelling onto Africa in a few days time to hitch hike around there. (Why do us Aussies all have a dangerous itching to travel?)  

With our newly created team from “down under” we set out deciding to walk to the ancient ruins which was only a 5km walk away. After a few minutes walk we decided to be lazy and hitch hike taking the first 5 min ride with a nice man who worked for a refrigerator company where we rode in the boot of his small car, getting dropped off just by the turn of to the museum, only a 5 minute walk away.

But feeling sluggish from the night before, we decided to try hitch again. Even though we could see the entrance close by at the end of the road a van still stopped to let us in, teasing us of our laziness.

But this was not any van. We had by luck come across the Chief Restoration “Dude” of the Ephesus site, Sinan, and he offered us stingy, lazy backpackers a personal tour behind the red rope showing us areas usually reserved for VIPs. He showed us the restoration work that would take the rest of his life to complete, and even then he may not live to see the completion (even though he is a fit and healthy 40 something year old).

It really is a life mission to restore something of this size. Just imagine all the little bits of rubble that have been excavated when the building or monuments were destroyed by earth quakes or other disasters. Next time you walk through a restored exhibit, just pause for a moment and appreciate the person that held up each piece of the statue, wall, table, floor etc and then found where that piece belongs. Imagine that huge 1000 piece puzzle you have in your cupboard where you keep putting it off saying you’ll do it “one day.” Well that is Sinan’s job, everyday. I have a HUGE lot of respect for this dude and now ever since our VIP tour I cannot look at another restoration piece without the same adoration for the person behind it.


The thousands of puzzle pieces ready to be arranged

But our tour didn’t stop there. After our intimate glimpse at what happened behind the scenes at the Ephesus site, we then got a lift into town where he showed us the cool local hangouts and best places to get a beer and some shesha. Things just kept getting better and better. 

Among the friends of his that he introduced us to one, whose name I forget, not only offered me a job at his hotels and other businesses but also who “happened” to be going to the exact same place we were travelling to the next day- Izmir, to do a little bit of work on our Turkish friend Caner’s auntie’s farm- and offered us a lift.

“What a coincidence we are both going there!” He remarks.
Coincidence not, as I realised the next day. He (who I will now refer to as Mr thinks-he’s-a-smoothie) had taken a particular liking to me and wanted to drive me to Izmir, so as to corner me in a confided space where I couldn’t escape his constant pleads for a date. Not knowing what an uncomfortable car ride was awaiting me, we all were ready at the organised time the next morning, packs on our backs excited to get into the Turkish countryside and do a bit of work.

Mr Thinks-he’s-a-smoothie running “fashionably” late (3 hours) and comes around the corner with his flashy convertible. A car to impress rather than for practicality, the sort I detest. Matt and were practically drooling.

“Jump in!”

I went to quickly climb in back seat (a precautionary habit I have picked up), which seemed to suit the Matt and his long legs quit well. Unfortunately “Mr thinks-he’s-a-smoothie” grabbed me before hand, scolded the boys for their lack of gentlemanly manners and guides me to the front seat, “where a lady belongs.”

Some guys like to impress a girl by showing off their things- I don’t get it, but this guy was on fire. Like a little kid showing off his toys to someone; 
“Hannah you like music?” BLASSSTT! On came the speakers- full volume.
“How about a little base?” DDDDUUUFFF DUUUUFFFF DUUUUFFF. Things were starting to vibrate off the dashboard.
“Hannah, how about some fresh air?” all the windows down, sun roof open wind everywhere.
“Hannah how about a heated seat?” “Press this button see what this does!” “How about some air-con?” “Look here’s a cup holder!” “Check out how fast I’m going!”

All my senses abused by this time; deaf, blinded, hot, cold, vibrating, stuck. I turn around to see the guys thoroughly enjoying themselves wondering how they had secured such a cool ride, oblivious to the fact that it was at the expense of my own comfort that we had such a ride.

Thinking he had surely impressed me by now, Mr-thinks-hes-a-smoothie decides to subtly slide the question.

“So, you know how I’m an impressive business man who has many businesses and cool buttons in my car. What time should I pick you up tomorrow night?”

It was not a question of whether or not I wanted to, he was past that stage and felt he had buttered me up enough.

Despite all my very polite protests and excuses why I couldn’t he had a solution for everyone.

Me (politely): “I can’t afford it, sorry.”
Him (enthusiastically): “It’s all on me, you don’t need any money!”
Me (rudely): “I don’t have time.”
Him (unconvincingly):“But you’re on holiday!”
Me (impatiently):“I don’t have anything suitable to wear.”
Him (insistently):“I’ll pick you up earlier and I’ll buy you a dress”
Me (desperately): “The boys will want to come along.”
Him (desperately): “I’ll give them some money to eat elsewhere.”

I was getting desperate, trying to find an escape from the awkward proposals. Looking into the back for help, the guys were loving the ride, sprawled out comfortably on the back seat totally oblivious to my cries of help and interference. I just had to keep him occupied with a slither of false hope until we were a little bit closer to Izmir and the farm that we were to meet Caner’s Aunty, Sibel. I didn’t want to risk getting dropped in the middle of the highway.

“Hannah I really want you to come and work for me in all my businesses, I think you will really like it here in here in Ephesus. I know I would love you here in Ephesus.” The hand begins to slide onto my knee.

“No sorry, there’s no way that I am staying and there is no chance for that date tomorrow night. Or ever.”

Mr-not-so-smooth looks hurt, ego bruised. He speeds up, drops us in town and then pulls away wishing he hadn’t wasted the past 2 hours driving us to Izmir.
In Izmir we met our Turkish friend Caner’s enthusiastic Aunty, Sibel, and were treated to a delicious home cooked meal before we headed out ready to do some work the next day.

Work. A word I had not heard in over a year. A word that no longer bought that dreaded feeling. A word that now excited me and I accepted my new position of “olive picker” gratefully and with enthusiasm.

I was set to work with the women, and Darcy and Matt were set to do more “strenuous” work with the men. The women were gorgeous and even though neither of us shared a common language, smiles and gestures were all we needed for smooth communication.

The women were in their 50s to their 60s, but were so nimble and quick with their work. In the first 2 hours of squatting and picking up the old olives to eventually make into soap, my legs were so sore. It was a back breaking task, literally, that these women were so used to and did it without any complaints what-so-ever.

Despite the physical work, it was so enjoyable. Fresh country air to breathe on the warm summery day (last summery ones we would see in a while) as we work in the shade of the olive trees.

Sibel was well equipped for visitors with a gorgeous wooden hut, set on the top of the hill, sheltered in between the olive trees recently built to accommodate guests. In return for the work we could stay in that house and she then provided our meals; olives for breakfast, olives for lunch, olives for dinner (with plenty of other things on the side!)


The lovely ladies I was picking olives with
Unfortunately we could only stay for a few days helping out, although we are all very keen to return to help with the olive picking next season.

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