This has been one helluva summer, and not in the beaches-every-weekend-margaritas-on-the-water kind of way, but more the oh-dear-is-it-7-pm-already-and-I'm-still-not-done? kind of way.
I sort of let summer slip through my fingers this year, completely unintentionally, with work projects and freelance gigs and a promotion (yay!), and so at the beginning of September Jeff and I decided to have one last (or first?) hurrah and head over to Denizli for a long weekend before the summer was officially over.
Which is sort of ironic in a way, as Denliz -- despite being literally called "with sea" -- is 4 hours inland and nowhere near a sea, or any large body of water actually. And, to be honest, we didn't actually go there, save for a few unremarkable minutes at the otogar where we waited for our dolmus to take us to Pamukkale, where we could hike up limestone travertines and bathe in an ancient thermal pool.
And we did do all that, and it was indeed wonderful, one of the best mini-holidays I've ever had, I think. But before we could do all of that, we first had to get there, which is why I was sitting last Thursday at the Pamukkale bus company office in my neighborhood waiting for the servis to take me to the otogar.
(The town where we went near Denizli is called Pamukkale, and the bus company we always take is also called Pamukkale. Funnily, the bus company Pamukkale does not actually go to the town of Pamukkale, only Denizli, from where you must catch a local bus to the village.)
It was late afternoon and I was tired and stressed and hot. My laptop was packed so I could continue working on the bus, but for now all I wanted to do was sit in the air conditioning and stare out the window.
But as my luck would have it, a mother and her young child came into the office, setting down their bags and taking a seat across from me. The mother proceeded to play a game I like to call "What is Abla Doing?", a game I am familiar with but am generally not amused by.
The game goes like this: mother tries to entertain child by using me as bait and asking the child questions such as: "What is abla (big sister) doing?", "What color shoes is abla wearing?", "Is abla wearing sunglasses?", "Why is abla reading a book?".
Except this woman was taking it to another level, you guys. I mean, she was going on for about 5 minutes asking the kid questions about me as I just sat there trying to act pleasant. And the whole time the kid just stared at me with her finger up her nose, not answering, not smiling, not nothing.
Finally, the woman got the hint that the kid didn't particularly care for this game and she got up to head out of the office. Before leaving she turned to me and asked if I could watch her stuff while she ran out to buy something. Sure, I said. It's easy to "watch" somebody's stuff; it basically involves me sitting here and staring out the window some more, so I was all for it.
Not a minute later she came back, child in tow, and told me it was difficult to shop with her daughter, and could I watch for a few minutes while she went back out?
I was shocked. I know Turks love children, and they assume everyone else does too, but I have never been asked by a complete stranger to watch their kid.
And so, in what is not my finest moment in life, I said the first and only thing that came to my mind.
"Ama istemiyorum." ("But I don't want to.")
To my credit, I did sort of sheepishly shrug my shoulders at the same time, as if to say, "it's not my fault I don't want to, right?".
As you can imagine, the mother did not take too kindly to my lack of interest in her precious offspring and she roughly swooped her up and stormed out of the bus office.
The only other person in the office this whole time was the Pamukkale sales representative, who I swear snickered at this point, but I can't be sure.
When the servis to take us to the otogar arrived, the woman and child sat directly in front of me, from where the mother glared at me a few times and made excessively loud cooing noises over her daughter (who I swear still had her finger up her nose).
As I mentioned, it was not my finest hour. I mean, what am I, some kind of ogre who hates children? No, of course not, though, to be honest, they aren't really my cup of tea. I get that a lot of people -- especially Turkish people -- adore and worship children but I simply don't. I like the children of my friends -- who are interesting people and thus have interesting and clever offspring -- but the children of random people? Goodness, no, I am not interested.
Living in Turkey without children is not difficult, but it can be strange sometimes, particularly because my choice to not have children sets me apart from so many people who just don't understand my decision. But I learned a long time ago that I don't have to explain my decision to anyone, and if they ask me about it, I only have to tell them what I want to tell them and no more.
And in fact, I love that Turks are so involved with children. I love that men and women will pick up a baby at a restaurant and walk away with it to give the parents a few minutes to eat in peace. I love that people truly do band together to help raise children, with neighbours and shopkeepers all playing a part in a child's welfare. And I think it's great the way perfect strangers will trust each other with something so important to them.
But I'm more than happy to let those people watch someone else's kid.