Rainbows, Kitty Cats and Ice Cream

It is a cool Sunday night.

I’m cuddled in a blanket on the couch with the laptop in front of me. The TV is off and Pete is working in the other room. All there is to disturb my concentration is the occasional passing car or dog barking in the distance.

But I’m fidgeting. Playing with my hair, checking Facebook constantly. Snapping a pen cap off, and then back on again.

The typical travel blog banter isn’t coming to me – I can’t sum our day up into words that simply outline where we went, what we ate, what we talked about. Instead, as I sit here fidgeting, all I can think about is rainbows and kitty cats. Ice cream and kumbaya. In short, I’m gushing. I just want to gush about today.

I am just so touched. So deeply touched with the generosity of people in this world to us two homeless strangers.

Right now I could be sitting anywhere else on the planet, maybe even back home, listening to an occasional passing car or a dog barking in English instead of Turkish. But I’m not. I am sitting in rural Turkey, having just passed the most wonderful casual Sunday afternoon in the presence of new friends, creating important memories with people who were unknown to us a month ago. Our good fortune with the incredible people we happen to meet always astounds me.

Today almost didn’t happen. Our original plan to venture into the mountains for a traditional Turkish mangal (barbeque) was thwarted by thunder, rain showers and hail. Elif and I exchanged emails back and forth over Facebook, until it was decided we would take it inside to their house in a nearby beach town rather than rescheduling.

Turkish FriendsElif and her friend Hilal are two teenage girls we have met before. They are students of our very good friend Mustafa – a man whose unending generosity deserves a whole post about rainbows and kitty cats to himself. We previously went on a mangal (barbeque) with the three of them to help the girls practice their English.

It was a much less intimate affair this time, with friends and family joining in. 12? 16 people maybe? Elif and Hilal got plenty of practice with their English, translating constantly the group’s questions of us: What are our favorite colors? What music do we like? What do we like about Turkey? Elif’s little sister overcame her shyness and sat on the arm of my chair for awhile, with her hand resting on my shoulder. She asked Elif to translate to me that I have very beautiful eyes. This after one of her friends told me earlier that I have a very young and beautiful face. Ohhh…flattery will get you everywhere my new best friends.

Turkish-MangalWe didn’t lift a finger and gorged on a delicious spread. Grilled chicken, tomatoes and peppers, salad and bread. We were taught how to properly eat it with lavaş (wraps), Pete both gushed and growled about the fact we hadn’t found lavaş in the market yet. Dessert was poppy seed cake soaked in syrup, served with traditional çay tea. More questions back and forth, they sang us their national anthem, and we sang them ours in return. There were more invites to more dinners, generous hugs and kisses doled out as we had to be on our way.

We left with full bellies, inflated egos, and hearts that were bursting.

On the way home, Elif’s Dad made an unexpected stop to buy us some of the lavaş that Pete was raving about earlier. Casually and wordlessly he handed over a fresh package to me, as if it was something owed, and not as such a thoughtful gift. Something we had not asked for, and never expected.

More heartfelt farewells. Twice, actually, as I had forgotten my purse at the house and the whole family went to retrieve it and bring it back. It was done without question, and with genuinely beaming smiles.

We have just over one month left to go in Turkey. The largest downfall to slow travel is that the goodbyes are made that much more excruciating.

On the way home, as we were explaining to the girls about having to leave and where we were going next, they asked if we would return. Of course we will, we replied. We will be waiting for you, they both said.

Sigh. I need to find a kitty cat. Some ice cream, maybe.

29 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • Great story….the connections made while traveling are what make it so special to me…

    • Pete
      April 24 2012

      It is definitely one of the main reasons we do it. These people hold a special place in our hearts.

  • April 23 2012

    What a wonderful story. It is so amazing how many beautiful people we can meet if we’re open to new experiences. We’ve had many similar encounters in our travels to Denmark, Italy, and now Greece. I have many friends now that I would have never met had I not ventured into this life of travel. Oh, how much we would have missed.
    Kate Cornwell recently posted..Welcome

    • Pete
      April 24 2012

      Thanks for sharing Kate. Yes, I can’t even imagine what life would have been like and the friends we would not have made if we hadn’t ventured on this journey.

  • April 23 2012

    Great post! If slow travel has a negative side it’s those goodbyes.
    A Cook Not Mad (Nat) recently posted..A sneak peek at what’s ahead.

    • Pete
      April 24 2012

      Yes, those goodbyes are definitely tough to handle. I can’t even count the tearful farewells anymore.

  • April 23 2012

    Love the picture of you guys and the girls. It looks like it could have been taken anywhere. SO not what I think of when I think of Turkey.
    By the way…is there a recording of the two of you singing the national anthem?
    Steve recently posted..Hilton Times Square – Not Quite Hidden Enough

    • Pete
      April 24 2012

      Thankfully there is not a recording of us singing. Let’s leave it at that 🙂

  • April 23 2012

    And this is exactly why I travel…connections across culture and a chance to shift out of our normal context. Great story.
    I could almost taste that chicken! Turkey is such a fabulous country and you’ve reminded me that it’s been too long since I was last there.

    • Pete
      April 24 2012

      Thanks Colleen, the connections are priceless and will remain permanent memories. The best souvenir in my opinion.

  • Joe W
    April 23 2012

    I’m sure meeting this kind of people is what fuel you guys to keep going with these adventures.

    Visiting great pieces of architecture and admiring great landscapes is fun and everything, but connecting with people the way you guys have done must be priceless!

    oh, and where is it that you are going next month?

    • Pete
      April 24 2012

      Yes Joe, it certainly does fuel the fire to keep going. We’re off to Jordan for certain on an 8 day trip then maybe down into the Balkans. Plans can change, which they do quite often though. But we’re flexible and will just go wherever. We might just show up to the airport and pick a place. That would be fun.

  • I always felt the same way about Turkey. I had the chance to teach English in Istanbul and it truly is the people that stand out in my memories of the city. So glad you’re getting this chance to meet some wonderful folk! Enjoy this last month to the fullest!

    • Pete
      April 24 2012

      I can’t wait to explore Istanbul more, we are heading there at the end of the month. Thanks for sharing Caro

  • April 24 2012

    Well.. you found that kitty cat in Ephesus at least 😉 Lovely post!
    Laurence recently posted..Things I didn’t know about Barcelona!

    • Pete
      April 25 2012

      Very true Laurence 🙂 Thanks!

  • A wonderful story and one of the things I love so much about slow travel.

    • Pete
      April 25 2012

      Thank you Stephanie. Even after writing this we have had more stories of the people’s warmth and hospitality. In fact one of my new friends said to me yesterday “I am so lucky to have met you, of all the Turkish people there are, you have met with me.” I was floored.

  • April 24 2012

    These kinds of stories are what make travel so special, and so worth it.
    Amanda recently posted..8 Popular Travel Destinations for Film Fans

    • Pete
      April 25 2012

      100% agree. Thanks Amanda! PS the new site looks really good!

  • April 25 2012

    What a wonderfully narrated story. The joys of travel, its for them that we all love travelling!!
    Have a nice week ahead:)
    Arti recently posted..Temples of Mathura: Krishna Janmbhumi, Peepleshwar Mahadeo and others

    • April 28 2012

      Thanks Arti! Yes, this is why we do it!

  • April 25 2012

    Making new friends is always delightful. Despite the age difference it sometimes surprises you on how you can learn and gain from each other.
    Alexa Meisler recently posted..Mountain Biking Excursion in Miami’s Key Biscayne

  • April 27 2012

    It seems like Turkey has made such an impression on you, I’m sure it will be hard to leave.
    Ayngelina recently posted..Ice cream for a cause

    • April 28 2012

      Yes, that is the problem with these longer house sits. The goodbyes are so hard. Glad to have some speedy travel for the next little while to give ourselves a break. 🙂

  • April 29 2012

    I expected to see a photo of a kitty on a rainbow, eating an ice cream. LOL Just kidding.
    Laura @Travelocafe recently posted..The Botanical Garden from Valencia. Kitties and Flowers

  • April 30 2012

    It sounds like you’ve made some truly amazing friends there! Even though it makes it that much harder to leave, it’s nice to know you have good friends all over the world.
    Ali recently posted..Difficult Travel Experiences in Southeast Asia

    • May 1 2012

      That is a definite plus of getting to know new people all the time (like, good friends in Germany! *nudge nudge*), but the goodbyes can be SO hard. We’re going to need to do some speedy travel for a little while to get over this.

  • May 2 2012

    The people you meet are sometimes what *make* your trip… and yes, it’s hard to leave them, but just think of all the wonderful people you are yet to meet in some other part of your travels!
    Wanderplex recently posted..Portable luggage scales are worth their weight in the fees you’ll save

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