Friday, August 26, 2016

Flying with Friends in Fethiye


Paragliding over the turquoise coast of Fethiye.
 April 16-17, 2016

By mid-April, Alex had decided to focus on her job search while I made Turkish lessons my main priority. Even though I am not an early morning person, waking up for lessons got me out of bed to start my day, which was good for my emotional well-being. As we learned complex grammar structures, I noticed improvement in my Turkish speaking and vocabulary. Çok güzel Türkçe konuşabilirim, ya! I even make small 10-second Snapchat videos teaching my friends some Turkish phrases
By the week’s end, I was feeling better from my kidney stones. When our Konya friend Ben told us he would be in a small port city called Fethiye with his visiting friend John, Alex and I decided we would join them for fun in the sun. Fethiye is truly a magical little place.  Wikipedia describes Fethiye as such: “Fethiye is a port city, and district, on Turkey's southwestern Turquoise Coast. It's known for its natural harbor, blue waters and numerous rock tombs that are remainders from the ancient Lycian city of Telmessos. The 4th-century B.C. Tomb of Amyntas is carved into a bluff overlooking the city. Near-shore islands are popular for day trips by boat. In the south, the beach at Ölüdeniz is sheltered by a lagoon.”

Arrival & Lodging
We took an early morning 4-hour bus from Antalya and arrived to Fethiye by noon. The city dolmuş dropped us off at wrong stop, which meant we had to walk for a solid 30 minutes before finding our hostel where Ben and John were waiting. We stayed at a hostel called Ideal Pension; 17.5 lira/night/person, with breakfast included. Alex and I shared a two-bed room while Ben and John shared another.
I learned that Ben’s college friend was visiting him from London. I also learned that John and Ben and I supposedly have a mutual friend—Ed who used to work at Liberty Mutual with me in Boston. Apparently they all went to Xavier University together and lived in the same dorm, with Ed being their RA. What a small world!

Greek Village, Paragliding, and Beach
Weekend was well spent. Saturday evening we walked up a winding highway and enjoyed some neat views. We stumbled upon a medium-sized brown tortoise and climbed up to ancient Greek ruins of Telmessos. I didn’t realize this but we had apparently walked to Kayaköy village, which is anciently known as Lebessos and Lebessus Greek city. We saw at the Telmessos temple sculpture for a while and looked out at the present-day Green Islands, which could be seen with the naked eye despite the fog. We enjoyed a homemade dinner by our hostel folks that evening and spent the evening chatting away until our eyes became drowsy.
   

Sunday was a super exciting day! Ben, Alex, and I signed up for paragliding trip for 110 lira. I have never done parasailing or parachuting or anything of the sort, so I was both nervous and excited for this new adventure. Paragliding is essentially running off of a mountain until you’re flying in a parachute in open air. The ride up to the mountain was quite bumpy, even scary because of the close proximity to the cliffs. Once we got to the top, we were assigned a professional paraglider, with whom we would share the ride.

On my first attempt at running off the cliff, I lifted my feet too soon and fell down, implicating my paragrlider as well as the helper. I apologized profusely, yet was still met with rudeness. In America, I am used to a response such as “it’s okay, don’t worry, everything will be okay.” In Turkey, I got “why did you lift up your feet? He’s hurt! What’s wrong with you?” I felt bad as we stayed still for 15 minutes to allow the professional paraglider to recover from his knee scratch. Our second attempt was successful and we were in the air before I knew it. We “paraglided” for about 45 minutes or so, taking in breathtaking views of the turquoise coast. We made small talk and I learned that my paraglider did this gig in both Izmir and Fethiye and uses it as an opportunity to improve his English. He took photos with his tiny camera and made video of flying in the sky. This reminded me of the balloon ride in Cappadocia, but this was much more open and vulnerable: I was held together only by a few straps. I trusted the professionals and enjoyed the experience. It was AMAZING!!! Afterward, we had to make a tough decision: to buy the priceless photos or not. After much contemplation, Alex and I caved and purchased the expensive 130 lira photos and video.

The next day we relaxed at the famous Ölüdeniz Beach, which literally means “Dead Sea.” The pebble beach is known for its blue lagoons and resort-like feel. According to my research, Ölüdeniz Beach is one of the most photographed beaches on the Mediterranean. All of us just slept on our beach towels and soaked in the sun while relaxing to the sound of the slowly splashing waves.

Kidney Stones


As soon as I returned from Bodrum, I got into bed and slept for the rest of the day. When I woke up, however, I had excruciating pain in the left side of my stomach. I could not move, I felt paralyzed. I pushed myself to get up and go to the bathroom, but it was very difficult to stand up. My skin color changed to yellow and I began vomiting nonstop. At first I thought it was food poisoning, but the piercing back pain reminded me it was not. I felt as if someone opened my stomach and put bricks inside of it. I crawled to Alex’s room and woke her up.

She quickly called all our contacts for help while I cried on the couch. One of our graduate students, Camerun, and her brother drove to our house and helped me get in the car. They drove me to the emergency room at Akdeniz Hospital, where I was quickly drugged with anesthesia that eased my extreme pain. I felt cold and miserable, dehydrated and hungry. I could barely keep my eyes open. I felt drowsy, nauseous, and lethargic all at the same time. Qasid Bhai rushed to the hospital and came to see me, which I really appreciated. “If not your close ones, then who else will come visit?” he said. I smiled.

Later, the doctors conducted an ultrasound on me and concluded that I had kidney stones. I don’t know what caused them, but perhaps my long bus rides, overdose on Vitamin D, and imbalanced diet could be contributors. I was advised to drink copious amounts of water and liquids to help flush out the kidney stones. I also took some painkillers and antibiotics for a week.

I was grateful to Alex, my students, and Pakistani family who took care of me during this time of need. As I mentioned before, medical emergencies are the less glamorized aspects of living abroad. These experiences teach you about perseverance and endurance, friendship and personal strength. I skipped Turkish lessons for the rest of the week, and focused on getting better through rest and proper nutrition.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Getaway Weekend at Bodrum & Aegean Sea

April 8-10, 2016
Sometimes you just need a weekend away from your normal routine and people. Meeting up with my good friend Erika Prince in Bodrum was the perfect getaway. Erika was my roommate at Niza Park Hotel during Orientation and Midyear Meeting.

Bodrum is a lovely little town that sits on the Aegean Sea, located between the Greek and Anatolian peninsulas. Bodrum’s marina and beaches are considered a relaxing resort by tourists and locals alike. There’s a good mix of foreigners and Turks who bathe on the sandy beaches and shop at the cute trinket shops.

Sun was peeking through the clouds during my bus ride.
Arrival & Lodging
I took what I thought was a 6-hour Kamil Koç bus ride from Antalya to Bodrum; but, instead, it turned out to be 8 hours. This was problematic because I had communicated a specific arrival time to our Air Bnb host Mustafa and Erika. And the two of them had to wait longer than anticipated. When I finally arrived, I was greeted by Erika and Mustafa who had been waiting at the station for nearly two hours now. I felt bad for all of this so I let out some steam at the Kamil Koç office, hoping that the feedback would better educate future employees. Nothing, of course, came out of it because it’s Turkey (roll eyes), but I felt better having done my part. We stayed at Mustafa’s apartment, who had excellent reviews for being hospital and knowledgeable. He was a 20-something-year-old local who knew the town inside out. Mustafa had become a pro at hosting foreigners through Air Bnb—no wonder his English was just short of excellent!

Before going to the hostel on Friday evening, Mustafa took us to a place called PizzaPizza where we ordered kumpir, which is a mix of a baked and mashed potato with toppings such as beans, vegetables, and meats. In our eight months of living in Turkey, I was surprised that neither Erika nor I had had kumpir. I wasn’t a huge fan of this new dish (I don’t like mashed potatoes in general),  but it was good to try something new and enjoy it with the classic Ayran (salty yogurt drink).

I will keep this blog post short and very generally summarize what we did on Saturday and Sunday. I want you to check out Erika’s blog post for a more illustrious description of our getaway weekend at Bodrum. Her full blog name is https://erikainankara.wordpress.com/, in which she beautifully writes about her experiences of being a Fulbrighter in Ankara and traveling around.


Saturday
We started our Saturday with a kahvalti at an open-air café, which was quite literally 10 feet from the shore. We had a beautiful view of the castle, which Erika and I later explored for a few hours. This was the highlight of my entire weekend; just strolling through an old castle, chatting with Erika, admiring the pretty scenes, hearing the waves. We took goofy photos and even made a “television ad” video (see below). Before leaving the castle, a photo booth caught our eyes: we decided to dress up in old Ottoman clothes and be princesses for a while. Why not, right? Photos are memories! Enjoy the photo essay below!
video

 
     
        
Sunday
On Sunday, we relaxed at the beach. Erika let me color in her coloring book while she journaled and listened to music. Mustafa accompanied us as well (though we didn’t actually need a guardian). On our walks back, we browsed through the trinket shops lined up in the streets leading up to the beach. I purchased two straw hats, sandals with nazar (evil eye) beads on them (followed Erika’s suit), key chains of little bottles with nazar beads in them, a mug, and chimes. One would think that after living in Turkey for such a long time, I would not fall into tourist traps, but alas, I did. A man sold me a straw hat for 30 lira and two stores later, I purchased another one for 10 lira. I was angry at myself for not realizing this. Important lesson to always remember: check prices at all the stores before making a purchase!

Erika is a special friend, wicked smart too. She’ll be a teacher at the prestigious Andover private high school in Massachusetts next year. This means I’ll be able to visit her more frequently when I move to Boston next fall. Rooming with her at Niza Park Hotel was the start to our beautiful friendship, one that I hope lasts forever. We became closer by sharing our high and low experiences and supporting each other through the not-so-good times.

A weekend at Bodrum was just what I needed to rejuvenate myself. We had no major schedule to follow at Bodrum, which is what made it so peaceful and relaxing. We both needed to recharge our batteries and go back to our respective towns with enough energy to finish strong—two more months and we would be home in the USA! On the bus ride back to Antalya, I slept soundly. I dreamt of a magical kingdom with tall, stone castles and serene beaches nearby. I heard the waves giggling as the flirty sail boats winked before passing by.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Videos from Cappadocia

Here are some videos from Cappadocia. They complement the adventures I wrote about in the previous blog post. Enjoy!

Walking to Rose Valley
video

 View of Cappadocia while on Red Tour
video

Balloon View 1
video

Balloon View 2
video

Balloon View 3
video

Balloon View 4
video

Underground City tour, first stop on the Green Tour
video

Selime Monastery, my favorite stop on the Green Tour
video

Fairy Chimneys (on our own on Sunday)
video

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Cappadocia: Caves, Chimmneys & Crowds


April 1-3, 2016

The weekend after my parents left, Alex and I visited one of the most beautiful wonders of the world. We "gezmeked" to Cappadocia (the verb gezmek in Turkish means to wander/travel around). This region is historical and a very popular tourist attraction, and we visited just before the full tourist season started in mid- to late-April. The weather was perfect, too. Even though I was cranky on this trip, I have to admit Cappadocia is my second favorite place in Turkey after Pammukale.

Bus ride
We took an overnight bus on Thursday and arrived to Cappadocia, or Kapadokya in Turkish, on Friday morning. On our journey, we met a Pakistani family who is originally from Lahore but currently lives in Saudi Arabia. The married couple Nadia and Ayaz, who were lovebirds since their university years, had three kids ages 10, 7, and 3. Being the social butterfly that I am, I mingled with them and enjoyed getting to know them. Like us, they were also headed to Cappadocia from Antalya. But unlike us, they were on a 10-day tour of Turkey—they started in Istanbul, visited Seljuk and Izmir, Pamukkale in Denizli, then Antalya, now Cappadocia, and will end in Istanbul again. What an ambitious trip, and with kids too! My family came for 10 days too, but we were only able to cover two cities. I guess it depends on the age of travelers; this couple was in their mid-30s and my parents are well over 50. To travel to that many places in a 10-day time frame requires ambition, sense of adventure, and most importantly, energy—last of which my parents definitely do not have at their age. I told the couple that I had been to all the places on their list except Izmir, which is scheduled for April or May.

After 10 hours of uncomfortable sleeping, the bus stopped and the bright sun rays woke me up. Soon thereafter, a solider with guns came onto our bus and collected everyone's ID's. Security around Turkey is tightening due to recent events and buses are often stopped for a check. We were fine after we showed our residency permits. The bus, which was supposed to go straight to Göreme (Cappadocia's city center), dropped us and the Pakistani family off at Neveşehir, a town about 15 minutes outside of Göreme. We were led into a station where an old man tried to sell us a balloon ride as well as red and green tours. His prices were: balloon ride for 130 euros (414 lira), red tour for 80 lira, and green tour for 90 lira. At first I didn't want to ride the hot air balloon because it's too expensive and out of my budget but then the "YOLO" (you only live once) mentality overcame me and I changed my mind. I was still skeptical to book through this guy though, so I encouraged Alex to wait until we got to our hostel. At least, that’s what I was going to do.

Lodging
Göreme Garden Hotel did not live up to expectation.
We stayed at Göreme Garden Hotel, which is run by a Turkish man (Deniz) and a woman who was born in the USA but grew up in Australia (Lisa). The online description for this hostel was deceptive; this place was not a garden by any sense of the word, but more like a farm. We saw cows and chickens roaming outside of it, and the plants appeared to be newly seeded with only twigs to be seen. The rooms were minimal at best, and the location was tucked away from the city center. We slept in a three-bed room with a communal bathroom located in the hallway of a building that appeared to be occupied by only us at the time we checked in. There was a plug next to Alex’s bed, but not mine so I charged my phone next to the door. We had a small balcony looking out to the dried  “garden” and the front gate. For what we were paying (26 lira/night/person), the accommodation was shabby but doable.

The second thing that irked me about this hostel was their tour prices and how they presented them to us. When we inquired about the balloon ride and tour prices, as many hostels tend to have better deals than bus stations, they were wishy-washy in their responses. For example, they told us that a green tour would cost 120 lira (30 lira more than the Neveşehir guy) and that the 130-euro balloon ride was the only one they recommend because they trusted the company (Türkiye Balloon). However, they said they could not give us any guarantee for the 90-euro balloon ride because it was through a company they did not know (Atmosphere). I found this off-putting because how can you sit there and tell me you've been on over 200 balloon rides and not know this one particular company in town? I understand hotels have a greater incentive to push customers towards pricier balloon rides, but it's rude to leave guests in a limbo because they are counting on your expertise to make an informed decision. At the very least, they could have told us what they don’t like about Atmosphere instead of offering zero insight. I quote:  “I can't tell you anything about Atmosphere but we guarantee a great trip with Türkiye Balloon. If you don't like Türkiye Balloon, you can come back and ride another one for free.” I was annoyed by this response. In the end, since we didn’t have many options, we took a leap of faith and registered through our hostel for the 90-euro balloon ride and the 110-lira green tour (we bargained the price down by 10 lira because we have museum cards). People typically just walk the red tour because it’s scenic and saves money, so we decided to do the same.

The color-coded tours offer different destinations.
Lastly, the thing that pushed me over the edge with this hostel was when Kadir, the boy running the place in Deniz's and Lisa’s absence, tried to charge us for Friday’s breakfast without telling us it would cost us money. When we arrived at 6am on Friday morning, Deniz served us each a kahvaltı platter without telling us that this meal would cost us 10 lira each. We assumed this was included in the hostel price, since we are staying for two nights and therefore guaranteed two breakfasts. When we emailed Lisa about our negative experience with Kadir, protecting her employees like any good boss would do, she clarified that breakfasts are usually served after the night we book. She apologized that Deniz did not mention the cost to us when he served us breakfast. I was baffled again: if we are going on a balloon ride on Saturday morning which includes breakfast by the balloon company, why would we need a second breakfast by the hostel?? It was clearly a hidden rip-off, and I was not having any of it. I told Lisa they can count our Friday breakfast as our Saturday breakfast, since we would be eating with the balloon company on Saturday evening. She wasn't happy but agreed. Needless to say, I'll be leaving Göreme Garden Hotel an ill review. My recommendation for anyone visiting Cappadocia is to not stay at this undeveloped ‘garden’ whose hosts are clearly crooks.

History
Ancient Anatolia or Asia Minor, the large peninsula where modern Turkey is located, consists of several regions. One of the most important was Cappadocia, the ancient name of a large region in the center of Anatolia, with natural pinnacles and rock churches. Originally this region was vast, stretching from Kirsehir to Malatya to the northern part of Adana. Its name was probably derived from “Katpatuka,” meaning land of the beautiful horses, in Hittite language. Many different empires have ruled and lived in Cappadocia, inherently making the region a true melting pot of ethnic groups and religious beliefs: Hittites, Assyrians, Lydians, Persian, Romans, Seljuks and Ottomans. Historians note that the tuff-coned landscape of Cappadocia was formed after volcanic eruptions, and Christians who were persecuted by the Romans sought refugee in this region. They built underground cities and churches in every cave, where they inhibited.
The city center is called Göreme, which literally means "see not" but colloquially means "invisible." I find this to be ironic because Cappadocia is so scenic so why shouldn't people see it? The word "Kapadokya" is a Persian word meaning beautiful region.

For a brief historical overview, I recommend this website.

Friday: Red Tour on our own
After checking in, I decided to take a nap while Alex roamed the city center a bit. The plan was to meet up with the Pakistani family and roam the Red Tour trails together, but due to some miscommunication, this did not happen. After I woke up around noon, Alex and I trekked towards the Open Air Museum, stopping along the way to marvel at the caves and to take pictures. At this museum, we ran into some Americans with tall hiking backpacks and a lot of Asians with cameras. I noticed that there were large groups of Asians on “silent” tours; they had earphones plugged in and their tour guide spoke softly into her microphone. I thought this was a smart idea for two reasons: first, it doesn’t disrupt other tourists and second, it prevents tourists who sneak into tours. While we didn’t have a tour guide, it was nice to just walk around and marvel at the orange, rocky beauty. I have never seen something like this, though I know such landscapes exist in western United States in states like Colorado or Arizona.
Alex and I walked and walked and stumbled on the Rose Valley, which gets its name from the reddish rocks. It seemed deserted to us but we ventured down the winding path anyway. Water supply was low and my attire—turtleneck black blouse underneath a string dress, complete with black leggings and high boots—was not appropriate for the scorching weather. I figured it would still be cold (Cappadocia is known to be freezing) and was pleasantly surprised by the early April weather. Needless to say, I hiked while sweating buckets. We found an abandoned car and some trash at the bottom of the Rose Valley; I made some silly videos; and we decided to head back. I had zero energy left to walk down the highway, so when an empty van passed by, I waved my arm and hoped the driver would stop. He did. We hopped on (though Alex was a bit uncomfortable) and made small conversation until we reached Göreme. We offered to pay for the ride, but the gentleman didn’t take our coins. One should always take caution when hitchhiking, but I made an informed decision seeing how Cappadocia is so touristy and the highway was only going to one place. Meeting strangers is part of traveling.

It was almost lunchtime. We grabbed some items such as large water bottles from a nearby convenient store and decided to go for Chinese food. I didn’t like the dried out noodles, but the service were nice. I’ve had Chinese food in Turkey twice now, once in Istanbul and once in Cappadocia, and both times have been a disappointment. I conclude that Chinese cuisine is not popular in Anatolia. We walked around the city center some more, did some shopping, and ran into our Pakistani friends. We retired to our hostel, and later had tea with the Pakistani family in their cave hotel.

The Dervish Cave Hotel, where our friends stayed, was splendid—it had all the amenities of a hotel and it was in the shape of a cave. As we chatted over tea, we learned about our friends’ plans for the next day. We changed our mind about booking the green tour with our hotel, and instead booked it through the Dervish Cave Hotel. Alex was hesitant about this because she didn’t want to upset our hostel people and reasoned that it would be easier to get picked up at our own hotel if our hotel booked it for us. However, I argued that Dervish Cave Hotel was not only giving us a better deal (100 lira instead of 120), they would also pick us up at our hotel so that solves her transportation concern. Plus, I wanted to spend more time with the Pakistani family we had just met. It took some convincing but she finally agreed. Later that night, we canceled the green tour with our hotel. 
Saturday: Balloon Ride & Green Tour
On Saturday, we woke up at 4am and were ready by 4:30am, as directed. The Atmosphere Balloon Company’s van picked us up and dropped us off at their center, where we had a small breakfast. It was a pleasant surprise to run into another Fulbrighter, Nicole Ga, who was in Cappadocia for the second time with her friend who was doing a Fulbright in Bulgaria. The van ride was bumpy and twisty, and after about 30 minutes, dropped us off at the balloon site. There were large crowds waiting to board balloon baskets, balloon people trying to heat up a balloon, and people taking pictures. We took a few snaps and were put into a basket, soon thereafter. I ended up with Nicole on the one side, and Alex ended up with Nicole’s friend on the other side. They have to balance the basket with about 9 or 10 people on each side.
Once the balloon took off, I couldn’t believe we were air borne! The ride was worth every penny! I've never been on a hot air balloon, so this was my time floating in the sky in a basket. The views were incredible! We could see the pointy, golden caves below us and a hundred other balloons in the sky among us. It felt so surreal. I felt like I was in a postcard. The sunrise was just absolutely gorgeous, I felt as if I were staring into the eyes of the sun, parallel from it. I once co-piloted a two-passenger jet with Steve White, son of my Bowdoin College scholarship donor. Flying over Brunswick in that aircraft was an amazing feeling. It was the first time I operated a machine while in the air, I was definitely nervous. What made the balloon ride different and exhilarating is the fact that the basket didn’t have closed doors or windows. I could freely wave my arms in the air without a seatbelt or goggles. I took some pictures, made a “happy birthday” video for my family members who have an April birthday (Mom, Laraib, Maryum, Dani).
After the basket landed on top of a truck, the balloon pilot gave us “certificates of completion” and popped open champagne bottles to celebrate. I opted for the sparkling water and we all raised a toast for our accomplishment. The van dropped us off at our hostel at around 10am, so I took a quick nap before our Green Tour began.

The Green Tour
The Green Tour was a full-day affair. It was long and exhausting, but incredibly informative and eye-opening. It’s called a “green tour” because all the locations are located near luscious greenery. When we boarded the 12-person van, a tall Asian-looking lady welcomed us. As our tour guide, she asked everyone their names and country of origin. Our van consisted of the Pakistani family from Saudi Arabia with their three children, Alex and myself from the States, two Canadian young girls, a young Asian couple, and a Turkish man training to be a tour guide.

We started with the Derinkuyu Underground City. We started at the ventilation shaft above ground and made our way down to the climate controlled underground tunnels—I wish I had brought a jacket because it definitely cold! We walked down dark, narrow stairs (using phone flashlights at times) and had to watch out for big open holes. According to the guide, only 25% of the troglodytic city is open to the public and excavations are ongoing. The underground city is said to be some 8 stories deep; we saw a winery, a baptismal, meeting rooms, a church, tandoor (in-cave oven), a well, many graves (some with bones still in them), and a kitchen, but no toilets, which I thought was interesting and a bit gross. However, this could be because the underground city—which held up to 2,000 people at one time—was used only during invasions to hide from enemies and only for a few months at a time. “The structure dates back thousands of years. Apparently, the Hittites used the first two floors for their animals. Over time the different local inhabitants dug deeper and deeper. They say that every house in the town has a basement that connects to the subterranean metropolis. The above ground invaders must have wondered if they had entered a ghost town or magical land with disappearing people!” (Source)
Next on the itinerary was the Selime Monastery, a very cool rock structure carved out from within a ginormous mountain. According to the guide, the monastery dates from 8th-10th centuries and included a missionary school, a living area, and at least one church, as well as monks’ quarters, a large kitchen and even a stable for mules. It is therefore the biggest religious building in Cappadocia. After some upfront information, the guide let us explore the monastery on our own. We carefully walked through the walls and trenches of this fortress-like structure. We played hide-and-seek using “secret” passageways, twisting stairways, and ever-steep ladders. There were even holes big enough climb into. Click here for more on Selime Monastery.  

We had lunch at a riverside restaurant, which included soup, salad, and a choice between trout, chicken, vegetarian, or meatballs. Most of the dishes were baked/broiled except for the grilled chicken and Adana şiş. I ate fish because I love fish. Drinks were extra (a can of juice cost 4TL and a half-liter bottle of water was 1TL).
Next, we drove 30 minutes out to Ihlara Valley Hike, a lush, green river canyon. The valley is 14 km long, and we were dropped off at about the 3km point. After descending a couple of hundred stairs to the canyon floor, our guide showed us the Ağaçaltı cave church dating to the 4th century with paintings from the 10th century. Then we were allowed to roam around freely. I walked with Nadia, since her husband decided to skip this portion of the tour and stayed in the van with the kids who were becoming grouchy. The walk near the water bank was lovely; we stopped every so often to take photos by picturesque water stops and tall cliffs with caves shining from them like jewels.

By 5pm, the group was super tired and energy was low. We made a very quick stop at Pigeon Valley, overseeing another beautiful part of Cappadocia. Unlike other places on this trip, I simply didn’t have energy to pose. Alex, Nadia, and I took turns taking each other’s quick snaps before joining tourist crowds across the street at sweets stores. Lokum was overpriced, so I didn’t buy anything, but the free samples for pistachio, rose, and chocolate lokum were delicious. The sugar rush was just what I needed to make it through our final stop.

Last but not least, everyone mustered the strength for the final stop on the Green Tour: Onyx Jewelry Factory & Demonstrations. We saw an artisan make onyx “eggs” and other cool shapes from stone. There was dust everywhere in the shop. Nadia’s two kids won the token pieces. We then walked through a jewelry shop. I tried on plenty of rings made of precious stones, including Turkey’s famous turquoise stone, but nothing was in my budget and I hesitated making a valuable purchase due to the fear of losing it. I’ll put these gems on my wish list and have my husband buy them for me. Soon after the tour ended, we crashed.

Sunday: Fairy Chimneys & Roaming Around
On Sunday, we wanted to wake up early and hike up to “Sunrise Point” where balloons could be seen flying over caves. Despite our efforts to set alarms, we simply couldn’t get up. Instead, we enjoyed an adventure to Fairy Chimneys. And it was an adventure. The city bus dropped us off at a random location; we wandered like nomads along roadsides; and after much dehydration, finally stumbled upon the famed fairy chimneys. The tall sculptures surely looked like fairy houses! We were accompanied by an Indian boy whom we had met the evening before from Nicole’s hostel group.
I don’t know why, but I was grumpy again so while the fairy chimneys were lovely, I was just didn’t enjoy them as much. Part of it was petty disputes with Alex and another part was the weather. We all had lunch together, and then I excused myself. I told Alex I would meet her at the bus stop in two hours. I walked around Göreme on my own and shopped for gifts—mini purses, postcards, coffee toasters, coffee runner for mom. At one store, I spotted mini Cappadocia caves and chimneys made out of pottery. I smiled at the elderly woman selling them and walked towards her. I purchased two from her. Then I saw her husband sitting nearby, smoking a cigarette and drinking çay. I spotted a tavla board nearby, and pulled up a seat next to him. “Oynamak ester misiniz?” Do you want to play? My excitement for life returned, as if a soul had reentered my body. I smirked at my opponent, and rolled the dice.