The Journey to Alanya

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On the way to Alanya I started talking to a young man. He was from Turkey’s largest city Istanbul but still looked very Scandinavian. He told me that he was a student and on his way to be a tourist guide.
He asked me what I did and I said I was a writer. He told me that his big dream was to be a writer too…
We exchanged experiences, talked about our countries, about the people and the culture. Turkey has a fascinating history he told me. However authors were not always highly regarded by the regime.
This I of course knew already. There is more than one example of authors who have had to live in exile or have been restricted. Yasar Kemal, Fakir Baykurt, Nazim Hikmet - all authors who have criticised conditions in Turkey.
*** But I came to Turkey as a tourist in order to make up for the lack of summer weather in Sweden. I am making up for it now: 40 degrees in the shade and above 50 in the sun!
As the bus passed through the unfamiliar scenery I drank plenty of water. Cotton fields and little fruit stalls were to be seen. The fields were barren and dry. Houses which have never been completed were scattered here and there.
I turned to the author-to-be and asked him how many people would actually be able to read the books he was going to write. Suddenly he looked worried and replied that not all that many would. *** In the small shop beside the hotel I quickly got to know the owner and his family. He told me he had not been at school for many years. The shop was their school. They learn lots there not least foreign languages. Many Germans and Swedes come to Alanya. Our conversation was a mixture of English, German and Swedish and the man gave examples of his self-taught Swedish. ’Hello. How are you doing? Thank you very much. Welcome back’… Several times I was offered apple tea. It was very warm in fact extremely hot but tasty. I always said thank you and accepted. Saying no would have been considered impolite. *** Coming from Malmø to Alanya was a shock. Not least because the heat nearly kills you – until you get used to it.
You also cross the street at the risk of losing your life. The drivers drive to the limit and they have their foot on the accelerator almost constantly. The tourists need to have wings on their feet.
The noise is ear shattering during the day as well as night time. A motor vehicle instructor would be able to make a lot of money here. Not many of the vehicles have silencers and the quality of the cars varies very much. Speed limits probably exist but only on paper. Traffic lights and pedestrian crossings are rarely seen. The people however are mostly friendly and helpful - sometimes maybe too helpful! To a Swede it might become a little too much with all the waiters who stand outside the eating places trying to convince us to eat at their restaurant. Not to mention the sellers at the market who are trying to make themselves heard above the rest by shouting.
— ’Bitte schön! Kaufen! Where do you come from’?
— ’Sweden’.
I will never get used to bargaining all the time but not to do so would mean paying more than is necessary. *** One evening we took a taxi on the way back from town and the driver was a curious man who asked where we were from. He looked confused when we said Sweden. I then said ’Scandinavia. You know Denmark, Norway, Sweden ... The name of the capital is Stockholm’.
- ’Which town is then the nearest?’
- ’Umeå’ I said.
Suddenly the guy started talking Swedish. It was just a few words but it soon transpired that he was married to a Swedish girl who was in Stockholm where she was to have their baby. He had met her when she had been in Alanya as a tourist and he was now waiting for a permit to go to Sweden to join his family. However the Foreign Office had not yet given him this very much sought after paper.
He told us he wanted to work with computers or something similar and as I did not want to shatter his dream I did not tell him of the large unemployment rate currently in Sweden.
***
Discovering another country is fun. There are a lot of differencies. If nothing else one realises how well-off we are in Sweden. In front of the hotel we passed a man and his son pulling a cart behind them. Both were dirty and badly dressed. They stopped beside the rubbish bin and started searching through it for empty cans. They found a lot but that was maybe not so strange if you take into consideration the fact that tourists always seem to be drinking something!
A child was playing with empty cardboard boxes nearby. The children put sand in the boxes and dragged them around on a string. These were their toys.
On the beach Swedes and other dollar tourists play and bake in the heat.
***
The nights were fascinating. I sat on the balcony on the fifth floor of our apartment hotel and watched the city. Below was the pool where we cooled ourselves when we were fed up with the sea. Everywhere you looked buildings spread out - hotels and ordinary homes. On the roofs were water tanks, solar systems and TV-antennae. More than once during the evening the lights in the windows went out. The lights blinked and all became completely dark. Power cuts are part of everyday life. The electricity grid cannot cope with the demand. Our 4 year old daughter sat ready with a torch in her hand and said that soon there would be a break-in.
However that was something that we never saw - crime. The police patrol with ready-to-fire guns but they are never needed. No-one seemed to be intoxicated or violent. Maybe most of it is sweated out in the heat?
***

We spent a week in Turkey. The experiences were many and we started to get used to the heat. However on the last night we were longing for Sweden and normal temperatures. We went to bed early but could not sleep. Just after midnight we needed to leave the hotel for our flight.
When we were finally back in Sweden and came out of the plane, my daughter turned to her mother and said:
- ’The wind is cold, mum! Wonderful’
That night she lay at home in her own bed clapping her hands enthusiastically before she fell asleep. She did not have to think about the heat any longer. Turkey was far, far away. And somewhere out there, there is a young man, dreaming of becoming an author…

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