Turkey, Home Found in a Foreign Country
By Na Seong-in, Senior, Dept. of English Education
It was the last vacation that I could spend my time as a typical university student before fully concentrating on preparing for the National Teacher’s Examination. The Gate to the World, one of the global programs managed by the Office of International Affairs, was considered a good opportunity for enlarging my global scope and enjoying this special period with my friends. It was the last chance. After some forms and interviews, we managed to take off for Turkey.
There Is Something Alluring about Turkey
At first, this country came to me in abstract terms, which made me confused by unfamiliar affection to the so-called ‘country of brothers’. Turkey has as many gorgeous attractions and highly recommended things as top interesting sites in the world. However, what makes Turkey distinctive is its unique state of being in harmony despite some contradictions such as the strict religious regulations in Islam and a liberal social atmosphere, its people who have Western style appearances and their nationalities of Eastern origin, and the sincere Islamic traditions in society and their lucrative business with Christians. Its weird and wonderful contradictions became real from the first day in Istanbul.
Impressive Country like Strong Flavors of Its Food
The first and most important factor that affected us was its cuisine. Turkish food has a strong flavor like that of Korea but its bitter and sour tastes, even in the yogurt, lead me to feel that this journey would be harder than I had expected. We did not bring any Korean food except pepper sauce just in case. In the middle of the trip, we ate Turkish Fusion, pepper sauce and bread. Next, the fortunate part of the trip was its beautiful scenery and people, which made us lively and enquiring.
In Istanbul, people were waiting for the tram which is a sort of subway which rode on a rail on the road. If you live in this city, especially near the shore, you may commute to your workplace by boat since Istanbul embraces the Bosporus Strait which puts old towns and new towns on each side. It was so impressive that Turkish people living in old towns can commute with views including medieval fortresses and towers built hundreds of years before.
Uncomfortable but Interesting Experience
When departing to Ankara, we used a limousine bus, mostly used for long-distance travel. Each bus has a staff that takes care of passengers’ needs during the tiresome journey. At first on the bus, I wondered how people could asleep and endure a10-hours bus trip. Fortunately, we all slept well like babies, and I even spent a great time with my family in dreams. In addition to the bus, the train is also a useful mode of transportation. Rather than describing the plain interior, I would like to put in writing about a moment just before we took the train, that is, about when we were in the waiting room.
Unexpectedly, English was not enough to communicate with people who were very obliging but did not understand English at all. So, we had no way to find Myoung-won, who was one of the members in my group, in the busy waiting room with people changing trains and with its crowdedness. We initially thought she had gone to the restroom, but she did not appear for quite a long time. I bustled around the whole space again and again attracting the public’s gaze. When I finally found her, she almost threw her body down to the floor like a tragic heroine, and cried and laughed spontaneously in relief.
This embarrassing moment made us so confused and rushed, so we caught an ordinary train which only had seats instead of the sleeping car we had already booked! We had to make our bodies fit to the narrow seats for sleeping, but tried to look on the bright side, thinking we were like great acrobatic gymnasts. It is much better to have all four people with a little discomfort than three people in cozy beds, isn’t it? Though it is obvious that all four people with cozy beds are best, I think.
Enjoying Turkish Folk Music
My most unforgettable moment was in an antique music café in Bursa. By surfing the Internet, we found a café where some elder Turks play folk music. When we arrived, music such as chatting between friends was flowing from the small blurred window of the semi-underground building. Its interior was divided into two parts, where one was made up of the kitchen and a few tables, the other had a sofa along the wall, except for a gate to the kitchen. We were greatly welcomed by people in the café, and the music evoked the feeling that I was in a place I should stay. Ironically it made me realize my actual feelings that I was a traveler, and really far from my home.
At that moment, a woman sitting at the table near the kitchen joined with a wood spoon and fork. She tapped the spoon and fork rhythmically, which looked as if she had been doing those ‘folks’ and their melodies from the beginning. She seemed to say that this was my home, and that I should be proud of this place I visit. And I would like to keep it secret that we made our consciousness set free and danced to the happy tune of traditional musical instruments, without a drop of alcohol but still drunken in atmosphere like ‘Turkish delight’.
My Most Valuable Acquisitions
I would like to express that this trip was memorable because of the people who helped us to travel without much trouble and my group members. At first, I trembled to think that we might get alienated from each other during the trip, like many other precedents I had heard of. We were getting along fairly well and trusted each other. But who knows? I was not sure that I am the very person who has ‘real’ friends to share real empathy, the person that seemed to be only in the movies describing old and tried friendships. I painted the bleak picture that everyone was overly cautious in order not to be a troublemaker during the hard circumstances of backpacking.
In short, I was wrong, totally. It was me that the weakest link in our group, bothering my friends with moody silences, incessantly complaining, and frowning. I sometimes went in another direction without a word, so they had to wander to find me. I absolutely agreed that my cruel words may have hurt them regardless of my intentions. However, they taught me valuable lessons. Su-yeon showed me the perfect model of a backpack traveler by gathering up the served items such as tissues, paper bags, even the trash littered on the street, for the reason that we may need them someday. I can never forget when she mimicked the sheep bleat to ask the waiter if the dish is was mutton or beef. The blank look on his face!
Myoung-won also showed careful concern with and thoughtful courtesy to everyone, and put up with more discomfort from her friends with a bright smile, her trademark. Lastly, Sam, the field guide in our trip who had made the detailed plan including what to see, where to check in, when to move, and even the bus company name we should catch through the whole process, impressed me. Her talented strategies for dealing with numerous flustering situations were greatly useful to this successful trip.
True Friendship between Women Exist!
I would like to express my gratitude to my travel companions through this magazine, Chonnam Tribune and to this opportunity. Although no emergencies to ‘prove’ or ‘show’ their friendship happened, I know they are some of the most valuable ‘souvenirs’ of this trip. Who said that women’s friendship is easily ruined? On the bus returning to Gwangju, I asked myself if I had been changed through this trip, but the answer is obvious and pointless. People like to compare life to walking through the path. Then, did this trip modify the direction of the path I am walking on? If so, to where? The clue to the answer was expressed by Martin Buber, a Jewish philosopher on Existentialism; all journeys have secret destinations of which the travelers is unaware.