Friday, September 14, 2007
Back up. Driving into town we passed an incredible number of polis on every corner, midblock, in the street and maybe even up in the trees. It was a bit nutty. The corner at which we were deposited was very crowded not only with the polis, but with a very large crowd as well, craning their necks to see through a fence to the building beyond. We found out later that Turkey's new president was making an appearance. We didn't stick around to see him. Food was calling.
Back to the lake. From the castle we plotted our route to the edge of the lake for tea or beer or whatever we could find. We found a pier with a restaurant out near the end that was serving nice cold Efes beer. The walk was a bit long, in the sun, through almost empty streets and many unoccupied houses. Very quiet and friendly people, of course. At the restaurant we sat next to the water and watched the sun play on the waves, diving birds skipped along the top of the water, a nice breeze permeated our shaded table and all was right with the world.
Back in town at our hotel Steph went to sleep and Justin and I sat in a nearby çay evi (tea garden) and sat on little chairs at a little table and sipped tea and talked while surrounded by Turkish men talking, yelling, and playing backgammon. Nice.
Dinner. Now that was an experience. At our table with us was a Turkish man and his Iranian friend. The guy from Iran was about my age and spoke a little English. We abashedly admitted to our roots and expected something less than positive. Boy did he surprise us. He loves the US (repeated many times) and said he loves Bush? His tone was not nearly as positive when we also chatted about Clinton, and he doesn't seem to think Bush's approach to Iran in regards to nuclear issues is good. But. An interesting talk. He's here getting away. As we understood it, because of politics his parents were shot and I know he had all the toes on his foot cut off because he showed me. And there is no going back to Iran because that would be the end of him. And he can't work here. And the UN refused to give him a visa to western Europe because he doesn't need it (I guess his toe-less foot means little?). He expressed a lot of bitterness over that, a feeling that seems to be worsened because (according to him) if he were gay he would get a visa right away. But he's not so... The first solid reality check on this trip. A terrible situation for him. And no way for us to help.
After he left, we ended up talking to a guy at the table behind us, another Iranian refugee who spoke very good English. He also loves the US and Bush.
Now here is the topper. At the Internet place we stopped at after dinner, the guy collecting money asked where we were from, of course. We told him. He got very excited and let us know how much he loves Bush, the US, AND the US army! As you may suspect, we were a bit taken aback and weren't sure how to react. I thought he was going to stand and salute us. When he told us that he is Kurdish....we were floored.
Sidenote: no one we have talked to here thinks the US being in Iraq in good, and that while Saddam was bad, things are worse now. Lots of bad stories trickling up, and we keep hearing this from people.
Van was nice. We left and headed to Kars. That is another great story. One that almost involved me going for a ride in a Turkish military armored tank/car.