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Antalya, August 2005

by slavica (9/6/2005)

Antalya, August 2005

August 20th 2005, 2:00 PM. The long-anticipated day had come. I was sitting with a friend on the plane flying from Belgrade to Antalya.


I was thinking about beautiful Antalya, Riviera of Turkey, the colorful streets of Kaleiçi, the ancient marina, the amazing dark blue and turquoise color of the sea, long famous sandy Lara beach and the small, cozy hotel on the shore of the beach, waiting for us. It was the place where we spent our vacation last summer and where we are going now again. I planned our activities: excursions, swimming, shopping, and meeting people. Meeting with people... I was also thinking about essays and posts of my classmate Lyndie. She wrote about Turkish people, especially people working in the Tourism fields, their hard work and difficult live circumstances and their pride which doesn't let them complain. This was something I had known before, but had never been able to define as well as Lyndie. I promised myself that, while in Turkey, I'll do my best to show respect to Turkish people and their work and not treat them as though they are there only to serve me.


At the hotel reception area I saw a familiar face. Mr Miko, who works at hotel reception, recognized us also. With a big smile, he accompanied us to the owner of the hotel and spoke to him. A big smile appeared on Mr Ferit's face. Our return to the same hotel was accepted as a big compliment and with great pleasure as well. It was no problem to get the same room as the last year.


We started with our itinerary. Swimming and sunbathing at the beautiful old Lara beach, with its beautiful new park and nicely arranged entrance; walking and shopping, of course, in the centre of Antalya, old city of Kaleichi with famous Marina, cute shops and restaurants everywhere and beautiful park; visiting famous Antalya museum; excursions to amazing upper and lower Duden waterfalls, Kekova Island and ancient cite Myra (Demre), where a church of St. Nicholas is located, Lycian rock tombs and old theater; visiting old friends who were as happy to see us as we were happy to see them and having long conversations with them...


We were constantly with people. We were curious to talk to them, to ask their names, about their families, where they live out of season, their likes and dislikes. I tried to speak to them in their own language, and this pleased them greatly. We talked with people in shops, restaurants, buses, the post office, on the beach, everywhere where it was possible. They were very surprised and happy because not many tourists showed them the courtesy of speaking their language. We took many pictures of and with different people, exchanged addresses and promises to write and send pictures. Everyone was so nice, so kind and so hospitable; everyone wished to see us again. For me, the best part of my vacation was meeting people and talking with them.


We especially got very close to the personnel of our hotel. Most of them were young men, far away from their homes. They lived in the hotel and worked from 7:30 to 22:00 (sometimes even more) every day, without weekends, holidays, or private lives. Sometimes we could see them come to the beach, swim for a short time and hurry back to work. Sometimes they asked their manager to let them go night swimming after work. We often sat in the small garden near the hotel and talked with them when they didn't have too much work, or after their work, before they went to sleep. We talked about everything: life in Turkey and our country, music, and literature. We exchanged CDs. They were happy to help me learn Turkish. We even got Turkish names: Sibel for me, Bahar for my friend (her name, translated in English, means "spring"). I was touched; I interpreted this as a sign of acceptance by them.


Their manager, Mr Çoban, was also a great man. In his 70's, he worked 42 years as diplomat all around the world. He talked in an interesting manner about many different things. He was a very intelligent and well educated man, full of experience. We liked him very much and enjoyed to listen to his stories. Well, day for our departure became very close. We wanted to express our gratitude to all our friends, but didn't want this to be in a monetary way. We asked Mr Çoban for an advice. He suggested buying them a bottle of "raki" (Turkish traditional drink). He said that they will sit together after work and drink it with toasts for our health. So we did as he suggested. Our last day. Couple of hours before leaving, we gave our present of the traditional drink, coffee, some crackers and candies to Ercan, main officer in the restaurant, and with help of Mr Çoban, explained that this is a little gift from us, because they were so nice. Very soon they started coming, one by one, to thank us. They seemed happy and sincerely surprised. Mr Çoban told us that nobody, except him as a manager, did it before for them...


When time for leaving came, I finally realized how close we became: hugs, kisses, tears, promises to write, to come again, to send pictures. As we said our good byes, passengers in the bus looked upon us wondering why we were so emotional. As I departed, I felt like I left part of my heart in that hotel with all those wonderful people...


I was home, tired, still unpacked and totally confused. Just couldn't believe that I'm back again in the middle of everyday grayness...

I've sent an e-mail to Mr Çoban and SMS to Ercan, just to let them know that I arrived home safely and thanked them one more time.

Mr Çoban answered me with a kind letter: it was a great pleasure for him to meet me and Bahar. Kids was very happy last night, they invite him to drink together, so they toasted for both of us. From Ercan I received SMS:




I was in shock! After almost a year of learning Turkish I was not able to understand a simple SMS! What could I do? I had to ask friends for help, received translation:


"Hi, how are you?
Believe me, everybody has been talking about you and they say "they were very nice people". We missed you.
Everybody here says hello to you..
Take care."


How cute…They really did like us...

Friends helped me write the answer.

Next day I've sent pictures and a letter with greetings to everybody, name everyone we met, to Mr Çoban's e-mail. I asked him to copy the letter and show it to everybody.

And today I received his answer:

... all the staff is looking forward to seeing you again. All of them sending you their respect, love and kind regards with their best wishes...

... your text has been hanging on the most appropriate place of the restaurant, on the wall of the chimney, where you always sat. Endless kisses with respect and love from all of us.


Oh, how I miss them…


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