Not long ago I found myself on the shores of Mediterranean Turkey. In the course of this voyage, I booked a tour to see Pammakule and Heirpolis. Ancient ruins and mineral deposits on the sides of cliffs . . . seriously, there is little better to fuel the fire of my inner nerd and wanderlust gal. Though, perhaps one of the perks of this trip was the promise to bathe in the mineral waters of Cleopatra, slather myself in healing mud, and stand in the sun absorbing vitamin D while it dried. After all, I do live in the northern hemisphere, New York City to be exact, so the odds of my ever holding the recommended value of vitamin D is a sliding scale of slim to never.
Though, in eleven countries and and thirty-three US states (nine of them having lived in) I have become fairly accustomed to embracing the changing pace of life and space. Yet, in all the years of showering and changing in women’s locker rooms in college, high school, and those horrible middle school years, none of it compares to the experience on cliffs in western Turkey. Perhaps I should back up a moment . . .
That tour, a moderate gold mine to take me across the countryside with relative ease and sans hassle of driving in Turkey (ahem, for the American I do not recommend it) also had me as the only English speaker. Yea, a large number of my friends told me that they bowed in awe at my bravery for being on a tour of Russians. One guide spoke English, yet he was more inclined to make passes at me, and the Russian speaking guide was not keen on anyone talking while she was. Both spoke Turkish, but my Turkish is best read and while spoken it should be done so over beers and at shop stalls. Yes, yes, I learned my Turkish via shopping and bars, and then via books with relative no one to practice on back home. It is a hilarity of triumph and mistake as I butcher sentences, generally conveying my meaning. So, a tour of thirty people and I am the English speaker. There was a Polish girl who spoke about as much as English as I do Polish, so aside from pleasantries we were locked in the universal awkward smile. Her boyfriend—a Parisian—did not speak English and responded in true shock as I rambled some moderate French to him. It was quite the state of global returns.
Back to that shower . . . after rocking for hours on the bus, we spilled out like puppies from a new litter, eager to feel the warm mineral waters on our skin, face, and hair. We shuttled along, ushered into cabana huts, and I was pushed into one with six Russian women of varying age from teens to the mellows of the silver years. Peeling off clothes, they clicked among each other, and while the American pulled back her dress the teen—in broken English—said “I knew American not all prudes!” Standing there, forgetting my American sensibilities of Puritan designs, I gasped while shimmying into my bikini. As I wrangled my girls into the top, as any woman small or large will tell you is a feat of daily medal winning, my eyes grew larger as those Russian women my age and younger could clearly teach us all a few things about wielding a razor in the vicinity of Lady Town. I mean, I have made a large part of my living from writing, studying, and teaching on the subject of women. In Women’s Studies classes college girls, and the gents, have professed their preferred hygiene for the region. Yet, in this cabana I caught glimpses of lighting bolts and tattoos.
Forgetting about my back tattoos of a compass rose and an anchor with a butterfly, my guide asked me about them as several of the group were fascinated. They came, looked, and as I am told were taken aback that the women in the gray dress and sensible shoes had tattoos, an ear cuff, and the remnants of a belly ring (long not worn).
As we swam in the mineral pools, dancing under the water falls, and steering clear of the pipes shuttling steaming hot water I looked around, at the sky, breathed in the oh-so-sexy aroma of eggs, and finally let myself relax. Floating in the pool I did not think that I this is as good as it gets. I am an optimist who tends to think better is relative and evolves with life and space. Instead, I thought back to the messages friends had been sending me—as they typically do—about my travels, escapes, or even chaotic life in New York City.