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Tuesday, 01 March 2016

Van, Kurdish Turkey: Why I Will Accept Invitations to Tea More Often - Page 2

Written by Michael Chrusciel
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Arriving at the docks, I excitedly raced toward the long awaited boats to Akhdamar. However, after just a few moments of bliss with my ferry ticket in hand, I realized I had failed to think of how my return journey would be orchestrated. A quick glance at the road showed the minibus swiftly turning around and heading back into town. This was the off-season for tourists, I learned, and the docks were not teeming with return passengers from the island. No worries, I thought, it’s early enough in the day, and there’s bound to be another bus stopping by at some point. My return flight the same day back to Istanbul didn’t leave until nearly nine o’clock that night.


A boat of returning passengers docked, and a group of older men who appeared friendly with the boat’s captain disembarked and sat near me, engaging me in conversation on my origins and the details of the boat’s next departure. The small ferries to the island only left when enough passengers merited the cruise, they informed me, and I was the only person there waiting for a boat, so I was becoming even more worried. They were overjoyed yet perplexed to hear I was from America. They then retreated to talk amongst themselves in Turkish, and I could only pick out variants of the word “America” in their conversation. It made me nervous. Why did I talk to this group of strangers? 


To my relief, more Turkish tourists showed up, and we were able to debark for Akhdamar. Another solo traveler like myself, a friendly Turkish man who was a local high school math teacher, introduced himself as Sadat (my blonde hair, pale skin, and orange backpack must scream I’m from out of town). He was exceptionally kind, and eagerly continued to shout, "Michael, come here and see this!" pointing to the approaching island and its Armenian church standing in renovated glory, the only attraction on the tiny speck of land in the middle of Lake Van. 

As luck would have it, our boat’s small group of attendees split up into two groups once we docked – Sadat, the older Turkish men (who seemed to ride on every boat to and from the island), and I were lumped together. The group of Turkish friends and Sadat were particularly fascinated with me – excitingly taking pictures with me at various points on the island and in the church. One of the men, short in stature and donning aviator sunglasses, asked Sadat, the only one in the group who spoke English, to translate the group’s questions to me. They were very interested about my life back home in America, what my future plans were for a career, what brought me to this part of Turkey, and how long I would be staying. More and more, they began to feel less a threat and more a group of older dads interested in what exciting things a young kid like me envisioned for my future, probably reminiscing on the experiences of their own grown children. They proved to be incredibly friendly, and all of a sudden, I was immensely thankful to have arrived at the docks at the exact time I did. Mr. Aviator wanted me to take him back to America when I left Turkey – he said he was small enough to fit in a suitcase. 

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Last modified on Saturday, 27 February 2016
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