Sunday, February 17, 2013

Cultivating New Friendships

I had decided, after collecting several new business cards and phone numbers at a gathering on Thursday night, that rather just saying the usual,  "We should get together sometime" but never do,  I would make a concerted effort to try and connect with several of the people I had met. My first goal was to take a bike ride to Urla (about 40 km from my house) and say "hello" to the German woman I'd met. My second goal was to text the American I'd met and also try to set a date. Not only was I able to connect with both of them, but I also met a new biking friend along the way. Here's a brief run-down of the day:

1) I took a ferry from my house across Izmir bay. A ferry ride is always a mini-vacation to me. Add to that a good book on my Kindle and the time passes very quickly and peacefully.

First signs of spring - Cherry Blossoms
2) I was about 10 minutes into my ride when a biker on a blue road Bianci pedaled up beside me. He said the customary hello, inquired as to my destination, (I said Urla and he replied Guzelbache which is one town before my destination). He then proceeded to bike alongside me. I was never scared and I don't want to use the analogy of being followed by a stray dog because that sounds too negative, but it was kind of like being followed by a stray dog except he didn't bark. He just kept biking along beside me and occasionally asking  a question or two, and then biking some more, etc. As with everything in my life in Turkey, I've learned to just "go with the flow" and realized that I probably was not going to shake him and he would ride as far as Guzelbache with me.

150 Year Old Pine Tree
3) About 30 minutes into my ride he led me on to a new road winding through olive gardens and lemon orchards which was decidedly more enjoyable than my "normal" route. He even stopped and pointed out a historical 150 year old pine tree and some blossoming cherry trees (first signs of spring). He then may a telephone called and indicated that his friend owns a fish shop in Guzelbache and we would stop there for tea. 

4) His friend's fish shop had some beautiful fish from both the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea.  I decided I would buy some fish later and carry it in my backpack on the way home. I was also thinking that we would part ways at this point and I would continue on my journey. But, I was wrong. After telephoning my German friend and ascertaining that she, indeed, was home, I started pedaling. And, my new Turkish friend pedaled right along beside me.
Fish from The Black Sea

5) Another 10 kilometers down the road and we located her beautiful villa right on the Aegean Sea. (I want a job with the Defense department or NATO. They definitely pay better and help locate awesome housing!)

6) She was non-plussed by my tag-along-friend and invited us both in for coffee and delicious German cookies and English shortbread. We had a delightful get-to-know each other conversation. Stashed in her spare bedroom was a fantastic cruiser motorcycle that she'd ridden across the USA on many parts of Route 66. I can't wait to learn more about her...

7) By this time the wind was picking up and the temperature was dropping so it was time to hit the road. At this rate I'd be back in the city center in time to grab a bite to eat and meet up with the new American friend at 6:20.

8) I'd had my eye on a new sushi/Japanese restaurant that had just opened on Thursday and decided that would be my restaurant of choice. There I enjoyed my first sushi in Turkey...delicious...I'd also thought I'd heard French being spoken in the restaurant but I couldn't be sure because it was mixed with Turkish. Sure enough, just as I was getting ready to leave a woman about my age came over and asked, in French, where I was from. Eureka! Someone I could talk to...She and her husband had been living in Paris for 34 years and had just returned to Turkey and opened this restaurant. We had a delightful conversation for over 30 minutes (in much easier for me than Turkish). And, we're neighbors..she lives only several blocks away. Bingo! New friend.
Sushi in Turkey - Not so common

9) After saying "au revoir" I met up with the new American acquaintance and enjoyed getting to know her while speaking in good old, American Western (she's from Washington State and Las Vegas) English. You have no idea what a vacation it is to speak with someone who is shares the same general geographical heritage.

So my international day spanned four countries and enriched my life with new friends. My cup is full and I feel energized and happy.

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