Sunday, June 5, 2005
I woke up around 8:30, showered and went down to the garden for breakfast. I took my Bible and talk notes with me. After I ate, I spent some time working on the final draft of my teaching for church later that day. The garden was a splendid location to prepare to teach. Warm sun on my face, birds chirping, good food. Maybe next time I teach at The Grove I will request a “study week” in Antalya. At 10:30, our team gathered in our room for some team time. We started with some songs as usual. Our window was open (it was never shut during our entire stay) and our door was open as well, so anyone in the pansion could probably hear our singing. After a couple of songs, there was a faint knock on the door, startling most of us from our closed-eyes state of worship. There stood Catherine, an Irishwoman in need of medical assistance. Apparently she had been bitten by a mosquito or something and her finger was swelling to the point that she couldn’t take her ring off. I rustled around in the first aid kit for a minute and found an antihistamine. I gave her several doses so she could make sure to take care of the problem. We talked with her for a few minutes, then she left and we resumed where we had left off. After some more singing and sharing, we closed with some prayer time.
I then changed from shorts into jeans. Most Turkish men always wear some kind of long pants, no matter how hot it is. Since I’m not Turkish and since I’m incredibly warm-natured, I had worn shorts every day since our arrival as had pretty much everyone on the team. This (and many other reasons) caused us to draw attention to ourselves. Since I was teaching in church that day, I decided to throw on the jeans. We met downstairs around 12:30 to head to the church. We saw Catherine again and got to meet her son, Conlaodh (pronounced “con-la”). He was almost 4 years old and a very cute kid. We then walked to the church, long pants on and Bibles in hand. We just telegraphed “we’re not from around here” in about 4300 different ways. We got to the church, which was bustling. The International Church (made up of foreigners living in Antalya) had just let out and the Turkish Church was about to start, so there were quite a few people around. We went upstairs to grab our seats. Ramazan (the pastor of the Turkish Church) prayed for me. Then it was time to start. The room was full! In all, there were probably 50 Turks in the room. It was very inspiring to see the beginnings of a church in modern Turkey. I was reminded that God’s Spirit had never left this place, Men and women had just chosen to deny him as God. Zeynep (who led worship at the youth group the night before) led us in worship again with the help of a young man on the piano. We sang quite a few songs and then Ramazan stood up and said quite a few things in Turkish. I have no idea what he said, but I got the impression that he was welcoming them and maybe delivering some announcements. We sang some more songs, then Ramazan called our group forward to sing a song. We had prepared “Holy Is the Lord” beforehand (they had asked us several days before to sing in church). Ramazan read a Turkish translation of the words to the song, we stood up in front of the church, James played guitar and we sang. It is always a very interesting experience to sing a song in English in front of people who don’t speak English. I’m pretty sure they enjoyed it. After our song, Zeynep led the congregation in a few more songs. Then Ramazan introduced me. I taught on Galatians 5 with Zeynep as a translator. I chose this passage because of Paul’s emphasis on the idea that we are free as Christians and shouldn’t enslave ourselves to the law (legalism) or to sin. I thought this might be particularly applicable in Turkey because Islam is certainly enslaved to legalism and of course, all of mankind has a propensity to enslave itself to sin. It also gave me the opportunity to present the gospel in a clear and concise way. Afterwards, I was told that this was the first time that anyone had ever taught expositionally through a chapter or section of the Bible at the church. I think typically most teaching there is topical in nature. This person told me that they really appreciated what I did and the style I did it in. After I finished, Ramazan got up and shared a few words about communion and then we started singing and taking communion. The elements were served from the front and people lined up to go get the bread (cracker) and juice. When I got to the front of the room, I ate my cracker and then grabbed the little plastic cup and downed it… to find out that it was wine. A little surprising, but not necessarily shocking. I’ve been in places before where wine was the standard instead of juice. However, some of the others on the team were quite surprised. James took communion after me and when he sat back down beside me, he said something like “how about that juice?” We intently observed the rest of the team’s faces as they partook. Jennifer was the funniest. Now, Jennifer is famous for funny faces, so when she downed that wine, she made the most hilarious face. It took all of our self-restraint to keep from laughing out loud. We found out later that it had been Jennifer’s first ever taste of alcohol. I remarked that it was actually a pretty cool thing that her first taste of alcohol was while taking communion in Turkey. I have to say that taking communion was quite an emotional experience for me… not because it was wine. It was because I was in the midst of other brothers and sisters in Christ who were doing their best to live for God under difficult circumstances. I was reminded that God’s Spirit is present everywhere and I was grateful that these believers, though they were small in number, had recognized Him as the truth and they had given their lives to him. After church, we had some fellowship time out in the garden drinking coffee and talking with various people from the church. I spoke with several young men who had questions about my teaching. I was glad to be able to spur them on in their faith.
After a while, our hosts gave us the signal that it was time to leave. We were planning on going to the beach with the youth group to play some volleyball and swim, so we needed to grab some lunch and our swimsuits first. After a quick trip to the pansion to get our beach stuff, we ate lunch at a little place on Işiklar that served yummy köfte sandwiches. They grilled up our order in a hurry and we wolfed the tasty things down in time to walk the 100 yards or so over to the Tromvay stop. We met several people from the youth group there, got on the trolley and were on our way to the beach. Once we arrived at the end of the line, we all got off and walked the ¼ mile or so down the hill to the beach. We stopped at the first open volleyball court we saw. The name of the beach was Savbeach. For the next 2 hours or so, we all had a great time making fools of ourselves on the volleyball court. Americans and Turks playing side by side was great fun. Ramazan, the pastor of the church played with us for quite a while – I learned that he is really competitive and one heck of a volleyball player. I like to think of myself as quite the volleyball player also, but in truth, I’m pretty average because I’m sho… er, vertically challenged.
Jennifer took this with my camera... classic
Eventually our paid time at the volleyball court came to an end. Many of the turks had already taken off for home, but we wanted to stay and enjoy the beach for a bit more. We headed down to the water. Some folks just sat and relaxed and several of us jumped in and let the sea toss us about for a while. Now I can’t even remember why, but I do remember laughing and laughing out there in the Mediterranean. After a while, we did our best to body surf on the meager waves (this is a sea, folks, so the waves aren’t really much at all). That caused us to laugh even harder as we mostly only succeeded at filling our pockets with small pebbles.
Wanting to take advantage of our time at the beach, after swimming, we just sat around and talked for a while. I succeeded in filling James’ small-mouth Nalgene full of pebbles almost right before his eyes. He never even knew what I was doing. When it was time to leave, he picked up his water bottle and incredulously asked, “who filled my nalgene with rocks!?” We all laughed hard and I confessed. James and I had a good time on the entire trip joking and laughing with each other.
We walked up to the Tromvay stop and jumped on. After riding back downtown, we walked to a little shop on Işiklar that served baked potatoes stuffed with whatever you wanted. It was a like the Turkish version of Flying Burrito – you would just point to each thing that you wanted in your baked potato and they would put it in. Boy, did these hit the spot! Not only were they really good, but we were all starving, because by this time it was about 9:30 p.m. and we had been exerting ourselves on the beach all afternoon.
After eating, about half of the gang went back to the pansion while the others of us went back to “I”’s house to make phone calls back home. We all hung out in the living room drinking Türkü Cola (basically flat coke – think RC Cola), while each person took their turn calling home. When it was James’ turn, he called and didn’t get an answer, so he left a message. As he was walking back in the living room, the phone rings and “I” picks up. After a bit of a confusing dialogue because he was expecting the person on the other line to be speaking Turkish (she was indeed speaking English), he realized that it was James’ mom calling him. I said “dude, your mom just star-69’ed you in Turkey.” That was a surreal, the world is smaller than I thought it was moment. When it was my time, I had a great conversation with Elise and talked to each of the girls. Elspeth really talked quite a bit – more than she ever had before on the phone with me. I could tell she was growing up while I was 1/3 the way around the world.
After we made our phone calls, we headed back to the pansion. I needed to stop by the ATM to pick up another wad of cash to pay for meals and such for the next couple of days and James went with me. After picking up cash, we started walking back and we both marveled that the ice cream guy’s cart was still open even though it was late – something like 11:30 p.m. I looked at James… he looked at me… I said “you want to get some ice cream?” and he said “you bet I do”, so we walked over to get some. I think James labeled it “Haagen-Dazs II – Turkish Deception”, since this was the second covert ice cream buying operation I had been on while on our trip. This time I had an accomplice. The guy was making fresh waffle cones when we walked up, so when he served us our ice cream, our cones were hot because they had just come off of the waffle iron. That was the best waffle cone I have ever had.
On our way back to the pansion, we stopped and talked to the owner of Ephesus Pizza, Mehmet. He was standing outside his restaurant just chilling. He said hello and struck up a conversation with us. We walked past his pizza place at least twice every day and it was always empty. The building looked really cool, so I’m not sure why noone ever ate there. We talked to him for quite some time about his life and his family. Turns out that he is from Turkey, but lives in Seattle and has lived there for 20 years or so. He owns the restaurant here in Antalya with his brother or something, and was here in town to sell it. He had been there for a couple of months and I think he was lonely and missed his family. It was a little sad – I think he was glad we stopped and talked with him for a while. He said that he also exported stone or tile or something like that from Turkey to the U.S. and then he took us into the restaurant to show us these amazing mosaics that he had made with his own hands. They were phenomenal! There were mosaics on the floor, on the walls and on the doors. After a while, we bid him goodbye and headed on back to the pansion.
When we got to the corner where the Ali Baba Carpet and Kilims shop was, we saw Jay sitting there chatting with the owners. Apparently when he had gone back to the pansion a few hours earlier, they talked him into joining them for a card game that is a little like spades with some variations. He agreed and sat down to win the game (with some help from one of them)! Apparently, it is usually a drinking game, but they couldn’t talk him into whiskey, so instead he got a beer and nursed it for the rest of the night. James and I decided to stop and sit and join in on the conversation. Not wanting Jay to feel alone, I purchased an Efes Dark from the corner store that these guys owned and sat down to nurse it alongside him. We sat and hung out and talked for quite a while. Eventually, the guys started to close up their shop (at 12:30)! They insisted that we stay and chill out while they closed up. It was a nice night and we were in the mood to stay up and act like Turks, so we agreed. After a while, Catherine, the nice Irish lady from the pansion and her son ambled down the street and stopped by to talk with us. We talked with her for about an hour while playing with her son, Conlaodh. Apparently they were acting rather Turkish in their time here in Antalya as well – sleeping late and staying up late. We had a great conversation with her about Ireland. I’ve always been fascinated with all things Irish, so I thoroughly enjoyed our talk. Apparently, she had been teaching Irish (the celtic language) to young children back home in Navan (about an hour north of Dublin) and was here in Turkey learning Turkish. She already spoke German, French, Irish and English, so she was learning her fifth language! She had been in Istanbul for a few weeks and had just arrived in Antalya for a little rest and relaxation. She was considering a teaching job in the country that would start in the Fall, and wanted to really experience the culture before she decided to stay. I asked her the question that all Americans want to ask anyone Irish – “do the Irish like U2?” It was funny, because both James and Jay agreed with me that this was the burning question on their minds as well. Her answer was “I think they’re lovely.” Burning question answered.
At about 1:30, we all decided to walk the 50 feet to the pansion and turn in. It had been quite a day. Great team time, Turkish church, volleyball on the beach, swimming in the Med, Turkish baked potatoes, “Haagen-Dazs II”, Mehmet, the Ali Baba guys, Catherine, and staying up late experiencing Turkish community and hospitality. It was a day that I won’t soon forget.