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The last week in Turkey - continued

If you like drama, you will probably enjoy this post. I could title this post: "The final episode of the relationship roller coaster ride: how the roller coaster car flew off the track, crashed, and burned." I could title this post: "Celebrate, laugh, scream, cry, love, leave."

Whatever happened during my last week in Turkey (and I am still processing it), I honor every bit of it.

Antalya, Turkey - February 29, 2024

I had told Mujdat: "The day after my birthday, I'll celebrate with you." He wanted to take me for a nice birthday meal. He had heard there was a great place for fish dinner near the Lower Düden Waterfalls, so that became our plan.

It was a glorious day weatherwise that made being on his motorcycle... glorious.

On the way to the Falls, Mujdat surprised me with a stop at Karaalioğlu Park. This was the same park we had walked hours to get to, to retrieve my sparkly pink hat from the biased tour guide whose car I had left my hat in. That day, you may recall, did not end well. That day was the beginning of three days that did not end well. That third day final ending was when I was traumatized by a raging lover - the same lover who I was now at the park with. I was hoping that this day would end well. I was hoping that this day would help heal the other days' lingering wound.

Before those three days, before the retrieval-of-the-pink-hat day, this park was a special place for me. I had walked to this park everyday when I had been "Dancing Between Raindrops in Antalya." That was before I had lost my pink hat, before I had met Ozden on the plane back to Istanbul (to go to Malta), before he told me I should go to Olympus, before I came back to Antalya (to go to Olympos) and ended up in Adrasan (near Olympos), before I met Mujdat, and before I met Oxana.

On this day, I stood by a familiar ledge, (not sitting on it, because I thought that would make Mujdat nervous), looking out at the Turquoise Coast, watching a touring "pirate ship" sailing in the Mediterranean bay below, listening to the upbeat music rising up from the boat. I did not know that Mujdat was recorded me buzzing into a subtle boogie. I like the video. Watching it makes me giggle. It is very "me."

There was a statue of a hand in the middle of the park that, every time I had been there (in the past), I had wanted to sit in. I wanted to feel held in this giant hand. Every time I had been there, there was someone already there - a child climbing on it, adults posing for photo shoots. Obviously I was not the only one to feel the hand's pull.

On this day, when the statue became vacant, I ran over to it. Mujdat took photos...

Then Mujdat asked me to take photos of him. He was standing in a particular spot when he handed me his phone camera.

He had stood in a particular spot and handed me his phone camera before. In the past, doing this meant he wanted me to shoot pictures of him from that exact spot. Sometimes he had explicitly said, "take a photo of me from here, like this," and told me exactly how to frame him in the picture. Once he had gotten angry at me about how I held the camera. He told me how to hold his phone to keep it safe, so I would not drop it.

I figured this was one of those times when he wanted me to take pictures of him in a particular way, but the directions were not explicit. I stood in the exact spot where he had been standing and framed him, from there, clicking out a bunch of pictures.

After the photo shoot, he looked at the photos I had taken. "Why did you take pictures like this," he asked, showing me the photos. "Look how I took pictures of you." He showed me the photos he had taken. "See how I centered them... how I got the whole hand and background." "You did not do this." He showed me the pictures I had taken, again. He seemed to go on and on about it. He was obviously upset with my terrible photography. I said, "I am not a photographer." I think he took my terribly shot pictures personally, like I did not take the time to take good pictures of him because I did not care about him.

I tried to explain that I thought he wanted me to take pictures from that spot. I suggested we do another photo shoot. "Never mind," he said.

The important part of this story is the red flag - not about him but, about myself - that I am now clearly seeing. I was not being myself. I did not do a photo shoot in the way I would have, for fear I would not do it the way this man wanted it done. I was afraid of his reaction. I changed my behavior because of my fear of his reaction.

In the end, the reaction was not good no matter how I did it, was it?

At the time, I ignored the red flag. I did not want to create a fuss. This was my birthday celebration day, that Mujdat wanted to have with me after all. (This statement sounds like another red flag. I will examine this one later). After the "never mind," we moved on to the next part of our journey.

When we found the fish place, it was not anything I would expect. I expected fresh fish and vegetables on a plate at a restaurant. This restaurant was not like that. This restaurant was a municipality - an outdoor spot that served one inexpensive meal to choose from.

"I do not think this will work for me," I said. The meal was likened to a McDonald's fish sandwich, with breaded fish in a bun served with a large amount of fries and a small amount of coleslaw.

"You can take it off the roll," Mujdat said.

"I can ask them to put it on a plate without the roll," I said.

Mujdat's reaction made me feel like I was asking too much of the servers.

He said, "there is no plate."

I was a bit stunned by this remark.

"There has got to be something that they put the food on," I said.

I saw the food other people had.

I said, "It is breaded."

He did not know what I meant.

"It is dipped in flour and fried," I said.

"They can make it different for you," he said. "I will ask them."

He spoke in Turkish to someone and then, coming back to me said, "they will make it work."

At one point, Mujdat asked if I wanted to go to the restaurant around the corner. I probably should have said "yes." I did not however say "yes." I said, "we can eat here."

In the back of my mind, I knew Mujdat's financial policy: "Do not spend more than ten Euros a day." I figured that whoever suggested this place to Mujdat suggested it while the two talked about looking for cheap places to eat. In my mind, I did not want to be the cause of financial burden for him. I did not want to be a burden. This not wanting to be a burden is old patterned, problematic thinking on my part.

The red flag this time was that I was willing to give up my needs and wants at the expense of the needs and wants of another. And it was not even that Mujdat had needs and wants different from mine. Mujdat did not actually say anything about the expense - that was purely what I put together in my mind. The red flag, really, is when I think someone else's needs and wants should override my own.

When we got our meals, I peeled the breading off the square piece of McDonald's-looking fish product and ate the fish product. After the meal, Mujdat said that the meal was terrible. Hearing that felt like a relief. After he said that, we both laughed about the terrible fish dinner.

I am realizing now how much fear I had about Mujdat's possible reactions. It reminds me of a child's fear about living with an unpredictable and explosive parent. The child will do everything in its power to keep the peace. That is what I was doing. This pattern of mine needs further examination. I will investigate my inner workings more later.

When some of the pressure was lifted (by our agreeing that the meal was a disaster) I enjoyed our walk through the park. We stopped at a cafe for a cappuccino. We looked at the rainbow in the waterfall...

... and took a sweet picture of ourselves spending the day together.

Mujdat took a phone call. It was probably his mother. Or a friend. He often took phone calls while we were on a "date" and often chatted on the phone for quite a long time.

I noticed a man nearby on video phone doing sign language.

I do not remember a lot of sign, though I recognized some signs and could tell some of his other signs were different than American sign language. When he hung up, I approached him.

We talked (through sign) and he told me that some American sign language is similar to his (Turkish ?) sign language and some things are different. He showed me some places where they are the same and where they differ. It was delightful. We ended our conversation cheerily and hugged, and he walked away.

Mujdat came over to me and, as we walked, he asked, "What was that about?" I could hear an edge to his question, like maybe he felt jealousy. I ignored the edge, excited to explain how I sign and was curious about different sign languages.

Later, when the sun was low in the sky and Mujdat said his back was bothering him, I suggested we do yoga in the park. He did a little bit with me but felt uncomfortable leaving our bags, so ended up stretching on a bench nearby. I finished doing my yoga routine on the grass as the sun set.

I saw an older man talking to Mujdat in what seemed like an aggressive fashion. The man looked like he could have been living on the street. I approached them and asked Mujdat what the man was saying.

Mujdat said that the man was warning us not to leave our bags unattended, that there had been bags taken from here. I looked at the man and said "teşekkürler," holding my arms out to him. The man came into my arms and we hugged for what felt like a very long time. He held me tightly and did not let go.

After the hug ended, Mujdat said, "He is so happy. He is saying I will see you tomorrow." As we parted, I told Mujdat, "It felt like he was empty, and filled himself up."

There was a musician busking by the edge of the park and I approached him. He stopped playing and asked me where I was from. We talked and I told him I appreciated his music. I told him "You are making the world more beautiful." He smiled and started playing again. Mujdat had been taking pictures and I joined him. The waterfall was lit up and I took a video of the scene...

We walked toward the motorcycle to head home and Mujdat told me that hanging out with me felt like an honor... that I was: "F-ing amazing." His words felt like a reset. I let go of my fear and felt like myself again.

Antalya, Turkey - March 1-3, 2024

The last few days in Turkey were an emotional roller coaster ride. Sometimes the car was chugging slowly forward, sometimes it took sudden twists and turns.

I will set the mood with the following pictures. First, some drama...

Then, some whimsy...

Then some more drama...

And more whimsy...

Throw in some human art...

Followed by more drama...

Ok, I think we are now ready to board the roller coaster.

I had known that Oxana's trade show ended on Friday, March 1st. I had been under the impression that she would be flying back to Istanbul that same day, directly after the trade show ended. I was under the impression that I would not see or talk with my dear friend again before I was to leave Turkey on March 4th.

On Friday, I went in and out of the apartment not knowing that Oxana's plans had changed. She must have returned home from the trade show so late I did not know she was sleeping downstairs.

On Saturday morning, when I walked to the beach to join the exercise class, Oxana was there, at "our spot" talking with others.

I saw her, surprised, excited, wanting to talk, wanting to hug her. She smiled at me in a friendly and polite manner that felt distant and not at all personal or intimate. She did not want to talk with me. She did not want to hug me. She said she had to go home to clean, and walked away.

I stood there, stunned. My dear friend must have got up before the sun rose and walked to the beach, on her own. She must have greeted the day, on her own. She must have been swimming in the sea as the sun rose, on her own.

She had not let me know that she was home. She had not texted, as she had in the past, to tell me she would be leaving at 7:00, and that, if I wanted to join, I would need to be downstairs at that time. She just... did not take me into account and... did her own thing, on her own.

I joined the exercise class. Gol Unek, the founder of the group, had taken up a collection and handed me a Happy Birthday note wrapped around a bundle of Turkish Lyra. The note explained that the group wanted to get me something, but decided to let me do something nice for myself instead.

It was my last day with the group. After class, some people came over and hugged me. Some people cried. I cried. Mujdat had planned to join me after class. When he arrived, he told me that he overheard some group members, while walking away, saying: "I am broken-hearted. Ami is leaving us."

When I got back to the apartment, Oxana was mopping the floor in the "living room" that she had been using as her bedroom. I approached her and, using Google translate on my phone, talked with her.

Come to find out, Oxana's client in Istanbul had changed plans. Oxana was waiting to hear from the client and did not know when she would be leaving for Istanbul. It could be any time.

Come to find out, while she was in Moscow, Oxana learned that the house of two of her friends living in the Ukraine was bombed and destroyed, that she had made plans for them to fly to Antalya, and that they would be living in her apartment indefinitely - in the room I had been staying in. They would arrive on Monday (the day I was leaving).

I told her I wanted to help clean. I asked how I could help. She told me not to help. I sensed she had a certain way she wanted to do things. I asked if I could make us both breakfast. "No. I have to clean. It is dirty."

I sensed that Oxana was angry that the house was dirty. I sensed she was angry at the person who she had hired to care for her mother, son, and apartment. I wondered if Oxana was angry with me as well. I told her I had cleaned regularly upstairs. I told her I had cleaned in the kitchen, especially the cabinet doors where they had been dirty from finger prints.

I know that it is hard to see what is clean when so much is dirty. I wanted to assure my friend that I respected her home and had been helping. I think she believed me, and still, she was overwhelmed with all that she felt responsible for.

I sensed that staying out of the way might be the best course of action. I said, "I am going to pack my things and stay with Mujdat. I can clean the bedroom and have it ready for your friends." She said, "No. You can stay here. I have time to clean the room."

I followed my intuitive sense. I went upstairs and packed. I cleaned the room, at least superficially. I dusted and swept, stripped the bed and brought the sheets and towels I had used to the washing machine. I had gifts for Oxana that I left on the desk for her. I had picked up stones from the beach. I arranged them into a flower garden. I had purchased a gift card to the Hamami and a block of cheese I thought Oxana would love. She would find these gifts later, when things felt calmer.

I called a taxi and moved my luggage and my self to Mujdat's camper van. He seemed very happy that I would be staying with him for the weekend. Originally, I had wanted to spend my last few days in the mountains, in or near Adrasan, near Olympus. I was going to hitchhike if necessary. I felt a need to get back to that area. Mujdat strongly suggested that I stay, that I was trying to fit in too much. I felt that too, and stayed in Antalya. After making that decision, I felt calmer. We both hugged and felt happy to spend more time together.

Another complex and confusing thing happening (besides Oxana's retreat from our friendship) was with Svitlana, around plans for me to get to the airport on Monday.

On Wednesday, when I was with Svitlana and decided I would take a taxi to the airport, she said she would like to take me to the airport. Svitlana lived a distance from Oxana, and closer to the Antalya airport, so we had talked about me staying overnight with her (on Sunday). By Saturday our texts felt confusing to me.

When I told Mujdat what was happening (with both Svitlana and Oxana), he suggested I not say anything more and wait to see what they said next. I thought that was a good plan. We came up with a backup plan about how I would get to the airport.

Mujdat said I could stay with him for the weekend and on Monday morning, he would drive me in his camper van to the airport. "I have to go to (whatever office he had to go to) anyhow," he had said. "I'll go there after I drop you off." When I told him how early I needed to be at the airport, Mujdat said: "That is too early. You can take a taxi."

So, I had a backup plan.

On Saturday, Mujdat and I had a beautiful day together. We were leisurely and stayed in the camper van for a good long time. We made food and ate. We cuddled and talked. We checked things on our own phones. I introduced him to Joni Mitchell and we played Joni Mitchell songs for a very long time. Joni's song River made me think of Teta Hilsdon's version that is on her album that is called: "Happy to See the Sun."

I played Teta's version of River for Mujdat. He pulled up the lyrics and read them as we listened. Then we listened to the whole album. At some point, we started making love. I cried knowing I would be leaving and Mujdat kissed my tears as they flowed. Beautiful, right? Hard to believe that just one day later he would be screaming at me, calling me the nastiest names he could think of, telling me I was not important to him, telling me, once again, to "Get the F-ck out." But, I get ahead of myself.

On Sunday, Svitlana texted. Oxana wanted us all (Oxana, Svitlana, Efe, and me) to go to dinner together (that night). After dinner, I would go back with Svitlana to her home and stay overnight. In the morning, Svit would take me to the airport.

I had waited for Svitlana and Oxana to make the next move. Here was the next move. Plan A was back on track.

I told Mujdat.

There were so many details of what might have caused the blow up. I can only imagine that this one detail - that I would be leaving "today" - was the one that tipped the balance.

At one point, Mujdat's mother called. Instead of telling her he would call her back - which made sense to me, considering we had very limited time together - he answered the call.

Something I have not told you before is that, whenever Mujdat and I were together when his mother called, he would wave me to be quiet and get out of the picture. They did not just talk on the phone, they always used speaker phone on video.

I had asked him why he did not tell his mom he was with a friend, me. I had asked him why I could not say "hello" to her. "It would be too much," he had said. "She would ask me questions."

I had told Mujdat that having a lover "hide" me was triggering. I do not think he heard me or wanted to.

When he took the call on this day, I put on my clothes and walked out. I walked the boardwalk to Roberts and got myself a cappuccino. I texted Mujdat what I was doing. At some point, he said he was walking my way. I was walking his way. We met somewhere in the middle. After that, things did not go well.

We walked the boardwalk together. I asked, "Are you OK with me going with Svitlana... and having dinner with Oxana?" Mujdat said, "Yes. This is part of what you are doing, your travels, your life."

I took pictures of sweet things that I saw...

Birds in a tree...

A heart in the grass...

Cats on McDonald's delivery scooters...

I took videos of life at Konyaalti Beach on a busy Sunday, of children and family picnics and bicyclists and scooters and walkers. I wanted to capture my last day at this place I had called home for two months.

In this first video (below), I cut out the part that Mujdat was in, because it felt too painful to see how distant he was being with me.

I decided not to cut him out of the following videos. It feels necessary to see and remember how obvious it is in these videos that he keeps walking away from me.

There was more. There were so many more details. Too many to bore you with.

Ultimately, during the blow up, Mujdat said that I treated him like he was the second choice. He said I did not make him feel special. He said that I flirted. He called me the worst things you can imagine. If you would like to imagine the worst things someone could say, go for it. Whatever you imagine, Mujdat said that to me.

At the time, I sat calmly in witness mode at the little table in the camper van while he raged. I saw him pick something up and want to throw it at me. I saw him put it down without missing a raging beat. Everything was so over-the-top it made it easier for me to not take it personally. Everything was so bizarre I did not feel afraid. I had seen this rage once before. Then, I was traumatized. This time, I was just a witness.

At one point I tried to remind him of a warning I had said earlier in the week. "When people part, they often get angry," I had said. "Let's not do that. Let's let ourselves feel sad."

My reminder did not help. I doubt he even heard my words. One can not reason with someone who is raging.

When he screamed, "Get the f-ck out," I did. I got my luggage and hauled my too many, too heavy bags through the back streets toward Oxana's place.

When I got there, hot, sweaty, tired, sore shouldered, and needing to process more, I went inside where Oxana was getting ready to go out to dinner. I told her what happened. Her eyes got wide. "I told you you could stay here," she texted in Google translate.

We went to dinner to a place called Shakespeare. It was odd that that is where we went because, earlier, when we passed the restaurant, Mujdat had made fun of it. "Who named a place that, here," he had said. And then, while lugging my bags from his camper van to Oxana's apartment, I passed the same place, seeing that there were a good amount of people inside and thought, "I wish one of them could help me."

During our meal Oxana and I talked. Svitlana translated. I said, "Some people get mean when they could get sad." Oxana said, "Like me. I got mean."

She cried and we hugged. If I had wished for a happy reunion and ending to this bizarre last week in Turkey, this was the best one I could have asked for.

I love this woman, my friend, Oxana... and her family.

To top off the evening, back in Svitlana's neighborhood, Svitlana, her boyfriend, and I went for a walk, ate gelato, and went to a cafe for coffee. The best part was the mat on this Turkish cafe floor...

Then it was Monday morning. Time to March Fourth. And time to pay the piper... or in my case, the $200 fine for staying 21 days over my 90-day visa in Turkey. A small price to pay, I thought, for such a heartfelt roller coaster ride.

Svitlana had walked into the airport and stayed with me all the way until she could not come with me any further. She commented that she had not before seen such a smiling face on someone who had just paid a fine. The smile, though, was because she was still standing there waiting for me, being loving and shiny.

Good night, Moon.

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