I’ve been feeling sick since arriving in Datça, hoping that the “drugs” I brought from the US would take care of it – but they didn’t. After contemplating how a slow and painful death in Datça might be, on Friday I decided to visit a local doctor.
I walked into a small room at a medical clinic down the street from my apartment. There were about 20 people seated waiting to see four doctors whose names were displayed. I approached a Turkish woman who seemed to know what was going on and asked her what I should do to see a doctor. She didn’t speak English and pointed to a woman in yellow jeans who was writing numbers on small blank cards.
I walked up to the woman making the cards. She looked at me and silently handed me a card with a number written on it and pointed to a sign indicating the number consulting with the doctor. I took the number and sat down.
Everyone in the room was Turkish and some were staring at me. I politely nodded and flashed them the best smile I could muster. They seemed to lighten up a bit but being the odd one in a group of foreigners can be a humbling experience. One weathered elderly Muslim man wearing a prayer cap was holding his prayer beads and eyeing me warily. I waited about 40 minutes while the patients ahead of me took their turn with the doctor.
After sizing me up, the Turkish woman in yellow jeans started talking to me in English. She asked where I was from, how long I would be in Datça, where I was staying, who I was traveling with, etc. I answered her questions. Then she told me the doctor I was waiting to see (Cenk Gursoy) was “OK”. She got something in her eye (red and swollen) and had been to see him several times. She told me she was 60 years old, recently divorced, and had moved to Datça from a village where she once owned a house. She said since her divorce, life was hard for her. Then she told me about her pets – three dogs, ~two+ cats, a bird, and lots of strays. She smiled when I said I was traveling alone – guess she liked that? She offered to help by passing on my symptoms in Turkish – to make sure the doctor understood why I was there. Her number was one before mine.
When her number came around she went into the examining room and later came out with the doctor and pointed at me. The short, bald Turkish doctor looked at me and said he spoke English. Then he went into a room across the hall and came back about five minutes later. He led me into his office, examined me, asked some questions, and then wrote a prescription for several allergy-related drugs. He said he was rushing and late for his weekly visit to villages on the outskirts of Datça and pointed across the street to a pharmacy where I could get the prescriptions filled. The pharmacy filled the prescriptions fast, they cost less than $20, and there was no charge for the doctor visit – AMAZING! I feel better today but still weak and will take it easy.
Now that I’ve been in Turkey for several weeks I’ve made a few observations about some general aspects of Turkish life.
WiFi Internet access in Turkey is fantastic and better than anywhere I’ve traveled in the world.
Initially, the typical traditional Turkish breakfast spread did not excite me but it’s growing on me day by day. They make a delicious omelet if you ask. Traditional breakfast usually includes the following:
• Turkish cheeses and dried fruit
• Sliced cucumbers and tomatoes
• Green and black olives
• Fresh dark and light breads with honey and jam
• Hard-boiled eggs
• Various meat cold cuts
• Turkish tea or coffee
Most business establishments and homes post evil eye amulets (beads) on their walls. “Turkish people are superstitious and believe that the evil eye protects you by directing all bad energy to the amulet and then breaking it. The belief is that even well-intentioned compliments include a conscious or unconscious dose of envy and resentment. The bead reflects any evil intent back to the onlooker.”
If you order fish in a Turkish restaurant expect to have it served with its skin, head, and bones intact and a gaping empty eye socket staring up at you!
In food markets you bag your own groceries and the plastic bags are nearly impossible to peel open. Luckily they don’t slap your wrist for touching unpurchased produce like in Italy.
Turkish people have the habit of patting children on the cheek as a sign of endearment – even complete strangers do this.
Most restaurants have small, flimsy paper napkins and don’t serve water unless you ask for it. Then they bring bottled water and add the cost to your tab.
If you buy yoghurt in a market it only comes in large-sized containers. Forget those small individual servings you buy in the US.
Depending on where you are in Turkey, if you order less than a dozen at a bakery, you get a dirty look.
There aren’t many liquor stores. Wine and liquor is expensive – likely because of Islāmic culture. Efes is the popular local beer.
When stepping off a bus there’s a potentially dangerous one- to two-foot drop to the ground – don’t know how elderly people and small children make it. You could fall easily.
Turkish merchants are the most aggressive I’ve met anywhere in the world. If you look gullible and are not ready to bargain, you will over pay – especially if you’re from the US. However, I have not found that to be true in Datça where it is much more laid back! I don’t like haggling, so I avoid purchases when prices aren’t clearly posted.
Most businesses have a photograph of Ataturk posted on the premises. Ataturk was the first President of Turkey and is known as the founder of the Republic of Turkey. Public squares and parks in Turkey usually have large statues of Ataturk.
During this last week Turkish people seemed to turn away or quickly change the channel when news of President Obama’s supportive visit to Israel appeared on public television.
I’ll surely learn a lot more about Turkey and Turkish history before departing – adapting to another culture is an interesting process. It’s a valuable reminder that there is more than one way to look at everything in life.