Sick in Datça
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, I decided to visit a doctor.
Turkish Medical Clinic
I walked into a small room at a medical clinic near my apartment, where about twenty people were waiting to see doctors whose names were displayed. I approached a Turkish woman who seemed to know what was going on and asked her how to see a doctor. She pointed out a woman wearing yellow jeans who was writing numbers on small cards.
I walked up to the woman. She looked at me, silently handed me a card with a number written on it, and directed me to a sign indicating the number consulting with the doctor. I took the card and sat down to wait my turn.
Everyone in the room was Turkish, and some were staring at me. I 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 is a humbling experience. An elderly, weathered Muslim man wearing a prayer cap was holding his prayer beads and eyeing me warily. I waited about an hour while patients ahead of me took their turn with the doctors.
After sizing me up, the Turkish woman in yellow jeans started talking in English. She asked where I was from, who I was traveling with, how long I would be in Datça, where I was staying, 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 seen 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 many pets – three dogs, ~two+ cats, a bird, and lots of strays. After telling her I was traveling alone, she smiled and offered to pass on my symptoms to Dr. Gursoy in Turkish to ensure that he understood them. 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. He led me into his office, examined me, asked questions, and wrote out two prescriptions for 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 much better today but am taking 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. I’m continually learning about Turkish customs and etiquette.
WiFi Internet access in Turkey is fantastic and better than anywhere I’ve traveled in the world.
Initially, I didn’t find the typical Turkish breakfast spread exciting, but it’s growing on me day by day. They make a delicious omelet if you ask. Traditional breakfast usually includes:
- Turkish cheeses
- Fresh and dried fruit
- Turkish Yogurt
- Sliced cucumbers and tomatoes
- Green and black olives
- Fresh Turkish bread with honey and jam
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Various meat cold cuts
- Turkish tea or coffee
Most business establishments and homes post evil eye amulets 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 amulet reflects any evil intent back to the onlooker.”
Markets and Restaurants
If you order fish in a Turkish restaurant, don’t expect fillets. It will be served with its skin, head, and bones intact and a gaping empty eye socket staring up at you! Turkish people are expert at quickly removing the bones!
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 non-purchased produce like they do in some European countries.
Most restaurants have small, flimsy paper napkins, and they don’t serve water unless you ask for it. Then, as is the custom in Europe, they bring bottled water and add the overcharged cost to your tab.
If you buy yoghurt in a Turkish market, it usually 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 pastries at a bakery, you’re likely to get a dirty look.
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
Most businesses have a photograph of Atatürk posted on the premises. Atatürk was the first President of Turkey and is known as the Founder of the Republic of Turkey. His face appears in public squares and on Turkish Lira notes and stamps. Parks almost always display a large, prominent statue of Ataturk.
Turkish people are “touchy-feely” and have the habit of patting children on the cheek as a sign of endearment – even complete strangers do this.
When stepping off a bus there’s a potentially dangerous one- to two-foot drop to the ground – don’t know how the elderly, handicapped, and small children manage. 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 haven’t found that to be true in Datça where it’s much more laid back! I don’t like haggling, so I avoid purchases when prices aren’t clearly posted.
During this last week, Turkish people abruptly turned away or quickly changed the channel when news of President Obama’s supportive visit to Israel appeared on public television.
I’ll surely learn much more about Turkish history, food, and culture before departing. Adapting to a new cultural environment is an interesting process. It’s a valuable reminder that there’s more than one way to look at everything in life.