On our way home from Turkey, I made a list of quirky observations that weren't necessarily listed in our guidebooks. Here are some things we came across that we didn't necessarily expect.
* Turkish people didn't like, or did not understand, my first name: Amber. If I introduced myself, I would have to repeat it several times. One man asked if that was a popular name in America. All the hotels I checked into insisted on calling me by my middle name "Elizabeth." My theory is that Elizabeth is an acceptable and better-known English name, while Amber doesn't necessarily sound like an English-speaking woman's name.
* Turkish dinner typically starts with some kind of lentil soup and always ends with tea. They drink tea consistently throughout the day.
* Aside from "street food," the cost of meals is more expensive than you might think. Chicken and bread is affordable, while most other meals are on par with what we would pay in Boston for dinner.
* Every mosque emits the Islamic prayer from megaphones perched on the marionettes five times a day. It's part of the sensory experience of being in another country with a different dominant religion. Typically, the prayer lasts for about five minutes and we got used to it, but on the last day of Ramadan it lasted for an hour during the wee hours of morning--at least it did where we were staying that night. It got the dogs, donkeys, and roosters in a tizzy, and the pillow on my head did not drown it out.
* When it comes to driving in Turkey, it's every man for himself. They have rules, but I think they are only made for breaking.
* Public transit in Turkey is leaps and bounds ahead of us. The trams were modern and ran often--the buses too. Our train ride to Selcuk was the nicest train we've ever been on.
* Some toilets (such as the one in our hotel in Olu Deniz) could not handle toilet paper. Hotel management requests that you throw all waste tissue in the trash. Gross! Never become a cleaning lady at one of these places.
* If you are an animal-lover it's sad to see all the stray dogs and cats around. At least it's minorly encouraging to see how the dogs buddy up with other dogs and even people, like the vendors who frequent certain streets. Also, the stray cats pose and sleep in the cutest places--I think it is their ploy to get fed.
* Do not attempt to walk on the Mediterranean beach sand without flip-flops in mid-day heat. Tourists, like us, look really stupid making a mad dash to the water while screaming, "My feet are on FIRE! THEY'RE ON FIRE!"
* Cigars and cigarettes are censored on T.V. with a little flower icon. Ironic since almost everyone in Turkey smokes.
* There is an underlying prejudice against interracial couples, even from the younger generation of Turks. We explained to one young man that it didn't bother us, and that it is becoming more acceptable in many parts of the U.S., but he told us even seeing interracial couples portrayed on American T.V. shows upset him. The funny thing is this man supports Obama, and wasn't keen on us reminding him that Obama is the child of an interracial couple.* People stay up late. I know I have the stamina of an 85-year-old, but when I went to bed at midnight, there were still tons of families hanging out in the square below us. Hoards of young children would be playing on the playground until 1:00 a.m., maybe even later, I don't know...I was sleeping. We do commend the city for having a playground smack in the center of Ortakoy--their "rich neighborhood." That would never happen in snobby sections of America. It was nice to see families down there interacting and gave the area a strong sense of community.