Obviously I had to sit down and write it all in English. My recent posts have been written for a younger group of people whom I’ve accompanied on a journey to Gemlik, Turkey, a small town near Bursa that hosted a Youth Festival for the first time in the town’s history. I accompanied the group as a translator/interpreter because I speak English, and most importantly Turkish. The thing with Turkish was that I haven’t spoken for over six years and even though I gave my all to recover as much of the lost vocabulary as possible I knew it wasn’t going to be enough, but you never know until you try something.
Night before we set off I slept in the house of a man whom I’ll closely meet during the trip, Mirza who’s family welcomed me to their home for the night. We set of from Tešnjka early in the morning, and I hardly got any sleep because, for some reason I felt like not traveling at all, for the first time in my life.
I got over it all in the morning and during the day we spent in the bus. I met the kids, and the group of adults that were responsible for them. Nice group of people I must say, helped me forget all about the last night.
Early hours of our trip never showed any signs of what’s to come. At the Turkish border we were held for a couple of hours while our bus was x-rayed and searched through thoroughly. That wouldn’t have been much of a problem if we didn’t have to take everything out on the sidewalk, and get the kids out of the bus in the middle of the night covered in blankets freezing their socks off. The older contingent could handle it but the kids were freezing. And all the attending officer could tell me was that the computer chose our bus for the search randomly.
We passed that hoping we will have no more problems yet little did we know. We arrived in Edirne a town where a local tour guide should be waiting for us, but the pour man was told we were coming the next day, so as everyone should be doing he was sound asleep at 3am when I woke him up and gave him a notice about our arrival. All he could do is meet us at a parking lot, tell us to wait until 7am when he’ll come back and take us to Gemlik. Let me tell you, sleeping in a bus full of snoring adults and farting kids is really not a pleasant experience.
Jabir (Cabir) was the name of out local guide came as early as he could, or so he says, and we set of at 8:30 am. Along the way he told me that he’s a German language student and that he speaks English and I told him about my Turkish language issues, but very soon we found a way of understanding each other, mixing all three languages together when necessary.
Our drivers were a couple of retired bus drivers who came specifically because of their “knowledge” of the route and one of them spoke almost perfect German. We found out that none of that matters when we were parked in the stop lane at the motorway for him to run across it in order to buy the highway pay toll ticket. That wasn’t the first of his escapades, as very soon he almost missed a turn, than later couldn’t find the exit to the ferry dock. The instructions of our guide were of little help as no one was really listening to him.
Because of another driver mistake we had to wait another hour longer than anyone else to board the ferry which meant they were blending well into that Turkish custom of being late for everything. We found out just how late they like to be when we arrived in Gemlik and had to wait for three more hours for the organizer to arrive. When he finally did arrive we took the kids to a host school where the host families were waiting to take our kids home with them. After the melee settled it was time for us to go to our camp where we will be staying. Just so you know we were promised a hotel accommodation but we were taken to a camp in which, well you couldn’t lock the room or the door that leads to the balcony to which every room in the building has access, there was no hot water and I would like to show you the picture that one of the members took, but unfortunately I don’t have it in my possession. It was taken after one of the drivers picked up the mattress and found all kinds of dead bugs and poo of some sort. We steamed out of there but couldn’t go to bed until midnight.
The next day we went to Bursa, a historic city, got soaking wet because it started raining suddenly when we arrived. We got back to Gemlik in the evening and went to sleep. During that day in Bursa we lost one of our own members and had to go back looking for him because he was scared to try and come back alone.
Day after that we took the kids to a mall whose owners sponsored the festival and had a performance here, after which we had some time to look around the town. It was being renovated and prepared for the summer. It is, as the locals call it, a holiday town, even though the beaches and the water are pretty filthy because a shipyard is very close.
Day four saw the kids perform twice and day five was just some sort of a closing ceremony. Representatives of our group visited the local politicians and by that day we found a way to translate everything without any hick-ups. I translated from Turkish to Bosnian while it was a more complicated procedure to translate from Bosnian to English and the to Turkish. That’s where getting to know Cabir better helped a lot. We got along quite well, as we both came from similar backgrounds even though we lived thousands of miles far from each other. Later that night we had a farewell party with all the local kids and families and everyone who wanted could attend.
At 5 am next morning we left Gemlik and headed to Istanbul where we planned to sped the whole day, but the bus broke down on the ferry and wouldn’t move an inch. We got it fixed somehow, and got to Istanbul where it went to a service station and we walked around some of the historic sites of Istanbul.
I don’t remember much of the trip back apart from the occasional border crossing when I had to be awake. The rest I spent sleeping.
I came home pretty much exhausted, gave away the gifts I got and fell asleep. It was a trip to remember, but to be honest describing it in full detail would drain me physically and mentally so I’ll save myself and you the trouble and tell you that, if I could, I’d do it all again without changing a thing.