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As we drove around the bend, the city of Bodrum was revealed behind the mountainous landscape. White architecture glowed a golden hue, the sun was fierce, and the city reminded me of several Greek towns that I had seen a few weeks prior. The bus continued driving until we reached the otogar.

At this point, Milo and I had sent several messages to our next Workaway host, Mesut, and even tried to call him but were instead greeted by a Turkish voicemail rather than his voice. Unfortunately, his phone was off. Regardless, we still knew that we had to take a dolmuş (mini bus) to Gümüşlük, a suburb about 40 minutes away. The city’s otogar was hectic and several buses pulled out in front of us as we walked just a few feet ahead. When we finally found the correct dolmuş, it was nearly packed, forcing Milo and I to shove our ways in. Our large bags hardly fit on top of our laps and in between the seats.

As we drove away, the sun began to shine directly onto me. I was overheated and squished, only making me more excited for the next 40 minutes. Even though I was extremely uncomfortable, boats and yachts lining the bay and green hills we zoomed past distracted me from my discomfort.

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Driving through Gümüşlük, we still hadn’t heard back from Mesut but figured we would take the dolmuş all the way to the last stop at the town’s otopark. When we arrived, Milo sat on his bag and watched mine in the parking lot as I walked around to find a map, our work location, or at least a restaurant to get wifi and try and give Mesut another call.

While walking, I stumbled upon a sign pointing towards Eklisia, the art center that we would be working at. I followed it into a back alley, up a driveway, and to the very church that the Workaway page had advertised us sleeping in. I continued walking onto the stone ground in front of the church where a plaque in front read, “Eklisia,” but of course the door was locked and no one responded to my knocking.

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Turning around, I discovered the handpainted performance stage only a few meters away. The town and the Aeagean Sea behind the stage looked straight out of a painting. Everything was so tropical and exotic, especially the gigantic Alice in Wonderland-esque “trees” which we later learned were prehistoric flowers.

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Continuing on my quest to find Mesut, I came face to face with a shirtless man using a magnifying glass to read notes on his phone around the side of the church. I interrupted to ask if he knew Mesut but he raised his finger for me to wait. Unsure of whether he spoke English, I was surprised when he responded a few moments later that Mesut’s home was down a set of stairs nearby the front of the stage. With the feeling of my quest coming to an end, I returned to Milo and our bags before continuing.

With our bags again on our backs, we ventured down the stairs and sure enough found a home at the bottom. I knocked at what appeared to be the front door and moments later, someone who I could only presume to be Mesut opened it. He introduced himself and indeed it was Mesut.


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Mesut
Turkey


He apologized for his phone being turned off and instantly offered us left over pasta since we mentioned we were hungry. We ate at his table in his living room which resembled an advertisement straight out of an Anthropologie magazine. Green vines wildly grew from a pot on the windowsill to his bedroom and reached up into the ceiling, tangling every which way around the supports. A vintage looking mirror sat propped up against the window to our backs and a wooden finished kitchen occupied the right side of the room. The entire floor was old, antique-looking wood. I could definitely see how this was an art center.

Mesut sat at his computer while we began talking. He originally had studied tourism in Izmir but when he began working he realized he hated it. So instead, he moved to Bodrum, where he opened up his first bar and ran it for several years until he desired living in a more laidback community with less people. The suburb of Gümüşlük it was! He had rented his home for the past 2 years and was the caretaker of the church. On top of his home, he had built a bar which overlooked the bay and provided an excellent location to enjoy a drink at sunset.

Two friends entered his home and introduced themselves. While they began talking, he thought it would be best for us to do some independent exploring and sent us off. Before we left, he informed us that the shirtless man I had encountered earlier was a friend of his, named Tunç (Tunch), who was camping on the property and making boomerangs which he sold around town on his bicycle… Yes, we were as confused as you too.

One of the many boomerangs hidden around the property.

One of the many boomerangs hidden around the property.

Milo and I ran into Tunč again as we walked around the whole property and beyond, eventually finding ourselves sitting on a beach chair looking out to the sea in disbelief that this view was only a few minutes walk from our new home. Overpriced restaurants lined the boardwalk, some even having dining tables in the water.

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"Hey, we work there!"

“Hey, we work there!”

When we returned back to Mesut’s place, one of his friends had prepared a tuna pasta for dinner so we joined them, enjoying the meal in his eclectic living room which had taken on a new persona by night. A string of green lights ran across the back, twirling around the mirror while a blue lamp illuminated the ceiling. Behind the dinner table, the open window brought in occasional bursts of cool air. After eating, Mesut told us to meet him at the bar. We would have a very laidback first day of work, only spending a few hours behind the bar (foreshadowing the rest of our laidback work at Eklisia).

Milo and I waited for a few minutes until Mesut showed up. He turned on the amplifiers and asked me to put on a track. I opened up my recent likes on Soundcloud and the soundtrack for the night began. Next he asked us if we knew how to make any drinks. The answer was no, neither of us had ever had experience bartending. He joined us behind the counter to demonstrate the correct quantities for making gin and tonic. He also showed us where all the glasses were kept, beer was hidden, and ice cubes were frozen. A breakdown of how much certain drinks costed was also given.

As my music filled the air, Milo and I looked out on the hundreds of illuminated homes lining Gümüşlük’s hills parallel to us. Only one customer came and we chatted with him about music regulations in the Bodrum area. Mesut explained that we had come at a very slow time since it was the end of summer and less tourists were around.

After about an hour, Mesut told us we could leave and showed us the way to our accommodation for the next two weeks, the 400 year old church. A curtain separated our backroom from the main hall, and inside we had a bunkbed, a couch, an air conditioner, one lamp, and a working Internet router! What else could we need? It even had 4 huge lockers that we could secure our entire bags in if we so desired.

I grabbed the bottom bunk and Milo grabbed the couch beside it. We both put on clean sheets and I headed to shower in the bathroom, connected on the outside of the church. Mesut explained that typically we would need to shower before 7pm since the bar was operating after then.

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The church water closet

Unfortunately the bathroom only had cold water and neither Milo nor I had ever had to live for an extended period of time with only access to cold water. To say the least, we were more than awake after each shower and it took a few days to get adjusted. As I warmed back down in my blankets, I drifted off to sleep.

In the morning, we were gently woken up by music coming through the curtains of the church.

We opened them to reveal two artists setting up for a performance there later that night. Mesut had briefly told us about it, a Turkish storytelling performance. We introduced ourselves to the artists and expressed our excitement for the show before making our way down to Mesut’s.

When we arrived at Mesut’s, one of his friends had purchased pastries to eat for brunch. A dozen simit, circular sesame bread, were on a plate and Milo and I tried our first. On the table was a glass of orange colored jam too, and naturally curious, I tried it. It tasted extremely sweet, almost like a desert topping, and I was stunned to find out that one of Mesut’s friends had made it herself from cactus fruit. Cacti grew wildly around the property.

As we enjoyed breakfast, Mesut explained that we would be moving chairs for the day. Moving chairs, how bad could it be? Well Eklisia had just happened to have their first music festival and along with the fest came lots and lots of chairs to accommodate for the attendees (437 to be exact). We had to move all these chairs from two huge clusters on either side of the church down a few flights of steps and hide them under the backside of the stage.

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The task seemed straightforward at first. That is, until we realized how difficult it was to prop the chairs up and prevent them from tipping down the steep hill that the stage had been built upon. We struggled to find rocks, pieces of wood, and other solid materials to level the chair stacks.

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Our solution rocked.

Since we had begun working at 6pm to avoid the midday heat (unlike Lisinia), Milo and I only moved through roughly half of the chairs by the time it was dark. I cooked soy sauce sauteed vegetable pasta for dinner before going back up to the church from Mesut’s kitchen for the performance.

Prepping the vegetables.

Prepping the vegetables.

Milo and I sat second row back from the stage, next to Mesut. The lights dimmed and a projector cast an image of the moon on top of a curtain. The story progressed through different stages of the moon cycle but Milo and I found it difficult to follow since it was entirely narrated in Turkish. Nonetheless, it was still very cool to see a performance art in another language.

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After the performance, Milo and I went to bed since we knew we had more hours of chair moving the next day. In the morning, I made sunny side up eggs for Mesut, Milo, and I since Mesut’s friends had left. We talked about the show and Mesut filled us in on some details we had missed because of the language barrier. Afterwards, Mesut told us that we would begin work at 6pm again. We returned to our air conditioned church to write and research. Finally having a working, stable, and relatively fast internet connection after two weeks of no internet was incredible. I spent most of my free time during the week putting together the first piece on Lisinia since I had wanted to write about each volunteer as well as each day in detail.

When the clock struck 6, Milo and I changed into work clothes and aimed to finish moving the chairs. Over the span of the next hour and a half, we tried multiple strategies to move all the chairs. In the end, what worked best was me moving smaller stacks to the top of the steps where Milo would meet me to bring them the rest of the way down. With all the remaining chairs near the stage, we then worked together to stack and prop large stacks up, ensuring no chairs were visible from outside the stage. We finished right as the sun was setting and Mesut came out to check our work.

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With a thumbs up, we joined him in his living room for dinner. I helped Milo make a tomato pasta and we chatted with Mesut for awhile longer before an old friend of his showed up. They caught up as we ventured out to the beach, craving a sweet dessert. When we had walked the boardwalk before, we had smelled delicious scents wafting out from a bakery and decided to go there. Milo bought a chocolate M&M cookie while I got a cinnamon bun. Although they both looked appealing, their taste was an absolute disappointment. Neither of us even finished, they were that bad.

On our way back to the church, Milo needed to take out money so we stopped at an ATM. Amid conversation, Milo grabbed his cash but walked away from the machine before pressing the return card button. A few moments after walking away he realized he was missing his card and went back to look around the machine as I dug through every pocket in his bag. 20 minutes later, we still hadn’t found a trace of it and determined that the machine must have taken it.

Back at the church, Milo called his bank to temporarily suspend his account. Luckily, he came prepared and had an extra card to use until he would be able to get shipped a new one in Istanbul. Unwinding after the stress, we discovered a stash of candles in our backroom and couldn’t help but light them up in the church to see the atmosphere it created. We took photos and watched in silence before blowing them all out.

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Prior to going to bed, Milo and I talked about how odd it was coming from working with so many other volunteers to working with none here. Mesut had mentioned potentially having new volunteers show up in the coming days.

On our third day, Tunç was leaving to go to Istanbul so we cleaned up his tent and his scattered belongings left in front of the backside church entrance. Boomerangs remained everywhere. As Milo brought a large bag of trash to the nearest waste bin, it broke and trash landed all over his feet. Luckily, the showerhead at the church was movable so he cleaned off his shoes and feet before continuing on.

Each day we would meet Mesut at noon for brunch that we prepared in his kitchen, work from 6pm on, then eat another meal we prepared in Mesut’s kitchen for dinner. After a few days of Milo learning more about the basics of cooking, he began making his own meals. We both helped cut vegetables but would switch off for dishes and cooking. When we weren’t working, we were either writing, researching future location plans, or taking a refreshing swim at the beach since it was so hot. Back home, it was getting cooler but in Gümüşlük, Milo and I were still able to swim in the sea. Everything about the weather seemed like summer and Mesut told us that during winter it only got a little colder.

Preparing dinner that night, a woman ran into the room and began talking very fast to Mesut. She turned around and noticed Milo and I. Mesut introduced her as Deniz, a neighbor and good friend of his. They continued talking in Turkish for 20 minutes before she left.

The next morning as Milo and I were walking down to Mesut’s, a smiling woman with vibrant red hair and streaks of blue approached to ask if we knew Mesut. Carrying a large backpack, I asked if she was a new volunteer and to my surprise, she was. Milo and I led her down to meet Mesut. Relaxing on a couch in Mesut’s, Pravin introduced herself to us.


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Pravin
Iran


She was Iranian and eager to see the world and figure it out for herself. She had spent the past year traveling through the United Arab Emirates and India after stopping at university since she was unsure of what she wanted to study. Milo and I instantly connected with her and when we returned to the church after brunch, we continued talking.

Our generation growing up to view each other’s people and countries negatively was a fascinating topic to explore. We all shared stories of growing up, hearing only negative aspects about each other’s cultures and laughed at our respective media outlet’s deceptions of entire countries. For work in the afternoon, we cleaned the rest of Tunç’s abandoned belongings.

At dinner, I helped Pravin cook up a vegetable stew with lentils.

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Photo by Milo.

When she no longer needed my help, I discussed with Mesut about switching our work hours to the morning for the next few days. Our friends Freddy and Laura who we had met while at Lisinia needed a break from the farm’s recent tension, and decided to take a few days off, staying in Turgutreis, the town over from Gümüşlük. They had just arrived that night and wanted to meet up the following day so we thought it’d be best to get our work done in the morning so we could spend the rest of the day with them. In theory, it seemed like it’d work out well but when we went to see what our work was the next morning at 9am as agreed, Mesut didn’t answer his door.

Hungry for a breakfast, Pravin, Milo, and I grabbed potato pastries from the same bakery that Milo and I had hated but were surprised to find that they were actually good. Pravin had discovered one of the only decent foods they made. On our way back to the church, we knocked a few more times at Mesut’s but still no response. We even came back an hour later, knocked again, but still no luck.

At noon, all three of us returned to check again. Mesut was inside his place with a number of friends. When they finished their conversation, I asked if it was ok to meet our friends since they had planned their day around us being free and he said it was no problem. Milo and I walked to a nearby restaurant where the friendly and familiar faces of Freddy and Laura sat sipping on mixed drinks. We caught up about the farm and learned that all of the volunteers that we had met during our time there had left, bringing in an entire new group of people, except this time, not as close. As long time volunteers and workers, both Freddy and Laura needed a break from the chaos of unorganized schedules, midday sun, and the same sort of foods time and time again.

After they had finished their drinks and Milo and I had eaten sandwiches, we made our way to the beach and swam there until around 6pm. My phone wasn’t working to send Mesut a message of course, so Milo ventured back to ask if he needed our help. He didn’t so we spent the rest of the night with Laura and Freddy swimming at the beach and when it got dark, hanging out in the church. Karlijin (Caroline), a friend of Laura’s, had just arrived in Bodrum from another work exchange in Antalya that she was also doing for school. While Laura went to meet Karlijin, Freddy, Pravin, Milo, and I used all the materials in the church leftover from the storytelling to build a monument. Chairs stacked on chairs, tables behind tables, our masterpiece grew until every last item in the church was somehow a part of it. We each took photos by it, celebrating the work of a lifetime.

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Later Laura and her friend joined and we continued talking with Pravin until later in the night. We walked Freddy, Laura, and Karlijin back to the otopark for the last bus to their hostel. Pravin went off to bed as Milo and I walked to the docks to watch the moonlight reflect over the sea.

In the morning, we awoke again at 9am but Mesut was still asleep. We returned back to the church and took a quick swim until noon when we went back to his home. He let us in and Pravin began cooking eggs for brunch. I asked if it was possible to have our one day off the next day so we could go into Bodrum with Freddy, Laura, and Karlijin, but to my surprise Mesut didn’t initially like the idea. He had thought that we had our day off the day before since we hadn’t done anything work related. It was true, we hadn’t, but we had also agreed on working at 9am, when he wasn’t there. When we asked if he needed our help later in the day, he said it was not needed. So, confused by this, I explained our predicament and he agreed to let us work in the morning before going into Bodrum. Although Freddy, Laura, and Karlijin wanted to hang out again, Milo and I decided it would be best not to to instead focus on work around Eklisia. In the afternoon, Mesut had us collect trash all around the premise of the property as well as clean the bar from the never-ending berry-dropping trees above it.

Spotless.

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The next morning we woke up at 9am again, went down to Mesut’s, knocked, and went inside. He had told me to wake him up if he wasn’t already, so, standing in his living room at the entrance to his bedroom, I raised my voice and called his name. A minute later, he came and sat down at his kitchen, rubbing his eyes and yawning. When he had woken up a little more, he led us up to the outdoor kitchen area, next to our side church entrance. He wanted Milo and I to lift several planks of plywood and thin cement to board up the kitchen for winter.

As I was moving a chair jammed in between the boards, Milo was holding all the boards back. Within a few seconds, one board went one way and another went the other, causing them to fall along with Milo. Luckily he avoided injury, but his shirt ripped and he was scraped up. The boards, however, had definitely been injured…

After ensuring that Milo was alright, we both stared down at the pile in horror. 5 out of the 6 boards had cracked and broken. Mesut, who had watched this incident from afar, came closer and stared down at the boards, repeating, “You broke my boards!” Milo and I apologized at least three times before Mesut returned to his home to try and find new boards online. Pravin came over from her work to ask what had happened and we explained everything. About an hour later, she offered to go down and ask Mesut if there was anything that we could do since Milo and I knew that we were the last faces he wanted to see. Not only had we woken him up, but now we had broken his materials, and still planned to go to Bodrum later in the day. Pravin had no luck talking with Mesut as he was hyper-focused on finding an alternative to using the broken boards. She returned to cheer Milo and I up as we felt terrible about the whole situation for an hour and a half, before Mesut finally came out of his home.

He had relaxed about the situation and realized it was an accident. We apologized profusely again and Milo even offered to pay for new boards, but instead Mesut just wanted us to clean the bar off again and empty the furniture from the church that had been used for the art performance. We tackled the work, moving at a pace faster than normal to reduce the unsettling vibes from earlier and finished about two hours later.

Mesut came up, applauded our work, then told us we could go off to Bodrum. Overjoyed, we contacted Freddy and Laura who were already in Bodrum with Karlijin to see where they were at. Milo and I rushed to the otopark and jumped on the next bus to town, this time without our huge bags. We had so much space to spare.

As we neared the city, traffic became hectic and I realized why Laura had told me they’d meet us at the otogar in an hour and not 45 minutes. We arrived a few minutes early and sat down until we spotted the crew. All together, we walked towards the best rated pide (Turkish pizza) restaurant in town that I had found. Freddy spotted it as we got closer and we sat down to eat.

Streets of Bodrum

Streets of Bodrum

Milo got a burger, I got a chicken pide, Freddy got lahmacun, Laura got a vegetable pide, and Karlijin had just eaten so she didn’t order anything. When the pides arrived, it was obvious that they were higher quality then ones we had eaten before. They were wood-oven cooked and being made right beside our table. We enjoyed the food, paid, then were lured into the neighboring Burger King to treat ourselves to a 1 lira (30 cent) ice cream cone. This was by far one of the nicest Burger Kings that any of us had been to though. We sat on the deck outside, overlooking Bodrum’s bay, and talked as boats passed by.

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After our fill of ice cream, we walked all over town, trying to avoid the tourist shops lining each other with Turkish guys standing outside repeating, “My friend, my friend, please come inside!” As we continued walking, we noticed the dozens of Syrian refugees sitting on street corners begging for anything. We were at one of the epicenters of the European refugee crisis, an ideal location for refugees to sneak from Turkey into Greece and the same location that just a few weeks prior had gathered international attention when a viral photo of a lifeless boy’s body found in Bodrum made its rounds on the internet. Now, we were here and we were seeing the hundreds of refugees in person and it wasn’t pretty.

Little kids were dressed in ripped clothes and parents looked like they needed support from their parents. We saw several passerbys give food, money, and anything else that they could. Laura had a stuffed animal bear she had been carrying around and decided to part with it and give it to a young boy sheltered under the shade of a tree. His mother’s face glowed, and you could tell her eyes said thank you millions of times. The boy was even more expressive, a widening smile dominating nearly his entire face. We walked away as he began to play with the bear.

Finally out of the main touristy area, we discovered a dock and sat out on rocks by it, watching fisherman fish and the sun begin to set over Bodrum’s castle.

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Me, Freddy, Rando Dog, Karlijin, Milo, and Laura

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Eventually Karlijin had to leave to go back to the hostel, but Freddy, Laura, Milo, and I all stuck around on the dock until it became dark and the club behind us began casting lasers all the way across the bay. We watched for a few minutes until we started walking back to town. On our way, we sat down at a hookah bar and chilled out for a few hours until the music from a nearby club caught our attention and it was time to dance. We entered the club, free of charge, and danced to 90s throwbacks mixed with current mainstream electronic music until past 3am.

At one point when I glanced down at my phone and realized how late it was, Milo and I decided it would be best to walk back to the otogar. As we left the club, I pulled up the bus schedule on my phone and seconds later we began running since we only had a few minutes left until the next to last bus departed for Gümüşlük. If we missed it, we’d have to wait an hour, and we weren’t about to do that, especially since Mesut had told us that work would be at 9am again. Freddy and Laura ran after us as we sprinted to make it to the otogar. We arrived seconds before the bus left and quickly said our goodbyes to Freddy and Laura who had to wait a few minutes until their bus was to leave. Milo and I fell asleep on the way but I set an alarm which woke me up when we arrived back home. We then walked to the church and passed out.

5 hours later, Milo and I woke up feeling extremely refreshed… and by refreshed I mean exhausted. We carried our bodies to Mesut’s along with Pravin and now Diana, a new volunteer from Germany who had arrived while we were in Bodrum.


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Diana
Germany


They didn’t seem to notice just how tired we were, and must not have heard us when we came home since they were sleeping in the church too. Of course, Mesut was not around. His door was locked so Milo and I talked with Diana and Pravin for some time before carrying our bodies back up to the church and passing out.

By noon, we woke up again, actually feeling refreshed, and went down to Mesut’s. He had Milo and I work on cleaning up trash all around the property while Pravin and Diana weeded. In the evening, Mesut had over a group of artist friends ranging from 18 to 40 who had played (music) at the church before. Diana and I talked with them in Mesut’s living room before we all went up to the bar.

Diana and I took a seat at the bar which Milo and Deniz, Mesut’s friendly neighbor, were behind, singing along to Bob Marley. When their Marley jam sesh had ended, Mesut put on some deep house tunes and the night began. Some of his friends went on an alcohol run to grab beer before the stores closed. I talked with a number of them, in particular, two brothers from Izmir who were working in a band in Bodrum for the summer. We began playing music back and forth, sharing some favorite tracks. A track that one of the brothers played provided deep Halloween vibes throughout the bar and made Milo and I wonder where we’d be for October 31st.

About 40 minutes later, most of Mesut’s friends left to grab some more drinks and the playlist came to a stop. I seized the moment and put on a new mix by a favorite DJ which picked up right as everyone returned, and the night really began.

Milo & Pravin serving drinks.

Milo & Pravin working behind the bar.

Everyone gathered around the bar, and by this point there were about 25 people. Some visitors had stumbled upon the bar in addition to Mesut’s friends. The next two hours, we danced on the bar floor under the moonlight, overlooking the luminous sea below. When my mix had ended, Mesut played a favorite track of his. As the chorus began, Pravin’s face glowed. She explained how the lyrics originated from a 13th century Persian poet and she recognized it from her childhood.

Mesut left the bar at one point, and I was the only one behind the table. Milo, Pravin, and Diana had gone off to bed so I helped close the bar and charge a few remaining customers for their drinks. At 2am, I too went to bed.

9am, we awoke again, and all walked down to Mesut’s. Surprisingly he was also up and assigned Milo and I the task of fixing the watering systems throughout the garden on the property. Several lines had broken so by trial and error of running the water through different lines, we were able to determine which lines to fix. Two hours later, the watering system was good as new.

Diana and Pravin had been working on more weeding and by the time we had all finished, the garden looked great. In the evening, Pravin left Eklisia to meet a friend in Bodrum and carry on with her travels. Although we had only known each other for a few days, it felt like weeks since Milo and I had been with her. We all clearly enjoyed each other’s company and she helped resolve the uncomfortable situation of accidentally breaking the boards with Mesut. Before she left, I transfered the photos from our contemporary art project and some music onto a USB stick of hers and took her name and email address down for Facebook.

Later in the afternoon, Freddy contacted me since Laura, Karlijin, and him were in Gümüşlük again and wanted to meet up since it was already their last day on break. Milo and I were happy to have actually finished work in the morning so we’d have the rest of the afternoon free to spend time with them. After finishing our work for the day with Mesut, we changed into swimming suits and made our way down to the beach. I was the only one with working phone service so we had planned on meeting at the same place we had swam before.

Sure enough, we found Freddy and Karlijin sitting on the sand and Laura relaxing in the water. Looking around, the beach was crowded with tourists so Milo led us to a hidden away beach that Deniz had taken Diana and him to the morning before. We walked all the way down the shops lining the beach until we reached a dirt path around the island that the gigantic Turkish flag waved from. Up a hill and around the island, the view of tourists and shops dramatically changed to a rocky shoreline bordering crystal clear waters. In the distance, the Greek islands of Kos, Kalymnos, and Leros sat in a haze. Milo continued leading us completely around the island until we reached a small, rocky shore.

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We set up camp and went out for a swim. On the right corner, a large rock wall jutted out of the water and provided a great jumping spot since the water in front was very deep. Milo and I took turns jumping then returned to shore. We talked with Freddy, Laura, and Karlijin for a few hours, watching boats sails by, until Milo discovered a tire and an oar nearby. He sat in the middle of the tire and cast off to sea in his new float.

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When he returned to shore, Freddy took his turn but like Milo, experienced difficulties getting out of the small tire. Freddy had offered to give me a haircut a few days before when we had been in Bodrum since I was talking about needing one. With his two years of professional experience in Australia, I thought why not, what better a location?

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Haircuts, chips, and wine while watching the sun set over Greece in the distance.

Darkness spread faster than we anticipated but Freddy hadn’t totally finished the cut. We walked back to our church where he completed the final touches. While finishing my haircut, the bar was open and several people introduced themselves to me since they thought it was funny I was getting my haircut right there. Can (John) and Engin, two friends of Mesut’s struck up a conversation with Freddy and I. Can was a freelance graphic designer who created his own apparel from his work and Engin worked at a nearby art gallery after studying fine arts. The rest of the night, Freddy, Laura, Karlijin, Milo, and I all talked and hung out in the church while Mesut and some of his other friends occupied the bar outside. At midnight, Milo and I walked Freddy, Laura, and Karlijin to the last bus again and said our final goodbyes. They would all be returning to Lisinia the next day.

In the morning, Milo, Diana, and I all made brunch at Mesut’s at noon then cleaned up the property which easily accumulated trash after any night the bar was open. Diana cleaned the bar area while Milo and I cleaned dishes left outside the church.

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Will do dishes for free food and bed

Can had stayed the night too and drew inside the church as we worked outside. An hour and a half later, we had all finished and returned to the church. Around 5pm, Mesut walked into the church too and immediately needed help moving anything valuable from outside inside since it was forecast to rain. We covered his speakers, lights, and moved all mattresses indoors.

As it began to drizzle, we went down to Mesut’s where Diana cooked us dinner. At night, Deniz stopped by and convinced Mesut to borrow his projector to set up a movie night in the church. I set everything up while Can, Diana, Milo, and Deniz pulled a mattress into the church to lie on. Deniz wanted something scary so we ended up watching The Exorcist, but Milo seemed to be the only one who enjoyed it.

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The next morning, it was still pouring outside. Diana, Can, Milo, and I all rushed down to Mesut’s to avoid the rain. He opened the door and we prepared brunch, which we ate together back up in the church. Mesut didn’t have any indoor work for us and it was raining too hard to do anything outside. This was perfect for Milo and I because we had a lot of planning, researching, and writing to do.

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Some hours later, we determined it made the most sense to leave Eklisia the next day (two days early) to make our way to Cappadocia before Istanbul. The ride to Cappadocia was very far from Istanbul so we thought only doing it once rather than roundtrip would be better. We wanted to spend as much time as possible in Istanbul.

By dinner, our minds were made up and we spoke with Mesut about our sudden change of plans at the table. He had no problem with us leaving early and was excited for us to see Cappadocia. At night, Can invited Engin and Deniz back over and all six of us, Can, Engin, Diana, Deniz, Milo, and I, all hung out in the church until around midnight. Since it was our last night, they wanted to send us off on a good note and they certainly did. It was a relaxed, chill night as we listened to music and talked in the church, raindrops echoing throughout the hall.

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The next day we woke up early at 8am. The sun was shining so I took the opportunity to walk around the property and photograph as much as possible in the sunlight before it began raining again. Milo and I went to grab breakfast from the bakery and picked up our favorite potato pastries and simit. When we went back to Mesut’s we all enjoyed simit and used the last of the cactus jam while talking about future plans.

Mesut warned about the rain potentially causing issues with our bus. We hadn’t realized it but it had rained so much that Bodrum had flooded and made world news. Five cars had been swept into the ocean, 40+ people needed to be rescued from their homes, and a dog died. We immediately sent messages to friends and family assuring them of our safety, especially since articles had been published with extremely negative titles like Disastrous flash flood ravages the streets of Bodrum, Turkey.

After eating we said goodbye to Mesut and wished him the best in the future. Diana and Can followed us back up to the church to see us out. We grabbed our bags, said our goodbyes, then walked to the otopark to catch a dolmuş to Bodrum.

A photo posted by // Jeremy // (@inchofdust) on

Can drew this in about 30 minutes as Milo & I packed our things.

Ten minutes later, we boarded the dolmuş. Luckily it was larger than the one that we had first taken to Gümüşlük and we had some more room for ourselves and our bags. Once we got closer to the city the traffic was terrible, just as Mesut had predicted. Fog rolled over the hills in the distance and since we were going so slowly, I was able to capture it with my camera.

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The traffic was no match for our dolmuş driver though, who calmly sped down the side of the road until he could turn to take a detour. Detour after detour and many car honks later, we had safely arrived at the otogar. All around us was chaos. Workers stood in circles drinking tea, waiting for it to stop raining so they could resume cleaning up the streets.  Just a little ways down the road, there was an area where many of the refugees had gathered to evade the ongoing rain. Hundreds of clothes had been hung up to dry over garages and other cement structures. Many crowded under trees and tried to stay dry by using cardboard above their heads. It wasn’t a pretty sight and Milo and I struggled with just walking by. We really hoped that locals had offered to house them during the main flooding the previous day.

At the bus office, we purchased tickets to Göreme, a town in Cappadocia and with an hour and a half left until departure, we ran across the street and sat down at a cafe. There, we dried off and ordered a Turkish breakfast (tea, bread, cheeses, olives, butter, honey, jam, boiled eggs, sliced tomatoes, and cucumbers). Enjoying the tea served first, we recapped about our time together so far.

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Around 3:15pm we paid and walked back to the station since the rain had temporarily stopped. Waiting for the bus, we watched as workers returned to mopping excess water and mud into drains. When our bus finally arrived, we put our luggage in the bottom and hopped on, more than ready to experience a new part of Turkey.

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  • Lauren

    Jeremy- Once again, you have illustrated the beauty that is Turkey. Seeing the plight of the Syrian refugees firsthand must have deeply touched you both: such a juxtaposition of sadness and desperation against a backdrop of tranquil mountains and azure sea. The church where you stayed is amazing. I loved the photo of the archway lit up with the votives. That scene almost commands silence and reflection….

  • Lisa Raider

    I really liked reading about the details of adjusting to an “open – almost impulsive array of chores and work details that you had no control over” my son! I am also very very happy you left for a new location before getting caught- up in the flooding –