Sunday, July 05, 2009

How I Spent My Fourth of July Vacation

I spent the long weekend in Antalya, on the Turkish Mediterranean coast. I met up with a friend from Riyadh there, and we proceeded indulge in the greatest form of decadence, to wit: all meals and all drinks (as long as we consumed Turkish beer/liquor... not a problem) were included in the very reasonable price of the hotel. We had two large pools at our dispense, along with three or four different restaurants and a pristine stretch of sandy beaches just beyond the swim-up bar. Oh, and there were massages, Turkish baths, kayaks free for the taking up and down the coast, and drink service at the lounge chairs. We did take one night out in the old city, and there's little I can think of that's more relaxing than sitting at a cafe on top of the Ottoman ramparts overlooking the moonrise on the Mediterranean harbor while sipping a beer and smoking shisha. I'd like to go back to Antalya and see more of the city, since so much of our time was spent at the hotel, but I recognize that I will have two years of weekend trips I can take around the country. I have plenty of time to plan those!

Now, normally this sort of stationary cruise wouldn't be my thing - I prefer more active and more solitary exploration if I'm in a new place, and the hotel's Entertainment Team (yes, it's capitalized) was quite insistent on dragging people into various hotel activities, such as pool games, dance parties on the pier after sunset, and other things that outgoing people enjoy in a large group of strangers. However, there's something pleasant in not having to worry about finding a cab to get to some restaurant from a guidebook that may or may not have been updated in the last ten years. I'm not sure I'd want to spend more than a long weekend in such a Stepford vacation - but for someone running on the fumes of her mental energy, this was a good way to recharge in preparation for my last month in Riyadh.

For that happy time has nearly come! I will arrive back in Riyadh on 4 July, and I should be leaving on 4 August to go back to the States. I start Turkish training on 8 September, and I should move back to DC around the 4th of that same month, which will give me time to spend Labor Day at my favorite East Coast haunt, Chincoteague Island. I spent a few days in DC before I came out to Turkey, and while I was there I managed to sign a lease on a great apartment in Eastern Market. Beej and I should be quite happy for our ten months there.

But before I can rhapsodize over my eighty-year-old apartment on a tree-lined street, filled with handmade Kazakh rugs and furnished with antiques and fine kitchenware.... I have to make it through another month in Riyadh, which will be filled with paperwork leading up to the move, and God only knows what other stressors may emerge. I got an extra treat on my flight back from Istanbul to Riyadh - the plane was 3 hours late, and by the time I was finally allowed on board, I realized that the 15 children who might have behaved themselves at 5 PM have no interest in doing so after being stuck in one room for 3 hours with nothing to do. Nor do their parents have any interest in keeping them corralled.

Please, a plea from a business traveller stuck in economy: If you are travelling with children, do not allow them to run wildly up and down the aisles, trying to flip up and down all of the armrests. And the lower-back massage I'm getting from the kicking toddler behind me is not appreciated. Also, if the child is of the screaming sort, I understand that it is difficult to know what to do in that instance. I suggest force-feeding Dimetap; it worked wonders on me as a child. Finally, if you're not willing or able to control your children, don't have them.

This message brought to you by the curmudgeon in 39L on Saudia Flight 213, Istanbul to Riyadh. As I write this, I only have 60 more minutes until touchdown, and my headphones are turned up as loud as they can go. It doesn't drown out the infantile madness.


  1. I predict you're going to have a great time in Turkey! Which city are you being assigned to?

  2. Aww, are you sure you won't miss SA just a little? I'm not sure why this stuck with me, but when I was traveling I would remember that graph you posted that basically said depression hits a low after 3 months abroad, then you rebound after 8 months or so. I'm not sure about you, but it fit me very well. On two long trips I had had enough after 3 months and came right home. But I was thinking if you push through a whole year it might be hard to leave something even so horrible.
    Anyhow, at least you have Turkey to look forward to. Once you're settled in Istanbul I highly recommend exploring the region by train and boat, if you can find the time to avoid planes. Besides, sounds like you're a little jaded of air travel! The 24 hour train to Belgrade/Bucharest is an experience. I mean, what could be more fun than getting to see first hand why corn products are so popular in the region?? It departs Sirkeci station around 10PM every night, but the return schedule is better because you get to see Istanbul around sunrise. From Belgrade or Bucharest it's wide open and inexpensive. A sleeper to Slovenia was $10 when I was there. Bucharest to Kiev was like 50 or 60. There's also a ferry from Ist to Odessa, UKR.
    Haydarpasa station will take you to the East. They're supposed to be reopening the train to Syria soon--you just can't get your visa issued abroad, must be from their consulate in the States, else there's not a chance of getting in, so I've been told by a few people.
    I really love riding the local ferries in Ist too. Unmatched views, and if you don't fear birds take some snacks for them! Hopefully I'll see you in Turkey sometime. I miss it so much.

  3. I'll be assigned to Istanbul, in the pol shop there. I can't wait! It's what's getting me through my last few weeks of Riyadh...

    Randal, I doubt I'll miss Riyadh per se. As for people - yes, I'll miss many of my coworkers and contacts. I'd rather see them in the US, though! And thanks for the tips on travel in Istanbul; I will be making great use of these, and you're welcome there at any time!