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~~Welcome again to another adventure in this far off place, this time we go a little farther, which actually brings us nearer, as we sit in another land and finally meet once more here Under the Turkmen Sky.
 The most anticipated time of the month of August was my much needed vacation to Turkey. It is very inexpensive to fly to Turkey from Turkmenistan, with a round trip ticket costing only one hundred and seventy five dollars. Add the twenty dollar visa fee and fifteen dollar exit fee and all in all you’ve got yourself a bargain. The flight on Turkmenistan Airlines was like a flight on any other airline traveling the same span of time, except for one thing, the in flight meal. I was quite exited to see if there would be an in flight meal and if so, what would be served. On domestic flights you receive the Turkmen answer to a bag of peanuts, which is a bag containing four individually wrapped hard candies. I delighted to see the international flight did indeed have a meal, and ironically it was pilov. It was as if they were saying, “Yes, we know you are headed off to eat so many wonderful things that you have not eaten in so long, but your not in Turkey yet, so eat your marginal rice dish. Once I touched down in Turkey I went about figuring out the public transit system so I could go to my destination. After exchanging some dollars to lira, I found myself in the subway station. I told the person at the booth how far I wanted to go and he told me a price which was followed by an exchange of money. I was curious as I had not received a ticket and proceeded to the turnstiles where I failed to pass. I then returned to the seller to ask how I go, to which he asked to see my change that he had given me and pointed to the token that was among it. Feeling a bit foolish I then returned to the turnstiles deposited my token a.k.a jeton in Turkish, and completed lesson one in local public transit. I spent my first three days in Istanbul which were pleasant and unpleasant at the same time. The unpleasantness came from the how touristy that city is. One of the things that I was hoping to get away from was the barrage of “Hello, where are you from? What is your name?” that happens quite a bit where I currently live. Unfortunately Istanbul is not the place to go to leave that behind. To make it even more annoying was that instead of the asker being just a naturally inquisitive Turkmen who genuinely just wants to converse or practice the three English sentences they now, there it was a Turk who is either trying to sell you something or rip you off or both. I tried a few routes to solve this problem going from just being rude, to ignoring, to saying I don’t understand in Russian. Either way I just made a game out of it. The pleasant parts were eating western/ different food. I ate at a Chinese/Korean restaurant which reinforced the fact that where ever I may be, Kim chi just isn’t for me. But the sweat and sour pork and shrimp fried rice were good. I had McDonalds for lunch a couple times. I also found a Tex Mex place and an El Torito where I ate a fantastic burrito. Continuing on with the pleasantness was seeing beautiful historic sites like the Hagia Sofia and Topraki Palace, going on a boat trip from the Marmara Sea up the Bosphorous River to the Black Sea, and soaking in all the history of the area. I was also able to find a Latter-day Saint congregation and attend church.
 After the third day in Istanbul I wanted to travel south to a place called Cesme which is on the Aegean Sea. The bus travels at night so after having checked out of the hostel the day of my travel I had quite a bit of time to kill. As I wandered the streets near the bus ticket office, I noticed a movie theater and a sign for the Simpson movie. I thought, “Hey I’ve got the time, and even though I won’t understand everything since I am sure it’s in Turkish, it will still be nice.” So I went to the ticket counter and asked for a ticket. The sales lady said that I shouldn’t watch it because it is in Turkish, but instead I should watch Harry Potter 5, which is in English. I had not figured that that movie would be shown in English and quickly agreed. So there I found myself, after almost a year, sitting in a movie theater, looking at the large screen with large chocolate bar. I almost cried.
 That night I took the bus down to Cesme, a wonderfully less touristy beautiful town. The first thing on my agenda, find a hotel. I looked around and settled for the cheapest one I found. That was a mistake. When they had trouble swiping my credit card, I should’ve just walked out right there, but I decided to give it a try. Shortly after this decision I was acquainted with the warning signs that maybe staying hotel was not right for me. The first warning sign, the door was extremely difficult to open. The second and third warning signs, no air conditioning or TV, respectively. Then after a long ten hour bus ride I decided to take a much needed shower, when I was hit by the fourth and final warning sign like a bull tromping down the streets of Barcelona, NO WARM WATER!!! Feeling that there most be some logical reason as to why this was, I inquired at the front desk, as I left to look around the city. The answer was that there wasn’t much sun, and to wait an hour. This left me quite perplexed. So when I got back from looking around, I packed up my things and as politely as possible told the front desk that this hotel was not for me, please cancel my reservation. From there I found another hotel which for just eleven dollars more per night, offered working door, air conditioning, TV, and above all things else 24/7 warm to hot water. While in Cesme, I was able to do the one thing I had wanted to do most, which was get under that water and Scuba Dive. It wasn’t the best diving I have ever done, but still it was refreshing to fly weightless in the water and I did see two things I had not seen before, a moray eel and Greek pottery that had been sitting on the ocean floor for thousands of years. It was also in Cesme that I had my most interesting dinner.
I found a western style restaurant and was seated outside. As I sat I kept hearing someone shout something that to me sounded like, “I want the red balloon.” I looked over to see some crazy old guy reclining on the ground near a motor scooter. Some people would walk by and he would shout at them. At one point he stood up and started dancing a little jig, which made a couple little girls scream and run to their parents. After he sat down from this, I noticed him pouring from a green bottle, red liquid, into a clear cup. At this time I realized that he’s not crazy, he’s drunk, and I think I had figured out what the red balloon is, alcohol. Whatever the situation, crazy or drunk, he provided entertainment as I sat and ate. My last day in Cesme, I had wanted to go to a nearby town called Alacati, because they offer wind surfing lessons there. I awoke, checked out of the hotel, and made my way there by public mini buses. I was shocked when I arrived and consulted with the wind surf schools to find that none of them would teach me, the reason being it was too windy!?!?! Now I am no rocket scientist, but it would seem to me that wind would be something desirable to have for wind surfing and the more the better, but I guess four separate schools turning down some one pleading with puppy dog eyes cannot be wrong. So thus, my dreams of learning to wind surf were gone with the wind. Not learning to wind surf would turn out to be a blessing in disguise as I used that time to walk around Alacati, which eventually led me to an internet café, where I checked my bank statement to find that no TV, air conditioner, warm water, no me stay there hotel had actually charged my credit during the broken machine swiping fury, not only once, but two times. I printed out a statement and went the hotel. It was interesting going over there, because I thought wow here I am in a foreign land, if they are difficult what do I do. Will the police take the situation seriously or would they be like, why are you bothering us with this. Fortunately, they were very apologetic, and said come back in three hours. So I used that time to explore a five hundred year old castle, now museum. There I used the restroom which was built into the original edifice of the castle. It was very nice with urinals and soap dispensers and jokingly I wondered to myself if this was the original site of the restroom. Later as I walked through a museum area I saw an ancient restroom area, and realized that the other place was indeed a new location. After three hours I went back and was reimbursed in cash. And thus were the highlights of Turkey.
 When I returned I learned a semi tragedy, as my host pops had suffered a heart attack while I was aware. Fortunately, it was not fatal and he spent a month recuperating at the “hospital”. If you saw it you would understand the reason for quotation marks. It is the first time I had ever known someone who suffered from a heart attack and it was quite worrying.
August was a particularly emotional month in a good way as I saw two of my best and brightest students from my Public Speaking club go off to Kyrgyzstan to take their first steps on a road to academic success and receiving a higher education, which is an extremely difficult thing to do for those who live where I currently am. I would like to tell you about each of these two students and how their lives have been touched by the American Dream. To me it seems that these days when people think of the American Dream, if they do at all anymore, they think it is to get rich and have fancy cars and expensive possessions, but to me I don’t think that is what it is. I don’t think that is what originally was either. To me the American Dream means that any one, despite of under what circumstances they were born or who their parents may or may not have been can have the opportunity to better their situation in life based on their own merits, talents, and hard work. So for me it was especially touching to see that American Dream span the oceans and the deserts and great distances to touch the lives of Dursun (pictured right) and Dinara (pictured left).
 Dursun grew up in a very small town outside of the city, which can be a great hindrance to one’s opportunities for education. Being the determined young lady that she is, she took it upon herself to educate herself in English, having found an affinity for the global language. She worked hard in school, but with opportunities being scarce after finishing school she worked at the bazaar selling candy. She would later meet Peace Corps volunteers and become acquainted with the American Corner, a place where she could go and continue learning for free. So each day she would begin at 4 am and go to the Bazaar to sell candy, even in the bitter cold of winter and the scorching heat of summer. After this tedious work she would then go to the American Corner where she would learn whatever she could and especially perfect her English. After perfecting her English enough she then gave back, and taught English for beginners along with teaching a geography class. Last year she applied to the program which allows students to go to Kyrgyzstan and study and was not accepted, but with her indelible drive to better her mind, she only put that much more effort to prepare for this year, where all her hard is now paving the way for her future as she studies in a far off land.
 Dina grew up in the city. As a young girl her life was touched by tragedy as one of her friends committed suicide. As she grew she found herself a bit alienated from others, but instead of letting it all get her down she focused on her talents of writing poetry and songs. One day for public speaking class I gave the assignment for the students to write a poem in English and give a reading of that poem in honor of the coming Magtymgully poetry day. Her poem was fantastic and she would later win an American Corner poetry contest with the poem. What I didn’t know until a couple weeks ago was that it was the first poem she had ever written in English. Here is the poem on the next page;


His Destiny

Empty roads and empty streets
He’s walking in a boulevard of waking dreams
He’s lost in his life
He wants to know about his love
He wants to know what happened to him,
He lost his hope, he lost his dream
Where to go and what to do?
He wants to find an answer, he is asking you-
He is looking on the sky
Screaming one word
Why is he alone?
He has no power, he isn’t strong
He is tired of running away from this world
From lie and betrayal, earth is so cold
His heart is like a piece of ice, in his vein
Pouring white blood
He is becoming mad
He tried to kill the pain
He tried to stop the rain
He tries to stop the time
He tells us about another world,
He says, “This world is mine”
World full of pain and tears
World where he lived many years
He is dying, he is praying
He is bleeding and he is screaming
He can’t stay long; he is closing his eyes
Maybe he will wake up for once
But there is now crimson on his face
There is not a chance
He fades to black
He will never come back.

So now they are off on an adventure in learning. A glimpse into the American Dream made possible through the influence of American volunteers and US funded organizations. What an amazing land I am blessed to come from. When they left I gave them a picture with the words from a song that my dear friends Jeff and Abby had given to me one Christmas. The words, “When you dream, dream big. When you dream it might come true. So when you dream, dream big.” Those words have inspired me much and I hope it will do the same for my students.
 For under the Turkmen Sky this is James saying, “I don’t think I want the red balloon. Yeah, I definitely don’t want the red balloon.” May the Lord bless and keep you.


Submitted: May 17, 2015

© Copyright 2022 Mist James. All rights reserved.


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