Gas Stations and Sun, Kisses and Cold

“How to Overthrow the System: brew your own beer; kick in your Tee Vee; kill your own beef; build your own cabin and piss off the front porch whenever you bloody well feel like it.”

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The last week in Turkey has been a blur of hot beautifully sunny short days and cold nights through very easy terrain. As the sun now rises by five-thirty, and sets, much to our dismay, by four-thirty, we have continued to use the sun and not the manmade invention of “hours” to guide our days. We still get up with the sun while it’s -5C or so out, cycle throughout the sunny hot days (20C or so, though in the full sun it feels a lot hotter, and on the downhills a whole lot colder), before finding ourselves a campsite by four in order to quickly set up the tent and cook, sometimes in the dark. By six or so we are listening to a final podcast before bed, and we are always asleep by seven. Though this seems absurd, if we were to move time two hours forward (so that we would get up at seven-thirty, and go to bed by nine) it wouldn’t seem that silly at all.

For two days we passed through a flat and open area where we were able to do 90-100km a day pretty easily.

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Then we hit the hills… Though thankfully they were pretty small!

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Unfortunately, not everything was as beautiful as the weather. As a van pulled over to talk to us I moved ten feet away from Kevin in order to speak with him. He asked (hand signed) if I wanted a ride, and after I explained we were happy cycling, he shook my hand as many people do to say goodbye. Instead of letting go though, he grabbed me, pulled me in, and tried to forcefully kiss me. After pulling back and shouting for him to leave, I stood back stunned… I mean seriously… how stupid, ignorant, or disrespectful can you get? Did he really think that if he sexually harassed me (in front of my boyfriend!) I would suddenly jump in his car, drive home with him, fall onto his bed, and have his babies? Did he really think it would be pleasurable to kiss a girl who found him repulsive? Or did he try just because he wanted to brag that he had kissed a foreigner? A friend of mine ended up leaving Turkey a few months before her nine month stay was up in part because she was so frustrated with how some men here treated her. Though I have been blissfully unaware of the potential harassment of women as I have constantly been with Kevin, today gave me a small glimpse into what she sometimes experienced on a daily basis. Though most of the men we have met have been wonderful, and though on a whole the Turkish culture is one of hospitality and respect, equality is definitely not yet a thing and there are still plenty of men who regard women as inferior and can therefore do as they please with them.

Though I’ve always felt safe here in Turkey, I have had young men yell “I want to fuck you” or just simply “sex” as they pass, and I’ve always felt a little uncomfortable every time we enter a town or city because 99% of the people on the streets are men (in the larger cities there are a few more women walking around, though it’s never at 50%). This isn’t because of safety, but rather because a women’s place is in the home and not out at the cafes or restaurants like the men. Whatever the reason for the lack of women may be, it still makes me uncomfortable to be surrounded by hundreds of men (without a women in sight), especially after instances such as the man trying to forcefully kiss me since it makes me weary of every man.

Instances such as these make me incredibly grateful to call Oregon home because even though women are still harassed and raped there like anywhere, it is a whole lot less often and acceptable than it is here. In just two weeks of traveling (with my boyfriend right beside me) I’ve experienced more harassment here because I’m a women than during my nineteen years of living in North America. I’ve always taken for granted the fact that back home I can walk down the street without any problems, but seeing how that is not the case in most countries has made me painfully aware of how important it is for all of us to continue to strive for equality.

But like always, there was a whole lot more good than bad that happened to us during these last few days. On a chilly morning when we stopped to buy food from a small shop the baker next door invited us into his warm shop in order to warm up and eat one of his delicious fresh breads (for free!). We were invited over a dozen times (basically every single time we stopped) for tea, though we did politely refuse most of them since if we accepted every time, we would never get anywhere! Never the less, it’s the thought that counts. And probably the best story from this week was when we stayed a night at a gas station.

A few of my friends who cycled through Turkey last year informed me that gas stations are a great place to camp as there is water and a bathroom, it’s safe, and because the employees are normally really friendly and always invite you to tea and sometimes a meal. We already use them quite extensively for breaks and to find water during the day, but we finally decide to spend the night at one as well. As Kevin and I were asking if we could camp (a word we finally learned in Turkish!) they showed us a room – the prayer room – and told us we could sleep in there instead of having to set up our tent. Just a few minutes later as we were drinking one of many steaming cups of tea the younger boy (seventeen or so) ran off to the store only to come back with bread, eggs, chocolate spread, and cream cheese which we all shared. Later on we cooked for them, the soup we typically make with some bread to go along with it, before retiring for the night into our very own room.

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After we left Van and the family we stayed with we took this cargo ferry across the huge lake (nearly five hours on board) for just two dollars each. It was a lovely ride which saved us a day of cycling (and a very snowy pass), and since we arrived after nightfall, we ended up camping right beside the ferry in the parking lot! Seems crazy right? Well, it was one of our quietest nights and the only people who passed us simply waved and kept walking. Turkey has definitely been one of our safest countries yet, I even feel safer here than in the States.

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3 thoughts on “Gas Stations and Sun, Kisses and Cold

  1. C’est triste de te faire assombrir tes sentiments positifs envers un peuple par quelques hommes imbéciles qui se croient tout permis en vertu de leur statut de mâle. Nous devons cependant tenir compte que vous séjournez dans un milieu musulman où la femme est considérée comme un citoyen de seconde classe, sinon comme une esclave!
    Continues d’être prudente! Tes photos nous témoignent de paysages à couper le souffle!
    Au Québec, première neige hier…et -8C aujourd’hui! Je vais ranger mon vélo pour quelques mois et commencer le ski de fonds bientôt!

  2. I’m so sorry, but ‘welcome to Turkey’ (ok, in fairness ‘one’ of the Turkey’s that exist). The contrast best West and the Rest is sometimes shocking. Do you that’s one reason why ‘they’ (the men?) feel threatened by Western culture?

  3. Hi Shirine,
    I discovered you and your site yesterday and I started reading the Turkey part of your journey. I am very sorry for your bad experience with that driver. This is a very rare exception and I think this man should pay for this. Did you write down the number of the truck’s plate? This should be reported to the police.
    I would join you for a couple of kilometers if your path crosses Bursa. Say hi to Kevin. 🙂

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