Florence + the Machine.
This morning we went out to the ruins at Termessos, which was both a hike over slippery rock and maybe one of my favorite excursions so far. Combined with doing laundry and taking an awesome shower with the best loufah ever, I thought today was a great day. Then I went outside to get cash and dinner, and was confronted by a thin Turkish 20-something who was passing the opposite direction. He did the classic, “Hello.” Followed by. “Do you speak English?” In a heavy accent. I was going to open my mouth to say yes, but he quickly followed that up with “Would you like to have sex?”
He never stopped walking in past me and never once reached out to touch me or try to impede me to follow through on his request, but it was still a horrifying? defeating? shrinking? experience. I kept on walking up the hill towards the main drag, but I huddled even closer under my hood. I was dressed the same way I always am – my blue rain jacket and today some long capris, so nothing suggested I was as loose as his question seemed in imply. Was it merely that I was a girl walking alone? Or that Im not Turkish?
I needed to use an ATM, and turned the corner looking for one of the many Turkish banks, but saw a blue glint in the corner of my eye. A familiar American bank and something about that touchstone made me keep going as I approached what felt like a dark corner to get out enough cash to last for a bit. But I wasnt accosted. No one demanded my money. And I made it to McDonald’s and back with no incident. But now the stares from passerbys felt far more threatening than they had previously. What did they want from me? Was it that I was just a curiosity? A tall girl worth staring at? Although Id seen two black people when we were at Pamukkale, I havent seen any in Antayla. I just walked head down, back to my hotel, both intimidated and then angry reminding myself that I was larger than my would-be sexual partner, and could easily have fought off any advances. There were also other people around and hopefully they would not have stood by while anything awful happened.
But more than the idea of what could have happened – the fact that something did shook my foundation a bit. Did I want to travel by myself after my friend went home? It had seemed like such a good idea the night before to take advantage of the proximity to Europe and keep traveling, but now I felt my adventurousness cowed. Is this what it means to be a female? To live in a world that holds the potential for constant threat? Do you stay home and let the possibility of threat keep you out? What happens when I move to NYC? I never felt unsafe last summer, not like this, but it could happen. Or if I move international in the future – which has always been my plan – do I always wait for a companion before getting groceries or going to the movies? I came home many times at 1am from Lincoln Center and never once worried. What will I feel now?
So much of this blog recently has been about being Black and Female. I thought that as I walked home and wanted to write about this experience. Maybe I needed to focus on the Mormon part to find a way past all those riled up feelings.
Im reading this series, Betrayed, by Carolyn McCray that is basically a Dan Brown book – involving Jesus, Judas and their bones in the present time. But what its doing is both entertaining me and letting me think about religion. As a matter of fact, the book talks about how Mary lived in Ephesus – I was just at her home two days ago. They are just about to go to Istanbul – which I head back to in a few days. It just grounds you for a second – reminds you that these were real people, they just lived a long time ago, but now Ive walked where Mary and John the Beloved walked. Ive hiked ruins where people lived over thousands of years ago. I am in the middle of my very own Bible story. And the God I have come to know through these stories and my own religious books, will protect me.
I came out to this region, because of Him. And I have felt His peace during all of the weird, alienating, beautiful experiences in the past week or so. If I truly believe in Him, and that He has led me, then He is more powerful than any idiot on a street in Turkey or NYC or any other place I have felt inspired to go. And if something terrible does happen – He is also powerful enough to make it ok, just like He has done every time before. There really isnt anything else that will make it better. For me, there is a God, He commands and it will work out in the end for my good, for all our good. And thats all there is. I need to spend more time learning about that then worrying about all the other stupid insecurities in my life. He can heal those as easily as he helped me come here to Turkey, Jordan and wherever else I go in these next few months.
I still need probably a good night’s sleep, and more clean laundry to feel up to the challenge of the outside world again, but I think I have found the most important piece back.