Posts

I’ve settled into my seat with a blanket on my lap and a cup of hot chocolate in my hands.  I’m staring at the Tudor-style façade of a circular, Elizabethan theater. Stars shine above me.  Excitement builds as the head of an actor suddenly emerges from a windowed gable in the theater.  He raises a flag to the sound of a trumpet and waves to the cheering crowd.  The show is about to start!

One of the coolest things about living in Portland is that so many great places are within reach; an hour west the ocean, an hour east the mountain, two hours east the desert.  But when I need something a little more…theatrical I head south to Ashland.  With it’s world class theater, Ashland is Oregon’s cultural getaway.

Small Town – Big Drama

A small timber town in the hills of southern Oregon doesn’t really sound like a place people would travel to to see plays.  Indeed, it would probably be nothing more than a charming little college town, except that in 1935 a local drama professor named Angus Bowmer decided to stage performances of Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice. This was the birth of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival  and except for a brief interlude during World War II, it has been putting on plays ever since.

This small town does theater in a big way; three theaters, 750-800 performances of eleven different plays each year.  The season starts in February and extends into November with around 400,000 people attending annually.

Not a fan of Willie the Shake? Not a problem. About half of the plays performed each year are Shakespeare.  The others could be anything.  My visits to Ashland have taken me to the Russia of Chekhov and the South Africa of Athol Fugard.  After seeing The Threepenny Opera and The Good Person of Szechwan, I decided that Bertolt Brecht was my favorite play-write. But then I was blown away by Lorraine Hansberry.  She takes on such huge topics- gender roles, racism, colonialism- and during the course of the play some character is guaranteed walk on stage and say every important thing that can possibly be said about the topic! And the Shakespeare plays may be presented in way you’ve never seen them. For instance, this year’s production of Troilus and Cressida has been transplanted from ancient Troy to the U.S. conflict in Middle East.

Today’s Plays. Photo by Clyde Adams III

Three Theaters – Infinite Possibilities

  • The Elizabethan Theater
    Also, called the Outdoor Theater is an emblematic symbol of Ashland.  There is nothing like seeing a play under the stars. Sometimes the natural elements add an extra element of entertainment, as when the character on stage speaks about the wonderful weather just as thunder crashes outside. Most of the plays performed here are Shakespeare, but other play-writes can be represented as well.
  • The Angus Bowmer Theater
    Named for the festival founder, the 600-seat Bowmer theater can accommodate whatever magical effects the director dreams up.  I’ve seen rotating stages, sets disappearing into the floor and suspended performers flying overhead.  If you’ve ever wondered what a Tony Award looks like, you can check out the one displayed in the lobby.  The Festival earned it in 1983 for outstanding achievement in regional theater.
  • The New Theater
    The New Theater is small, intimate and flexible.  Seating can be arranged into various configurations depending on what the director thinks best suits the play.  Plays performed here are often (but not always) more contemporary and experimental.

Elizabethan Stage. Photo by Clyde Adams III

Tips for Viewing

  • Green Show
    Whether or not you have tickets to see a play, you can enjoy a free music and dance performance Tuesday – Sunday evenings.  The “Green Show” takes place in the festival courtyard, known as “the bricks,” at 7:15 PM (6:45 PM after August 7th).
  • Getting Tickets
    Depending on when you’re going you may need to get your tickets well in advance. For instance if you want to see a show in the Elizabethan theater in August, you’ll probably want to buy your tickets before Christmas.  Spring and fall shows are less crowded. You can order tickets online or by phone, mail or fax.  Contact the Box Office for more information. Also, it is not unusual to see someone standing outside of the Box Office trying to buy or sell tickets.
  • Membership
    One way to increase your chances of getting good tickets is to become a festival member.  This allows to you access to tickets before they go on sale to the general public, and also entitles you to a discount during low season.  This is especially valuable if you decide to go to more than once per year (which you need to do if you want to see all of the plays).
  • Matinees
    It takes about five hours to drive from Portland to Ashland (290 miles).  This means that if you get an early start, you can make it in time for a 2:00 show.
  • Elizabethan Theater
    It’s easier to enjoy a play if your teeth aren’t chattering.  Late September and early October in the outdoor theater can be chilly so come prepared.  There are blankets for rent, but one time when I knew it was going to be cold I brought my sleeping bag and was as cozy as the proverbial bug in a rug.
  • Lithia Park
    Taking in all this theater involves a lot of sitting.  The Bowmer and Elizabethan theaters sit on the edge of Lithia Park, a great place for a stroll and stretch of the legs.  The park includes a rose garden, a play ground, a running/hiking trail, a Japanese garden, an orchard, tennis courts and several ponds with ducks, swans and turtles. There are also plenty of grassy areas suitable for afternoon naps.

Lithia Park. Photo by Kirsten Comandich.

Getting There is Half the Fun

Well, almost.  Admittedly, Interstate 5 is a pretty boring, but therefore easy, drive. Even if you have an iron bladder, you’ll need to stop once or twice along the way.  A good place is at the K-R Drive In at Rice Hill (exit 148). I’m not recommending it for its bathroom facilities- in fact, I think it’s a port-o-potty.  But the unpleasantness of using a honeypot is more than compensated for by the Umpqua ice cream which they dish out in extremely (this is a warning) generous portions. Taste worthy of burning through a whole box of Lactaid.

If you’re not pressed for time take a detour and go to Crater Lake National Park, especially if you haven’t been there before.  Your first view of Crater Lake will be a moment you’ll never forget, but that’s a story for another post.  The road is often closed due to snow from early fall to late spring, so check the conditions beforehand.

Make the return trip more interesting by following 66 east to Klamath Falls.  From there you can get on Highway 97 and make your way north on the eastern side of the mountains.  Cross back over to I5 whenever you feel inclined.  I like to take Highway 58 which passes through Oakridge and comes out near Eugene.

Nearcations Blog Carnival

Well, ” Our revels now are ended… We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.”  (William Shakespeare. From The Tempest, Act 4 Scene 1)

However, if you’re still reveling check out some of the sites listed below – great as “nearcations”  or stand-alone travel destinations:

Jim of AroundtheWorldinEightyYears.com
My kids aren’t quite turned on by the image I hold of myself as an intrepid Saharan explorer. So we load our little tent, sleeping bags and some coolers of food and drink into the car and hustle a quick two hours north on Highway 522 from our home in Taos, New Mexico, into Colorado and to the 85,000-acre Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.
http://www.aroundtheworldineightyyears.com/great-sand-dunes-colorado/

Lauren of SpanishSabores.com
Extremadura is a part of Spain that few people know about. But only an hour away from busy Madrid, Extremadura makes a great choice when traveling in Spain. Visit the charming town of Trujillo to see its gorgeous castle and taste world famous Torta de Caser cheese. If you prefer something bigger try the capital, Cáceres, to see its perfectly preserved old town. Finally, head down to Mérida where the Roman ruins rival those of Rome, without groups of tourists getting in your way.
http://spanishsabores.com/2012/06/01/the-3-places-you-cant-miss-in-extremadura/

Travis of FlashPackerHQ.com
The best possible day trip you can take to get away from Los Angeles is a quick two-two hour drive down to San Diego.  Ideal weather, great beaches, interesting neighborhoods and activities that cater to adults just as much as families, make it a great candidate for getting out of the big city craziness that can come with living in, and even visiting, Los Angeles.
http://flashpackerhq.com/quick-trip-to-san-diego/

Lis of LisTravelTips.com
Just over the hill from Wellington is the very New Zealand combination of wild rugged coastline and fine wines. Whatever your budget or interests there is something for you in the Wairarapa, and all under 2 hours drive from home!
http://listraveltips.com/wairarapa-nearcation-from-wellington-plus-video/

Amanda of NotaBallerina.com
There are quite a few benefits to living in Perth, Western Australia, the most isolated city in the world – and one of them is that a typical “nearcation” is to hop on the ferry to idyllic Rottnest Island, just an hour away.
http://www.notaballerina.com/2012/06/8-reasons-i-love-rottnest-perths-best.html

Ele of Kootvela
In 1772 there was a partition of one European country by its neighbours. A mere 30 years before there was a boy born in a poor family in France. Both events are related because this boy grew up to be one of the greatest botanists in the world and he came to spend a great part of his life in a partitioned country. The result today are the beautiful Kairenai botanical gardens.
http://kootvela.blogspot.com/p/blog-carnival-nearcarnations.html

Eva of ThatsHamori.com
When you think of southern France do you conger up an image of vine covered countryside and Plane trees along the Canal du Midi winding its way towards the Mediterranean Sea? Do you dream of sun bathed afternoon walks, a baguette under arm and sandy coast lines? With so much tradition and culture for tourists to sample, the south keeps visitors coming back back for more.
http://www.thatshamori.com/

Craig of IndieTravelMedia.com
Most Aucklanders live well outside the city centre, only venturing in for business or a night out. There’s plenty to do during the day though, especially when you’re out exploring the sparkling Waitemata harbour. Find the best things to do in Auckland harbour.
http://indietravelpodcast.com/new-zealand/auckland-harbour/

Several co-workers and I were scheduled to attend a conference in New Orleans during the first week of September 2005.  Little effort was made to hide the fact that we all felt more excited about seeing the city than attending the conference:

“We’ll have to skip out one night and go hear a New Orleans music legend,” I said.

“You should have an affair,” a friend suggested. I was recently separated.

“Two birds with one stone,” I quipped. “I’m going to sleep with the Neville Brothers.”

“Which one?”

“All of them!”

But our glib mood quickly faded as we heard reports of an impending hurricane.  At the last minute, the conference was canceled.

I am grateful not to have been in New Orleans when Katrina hit.  But I am also grateful to have visited there once 15 years before, if only for a day.  Describing my one, fabulous day in New Orleans is a great pleasure.  In researching this post, I was gratified to learn that the joys I experienced then are still available today.

What to Do?

New Orleans. Photo by HarshLigh.

When I passed through the Big Easy all those years ago, I was touring the country in a mini-motorhome.  I was brave enough to drive solo across the continent, but far too chicken to drive in a big city.  So I signed up for a tour. It turned out to be marvelous.

The day began with a bus tour  to various sights.  We visited the above-ground tombs of Lafayette Cemetery and saw the voodoo offerings that had been made at one of the graves.  We were told that the statue of Andrew Jackson points toward the YMCA sign and that YMCA stands for Yanks May Come Again.  We viewed a house that had been built as an exact replica of Tara in Gone with the Wind and the driver told us that when he announced it on one tour, a passenger had retorted, “Frankly, driver, I don’t give a damn.”

Next was a steam boat ride on the Mississippi.  As we chugged along we learned of the historic role the river had played for the country and especially for the city of New Orleans.  We saw buildings that had served as barracks during the civil war and learned that many of the houses in town were constructed from lumber that once made up the barges which floated down the river.

After the boat ride, we had a couple of hours on our own before the bus was to pick us up and take us back to our places of lodging.  What a dilemma! I had recently turned 21, legal drinking age, and therefore felt somewhat obligated to visit the bars on Bourbon Street. But I also really enjoy just wandering around looking at architecture.  Suddenly the light bulb went on in my head and I realized I could do both at the same time.  I walked into a bar and ordered myself a warm, dark pint of Guinness which came in a plastic cup.  Then I meandered through the French Quarter enjoying the sights and my beer.  Conveniently, I emptied the glass and reached St Louis Cathedral at the same time. Depositing the cup in the trash, I went in for a tour of the Cathedral.  When I came out, there was a jazz band playing in the square. What a high! In one day, this famous city had lived up to all of my expectations.

Obviously, New Orleans deserves more time than I gave it. I can’t remember why I only had a day- something about needing to get to Tucson for a Grateful Dead concert- but if I had it to do over, I would definitely take a walking tour  of the French Quarter or the Garden District and  partake in the city’s legendary music scene .

Where to Stay?

New Orleans has several affordable hostels/hotels: 

India House Backpackers Hostel  and Marquette House International Hostel offer a party atmosphere and dorm beds for $20 per night.

St. Vincents Guesthouse in the garden district has has old style charm in affordable private rooms.

Where to Eat?

Gumbo, Jambalaya, red beans and rice…food-wise New Orleans has a lot of regional specialties, so I hope you’re hungry.

For something inexpensive and filling it’s hard to beat a Po-boy sandwich:

Johnny’s Po-boys  (511 St. Louis St) offers dozens of variations.
Central Grocery  (923 Decatur St) has po-boys and muffulettas (Italian style sandwich).  There are lots of varieties including a vegetarian version.
One must eat pastries when in a place that was colonized by the French.  Head to Café Du Monde, located in Jackson Square for beignets (fried dough covered with powdered sugar).  Calories don’t count when you’re on vacation.

City Explorer’s Tip:

The city’s official tourism website offers some sample itineraries, including a three-day trip for folks on a budget.

They also maintain a calendar of events with items ranging from classical music concerts to eating contests.

A Day Off the Beaten Path:

Feeling guilty about enjoying all that music and debauchery? Why not combine it with a little community service? The Deep Water Horizon oil spill and the loss of literally hundreds of thousands of homes during hurricane Katrina make New Orleans a deserving candidate for your volunteer time.  Here are a few organizations to consider:

New Orleans area Habitat for Humanity
Make It Right– Brad Pitt’s project to help rebuild the lower 9th ward
Volunteer match can link you with a variety of volunteer opportunities (including ones related oil spill clean-up)

Ladies this one’s for you! Going to Europe is usually on one’s bucket list of travels but besides the history, the food and the fun that’s planned you have to admit hearing those hot European men seducing you (well that’s what we’d like to think) with that unbroken English has got to be the best perk of visiting Europe. Think about it, would Antonio Banderas have the same effect if he were to lose that sultry Spanish accent that lures you in for more? I have to admit I have yet to visit all of these places in Europe but because of my previous work, meeting these sexy accent guys has been possible. I’ve put together a countdown of the top 5 sexiest European accents that I’ve personally heard and of course you may or may not agree so feel free to leave comments and let me know what countries you think produce some of the sexiest European accents.

Number 5: Greece– Although there aren’t many who would put the Greek language at the top of their list for sexy, the way Greek men speak English definitely belongs in this category. Of course you’ll find those stereotypical loud mouths that love shouting out every word but if you get lucky (and I hope you do) you’ll find that many of the Greeks have that old world way about them that makes their English just that much more unique and sexy.

Number 4: Scotland- The first things to come to my head when I hear the country Scotland are bagpipes, kilts and men with way too much testosterone. However, when you see Gerald Butler in PS I Love You or Sean Connery as James Bond those things are not even close to what’s on your mind. The best way to describe the accent is a raspy, manly and just an all-around deep voice that comes out of these Scottish men. So perhaps they fancy kilts? We’ll let that slide just to hear them talk ;)

Number 3: Ireland- Usually known for some wild and crazy times and mostly associated with the leprechaun, the Irish menfolk have some seriously sexy accents. Personally cursing is not really an attractive trait but my, oh my, that swear jar I have at home can get tossed in the can to listen to these Irish men talk. After all, what’s sexier than a guy that knows how to have some fun?!

Number 2: Spain- Oh yes, we have gotten to the sultry, fiesta-loving country of hot accents. There are plenty of Spanish-speaking countries out there but Spain shines through as sexy for two reasons; one, they have this unique way of whispering at just the right time and two, they brought us Antonio Banderas and we all know Zorro would never be the same without him.

Number 1: Italy– This is where things get a little more on the romantic side and the way Italians love their pastas is the way we love their accents.  It’s not just the way they say things but rather what they tend to say. Babe and sweetie are nice pet names but the moment an Italian man calls you Bella Ragazza (beautiful girl) there’s just no comparison to how beautiful that sounds no matter if you understood what it meant or not.

Alright so some of you may be fueling with rage on why France, England or other very sexy accent countries weren’t put on this list but this list was just personal preferences.  If I were to keep it going I could list each European country by how sexy their accents were, but we all know that would be way too long of an article and who wants to sit at the computer and read all day when there’s all these sexy accents just waiting to be heard! Comment and let me know what countries you find host the sexiest European accents or maybe you agree with me, I want your opinions. Oh, and if you happen to know my husband, tell him I will also do Middle Eastern accents at a later date, he’ll understand ;)

I heard about it when I first started traveling.  I heard about it when I took classes to become an ESL instructor. Everywhere, people were warning me about culture shock.  But what no one told me was that when the culture shock really hits is when you come home. “Reverse culture shock,” they call it.

Sure, there are a lot of times when you’re traveling when you feel like a fish out of water.  You don’t understand the language, the customs, the worldview of the people around you.  But feeling out of one’s element is a big part of why we travel.  After all, if everything was the same, and there was no “shock” then we might as well stay home.  Other travelers are usually witnessing the same things and you can process your observations with them.

Coming home it ain’t so easy. Culture tends to be invisible until you are outside of it.  It’s just The Way Things Are.  However, once you’ve seen that things don’t have to be That Way you begin to question why.  Sharing your questions, confusion and observations with friends who haven’t left home, doesn’t go over very well.  They just can’t relate.  If you are someone who really loves traveling, this reverse culture shock adds insult to injury.  It’s sad enough that your adventure is ending and you have to return to “real life.” These are a few ways I’ve found to soften the blow:

Photo by Kuster & Wildhaber Photography

  1. Go “home” to the wrong city-  I once traveled with an American who was flying back, not to his home, but to the city that was to be hosting the convention for nominating its party’s (decidedly the wrong party from my point of view) candidate for the presidency.  While I wouldn’t choose a political convention, I like the method of not going all the way home.  Flying into another city in your home country to visit a friend, attend a festival or just continue traveling allows you to feel that the adventure is continuing as you ease back into your own culture.
  1. Go into conversations with a plan- Talking to people when you get back can be tricky.  Surprisingly, a lot of people simply aren’t interested in hearing about your trip.  Others ask questions that are so general (“So, how was it?”) that you won’t know what to say.  Likewise, having been gone means that even if you want to, you can’t really participate in chit-chat about happenings on the latest reality TV show.

Think about which experiences you can share which will easily translate.  For group settings, I usually go with stories that will get a laugh.  Adventures-in-eating tales work well.  Or sagas of the airport- something everyone relates to.

For friends that are interested, you may want to host a small gathering to share stories and photos.  Just remember not to expect too much.  Your experience may simply be too foreign for them to be truly engaged. If you have insights you’re burning to share, you might consider offering to do a presentation at your local library.  That way people who do have a genuine interest can self-select into your audience.

  1. Identify people you can debrief with- While everyone can laugh over tales of mistranslations in a Chinese karaoke bar, only some people will get it when I say that after months of using only chopsticks, putting a sharp metal object (fork) in my mouth, seems gross.  I’ll lose a few more people when I say that using squat-pot is clearly a better, cleaner way of releasing your meals later. So I save the big revelations- doubts about my own country’s child-rearing practices or a new awareness of how my viewpoints were shaped more by my culture than by my own free thoughts- for people who have traveled a bit themselves, or at least for friends who I know to be exceptionally open-minded.
  1. Bring pieces of the culture you’re leaving home with you- If you tend to miss the places you’ve visited, think of ways to bring the essence home.  More than just photos, I find music and food from the culture I explored but had to leave behind can be especially comforting.
  2. And the best method for avoiding reverse culture shock…
    Don’t go home!

Triathlon training generally involves six days of exercise—two days a week for each sport.  Over several months, even with the variation, the routine can become a bore.  This particular day was a cycling day, and it would turn out to be one of the most memorable of any, and it had absolutely nothing to do with the actual ride.

The purpose of the ride was speed, so there weren’t to be any tough climbs in the scenic mountains; only a dull flat out burn through small towns and rice fields.  The sun was baking.  For an hour or so, my partner and I sped along until at last I heard the words I was itching to hear.  “Let’s take a break.”

We were in Nantou County—central Taiwan.  It’s a fairly mountainous county, tea farms abound.  An offshoot of that industry, Pottery, is also popular in the area.

My partner said, “Let’s take a good long one.  I know a guy here you ought to meet.”

I agreed, and we rode a short distance of the main rode to a large house with a terracotta roof. A small workshop was off to the side.  My partner shouted out a greeting, and soon after a thin Taiwanese man with long curly hair popped his head out of the shop.  Right off, he looked like an artist.

He grinned and walked out to greet us.  Then he walked us into his studio.  It was filled to the brim with stylistic clay pots, tea kettles and cups, sculptures, and awards.  He started brewing tea.

“This is Liao Hsi-Li.  He is quite popular here in Taiwan.”

Hsi-Li spoke some English, but most of the conversation was translated.  We sat there, Hsi-Li smoked cigarettes, we drank tea and listened to him describe his craft.

For most of his adult life he’d made his living making and selling pottery.  He had gone to school for it, and established a reputation for his skill.  For a long time he worked his craft in the traditional Taiwanese style.  But seven or eight years ago he got bored.

“Traditionally, Pottery was a craft with practical purposes.  Here in Taiwan there were craftsmen doing the work, but it wasn’t art” he said.

He, and some others, began to experiment; mixing traditional methods with his own influences from life and modern art.  He started making art that you could use—“Practical art.”  The traditionalist thought he was wasting his time.

At first they belittled the effort, but over time they realized that Hsi-Li was not only skillful, but innovative too.  A “New Modern Pottery Art” trend began to spread.

His particular style involves using the old style keen and pure raw materials.  His most famous works are made from a mixture that he invented—he calls it “Paper Clay.”  And I am telling straight, from the look of it, you would think it was paper that had been crumbled up until it was cloth like, but to the touch it was as hard and sturdy as any I’ve come across.

“They thought this was a silly idea too,” he said, grinning as he pointed to his 2010 Taiwan Craft Competition award.  He came in first with his new style.  Some of his work is even on permanent display at the New Taipei City Ceramics Museum.

“Those same people are now teaching this technique in the art schools here,” he said.

Two hours later, as the impromptu studio tour was coming to an end, Hsi-Li handed me a small clay pot.  It was dark and round. The top handle was made from a bit of tree limp.  The sides of the pot had irregular indentions on either side.

“This is for you.  It’s made out of clay from Sun Moon Lake.”

And then he said something that has served as food –for-thought ever since.

He said,” You see these indentions.  Some people might see them as mistakes or flaws, but I put them there on purpose.  And you see this top.  It’s made from wood far up in the mountains.  It is the only one in the world with this shape.  Machines and factories can put out millions of perfect tea cups, but this piece is like us, you see, it’s unique.  It’s imperfect…but beautiful.”

Yeah, I like that.

We readied for the ride back, said thank you and goodbye, and Hsi-Li welcomed us to come back anytime.  His words and gift made for a quick and easy ride back and still serves as a reminder of the unexpected joys that lay and wait for you when you deviate from the set routine every now and again.

Good Journeys!

Istanbul is no doubt a great place for shopping. Have a walk in the Grand Bazaar, a virtual labyrinth of fascinating shops; it’s easy to be drawn by the carpets, copper and brassware, jewelry and all kinds of ceramics.

Hmm, no. My story is not titled ‘Shopping in Istanbul’. I’m more interested in people.

It didn’t take long for me to realize this special and interesting culture of Turkish shopkeepers: the ‘Where are you from?’ culture.

The day I arrived in Istanbul I was told that shopkeepers there like to ask that question (if not a little obsessed with it), and no matter what country you answer they will tell you they have a close relative living there, very close to you. I had no idea how true that piece of information was as I’d just arrived in the city. I started wandering around touristy places and reached the Grand Bazaar. I was fascinated by the nicely arranged shops and the colorful ceramics. I stopped at one or two of the atmospheric little shops, was asked where I was from, but didn’t pay much attention to that until I reached this carpet shop.

The shopkeeper started by quite an odd opening, ‘Your eyes are tired.’

Feeling a bit puzzled, I stopped.

‘You’ve seen too many carpets, your eyes are tired.’

‘Ah, yes, quite.’ I was just trying to give the desired answer; I hadn’t seen any carpet at all.

‘Where are you from?’

‘Canada,’ said my partner.

‘Oh, my wife is from Canada,’ he said with that look as if he’d just found a long lost friend. ‘What about you, lady?’

‘Hmm, Hong Kong.’

‘My wife’s sister is now living in Hong Kong!’ The way he responded gave me the impression that I was only given a standard response. If I said ‘Taiwan’ his wife’s sister would have been living in Taiwan; or if I said ‘Japan’, then the response would have been rephrased with Japan.

The rest of the conversation was all about his carpet shop, where the carpets were from, how they were made and such. I didn’t pay much attention, as I was still amused by his response, remembering what I was told when I arrived.

As we kept walking around the Bazaar, we saw so many more shopkeepers who asked just this very same question, ‘Where are you from?’ Quite predictably, a lot of them had some brothers, sisters, nephews, or uncles living very close to us. I couldn’t understand why, but instead of finding it annoying, we found it quite amusing. Each time we were asked that question by a new shopkeeper we exchanged smile as if we were saying, ‘Hee, another one!’ Sometimes we would even prepare a surprising answer to see how they would respond.

We didn’t count how many times we were asked that question, but we would definitely have failed and lost count if we had tried.

Things were pretty much the same in other parts of Turkey.

In Antalya, even the restaurants asked the same question. Each time we walked past an eating-place the friendly waiters would rush to us and show us each item on their menu. In the conversations, they never forgot to ask where we were from.

I remember this one restaurant just at the entrance of the old town. We were not interested in the place, but were stopped by a very talkative waiter. As expected he began by asking that question, we didn’t answer. He continued promoting his restaurant. Still, we were not interested, so we said ‘Thank you’ and walked away. As we walked, we heard the fading voice of the waiter, asking, ‘Where are you from? Hey, where are you from?’ I couldn’t help but feel really puzzled this time. Why was he so interested in asking that, even if we were walking away, obviously not interested in what he was selling?

If I was to write a list of fun memories of my trip to Turkey, ‘Where are you from?’ would no doubt be the top of it. I’d never answered that question so many times in my life, come to think of it.

Check out Janice’s blog Wide World, Little Places or follow her on Facebook
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wide-World-Little-Places/109069755803716