Summer Camp

Tree house cabins

Tree house cabin

Turkey has offered us some of the most unique experiences to date. I’ll save the landscape, culture, cuisine, comments for a future blog, because they are worth it. For now I will concentrate on our one day spent at Olympos (yes, the Olympus of Greek fame). We were planning to spend some time in Antalya, but after bussing through, decided to keep going (not for any reason in particular as the old part of town looked spectacular, but that seemed just about all there was to see). So we hopped on the next bus headed for Olympos. Today the majority of lodging options there are “tree houses” scattered out along one stretch of road. Unlike our previous tree house experience in Guatemala, the ones in Olympos are not actual tree houses, but rather bunches of one- and two-story cabins or bungalows–lots of them (400 at the most popular locations). As luck would have it, ours turned out to be the one establishment that appealed to mainly Turkish vacationers. If I had ever attended a summer camp for Turkish adults, I can assure you that this was it. There was a main lodge, housing the kitchen, dining tables, TV area, and general store selling drinks and snacks. The bar and dance floor took up the entire second floor. Surrounding the lodge was a volleyball court, campfire pit, ice cream cart, cabins, and cabana-like structures for hanging out and smoking the nargile (the Turkish water pipe). Each structure had a low table, surrounded on three sides by a booth stocked with large colorful pillows with people strewn about smoking, reading, napping, or playing cards. When we arrived, all was calm, but we were warned by the bartender that the nights could get pretty rowdy. Luckily we met a young Australian couple upon arrival, and we latched on to each other immediately since we appeared to be the only English speaking guests. The four of us opted to do the night tour of Chimeara (also the one of Greek lore). We were driven to the nearby town where we climbed up the hillside and were able to spot several patches of fire blazing out of the rocky hillside. They resembled little campfires and were only made more interesting knowing that they burn continuously from the gases contained in the ground and the fact that they were a part of the Greek myth. We arrived back to our tree houses a little before midnight. Before the van slowed to a stop, we could already hear the pulsating beat of early 90’s pop music, and when the doors opened, the sounds of the Turkish guests singing along at the top of their lungs, presumably while dancing. We walked quickly past the bar and up to our rooms, hoping against hope for a good night’s sleep. With each change of song, came an excited roar from the crowd, displaying their satisfaction and familiarity with the song choice and the singing continued, interspersed with my less than all time favorite genre of music: techno. Although we had been told that the party typically moves on to another spot after midnight, midnight came and went, as did the next several hours with hits by Ace of Base, Lady Gaga, whomever it is that sings “We will, we will, rock you”, and techno beats playing into the morning hours. As annoyed as we were, we had to admit the whole scene was just plain funny. I was again grateful for my ability to fall asleep in a matter of minutes, while Jeff eventually nodded off at some point in the wee hours. The next morning, we decided one night was enough for us at the Turkish tree houses, hastily ate our breakfast (the usual Turkish fare of olives, cucumber, tomato, bread and jam, but here also omelets!) and headed off for the coastal town of Kas.

Posted: May 24th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Turkey | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

SCUBA and Tree Houses

Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus—I’ve known what the acronym has stood for since I was 7. Alex Keaton, in an episode of Family Ties, taught his sister Mallory what it meant, thus teaching me. What I didn’t know though is how much I would love it. Everything about it; what I see, how I move, where I go. But within that experience, there’s one moment that does it for me. It’s the difference of maybe 3 inches, constituting the space from my mouth to my eyes.
It’s that space that we’re taught to fiercely protect as our life functions of breathing and receiving nourishment, as well as 3 of our senses all center from our mouth, nose and eyes. So we’re taught at a very young age, either by loved ones or nature, that you can’t breathe under water. We’re conditioned, rightfully, to hold our breath. Down we go. Ready? 1, 2, 3! You don’t want to feel that burning in your lungs. Yes, it triggered the coughing. Yes, it will stop after a short time.
The eyes as well–It hurts. It stings. Better to close them so the shampoo/chlorine/saltwater doesn’t get in them. Isn’t that better?
So when you first get into the ocean, head bobbing above the surface, and the dive master gives the ok to descend, he’s really asking you to trust; trust a piece of Plexiglas, trust a silicone seal, trust a tank of condensed air and trust the tube to deliver that air to you. And I do. So I breathe as my mouth is underwater. And I keep breathing as my nose drops down. And I keep my eyes open as I fully submerge, allowing me to see the other divers all dropping the 60 ft. to the reef at different rates, giving the impression of soda pop bubbles in reverse. It’s completely liberating—seeing what I shouldn’t be able to, breathing when it shouldn’t be possible. The rest of the dive is just icing.

On Tree Houses
I checked another of life’s to-dos off my list this past week after staying in a tree house. There was just enough room in it for the twin size mattress, our upright backpacks, and Mari and myself to stand. We rigged our flashlight on a karabiner for a DIY chandelier. But despite its unvarnished nature, the experience was fantastic. It was living a Disney movie (at least when I liked Disney). Swiss Family Robinson had nothing on us, as Mari freshetted off the side in the middle of the night. In truth, it was more Peter Pan than Swiss Family Robinson, as it felt like a chance at childhood again—an opportunity to remember back to wanting to be an astronaut, or imagining having superpowers. It was a glimpse where 22 ft. in the air, lofted in a tree, we refused to grow up—at least for 5 days.

Posted: March 24th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Belize, Guatemala | Tags: , , | 5 Comments »