I’ve been away. I haven’t deserted my blog for such length ever since its conception. As a matter of fact I haven’t been away from a PC for over a week since 1993. I have a good alibi though, I was on vacation.
For the first time in over three years, Om Fares, the kids and I all went on vacation together. We left Tartous on the morning of Thursday the 2nd and headed to the port of Lattakia. There, we boarded a ferry boat and sailed away to Mersin, Turkey. It took the 270-passenger catamaran a little bit under four hours to cross the 95 nautical miles. Come early evening, we were riding in Ugur’s taxi to the Hilton in the quiet Mediterranean city (Ugur is the Cabby’s name, and since I like to put a name on a face, "what is your name?" was my first question on my first time visit to Turkey).
While waiting in the modest passenger terminal at the port of Lattakia I was taking in phone calls from the office. There was one more important email I needed to reply to. Much to the chagrin of Om Fares and the kids, I took my laptop out and started typing away. Like all addicts of modern technology, I derive so much satisfaction from the fact that my ultraportable Vaio has a built in GSM receiver, WILAN, WWAN and the bullshit list goes on and on… However, when I saw the look on their faces and guessed at their whispers, I pushed the Send button and uttered my promise. As long as we are on vacation I would not touch the damn thing, read my email or even post on my blog. “Promise?”, Fares asked. “Promise”, I replied.
Mersin proved to be a perfect choice. Temperatures were soaring all over. The family mutually agreed on not wanting to go around places but to rather stay in one city. As far as I was concerned, all I dreamed of was to sit in the shade by a body of water (a stunning swimming pool), read a good book (The Man Who Fell to Earth) and sip my misty drink (Vodka with anything). The little ones were just ecstatic to spend so much time in my company and to swim all day. Om Fares and Diana couldn’t ask for more than to be able to get away from the three of us and maraud the shops and markets of Mersin. An excellent status quo was reached during the daylight hours and later on in the evening when we would all regroup, we would experience the little joys of a family vacation.
That’s my first visit to Turkey and I need to give credit where it’s due. Mersin is such a nice place and only a stone throw away from Tartous. Knowing this city intimately, as I’ve done over the last few days, is akin to having an affair with your beautiful neighbor. The city is extremely clean and peaceful for its size. People are very polite and courteous although a very few speak Arabic. To my surprise, almost no one outside the bounds of the hotel speak any English. This might sound strange until you realize that Mersin is not a tourist destination in the first place. Many excursions out of Syria in particular pass through Mersin for an overnight stay at the most. This simply means that Mersin is so unique because it has not been exploited yet.
On the other hand, Turkey is not the cheap country we all thought it was. Prices are much steeper than in Syria. They are very similar to those of Lebanon, if not a little more. The only reasonable thing we happily paid for was the great rate we secured at the Hilton before leaving. The hotel is simply fantastic and first class. At US$80.00 a night, per double room, breakfast included, this price is less than half of what you’d pay at the Sheraton in Damascus. And, I need to add that the standard of service is much higher as well.
We ate a little bit of everything. The kids, as all aliens from outer space, preferred the fast food variety. I had spent so much time by the pool I really didn’t care much about what I would have for lunch or dinner. We had a couple of nice experiences with local food, once in the center at Sabah, a traditional Turkish joint, and then in a small wooden hut by the beach. Late at night we would go out for a walk on the pedestrian-only esplanade by the sea. I have no idea how long this seafront path stretches out. I had walked in either direction away from the hotel for over an hour but there seemed to be no end.
We came back yesterday (Thursday the 9th), in the same ferry boat. I’m so happy I’ve been able to take my mind and body away from work. I’m ever so grateful to have this wonderful opportunity to spend this quality time with my family as I haven’t had the chance to do so recently. I have been bitching about my need for a vacation and I finally was able to get it. I don’t think the therapeutic effects will last long after our return but let’s put it this way, if I hadn’t stopped and taken this time off right when I did the consequences would’ve been dire. I was on the verge of strangling a few people, or was it the other way around; a few people were on the verge of strangling me.
Next time around we visit Turkey it would be in the comfort and convenience of our own car. We intend to continue north in our pilgrimage to this beautiful and hospitable country. May be all the way to Istanbul! May be for a couple of weeks! It was good to be away. It’s good to be back.