August 9, 2014

Finike Tour!

Is everyone in Finike awesome and generous?

Our renter from airbnb is Fırat. He is a thirty-something guy with a wife and baby on the way. He has a career as project manager on international engineering projects, as well as strong interests in sociolinguistics and history. I mean, wow. This guy is sharp!
Stuffed Eggplant

He took us out to lunch today, his treat, as part of his tour of the city. His best friend from childhood runs a few restaurants in town. Airbnb hosts are not obligated to do anything of the sort, but for Fırat, this is par for the course. He explained so many interesting things about this town and region, its history, and what he sees as its current path to destruction (based on the money-hungry who want to turn it into a tourist-centric place). We learned that Finike has won international contests for the best oranges, supposedly due to the combination of ideal geographic features including sea and mountains in the area. We also learned that there are seven Turkic countries, meaning they speak a language similar to Turkish. We learned that the eggplant dish we enjoyed at lunch is controversial because the Greeks and Turks both claim it; however, the dish’s name only has meaning in Turkish, so for Fırat, the case is clearly closed. I’ve noticed that there are a lot of foods and drinks around here that face a similar heritage debate.

I also sipped my first ayran, the mysterious and ubiquitous white drink that we’ve been seeing everywhere. It’s a cold, liquidy, plain yogurt drink with a touch of salt. Basically a tart, salty milkshake (minus the ice cream). Fırat says that it’s good for health in the summer because of the yogurt (probiotics, probably) and the salt that replaces minerals lost during perspiration. Alan summed up the experience well when he later said to me, “yeah, I probably won’t be ordering it again…unless I’m really dehydrated.” Exactly.

After lunch, we treated Fırat to goat-milk icecream at his friend’s café. He told me that the portions were small, so I should get three scoops. I selected two scoops of flavors that don’t really have an American equivalent, and a scoop of strawberry. The portions were actually pretty big, so I ended up with what my family would call a “Jena-size” (a.k.a huge portion). It was delicious, goat or not. I couldn’t tell the difference.
Goat Ice Cream

I’m glad that we are getting to know our host, as he seems like a really good and conscientious person who cares about his hometown. Throughout our conversations today I got the sense that he doesn’t like how the town has changed during his lifetime. Heavily agricultural in the past, Finike has suffered in the wake of globalization. The famous oranges are not bringing in the cash as they used to. It sounds like some people in Finike are looking for the income that tourists bring to neighboring communities as a potential source, as well as to mining marble from the surrounding hills. Unfortunately, it’s clear that building hotels and clearing the cedar trees from the hill sides detracts from the town’s natural beauty.

These conversations make me feel a little self-conscious about myself as a tourist. I am the kind of person who doesn’t want the resort lifestyle. I want to mix with the locals and try the foods and see why the locals choose to live there. On the other hand, I have trouble with using the local language and fitting into the local transportation, which are two things that touristy places usually account for. Making accommodations for tourists does ruin the authenticity of a place. I secretly fear that coming here and having a great time and talking about it with friends will somehow cause an avalanche of tourists who will ruin everything by inspiring Bob Marley-themed restaurants and tattoo parlors and pick-pockets. I’m being too hyperbolic. Treading lightly as a tourist is okay, and in fact does boost the local economy. Getting to know the people enriches my life and theirs (I hope). It’s okay, Jena.

For now, I think I've satiated my inner writer and it's time for a quick dip in the ocean across the street.