As some of you may know from my mom’s recent post, my Grandma and Grandpa recently arrived in Turkey for an eleven day visit. They are both teachers from Utah. One teaches multimedia production, the other is a retired athletic director. They are great fun to be around, and although Grandpa Lou sometimes gets tripped up in his words, they are always fun to converse with. In the past McKane and I have had some funny trips with good ol’ Grandma and Grandpa. A few years ago we took a cross country road trip from Utah to Kentucky. We had many fun experiences including visiting a cemetery and having competitions to find the oldest grave, playing the alphabet game in the car, watching in amusement as Grandpa stopped the car abruptly and jumped out hopping up and down grabbing his legs because of a cramp, and visiting the interactive Mark Twain museum in Hannibal, Missouri (which isn’t so interactive unless you count sitting on a fake river raft and watching a 60’s Huckleberry Finn movie interactive). We were all excited to temporarily become ‘Eight in the World’ and waited at the airport in Izmir with great anticipation.
When they finally arrived, we immediately had some new memories added to our repertoire. As my mom often says, “The world isn’t Tom-sized!” because our dad bumps and scrapes his head everywhere and has a hard time fitting in most cars, trains, boats, planes, and busses comfortably. He is 6’2″, a giant size in much of Asia, but our grandpa is even taller–6′ 6″. Upon his arrival, he immediately commenced with the head banging. First came the car trunk, clunk. Second up was the top of the small opening of the door to the car, thump. It’s true that the world really isn’t built for the large. We joked around and caught up for the next few hours. When we got to the hotel all of the Six were excited due to the fact that the grandparents had brought some goods from home. We tore into the suitcase like ravenous wolves and retrieved the loot. For Asher there were some much needed new clothes, for Kieran new shoes (his Indian ones were falling apart and he lost his American ones in New Zealand seven months ago). For Mac there was a jar of Skippy peanut butter which he has since devoured. For me there were some old clothes from home and a hat. For everyone there were some Skullcandy headphones. Everyone got some earbuds. McKane and I got some beastly sick, over the ear, DJ headphones and the parents got some noise canceling ones. We gorged ourselves on the delicious See’s peanut brittle they had brought us and watched our Oprah episode they had brought for us on DVD. Then somehow in the mix of things a recent Oprah episode about poop came up. Grandma told us Oprah devoted an entire hour to discussing the usually delicate issues of scatological functions. We couldn’t believe it, but now one of the most common phrases we quote is, “You should pass gas fourteen times a day and create a no embarrassment farting zone.” We then played some Italian card games we’ve picked up along the road with Grandpa. The first few days of our experience with Grandma and Grandpa went something like that with the exception of seeing some of the world’s biggest and best preserved classical ruins at Ephesus.
But soon it was time for us to leave the comfort of our hotel in Selcuk and head out to see some of the other things Turkey has to offer. First we headed to the house of Mary only to find it costs a whopping $10 a person. $80 seemed steep, especially since there’s speculation as to whether it was really her house, so we decided to cut that out of the itinerary. Instead we went to another museum with a rude attendant, took pictures with giant sculptures, ate some kebabs that tasted like sweat, and got the bright idea to go to Greece for a day. We booked our ferry tickets and headed for Kusadasi, the city where the ferry would take off. Here we played some more cards which is always a surefire way to get Grandpa to slip into his old guy, farm boy phrases such as “Goodnight nurse” and “What in the Sam Hill?”. When all the card playing was done we went to sleep. The next day we headed out to Greece. Here we found everything to be better than Turkey. The food was delicious, the museums were much better, and the statues much bigger. The giant kouros was over 15 feet in height. We slowly made our way around Samos and spent most of our time eating and soaking up the Greek sun. We sat on benches in an open area and watched in horror as Kieran and Asher mauled a pigeon with their shoes. We told them to stop but they continued to set up more elaborate traps for the pigeons. They even went to the point of filling a box with chips and waiting behind it. When the pigeons would come, they would clamp the box down on them. Eventually it was time to go and we peeled Kieran, Asher and Mac from the pigeons. We hopped aboard the ferry and headed back into Turkey. The next day we would be driving towards Troy and Galipoli.
That night we played a few more games of Scopa, and then went to bed. The next day was long. We drove for hours, and unlucky Grandpa was sitting in the back with us kids. Eventually he broke and yelled “I gotta get out of here!” due to the fact that Mac was kicking him, Asher was on his lap, and Kieran was screaming that he was hungry. We stopped at Ikea of all places, ate some Swedish meatballs, and let the little kids vent some of their energy at the ball pool. Grandma searched for some souvenirs and me and Grandpa got some ice cream. We hung around for a while and then were off to Troy. Grandpa opted out of sitting in the back seat and was replaced by Grandma, who has a much easier time in the back since she is much smaller than he is. We drove into the night until we arrived at a nice looking little American place in Assos. We decided that we would splurge because Grandma and Grandpa were here and so we stayed there. You can read my mom’s post for a full recount of the nightmare that followed. Here we continued our streak of playing cards and Grandpa finally won a game. By the time we were finished it was one in the morning. Our grandparents aren’t like most: they stay up till one, two, three or four regularly. Our grandma has some supernatural ability to go without sleep for days and not feel any effects. So when they came we were sucked into their cycle. Nearly every night we were up till at least one or two and on the last night in Istanbul until four or five.
After seeing Troy and Gallipoli (see my mom’s post), we moved on to Istanbul where we would be spending the bulk of our time with Grandma and Grandpa. We checked in at the lovely Zeugma Hotel and decided to lull around the hotel for a little while. We played some more cards (the next few days would be dominated with card playing) and my dad checked out some of the pictures he had taken with my Grandma. We saw all the amazing sites, the Aya Sofia, the Blue Mosque, the Sultan’s Palace; you name it, we saw it. But it was in the Grand Bazaar where we had our funniest experiences with the grandparents. Our grandpa is a very tall man and is constantly stretching out his legs. He had gotten in trouble before for putting his feet on things in Turkey (the bottoms of feet are considered unclean there) at museums and such but none compared to what he experienced at the Grand Bazaar. Here he leaned up and put his foot on a small table which was displaying fake designer handbags. The owner of the shop, a short, fat man, came running out yelling “What is this? What is this?” as he put his leg up in the air and pretended to rest it on some imaginary table. My Grandpa took his foot down and said, “I was resting it. I’m tired!” The man shouted back, “This shop is my pleasure! You want me to put my foot on your head! You are a very rude man!” (the entire time his voice was getting louder and louder, and the expression on my grandpa’s face getting angrier and angrier) My grandpa threw up his hands and said, “I’m sorry!” We all burst into laughter as he came walking over muttering something under his breath. What none of us could understand is why this small fat man could even think of coming out and yelling at a 6′ 6″ NFL alumni who looks terrifying when angry. Believe me my grandpa is the last person you want to be angry at you. Some other shopkeepers came by saying, “Don’t mind him. His wife divorced him. He is aggression problem!” We told grandpa this and he responded, “I don’t care.” We all laughed heartily again. I talked to him a little later about it and he told me “When that guy told me, ‘You want me to put my foot on your head?’ I wanted to say, ‘If you can get it up there, go ahead, buddy!” Another classic Lou Andrus quote for the road.
Grandpa also bonded with a few Istanbulers. There was a little restaurant not too far from where we were staying. Here there was a young man, a big one, who tried to to get us to eat at his restaurant every time we walked by. We always ignored him thinking that his restaurant was just another crummy, overpriced tourist restaurant. When the grandparents arrived, we decided to give into his pleas and eat at his restaurant. We were surprised to find it was delicious, some of the best food we had had in Turkey. Grandpa became good friends with the staff and they nicknamed him ‘Dada’, Turkish for grandpa.
When it was time for grandma and grandpa to go, everyone hung their heads. Kieran wanted to hide in their suitcase and Asher tried to get in their cab to the airport. Their time with us was like experiencing a little bit of home, or at least getting a little closer to what home is like. It was a much needed break from the perils of traveling. We will all have loads of new stories to tell and the experience of going out of country with them was worth the trip. How many grandparents would meet their kids in Turkey? Who would have ever thought we would be meeting ours there? Not us. But we were glad for it and were missing them five minutes after they had gone. Well, goodbye you old timers! See you this Christmas.