That’s the best word to describe the next to last day of my travel to the country of TÃ¼rkiye, or as we Americans know it, Turkey. The other days of traveling with Aunt Diane and Uncle John were an experience I’ll never forget, but this particular day will be told to the grandkids. I can still remember the feeling of my feet burning from walking all day and the humid air as we traipsed to the famous Turkish bath.
According to the brochures, the baths consist of a heated marble slab you lay on to relax along with a massage and washing by one of the working attendants. After so much walking, our bodies needed some refreshing and relaxation. When we walked into the waiting area, I prepared to pay my lyra to go inside the bathing area. The hall had an unforgettable smell of fresh linen and homemade soap. These smells and the warmth in the room immediately had a lulling effect on me; I couldn’t wait to relax in the heat and give my body a rest from the strain of traveling. After we received towels, Diane and I separated from John and headed to the women’s side of the bath. In what we called the “locker room,” the two of us quickly slid out of our clothes and into the towels. Because I am a modest person, the thought of even changing in front of Diane caused me discomfort. Little did I know what would happen next.
Our short walk from the locker room to the heated area made me a bit uneasy. The closer we got to the door, the more scantily clad the women became. As Diane opened the door, my mouth dropped open and my cheeks flushed red. At least fifty or more women lay naked on the heated marble! What was I going to do? I would not follow suit and lay there with complete strangers while naked. Diane looked as mortified as I did; we noticed very quickly the strange looks the women cast on us because of our foreignness. After a few minutes of debating, we decided to lie on the marble with our towels still on. By letting my pores open up and my body relax I decided it wasn’t too bad. I just had to ignore the fifty other naked women lying next to me. When it came time for the washing by the attendant, I wanted to run away. No more relaxing for me; the overweight woman forced me against my will to take my towel off and lie on my stomach while she poured on the suds. You can imagine what happened in the next few minutes – I’ll spare the details. When the bathing part ended, the attendant instructed me to lay again on the marble to relax. Yeah, my vocabulary no longer included the word relaxing. As Diane lay awkwardly next to me, I looked at her and whispered, “I never thought I would be laying naked next to my Aunt Diane in a Turkish bath.” She giggled, which made us both forget our dilemma. This cultural experience, considered weird by many Americans, is a normal and social thing for Turkish women to attend.
Many people want to immerse themselves in a country’s culture when they visit; I didn’t just immerse myself in Turkey’s culture, I plunged headlong into it. Despite the uncomfortable ordeal, I realized America has a different view of normalcy than Turkey does. Because all countries differ in their ideas of normal, I should keep my mind open on the next trip I take. Wherever I travel, I’ll try to follow their customs as best I can. Even if they may seem awkward.
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