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Where in the world is Sheryl?

Subject: #4 Eastern Turkey & General Stuff
Date: September 26, 2008 12:57:29 PM PDT

Greetings from Hakkari.

Funky keyboard so again and I'm skipping punctuation and trying not to use contractions. Some letters might be weird.

Got to Turkey yesterday after an easy border crossing from Iraq. Working my way east and north along the Iraq border. Spent last night in Sirnak, Turkey. Nothing exciting but the minibus to my next destination didn't leave until 8:30 this morning.

Had the most gorgeous 6-hr minibus ride through the mountains along the border. Many checkpoints. The Turkish army is securing the area from the PKK, the Kurdish separatists here in the east. Serious military presence in the whole area also because it borders Iraqi Kurdistan. We must have stopped at eight checkpoints, all of which asked for IDs from all the men passengers, and my passport. After about halfway through the journey it was just me, the driver and two other guys on the minibus. It also served as a cargo van for some side business of the driver transporting products for small shops on our way, delivering newspapers to the army posts, and picking up tea to bring down the mountains.

Arrived in Hakkari this afternoon. Lucky to run into to a very nice Turkish English teacher with whom I have spent the afternoon and evening. He is from the Black Sea area but based on exam scores, the government posts them wherever they are needed. He is well loved and we pass many students and former students. Unlike the US, he hugs and is warmly physical with the students, boys and girls. They don't have the sexual predator thing here and children run around on their own all over the place. We had dinner with a married couple, friends of his.

Hakkari has a reputation among western Turks as being the Wild West but it as a perception based on their fear of the PKK and dislike of Kurds. I feel completely safe but the security is noticeable.

Random Sheryl travel info - I am carrying only a small backpack with two pants and two shirts though I wear the same set every day, washing them in the sink at night. I only wear quick-dry fabrics and like the security pockets built into specialty travel clothes.

I carry cash hidden in a money belt and change money either on the street or in a bank as needed. In Iraq I paid for some of my hotels in dollars. There are ATMs but I do not know if my card would work and cash is easiest for me.

In restaurants I sit in back, or upstairs in the family section, if there is one. If I am in one place long enough I go the same restaurant for breakfast and they know me and are glad to see me and treat me well. Because it is Ramazan I could not find a restaurant this morning so I ate the date- & nut-stuffed cookie things Jamal's mom gave me. I protested a lot and almost gave them away but they were a lifesaver this morning.

I travel by minibus or shared taxi, both of which you must wait until they fill up before you can leave. No point in trying to keep a schedule, which would drive me crazy at home but here I just go with the flow as I have no specific timetable or plan except a general idea of where I want to go and when I need to be in Istanbul to catch my flight home.

I never book hotels. It is not like the place is jumping. I can always get a room and I am not particular as long as it is centrally located and has a bathroom in the room. Many times the towns here in Turkey just have a couple of hotels.

Well, I have enjoyed the hospitality of my host and his computer long enough and I have some photo editing to do back at the hotel. My job in the evenings is to delete the bad photos and write about my day. Typically I am up until after midnight because I do not get back to the hotel until late.

Stay tuned...


Sheryl Shapiro is a freelance writer and photographer based in Boulder, CO.