Our friend Elaine is an elementary teacher at a private school in the neighboring town of Nevsehir. Quite wonderfully, she managed to get us included yesterday on a school trip to the regional ski resort at Erciyes, an extinct volanco outside the city of Kayseri.
We drove to a gas station near Elaine’s house at 8 a.m., loitered in the parking lot for a bit with other teachers, students, and parents, and then loaded ourselves into one of four big buses. An hour and a half later, we disembarked at the volcano and waded into the chaos of a crowd where heaps of people were trying to rent skis and sleds and snowboards from small tables set up outside the larger rental places.
In true Turkish fashion, the school hadn’t called ahead of time or worked out anything systematic. The loose plan went something like: “Drive 90 kids and their parents, plus 20 teachers, to a volcano. Drop them off. Have someone choose a rental table and walk up to it, at that point negotiating a rental price for everyone in the group. After an hour and a half on the mountain, everyone will get back into a different bus than they came on and drive 300 feet to the picnic spot, whereupon we will take out the school’s grill and have the lunchroom folks, who are also along for the day, cook up about 600 chicken breasts and a bunch of sausages. The important part of parking next to four picnic shelters will be that no one actually goes to them or sits down. At the point when most people are done eating, remember that there are bottles of water for distribution. Leave trash by the side of the road and hit a car with one of the buses, and then it’s off to the mall for a couple of hours, during which many third and fourth graders will be sent off on their own and admonished to be back at the bus by 4 p.m. On the way home at 4 p.m., crank loud music and wonder how come there were exactly enough seats on the morning trip but, oddly, there are now two more people than seats. Somewhere in the country, have all four buses pull over and shuffle people around–because even the extra ones that no one can account for need to get back to their city of origin, and since the four buses set out from four different towns at 8 a.m., this seems as good a time as any to organize them thusly.”
It was a blast. Allegra and Byron skiied with Elaine’s daughter, Selin, and Paco and I sledded with Elaine and random kids from the school.
Of course, before we even set out, Byron and I had discussed our greatest hope for the day: that we’d spot a “fully-covered” woman (headscarf to raincoat) on skis. Despite my best efforts, I only saw younger scarved girls on skis; the even more modest skirt and raincoat types were definitely out in full force on the hill but were serving as support crew rather than participating completely. Make of that what you will.