Having recovered from the busiest three days that was the Cappadiocia trip (see entry 4), I had got a taste for AIESEC tours and immediately signed up for another. The AIESEC organisation (or LC to anyone who has a grasp of the numerous AIESEC acronyms) of Izmir had planned a long weekend of drinking in the sights and sounds of Marmaris, a touristic kind of city punctuated with huge neon signs in English and located near the beautiful Aegean Ocean. Although the trip looked expensive and the travel arrangements disorganised, I signed up with four fellow interns from Adana and set off into the night to catch the coach.
Ten hours or so into our painfully long thirteen-hour journey, we decided to get in touch with the the AIESECers in charge of the tour and double-check meeting arrangements. To my horror, we were bluntly told by someone whose English was barely understandable that, because our coach was making toilet and petrol stops, we were ‘too late’ and so the tour was leaving without us. Sat in the service station, I suddenly felt very vulnerable. We had travelled for hours to a place we did not know. My Turkish was, despite being exposed to the language for over three weeks, still somehow diabolical. There were only five of us and we had no map and no plans beyond the tour. The final section of our journey had taken a sour turn from excitement and anticipation to tension and anxiety. Once stepping off the coach, we were baffled. There was not an AIESECer in sight, only locals rushing around and no-one to help us. Eventually, we got hold of AIESEC Izmir on the phone and worked out we had to be in Ephesus, an ancient city that was the second location of the tour agenda.
Having finally caught up with the tour, I felt a wave of relief. Although intially angry at the way we had been treated, I soon managed to forget it and enjoy myself, the breath-taking ruins of Ephesus capturing my imagination and the tour-guide’s words filling my head with historical background. The public buildings we were shown varied from the library and theatre to the secret brothel.
The only disadvatage to my first tour destination was the unbearable heat. Foolishly neglecting my sun screen application, I had acquired a red ring of sunburn around my neck, which made travelling on the coach uncomfortable. Shortly, however, we arrived at the Wine Village. Normally associating wine-tasting with sophistication and refinement, I was surprised to hear an intern declare ‘Let’s get drunk!’, which paved the way for what was a bizarre half-way point between enjoying the flavour of the wine and hurriedly downing shots.
There was little time for this fun AIESEC-twist on wine-tasting, as we soon checked into our hotel and set off for a boat party. Clambering onto the boat in my unwise choice of high heels, I was presented with a delicious dinner. Although the high price of alcohol ensured the night didn’t grow particularly wild, the belly dancer made things more interesting and transformed the evening from a civilised meal into a party. With the music proving a disappointment, however, we were soon back at the hotel, wine-fuelled after-parties in several of the rooms quickly manifesting themselves and reminding me yet again of how, once involved in AIESEC for long enough, any need for sleep seems to magically disappear.
Scanning faces the next day, it was easy to see who had delved in the after-parties and who had slept. Tired-eyed, we rolled onto the coach and set off for our next location. Unaware of what it was, I never would have guessed a fashion show. The Bruno-style affair was to promote a clothing range that we were then encouraged to spend 300 euros and beyond on afterwards. Interns joined in the cat-walk display, and whilst I tried on a 450 euro jacket, nothing could persude me it was a justifiable investment.
The second half of the morning took a down-ward turn at the Turkish Delight factory, my distinct intolerance for the traditional confectionary preventing me from enjoying any part of the visit. It was before long, however, that we were on a boat, snaking through long grass that led to a gorgeous beach with sea so salty that floating was effortless and Sun so hot that it made the sand burn underfoot.
Plastering every available inch of skin with mud in the name of joining in was not exactly the same as the beach, but the mud bath was fun nonetheless. Scraping the bottom of the murky pool with our hands, we caked ourselves with mud and the smell was unbelievable. Gritting my teeth and reminding myself of the benefits, I persisted in this strange ritual, feeling pleased afterwards at the silky feel of my skin.
Shaking off the any remainder of a hang-over from the night before, all interns returned to the hotel for a night of exploring Marmaris, a city which makes Adana’s nightlife seem lifeless in comparison. Haci Mustafa Sokagi, the famous Bar Street of the city, dominated the agenda with its endless range of venues. The best part of the night was spent in Backstreet, a huge club where strippers danced on podiums and vodka flowed in copious amounts.
Despite functioning the next day on only a couple of hours’ sleep, I was excited about the all-day Aegean Ocean cruise that lay ahead. Once I had stepped onto the boat, I felt like I’d stepped into a holiday brochure: the view was beautiful with nothing but dazzling blue sea all around. The atmosphere relaxed and the Sun shining, the boat set sail, stopping only to let everyone have a swim. Although the beginning of the tour was nerve-racking and chaotic, some of my best exchange memories are from the Blue Aegean Tour, three days of new experiences.