Turks in Wonderland

We were sitting on a couch on the eighteenth floor of the Hong Kong China Tower on a beautiful late-summer night, listening to one of the Bahcesehir University students tell us about a picnic conducted by Turkish airlines. Happy about the chance to meet new Turks in Hong Kong, we hopped on the MTR on our way to the other end of the city…

We caught sight of our directions and then, after getting off the MTR, we realized that people looked very different in that part of the city… everything looked different. It felt as if we had left the city. We were running slightly late and found a bus.  We put in our money and sat down on our seats, having a long ride in front of us. We passed sharp mountains and hills, dense forests, empty roads and the further the bus drove, the more we were wondering where the picnic would take place. We passed a beautiful bay, overlooking little island and fancy boats and just a little later the bus dropped us off in a big empty parking lot and drove away. There we were, standing by the bus stop, surrounded by mountains and bushes. We decided to follow the stairs in front of us  that were covered by trees and arrived on an absolutely beautiful beach with white sands and waves softly washing on shore.

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We walked around for a little bit, admiring the scenery but when we could not find Turkish airlines and all our attempts to find them had failed (we asked all the people on the beach), we hiked back up the stairs and ran after a bus that would take us to the second bay close by. We were dropped off in the middle of the road and then hiked down hidden stairs that did not want to take an end. The second bay was even prettier, lush dense vegetation framing the beautiful view on the ocean and ships… but no Turkish airlines. With enthusiasm we ran towards a big group of people that turned out to be local and not Turkish… We passed a sleeping dog, and off we were to the stairs again.

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Suddenly, out of the blue, a man popped up and later on we called him the rabbit. He told us to walk ten minutes down the road, then we’d arrive on the picnic ground. It was hot, Belce’s and my legs were slowly dissolving under the long jeans. The further we walked the stranger everything became. Finally we arrived at a roundabout and in the very moment we wanted to declare ourselves as lost, we saw a street sign saying “Clearwater Bay Country Park”. Our destination And so – thinking that it is not far away – we walked and walked… and walked…. We passed a structure that looked like a lonely Greek-temple surrounded by undefinable objects. The road took us into a forest, where we met a a group of people slowly walking one after another just like a caterpillar… we asked them for directions, but they ignored us and crawled away.

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We felt smaller and smaller, lost on that long road that did not seem to have an end. We wandered around until we came across an old building, grey and shady, with parts and pieces falling off… we started to feel very strange and weirded out by all the discoveries we made along this road. And we were still walking. By that time we had been walking for an hour and nothing but the road and trees were visible. Not even people. Every time the road took a turn or we saw a clearing our hearts started beating faster and we thought we had found the country park. We didn’t. Cengiz started to get mad at the rabbit, while I was constantly watching the clock and announcing the minutes we had left for our return to college. We should have never followed the rabbits advice. But we didn’t give up. Singing traditional Turkish songs, we continued walking through wonderland, where we were cut off from civilization. And then, finally we saw a grouping of cars that gave us hope. There it was, Clearwater Bay Country Park. Cheerful and excited to meet fellow Turks we started to look for a sign or a flag that said Turkish airlines on it…We couldn’t find it, but instead a man found us. He said “Merhaba” and then pointed in a certain direction, “the picnic is there”. We followed the direction he pointed out and found the bathrooms. Wonderful. So we decided to be smart and follow the widest path down the hills. After a minute that felt like an eternity and passing numerous families having barbecues we spotted the Turks. It was impossible not to. The men had moustaches, which are quite rare in Hong Kong and all three of us were reminded of a very typical Turkish situation: say you’re getting off a bus in Turkey, and you’re carrying big luggage. Do not be alarmed when men with big bellies and moustaches run towards you and try to take your bag, calling you “sister.” They mean well, they’re just trying to help.  We spotted the Bahcesehir University students, we had dinner during Eid with and they greeted us with a warm smile and a hug. At first everything was great, we had our university friends, I met the people I sat in the airplane with (a beautiful couple) and there was supposed to be food. Neither could we find Turkish airlines, nor anything related to it. The picnic was supposed to start at 1:30 and it was already 3 (our journey took a little long) and there was no barbecue. We wanted to meet new people and were quite excited to do so, but very soon we realized that people had formed groups and none of them was talking to each other. There were the conservative, men and women sitting separate, and the secular. We tried to fetch a conversation, but none of the people seemed to be interested in us. Not even one of the university professors. We exchanged five sentences only. Well, six maybe… After a  conversation with a man who resembled a cat and telling us he studied “liberal studies at open university” and own an “Inner lightning company” even though he is engaged in the “education sector” and then fading away to a floating grin, we were utterly confused and ignored by all groups we  just kept standing in the middle of the park. The meat arrived and every group started to grill for itself.

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Just the university students were talking to us. Time passed and after a while we decided to leave, since Turkish airlines was not there and any attempt to start a conversation had failed. Before we left we were advised to eat Baklava. How could we say no to one of the most delicious treats from Turkey? So we grabbed a few pieces of Baklava and while we were happy at first, we realized how sad the entire situation was and with every bite, we became smaller and smaller and smaller… By the time we had finished our Baklava, the first meatballs were grilled on so we tried to eat away our frustration by loading up the plate with two pieces of meat.

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On our way back to the entrance of the country park, we met the King of Refrigerators and started wondering where he wanted to find the plug for his cooling device. We were sad and disappointed; a Turkish airlines picnic should have looked different. We had expected a great gathering with people engaging in conversations, an opening speech by Turkish airlines and food… Since the road back to civilization was long we decided to call a taxi. When even that did not work out, we realized that we had no choice but to hike back on that road that has brought us here. After walking for only ten minutes a  taxi passed us. We waved with our hands, trying to signal that we were in desperate need of a taxi, but then we realized that it was a red taxi and since only the green ones go back to the New Territories this one would not take us. Surprisingly the cab driver stopped and let us in. He drove us to the roundabout where the bus station was but did not take any money.

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From that moment one Cengiz, Belce and me remember him as a hero. We hopped onto the next bus, which came just a few seconds later and as soon as we sat down on our seats we began to reflect on that interesting day we had. We were so concentrated, that we had missed our stop, the MTR station, if the bus driver had not stopped and told us with a smile that we had arrived. Hero number 2. While on our way to the country park it seemed as if everything went wrong (probably the universe was telling us not to go there), the way back to college was absolutely amazing and we encountered only good people and good things. All of a sudden we found ourselves back on campus, telling our co-years about our adventure that seemed like a dream and a modern day version of Alice in Wonderland. What a day!

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