Well, as prepared as you can be when you’re traveling over 6000 miles out of your comfort zone.
So, in the weeks before we go, I give my kids lots of reminders. Things like:
• “No fooling around in the airport security line.”
• “Remember – We’ll be speaking lots of Turkish.”
• “Forget McDonald’s! We’re gonna’ eat your grandma’s home-cooking.”
Yeah, that last one doesn’t always go down so well.
Anyway…There are some experiences that you simply can’t foresee. Like what happened to us this summer in Olü Deniz, a beach town just south of Fetiye.
Tourists Gone Wild
At popular Mediterranean resort spots like Belcegiz Beach, it’s pretty much anything goes.
Laser shows on the boardwalk.
Heck, some of the local bars even host foam parties.
That’s why, when I spied an English woman gliding by topless on a peddle-boat, I wasn’t fazed. And since we’d already had the “nude sunbathing” chat before we hit the beach, my kids didn’t bat an eye either.
So, yeah, I was feeling pretty proud of myself and my ability to anticipate those inevitable cross-cultural moments.
Beach Blanket Burka
That is, right up until I spotted them —a group of burka-clad women just beyond the diving platform.
Yes. In the water. Fully-clothed.
One mom was having a grand ‘old time, pushing her infant daughter around on an inflatable baby seat. Another woman was having what looked to be her first swimming lesson.
I had to laugh at myself. I mean, I’d been so intent on prepping my kids for any topless sightings that I completely forgot about the more modest bathers we might see – Muslim women covered head to ankle. (I’m pretty sure they were wearing a burqini.)
Anyway, here’s what really surprised me about the whole scene — My kids didn’t notice.
Not. At. All.
They just kept on trying to lure the minnows with pieces of soggy bread – The shallow waters of the Blue Lagoon make this a popular past-time for kids – oblivious to the topless folks AND the fully-clothed ones.
I like to think that’s because they’re used to seeing people with different cultural values and lifestyles. As far as head coverings and dress in Turkey, they’ve seen the gamut of choices. Their grandma wears a headscarf when she’s in public but their two aunts don’t. And nobody in our immediate family wears a burka.
So swimming while fully-dressed or topless – for my kids, there’s nothing unusual about either.
Of course, I know it’s not as simple as that. What we choose to wear — hot-pants, a sari, a thong, a burka, — is heavily influenced by cultural norms and values.
But that’s pretty heady stuff to explain to a seven-year-old and a five-year-old. And, frankly, I’m just not ready to go there.
So for now I just tell my kids that “Everybody’s different” and that it’s okay to let the world — and all the diverse people in it — float on by.