Are you mad? Pregnant and sailing in Turkey
"Have you ever heard of the movie Midnight Express?" Those were the words that came out of my brother's mouth when I told him I was taking off to sail in Turkey just ten weeks before the delivery of my first baby. He, like just about everyone else back home, had thought I had gone mad.
Landing in Turkey, we still had to get to the boat, which was docked in Marmaris. Getting into the cab, I noticed there were no seatbelts. I looked at my husband, and he shrugged as the taxi sped off. I have never been so scared in a car. The driver drove us through the hills and back country to the coast at an alarming speed, facing head on traffic, honking the entire way and when I got out about an hour later, I thought I might go into labor. Thinking this was the biggest adventure of my trip is where I went wrong.
Sailing in Turkey in the 90's was magical. There were few tourists, charming little bays with families who would cook for you. Within 20 minutes of throwing an anchor, a little motor boat would pass asking if we would like to reserve a spot for dinner telling us what time they would pick us up.
Most of these families were farmers and had constructed simple but beautiful terraces in the bay; the wife would cook a meal. You got what was served, no menu, no choices, no questions asked. This kind of restaurant has to be one of my favorites. Homegrown food, cooked with heart and served by a family in an idyllic setting. Some might think that a Michelin restaurant and a five-star hotel with a private jet is success....to me this kind of adventure is what I had always wanted and I felt like I had arrived in the world.
About a week into the trip we threw our anchor in front of an island. My father-in-law explained this spot used to be deserted. Now a huge hotel was just across the way with people everywhere. We were just deciding what to cook when we heard the motor of a little boat. "Would you like my wife to cook Turkish dinner for you? Dinner at eight?"
We could not see the house, and hence, a long negotiation between all of us onboard started. We had heard of boats being robbed, and we would not be in sight of the boat. In the end, we decided to go. He came back at 7:15 to fetch us. As we pulled up to the beach, he stopped before the coast. "You must walk through the water here. I not allowed to come close to the hotel, rocks over there, I met you at the truck you see." We looked at each other, and as my husband slipped into the water he realized in my dress, I might not make it. We asked to return to our boat, "No I help! My wife already cooking, must come." He slipped off the boat, and he and my husband carried me to land.
On land, we met him at the truck, "Five-minute walk. Okay?" I thought he meant his house was five minutes away. It wasn't his house; it was a tractor. A tractor like you would find in a 4th of July parade but not shiny and clean...no this was old, rusty and had a trailer. He asked us to climb in the trailer. The ride was on a unpaved country road and was about 20-30 minutes. By the end, I was having contractions and freaking out. I got out and walked a bit, really upset and my brother's words "Have you ever seen Midnight Express?" were echoing in my ears. I honestly thought I might be kidnapped, robbed or worse that night.
We arrived, the food was served, it was incredible. A special dish was prepared for me. The entire family came out and looked at me. "Mam, Turkish tradition, you want smart baby you eat this fish, the whole fish, head too...then baby smart." My husband whispered, "Do it, or you will offend them." This time I felt like a spy or Kate Capshaw in an Indiana Jones movie. I had no choice; I consider myself brave, and I ate it, all ten mini fish, head and all as the family clapped. "Miss you will have smart baby."
The ride back was just as much an adventure. It was a memorable trip, my last before the adventures of motherhood began. My sense of adventure has stayed with me as my husband, and I have dragged our kids all over the world. I wish everyone could have the adventures I've had because the comments about the dangers of countries, the people who live there are often fueled by ignorance and fear. Don't get me wrong, I am not traveling to a war zone, or to North Korea but if you can travel and get out of the hotel and meet the people...it is magical, and yes my daughter is smart if any of you are wondering.
—Allison Ochs Social Worker M.S.W. , Coach, Expat, Mother of three, Wife