The Crooked Merchant of Cappadocia

My wandering continued through Cappadocia and here are more close up photos of the wacky formations and Fairy Chimneys that make this region so oddly unique and interesting. But before that I do have to report on a odd and sadly disappointing experience I had with a merchant in Cappadocia (Goerme).

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When first crossing the border in Reyhanli, the boys that helped me find a map and introduced me to local motorcyclists also helped me secure a GSM chip for Turkicell for my mobile phone. Unlike other countries in Africa, the Turkicell command prompts for customer service actions are all in Turkish. When I bought the GSM chip I was told that it came with ten turkish lira value of air time. I think the chip itself cost 15 turkish lira.

But after purchasing the chip the sales agent told me that it would take up to 12 hours to activate. Because the language barrier was very difficult I asked several times if I needed to buy additional “air time” in order to make calls. I understood that I had sufficient air time and no additional “credit” would need to be purchased. But for the first few days in Turkey while I made my way through the countryside to Goerme, I could never get the phone to make calls or send SMS messages.

So in Goerme, it was suggested that I probably didn’t get airtime and likely needed to buy airtime credit. So I marched into a local small grocer and explained my plight. He grabbed my phone and punched some numbers and reaffirmed my Goerme findings: I didn’t get airtime after all. He punched some things into the phone after I paid for ten lira more of airtime and asked if he should add the airtime to my account. I said go ahead, because in the past in other countries where language was initially a problem people offered to help. I thought nothing of this.

He then handed the phone back to me and said he switched it to English and the recorded voice at the other end indicated I had 10 lira credit for airtime. Excellent.

When I was ready to leave I asked for the “used” airtime credit “card” as I like to save these from each country as a memento. He asked me why and before handing it back to me told me he needed to write down some numbers and he proceeded to write down the 12-16 digit code that is entered when upping the airtime credit.

This was odd. Why would he need those numbers. And why did he want to keep the card. I grabbed the card from him and outside his store I called the access code and followed english prompts to add airtime to my account. Because I felt funny, I entered those numbers from the card. Just as I’m doing this the guy comes running out of his shop with his mobile phone in hand asking to see the card again — he said he needed to see the numbers again. Then he asked me what I was doing.

I finished entering the numbers into the phone an then heard the lady repeat my account credit: 20 New Turkish Lira. Just then the shop keeper through his hands up in the air and muttered something and ducked back into his shop.

The guy tried to rip me off. And bad. I actually DID get 10 lira credit with my GSM chip. But the GSM chip never was “activated” because I never knew how to change the language. He simply activated it, changed the language and handed back to me after I paid him the 10 lira and tried to show me that he had entered the card into the phone and I was now up to date with my 10 lira. In reality, he never did enter the card and was simply going to use the code to add credit to HIS mobile phone.

What an idiot. I never had anything like this happen. And i was surprised this happened in Turkey. I guess that’s what happens in tourist towns. But why Turkey?

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I wandered to Avanos and to Urgup and through the valley and parks of the area. Sure, I had to content with some tourism. But words truly can’t describe this bizarre, interesting and UNESCO World Heritage site. Once again, I’ll try to let my photos tell the story. I spent several days here and met a number of interesting people, including Pat, a cheerful brit who recently visited Iran as he’s trying throughout his recent lifetime to “bag” as many. With so many good things said about Iran, I’m bummed the prospect of a visa for me diminishes by the minute.

But not to dwell. I’m enjoying the wild surroundings of Kapadokya. Think not of what I don’t or can’t have; rather think of what I have. And surrounding me here in Goerme is a dream. A lifelong dream. I’m in Asia. And I’m in Turkey.

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