The ancient wonders, the culture, the well-received boner kebab jokes — merely distractions. Leaving the airport, we knew that our Turkish sabbatical was beyond a sandwich with a hard-on. This was our search for meaning, our sojourn for truth. And so we walked off to look for the Eastern world.

Or, at least that’s one way to justify another spring break without exposing yourself on camera.

You’re really not supposed to spend your journey feeling sick and sorry in your hostel. This is rule number one. Rule number two: Go outside and do things that other white people haven’t done.

In retrospect, hiking may not have been the best choice.

At any rate, the oriental rugs, the threadbare couches, the faint scent of patchouli and old meat — just enough to remind you of Mom — really did seem right. Tucked between the scraggly intergalactic land turds (“historical rock formations”) and the abandoned cave monasteries, the little den we carved out felt like the answer. And yes, maybe drawing our conclusions from a drug hut was a bit tasteless, even ignorant. But then the sun begins to set, and you all — namely, us and ten Turkish men — pass that bottle of wine and laugh for reasons that don’t transcend language barriers, and you kind of feel like this has to be the meaning you came here to find.

According to the guidebook, things began quite normally. At the end of our block stood a small stone house where we take off our clothes and get sweaty for lots of money. Right. Post-sauna, we were escorted to the massage room, an aesthetically pleasing fall-out shelter lined with midget sinks. This was where Turkish Susan Boyle waddled over to me, and, without warning, heaves a bedpan full of water over my head. I sit, soaked and stupefied. Meanwhile, my companion, with the gentle masseuse, was calmly laid on the stone floor and slowly drizzled with water.

But my dearest Susan had her own plans. Before I can clear the water from my eyes, she’s pelting me with a pillowcase full of liquid dish soap. And then she starts taking my top off. And flips me over on the stone. And without even asking for my name or if I prefer big spoon or little spoon, she flops her hands right over my lady lumps and mashes them into oblivion.

“Excuse me, was that, um, included in the price?”

Shortly after the sloppy nipple tweak, however, this first hypothesis was scraped. The score — God and tubby masseuse: 1. Science and white chicks: 0.

And our second hypothesis was born: Perhaps the chubby scuttle-turned-mating ritual shows what happens when the Eastern egg meets the Western sperm. You go in not knowing a lick of Turkish, not understanding a morsel of their everyday life and you think you’ll be fine. And then your boobs are turned into soup and an extra 50 lira flies down the midget drain.

We still can’t figure it out, to be honest. But really, how could we have known? My parents always skipped the hammams on our road trips through the awe-inspiring Buckeye countryside. “The Turkish bathhouses can wait, Melanie — my God, are you saying you don’t want to stop at every single Waffle House between here and Akron?”

Actually Mom, that’s exactly what I’m saying. But, sometimes all the protesting in the world doesn’t get you out of smothered hash browns and the subsequent diarrhea. Or, the least seductive water-boarding in all of human history.

But somewhere between 45 hours worth of bus rides, misplaced blonde-haired fame — “Lady Gaga!” — sleeping in tree houses and caves, deciphering directions in a language that quite honestly looks like the alphabet regurgitated — between all the hustle and bustle, eureka! We had it! We had nothing! After two weeks of meeting, seeing, loving, hating and smelling oh, so terrible, we arrived back in Spain with nothing but dusty bags and existential woes. “How was your spring break?” “IDK, I’m waiting for my analyst to decide.”

But you know, maybe that’s all right. Or, at least, so goes hypothesis three, the laziest one yet — shut up about the human condition already. It’s spring break, you lummox, and for once just enjoy it for what it is. ‘Cause if you spend all your time looking for meaning, you might just miss the view from the bus window. And hey, that was a really neat-looking gas station back there, wasn’t it?

Melanie Kruvelis can be reached at

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