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Pigs and Paragliding

The tree starts shaking as this giant chunk of wild bacon is clearly in need of a midnight snack.

Loni James
Loni James
12 min read
Pigs and Paragliding

A Date in Every Country: A Series
Date #6
Location: Fethiye, Türkiye
Nationality: Turkish
Activity: dinner, drinks, walk
Time: 4 hours
Will see again? Already did ;)
Connected via: Tinder

While I’m in the country of Türkiye, it was a wild pig that crashed my date this last week!! (A sentence I never thought would come out of my mouth lol).

So Turkish men give off a dark brooding vibe and in no way do I mind one bit. I was excited to date here but I have 5 weeks so I didn’t feel rushed. I made some friends in the hostel and we decided to do a boat tour. Well I thoughtttt we wanted a chill boat but we might have ended up on a pirate ship complete with a foam party. I was just going with the flow although this definitely gave me flashbacks from my study abroad days in Europe including hits from a decade ago. Confession - I still know all the words to Party Rock.

I matched with this paraglider pilot who’s here for the season as there’s a local spot nearby that’s big for outdoor sports.  He complimented me on my nature and travel photos and let’s be honest those are the key to my heart. He’s lived abroad so his English is great and his profile has lots of adventure pics so I knew we would have plenty to discuss. We decide to meet up that night but this was before I knew I would be on a boat that day. Cue a chaotic start to the date only a few hours later.

Dating/Traveling Tip: never tell someone where you are staying. I get asked this by taxi drivers and Tinder men alike. I never tell. For the Tinder men when trying to find a spot to meet up, I’ll pick the general vicinity or say I’m nearby a local monument but nothing more specific than that.

For reference, I told him I’m staying near the marina. So there I am on the boat living my best life and I get a text from him with a link to my hostel which also happens to have a pub attached. He asks if this is a good spot to meet?! I start laughing thinking how convenient this is - I can simply run upstairs when it’s time for our date. Added bonus - I don’t have to worry about having too many beers. “It’s a perfect location” I respond. He asks to make a reservation at 7. It’s 4pm now and I’m still on the boat so I request we push it back to 8 o’clock just to give myself enough time. We dock shortly after and our little group heads to a rooftop for one final beer to watch the paragliders land. It was an absolutely wonderful day and we are in no rush to have it end. We had taken a taxi to the boats that day but will be taking a bus back. I chatted with the group to make sure I have time to get back and clean up before he arrives. One of the other girls is also going on a date that night and after our epic day we are all in good spirits.

We talk through timing so we can get back in time for me to shower and clean up as I’ve been swimming all day and will definitely need more than a few minutes to look date ready. We are a little late catching a bus at 7pm but anticipate getting back at 720ish so I’ll still have 40 min to clean up. BOY WAS I WRONG. This bus stopped like 15 times! The clock is ticking and every single time we stop to pick up more people I cannot help but look at my phone and see the time slipping way. 20 minutes. I give the girls a knowing look. 30 minutes. I'm squirming in my seat and cant help checking google maps for the 20th time. I frantically text my tinder man letting him know I’m hurrying but running behind and to PLEASE NOT BE EARLY. He offers to pick me up but clearly that doesn’t work. I burst out laughing as I realize he would be picking me up and dropping me off at the same place, either that or simply carrying me up the stairs lol. This is only made better by the fact that he has no idea. The humor of the situation is not lost on me and I’m already amused knowing the night is only going to get more interesting.

We are finally pulling into town but it is now 7:40 and my date is arriving in 20 minutes! The girls are both laughing and panicking with me but I simply cannot stop laughing knowing that I’m barely going to have time to change out of my swimsuit which is still wet by the way. We are brainstorming cause I’m worried about him arriving early and there is only one entrance so I’d have to run past him to get to my room. They suggest I wrap my towel around my head and put sunglasses on to disguise myself but honestly, I’d rather just own the chaos that is my situation and my attire at this point. There’s no way in hell I can get a comb through my hair right now. That and I lost my brush like a week ago which clearly doesn’t help the situation.

7 freaking 45. That’s what time we arrive at the bus stop. Problem is, I’m still over a mile away from my hostel!! With the cheers of the girls echoing behind me I leap out of the bus while frantically shouting for a taxi à la Sex and The City. I was loud enough to make a taxi pull over across the street so I frantically look every direction before running across this busy street and throw my body into the back of his taxi. I gasp out my destination telling him my date is arriving in 12 mins and I must get there as fast as possible! He promises it'll only take 5 minutes and we speed off.

It was 7:50 on the dot when we screeched to a halt in front of my hostel. Shout out to that taxi driver! I barreled in the door frantically scanning the pub for a handsome stranger while also trying to avoid eye contact in case my very attractive date saw me in my total state of disarray. I hauled ass down the stairs peeling off clothes mid-run and threw myself in the shower. You know those pre-date showers - the shave everything, scrub within an inch of your life and moisture every bit of skin showers? Well this was NOT one of them. I cleaned the important bits and tried my best not to slip and fall as the floor was covered in water. #hostellife I went with my classic jumpsuit and fresh mascara. I prayed my tan skin covered a multitude of sins including hair that was wildly out of control and looked more like a lion’s mane. I raced up the stairs at 8:04, scanned the bar, found the one single guy in a booth and promptly notice the cat that is saving my seat. Note - there are cats everywhere in Türkiye and this particular one had breakfast with me just that morning lol! The cat was reluctant to move but I had worked too damn hard to show up only to lose my seat to a feline. Move over buddy.

Who knew that showing up on time for our date would be such an utterly ridiculous mess. I was relieved that I was only 4 minutes late and despite being freshly showered, I was somehow already sweaty due to the humidity and stress of my arrival. It was in no way a graceful or sexy entrance. Upon finally snagging my seat, I could not hold it in and promptly burst out laughing followed by a confession of how I got there, why my hair looked a fright and that I got ready in exactly 14 min. From sea to shower to hot seat, I consider that an accomplishment. He laughed with me and assured me I looked wonderful. (We were off to a good start as that is the ONLY correct answer in this scenario.) We chatted easily. Him asking questions about my travels and getting so excited to hear where I’ve been and where I’m off to next. He has traveled a bit himself and lit up when he spoke about where he wanted to go. He wished aloud that he could join me on my trip.

We ordered dinner and at his recommendation I get Macedonian meatballs which proved delicious. A few beers later and he’s very patiently answering my questions about dating in Türkiye. With Egypt and Jordan being my only other experiences dating in a Muslim country, it’s fascinating to hear how different things are. He confirmed that arranged marriages are not common anymore and he estimated that 80% of the country is Muslim but many do not abide by the same rules that I saw represented in the Middle East. Please note that these are based on his personal experience and knowledge. Equally so, my personal experiences are represented when I speak of American dating and culture. Neither he nor I can speak wholly for our cultures and many will have had different experiences than what either of us describe.

To understand more specifically about dating there, I ask about PDA - Public Displays of Affection for those that aren’t familiar with the phrase. He says that yes, people who are dating will walk around holding hands. I dig deeper asking if perhaps older people who see them would say something. He clarifies that southern Turkey particularly the central and west regions are more relaxed the closer you are to the water. He says that smaller towns in central and eastern Türkiye might be more traditional on following guidelines around touching, intimacy and alcohol. He believes that while many people identify as Muslim, nowadays they might have more open beliefs regarding some of these controversial issues. I mention that this can be the case in America for many people as well. He listens with curiosity as I tell him about the things I’ve learned in other cultures so far in my journey.

Having completely different experiences with countries that might be categorized together based on race or religion is a good reminder that labels can be deceiving and interpretations can vary with time, languages and cultural differences. It’s a reminder to stay curious and never assume that one person’s experience is true for all.

I ask about the popularity of online dating. He said it’s still new and was surprised when I mention how normalized it is in the States. I’ve been to quite a few weddings in the last few years, all of whom met online. I even know people who met on Myspace! I’m intrigued to know if more people are getting married from online connections than meeting organically…

We talked of couchsurfing and he encouraged me to give it another go as I tried it once many years ago. He told me stories of a traveler he met who accidentally ended up in a village of cannibals. While I'm willing to try almost anything while traveling, I draw the line at human flesh. NOPE. We go back and forth with different hikes we'd like to do all over the globe. I mentioned that I wanted to try paragliding while I'm there and he quickly offered to have me fly with him later that week.  

Am I the only one that feels like women arrange how the night will end? I’d wager a guess that men think they might be in charge but I feel like we are the ones pulling the strings deciding if a kiss (or more) is happening. I'm very much enjoying my time and feeling like the evening needed to end in a kiss but we are sitting across from each other at a booth in a crowded pub, not exactly an ideal location. That and it’s literally one floor above where I’m staying so there’s no door to be dropped off at. I casually (and strategically I might add), mention the boats at the marina below and how I used to love walking the docks with my grandmother when I was younger, reading the boat names as we strolled. As I’m writing this I realize that I used this line in Cyprus and now I’m wondering if this is my version of the backpacking Europe story from Friends! AHAHAHA!!! Either way, it worked. I’m 2 for 2!

I asked if you can walk on the docks below or if they are locked and he sadly says they are gated. He picks up on my request and asks, “You want to go on a walk?” Why yes, I’d love that,” I replied. (Mission accomplished.) With a big hill below and those docks off limits, we get in his car to drive to other side of the peninsula for our walk. We pass lots of groups that are drinking alongside the water, just chilling in camping chairs. He mentions that this is becoming more popular for locals as costs are rising here in Türkiye. We park on the side of the road and just a few minutes later we are standing next to the sea, admiring the boats. Within 5 minutes we are kissing and before I know it, we are walking back to the car. Once at the car, things are getting HEATED rather quickly but we are RUDELY interrupted by incoming headlights on more than one occasion. How dare they drive on the road where we are making out? He suggests a darker spot so we aren’t putting on a show. We drive a bit, finding a spot away from traffic and any lights. Things are um…progressing when I hear clapping. LIKE ACTUAL APPLAUSE. Now while we were certainly deserving of applause in that moment, it was a bit startling to hear and I instantly stopped to find out what was going on. He’s equally confused, looks out the window and goes “Oh, there are pigs.” as if that just solves the riddle of the clapping. I’m sorry, WHAT?!

Apparently these people are parked on the other side of the road and are trying to scare the pigs away from their car. He clarifies that wild pigs are a thing here and while I’m confused, I cannot see anything. Activities resume. A few minutes go by, I have no idea how many, when suddenly there’s someone outside the car. I freeze. I feel like a teenager about to be caught. I hear the gravel crunching next to the car and freak out a bit. He looks through the fogged up windows and says, “It’s the pigs again.” I’m beyond confused as to why there are so many pigs just wandering about near the marina. He tried to convince me that it’s no big deal and it's perfectly normal. Well I take a quick peek outside and HOLY SHIT. These are not little pink potbellied pigs. These things are HUGE. I’m talking they are almost as tall as the window on the car and there are several of them, just rooting about.


Now I know Pumba is a warthog but it was the closest I could come up with. I find out later that these are wild boar and they are not to be messed with. They head to the big willow tree a few feet away and just start scrounging around and yanking on the branches. The tree starts shaking as this giant chunk of wild bacon is clearly in need of a midnight snack.

There was simply no coming back from this. The pigs were too loud, far too close and I was distracted/amused/fascinated by these wild animals just roaming about knowing they could trample someone. We called the evening as it was quite late and on our drive back we just kept running into them! They were everywhere and I'm a curious person so I had to google them on the drive. “Wild pigs in turkey” - Click here if you're brave enough but beware. THEY CAN BE UP TO 600LBS(300kg!) and look like a tiny Volkswagen! I’m reading this information aloud in shock and amazement and he’s surprised that we don’t have these in America. This prompted an amusing conversation about which animals we have roaming about in America and Turkey. Our date ends as I’m explaining the difference between an elk and a deer. I know, I know, I’m from the PNW. I snagged one last goodbye kiss before I giggled my way down the stairs. PUMBA! Hahahahahaha. I had a hilarious moment the next day when I look at the decor in my hostel room to see a giant and very random Hakuna Matata sign that I hadn’t noticed earlier.

(I have since been informed by quite a few readers that we do indeed have wild pigs/boar in the US! I had no idea! I did make sure to text him to let him know. He thought it was hilarious.)

All was not lost as I managed to see him 2 more times before I left town. I love seeing people in their element so I simply had to go paragliding with him. Is there anything sexier than seeing someone doing what they love? In this case I strapped myself to him, threw my body off a mountain all the while saying a prayer the wind would catch us. Well it did and wow! Talk about an amazing time and yes I managed to snag a kiss. How could I not? It’s not everyday you get to kiss a handsome man as you’re flying through the clouds. All in all, he was kind, we shared many laughs and he said that he will try and catch up with me in some foreign country in the future. Who knows? These are getting more and more long winded so thanks for bearing with me. I think I’m practicing how to write a chapter at this point.

Teaser: The next date sucked but you can't win them all. I promised to share my stories and that means both good and bad. Buckle up.

The Turquoise Coast of Turkey is incredible!
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Loni James

As I collect and record these stories, I hope they make you laugh, curse and dream of far off places. May they inspire you to cross oceans and meet plenty of interesting people along the way.