Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Aspendos Theater

Thursday, September 24, 2015

While our guests ventured out to other parts of Antalya such as Side and Kemer, Alex and I decided to stay in and catch up on sleep on Thursday. Once our bodies were recovered from exhaustion, we made plans to go to a ballet and opera show at the famous Aspendos Theater, which was built by the Romans and is remarkably preserved in Sevik, which is about an hour away from Antalya.

Per usual, getting to the Aspendos Theater via public transportation was quite an adventure. Jesse, Alex, and I left the house at 18.45 for our 21.00 show. We waited 40 minutes for Bus 03, which we were advised goes to Aspendos. However, after a short 20-minute ride, we were dropped off at Aspendos Boulevard. My friends, Aspendos Boulevard, as lovely as it is, is a random road in the middle of a shopping center—not the grand Aspendos Theater that we were looking for.

Exercising our limited Turkish once again, we asked bystanders for directions to Sevik, with no success. When the clock struck 20.00, we turned to our last resort: taxi. We knew it would be much, much more expensive than the bus, but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and keep moving. I think that’s probably why the Romans were so successful; they strode on.

Time was not on our side and the taxi driver did not know where Sevik was. After multiple stops at gas stations, driving through narrow dirt roads and large highways, and some 58 minutes past the 20th hour, we reached our final destination just in time for the show to start.

Aspendos Theater in Sivek was built by Romans.
I felt as if I had traveled through a time machine and landed in the Roman Empire when I entered the stone-carved amphitheater. It was a magnificent structure, with its creative designs and calculated engineering. The same-sized seats formed parallel rings that circled the ground stage while the upside down U-shaped doors created by Corinthian columns gave way for light and wind. What made the theater so beautiful is that it was built with stone. Stone! I am a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, but I cannot even begin to comprehend the geometry and science that the Romans knew. Moments like these fascinate me; they ignite in me a blazing fire, which can only be extinguished by a greater depth of knowledge.

Opera singers from around the world.
Lights quickly dimmed and the show started on the dot at 21.00. As I watched couples perform ballet and individuals sing opera, all I could think about was how incredibly lucky and blessed I am to be here. Witnessing these amazing artists from around the world, taking in the sound of music, feeling the cool breeze under a moonlit sky. It was so special to get lost in my thoughts, mainly from my past, as I watched the performances. I thought about my childhood in Pakistan and how unmotivated I was as a student. I thought about growing up in Alexandria, VA, the struggles of learning English and adapting to a new culture. I missed my family as I remembered my mom’s cooking, Baba’s disciplining lessons, and quarrels with my siblings. Episodes from my years at Bowdoin played through my head; I recalled special memories I made with my friends, with my host parents, and my professors. I smiled when I thought about my two years in Boston, navigating the ruthless snowstorms, producing insurance analyses, and coming home to fresh cookies baked by my roommates Carly and Abi. When the live orchestra picked up its pace, I thought about my best friend Emily Rapavi who is an incredible violinist. When the audience clapped for opera singers, I thought about my host mother Wanda and my college friend Katarina because they, too, have beautiful voices.

Beautiful ballet performance.
Watching the ballet and opera show at the Aspendos Theater was a powerful experience. Even though I was present in the moment—fully engaged with the music I heard, the dances I saw, the breeze I felt, the clapping I participated in—I was also lost in my past. This must be a dream, I kept thinking to myself, this must be a dream. Thank you Allah for Your blessing.

With gratitude, I leave you with a video.

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